This review contains spoilers
Holy cliffhanger, Batman! Because no geeky TV show can end a season without a big tease of things to come anymore, we’re left with a lot to ponder as Gotham departs our screens for a few months. With season 3 already confirmed, Bruno Heller and co. opted to leave things very open here. But, for now, let’s look at Transference on its own merits rather than the stuff it teased at the end.
There were a few things I really liked this week, and some that I didn’t. Let’s start with the former. Ben McKenzie was given so much to do, which was a very refreshing change of pace. Jim Gordon has felt a bit side-lined in his own show of late, but there was no danger of that here.
This week’s script really pushed McKenzie out of his comfort zone, asking him to portray both Clayface Jim and Truth Serum Jim while Ordinary Jim – with his tenacious attitude, murky morals and tendency to shoot things – barely made an appearance at all. In the Clayface scenes he was completely off-kilter, letching after women and winking far too much. In the truth serum scenes he was quiet, honest and regretful.
This contrast made the episode unique, and the end result of the truth serum stuff – Jim getting his priorities straight and heading off to find Leigh – was exactly the right place to leave things. It feels like Gotham has worn out the ‘tortured protagonist going down a dark path’ shtick (especially since Jim can’t go that dark, given what we know about his future role alongside Batman), so teeing him up with a different arc is a very welcome decision.
It was also fun to see so many of Gotham’s rogues in action. Mr Freeze and Firefly going toe to toe was a cool sequence, and Fish Mooney’s escape gave Ms Peabody her most interesting scenes yet. Ed’s Riddler-esque game show was a nice touch (and provided some great Bruce/Lucius material), and Penguin’s shocked reunion with Fish was short but sweet. It’ll be interesting to see how that relationship pans out next year, given Fish’s new skillset.
In all the excitement of seeing all these villains in action, though, Hugo Strange fell by the wayside somewhat. He was at the peak of his prowess when he had Jim locked up and under the influence of his truth serum, but steadily got less threatening and powerful after that point. Running away from Fish was particularly humiliating for Hugo, and ending up in custody without putting up much of a fight was even worse. As a big bad, he just sort of fizzled out, which is a shame.
It’s still to early to call, as well, whether The Court Of Owls will be good villains. They’ll surely be at the heart of season 3, but in this season 2 finale they only served to further take screen time and narrative importance away from Hugo Strange. BD Wong is a great actor, and to see his character brushed under the carpet like this did grind my gears rather a lot.
Some days you just cant get rid of a bomb, but you can pour water into one and hope for the best. This is another part of Transference that didn’t exactly thrill me. Following all the hype and build up about Strange and Arkham and the monsters, why did this season end with Jim disarming a nuke? This didn’t feel like payoff, but more of a placeholder to add some tension to this episode while the writers save bigger stuff for the future.
But still, we had some good scenes this week (Jim on the serum, Clayface getting slapped, Bruce trying to answer Ed’s questions) and some interesting teases of things to come. Next year Bruce and Alfred will be on the hunt of The Court Of Owls (Sean Pertwee’s “oh bloody hell” was a highlight of this week), Jim will be looking for Leigh (at least to start with) and a new band of baddies (including… another David Mazouz! Is he an evil clone or a secret brother or what? I’ve no idea at the moment) will be plaguing the city.
I’m looking forward to all of that, and I did enjoy some elements of Transference, but can’t shake the feeling that this wasn’t a very strong finale. It felt more like a midseason finale episode, not bothering to resolve anything and ending on a cliffhanger…