Gotham: Damned If You Do

I admit to waiting all summer to finding out what's next for the city of Gotham after last season's blockbuster finale! This episode picks right up where the last left off. With Penguin on top and Gordon on the bottom - and no sign of Fish Mooney to balance the scales - Jim has to learn some hard lessons about compromise in this mixed bag of a season opener.

James Gordon is a lot more interesting when he falls off the wagon. When Loeb finds an excuse to finally away Jim's badge, our stalwart hero only has one friend left to visit: Penguin. Last season Gordon walked a fine line between being Penguin's "dear friend" and keeping his sanity. I think the only reason he jumped over the line in tonight's episode is because his personal self-construction was seriously impacted by the loss of the badge and his role in the police force. Gordon sees himself as a cop, always a cop. He can't not be a cop. His emotional turmoil at becoming a killer and thief as well as a cop is shown in interesting ways throughout the episode. The compromise he makes might save his job, but will it save his identity? His journey to the Wayne mansion for a talk with Alfred and Bruce - and Bruce's response - I have to admit I'm not entirely sure about it.

Bruce seems to be becoming more and more of a Mary Sue (or Marty Stu, the male version.) He not only has no problem deciphering how to build a bomb, he also has very adult advice and a challenge to offer Gordon - one based on the bigger picture, not the desires of a boy. It feels like the writers want Bruce to be Batman before he's ready. If I were the writers, I'd make Bruce realize he only pushed Gordon over to get to the killers that did for his parents. I'm big on the nobility of the young, but Bruce spoke like an adult in this episode, not like an adolescent. Now he's got into the cave, and his father has him thinking about his calling. All we need is a martial arts montage or two, and a big rubber costume.

Gotham's funny this way: time seems to slip. The opening scene with Gordon and the Reaper of Souls was absolutely 90's New York, but there's still a patina of the 50's resting over the stage. It keeps the show just this side of fantasy into fun camp. The villains are a reflection of this. Penguin is building into the horrific mob boss he became in the comics, and there are times when he lets his inner sociopath show through - it makes the rest of the character very convincing. I think the gathering of villains in the prison was cheesy, but worked. Barbara Kean (Erin Richards) actually reminded me of the psychotic Buffy goddess Glory at one point, and her phone calls to Gordon and Lee were just chilling. I thought Jerome was way too over the top, but I'm willing to see where they're going with the young Joker. (And I'm really glad Zaardon was just a front.)

Bits and Pieces

Penguin kissing his victim before he kills them. I loved this moment.

Zaardon. *Two* a's.

Harvey Bullock, 32 days sober. I dig.

Barbara outmaneuvering Jerome and becoming queen of her own little hive.

Tabitha looks a lot like a precursor to Catwoman, complete with black leather, a bit of an Eartha Kitt attitude, and Tab=tabby cat. I'm predicting Selina and Tabitha will be friends at some point.

One day Bruce is going to learn that sometimes the things you're trying to save can be destroyed in the future by the compromises you make today. I have the feeling this is going to be a theme for the coming season.


In some ways I think Jim is much more compelling now than at the end of the last season, and there's a lot of fodder in this pilot for a fantastic story arc or three. At the same time, it felt like we re-walked several paths last season covered. I hope we go in some totally new directions over the next few months. Looking back over the entry, it did give me a lot to talk about... so: three out of four gassy dead bodies.


Docnaz said...

Thanks for the review. I had been waiting all summer for your next review! I love batty Babs. Much better than boring Barbara. I am very excited for the new season and am glad Fish Mooney left.

J.D. Balthazar said...

This was a good episode, and I agree with most of what you said. I think my one issue is with Bruce. He was a borderline adult last season, and I think obsession has made him cold. The advice he gave to Gordon, while a bit too adult and very self-serving, was also in character. I don't think he would've condoned the death of Barker, but at the same time the ends might justify the means. One dead bad-guy versus a life-time of good Gordon will do over the course of his career. Plus, we did get a much better Commissioner out of the deal as well.

I'm not sure about Theo and his play to use Arkham's current finest to be a dream (nightmare) team. Jerome and Barbara are fun, if a little over the top like you said. I am worried about Lee too, even though she is a comic character, that doesn't mean she is immune to the Gotham writers chopping block.

I'm also really intrigued by the developments with Nygma, and his duel personality. It is a bit like shades of Two-face, but I love how the villains are starting to come into focus. Penguin and Victor are now just totally creepy, and did it seem like Penguin has developed even more physical aliments? Perhaps from that gunshot wound he received from Butch in the finale?

Anyway, great review. I'm glad I caught up with the series finally and hope this season will be better than season one.

tricksterson said...

I've said it before, although I'm not sure if I've said it here but if not I will now: They are totally grooming Barbara to be Harley Quinn although I'm wondering at this point if they'll do a flip and make her the Joker and Jerome the Harley, in fact if not name.