This review contains spoilers.
3.6 Follow The White Rabbit
For the second consecutive episode, Gotham has delivered a character-driven story that doesn’t sacrifice the weird, disturbing tone that has been a major draw of this show. If Gotham can stay as consistent and focused with its character work as its last few episodes have demonstrated, than it could be — yes, it’s hard for me to say — one of the best comic book shows on television.
But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Gotham needs to stay consistent much longer than a few episodes if it’s going to claim that title. While we wait to see if that’s going to happen, let’s break down all of the great things about this week’s episode: Follow The White Rabbit.
A villain making a hero choose between two people he loves is nothing new. It’s the extreme of a love triangle dynamic, one with the ultimate stakes. We see it in The Dark Knight. We see it in Arrow season two. It happens all of the time in comic books and movies and TV shows and, though you know you’re being a little bit manipulated, you mostly don’t care because it’s such a dramatically rich situation. It puts our hero in a no-win situation and (if the story doesn’t chicken out) makes him or her choose a way to lose. Gotham made Jim choose, which was refreshing on a show that has had trouble exploring consequence with any weight.
It’s the Arrow example I couldn’t stop thinking about while watching Follow The White Rabbit. Both Jim Gordon and Oliver Queen are basically playing Batman characters. They both have tragic pasts and are both on intense, some (like Lee) might say stubborn quest for justice and/or vengeance. They are hero-types (though not quite heroes) in a city that is nigh unsave-able. As great the Arrow season two flashback moment that saw Oliver choosing between Sara and Shado was, Gotham did it better — and that’s not something I usually get to say when comparing character-driven moments from Gotham to character-driven moments in Arrow season two.
What made Gotham‘s sadistic choice moment so great was that it didn’t back down (for a second, I thought it would with Lee’s fiance saving the day) and, though we knew there were a limited number of ways this situation could play out, it still managed to surprise at least this viewer. Jim chose Valerie over Lee. Tetch shot Valerie to cause Jim pain.
Like Arrow, Gotham also has done a pretty good job making us like all three characters involved — you know, as much as anyone can like Jim Gordon. (Liking Gotham‘s Jim Gordon as a character is a complicated mix of O.C. nostalgia, Ben McKenzie’s impressive ability to deliver a sardonic line, and pity. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s become much, much easier in season three.)
And Gotham didn’t make Jim apologise for any of it, even if it did give us some awkward conversations between Jim and Lee in the episode’s final moments. I kept waiting for Gotham to do some kind of defensive twist at the last moment like having Jim confess that he knew all along that Tetch would shoot the woman he said he didn’t love. But it didn’t. Gotham is making some brave narrative decisions, and it’s really paying off. Speaking of which…
Praise the television gods! Gotham seems to be doubling down on the best, most engaging romance it’s ever had: the connection between Oswald and Ed. Last week, there was some serious sexual tension between these two, but it was unclear if Gotham was going to play it all subtextual because of the LGBTQ (or some other) factor. Thankfully, for everyone involved, this does not seem to be the show’s plan. Instead, we have officially launched on a will-they-or-won’t-they romantic storyline involving Penguin and Riddler. What a time to be alive.
Though we get some sweet Ed/Oswald moments in Follow The White Rabbit, the evolution of their relationship to a potentially romantic one is seen through Ed’s own realization that he is, in fact — wait for it — in love with Ed. He tries to tell his chief of staff on several occasions, but chickens out, instead inviting Ed over to a romantic dinner at the mansion to be brave in private.
Unfortunately, we never get the confession scene and get to see how Ed might react to it. (The feelings definitely seem requited, but we’ll have to wait and see.) Instead, Ed is distracted while selecting wine for the dinner by a pretty blonde who is a dead ringer for the lady love he murdered, Ms Kringle. That’s right — Ed is getting Vertigo-ed. Seriously, though, this all felt like a set-up, perhaps arranged by Butch, who is in hiding and nursing his wounds.
Either way, the interaction prevents Oswald from getting a chance to confess his undying love for Ed. It’s downright tragic, to be honest. Somehow, in Gotham‘s off-kilter world, killers Ed and Oswald became the two characters who seem to deserve love the most. That probably says as much about this world as it does about Penguin and Riddler.
If Barnes weren’t surrounded by the worst detectives in the long, rich history of idiot TV detectives, perhaps someone would have noticed that he has been infected with Alice Tetch’s blood by now. Bullock does comment on his lack of cane, but, for the most part, his unravelling has gone unnoticed. Apparently, the warped metal of the interrogation room chair was too subtle a clue for the GCPD’s finest.
To be fair, so far, Barnes’ angry outbursts don’t actually seem that out of character. He’s always been a guy to yell. But that doesn’t mean he won’t soon go into a rage-spiral and take a bite out of someone, a la the rats Lee and co. have been testing Alice’s blood on. Barnes’ descent into madness might not be the most interesting thing that’s going on on Gotham right now, but the show’s slow, steady unfurling of this plotline is indicative of a larger patience Gotham is demonstrating with its plots this season. Could season three actually be the season Gotham finally gets it right? Call me a TV optimist, but I’m willing to risk hoping.
Read Kayti’s review of the previous episode, Anything For You, here.