This review contains spoilers.
Holy holy warrior, Batman! Wasn’t that a delightful change of pace? In recent weeks, there’s been a fear that Gotham is burning through its storylines – and its villains – too quickly. In Azrael, though, a baddie was given room to breathe and left un-locked-up at the end of the episode.
When this episode worked, it really worked. For example, the shot of David Mazouz’s young Bruce Wayne looking up at Azrael in awe truly hit the right notes, and felt like a natural step in the inception of the Batman. That tableau of Azrael looming large atop the Gotham bridge at the end of the episode had a similar effectiveness, as did the moment when he smashed through a window at the GCPD. It will be years until The Dark Knight arrives, but Azrael is a very welcome equivalent in the meantime.
The way in which the writers worked up to Azrael was rather interesting as well, with Hugo Strange using Galavan’s memories of The Order Of Saint Dumas to implant a new persona in the former mayor’s mind. A character coming back from the dead should always have consequences, and the complete deconstruction of Galavan’s old personality feels like a fair price to pay. It certainly beats the ‘bloodlust’ that comes with revival on Arrow.
It’s also nice to see Gotham beginning to pull its season 2 plot strands together. Penguin, Butch, Tabitha and Jim are all going to be affected by Theo Galavan’s return from the grave, and by the looks of it Ed is about to be drawn into this storyline as well. And Bruce is clearly taking a very keen interest. This show can feel really fractured sometimes, but this wasn’t one of those weeks.
Speaking of Ed, I’m reluctant to admit that his strand got on my nerves a little this week. With resurrection going on a few feet down the Arkham corridor, spending so much time with the future Riddler and his uninteresting inmates felt like unnecessary padding. Given where Ed ended up, though, there should be something more interesting for him around the corner.
With the fractured-ness and the overly-fast plotting not causing problems this week, the only major issue was the tonal balance. Ed talking to imaginary ghosts, Barbara looking for limes and Hugo Strange giggling at Alice In Wonderland may be intended as amusing, but to me they just jarred with the rest of the episode.
But still, this episode was brilliant when it was focused on its serious material instead of the silly sideshows. Azrael felt very threatening as a new baddie (especially in the rooftop confrontation with Captain Barnes), the visuals were really strong (particularly Azrael’s outfit, and that closing shot) and some of the dialogue scenes were great (Jim and Strange sizing each other up, Bruce suggesting that killing baddies is the right thing to do).
If Gotham can keep this quality up and play to its strengths over the next few weeks, we could be in for an awesome end to the season… let’s just hope they don’t defeat Azrael and move onto the next thing at rapid pace.
Read Rob’s review of the previous episode, Pinewood, here.
UK Viewers: Gotham season two currently airs on Monday nights on Channel 5.