Welcome back for another episode of Gotham, reviewed by another Multiversity staffer with very little familiarity with the show! Other than the first few episodes and the one episode starring Professor Pyg that I reviewed last season, I don’t know anything about the show’s recent developments. Given that, this week’s episode was, uh… a ride? Let’s dig in.
1. Cold open: a whole minute of running.
To start things off, we had an entire minute of Gordon running through alleyways. I don’t know how there were so many interconnected alleyways, or why Gordon overreacted to the few unimaginative obstacles in his way. A minute doesn’t sound like a long time, but this is 60 full seconds of boring running. It went on for so long that I began wondering if the camera’s perspective was supposed to be the person hunting him, and maybe that was the reason it was filmed in shakycam? (It wasn’t. The director just thought it would look cool.)
This was all flash with very little substance, and even the flash wasn’t very flashy. This scene was the perfect way to introduce me to the following 45 minutes.
2. Plot, plot, plot, plot, plot, plot, plot.
Watching this episode blind felt like I was being shot at in one of the show’s many useless gunfights: bullet after bullet was aimed at me nonstop, but none ever hit me. From a macro perspective, a few things are clearly happening: Penguin and Selina are teaming up to stop Magpie, and Gordon is trying to get back control of the police department. But all the details between that are so needlessly convoluted, and I firmly believe that without those two story beats, nobody would have known what was going on in this episode.
Who is this military dude and how is he linked to the Narrows and something called Haven and microchipping and brainwashing and Hugo Strange and what is this whole thing with Lucius and Gordon’s two fiances and Catwoman killing the Joker and something about a signal and… gas? Wait, is this show trying to do No Man’s Land, too??
At times I felt like the actors didn’t understand the dialogue they were spewing, like they just put on their stock voice and collected their paycheck. There are approximately three main characters and 20 side characters, all of whom SEEM like they’re important, but none of whom DO anything of importance. There’s no emotional connection to be found, and the plot machinations aren’t clever or logical. Everybody is connected, everybody is doing everything, but in the end we’re stuck watching a mismatched collection of scenes that feel simultaneously dense and hollow.
3. Don’t forget the gratuitous violence!
Because what’s modern Batman media without a dose of brutal murder? Magpie was already bloodied offscreen when Penguin shows up to shoot her in the chest, and then Military Dude gets fucking impaled. That wasn’t even all: I still don’t understand why Nygma killed a random dude with a cleaver when he WASN’T under mind control. Why didn’t he just drop the cleaver and run? Or even better, if he was such a great marksman, why didn’t he kill Military Dude, who was standing right in front of him? (Well, that one was probably so Military Dude could die in an even more gratuitous manner later.)
Why did the fight between Gordon and Military Dude start and stop so much? Why are characters revealed to be brainwashed murderers whenever a scene starts to lag? Why do people still watch this show?
4. MIND CONTROL (but only when convenient).
The show’s treatment of Nygma is a great example of its willingness to play fast and loose with its own rules. Nygma is under mind control at the beginning because they needed to open with a chase scene. Then he’s not because Gordon needed to team up with him. Then he is but ISN’T REALLY because that’s what a later scene needed to make it more interesting in the moment. Then Lucius takes the chip out because he’s a brain surgeon, I guess? These poor characters are such slaves to the plot that not even the in-universe mechanics are solid enough to save them.Continued below
While we’re talking about Nygma, can I just point out how terrible that riddle/math equation was? He said, “Assuming we start with two mice.” Whether they’re extinct or not is irrelevant, because this is a hypothetical situation. So not only was the solution, that the answer is zero because they’re extinct, a lazy bit of writing, but so was Harvey’s reason for knowing that they were extinct: “I HAD TO WRITE A PAPER ON THAT EXACT TYPE OF MOUSE ONCE BECAUSE I GOT IN TROUBLE.” How convenient. Honestly, what teacher would make a student write a paper about an extinct mouse as a punishment? Maybe Gotham is a worse place than I thought. (Side note within this side note: the Catwoman-Magpie riddle made even less sense.)
5. Too bad she died.
Surprisingly, I loved this interpretation of Magpie. It felt equal parts ‘66 and Burton, specifically calling back to Michelle Pfeiffer’s scenery-chewing portrayal of Catwoman complete with quirky Danny Elfman-like musical cues. Magpie never made much sense in the comics, so this nonsensical and ultimately futile portrayal of her felt just right for this show. It’s too bad she was brutally murdered, but then again, anything goes when a show is about to end. Better to have a character go out on a high note (brutal murder) than integrate her into this already-convoluted mess of a story.
Well, that was miserable. Good riddance, Gotham!