Gotham: Knock, Knock

"Very good. Boyishly charming. The laugh is fabulous. Use that."

In this action-packed, frankly awesome episode, we see the fallout from last week's prison escape begin to escalate as the Maniax take Gotham by storm. But who is controlling them? What's the real aim of all this? Meanwhile, Bruce and Alfred reach a new stage in their relationship, and possibly become friends as well as Master and servant.

Theo is beginning to surprise me, and that's a good thing. I've been reacting to him as if he was a stock character. Tonight, he came across as a far more nuanced character - a Fagin, a trainer, someone who thinks of crime and destruction as something to be coordinated. It gave the episode a shocking bit of depth that took this out of comic-book world while still retaining the joyous campiness of the comics. I just absolutely loved the portrayal of his relation with the Maniax as well.


So we now have half-a-dozen escaped mental patients running around the city. This was so stock in the Batman comics that you'd think the whole Arkham concept would wear thin. Not here, not for me. This may mark the first time I've revised my view of comics based on a new interpretation seen on television. When the Maniax first appeared and began dropping bodies on the ground–just to give the city a message–it completely reformed how I looked at the typical Batman criminal. What Gotham does well is give you a glimpse of the human horror behind the inhuman crimes. The second and highly orchestrated attack on the police had the same effect–crimes I was blasé about on the comics page, like shooting police in a bank robbery or whatever, here turned into something so horrific I found myself wincing as each shot was fired. Seriously, kudos to the team. You took a dead cliché and made it live.

And kudos to Jerome (Cameron Monaghan.) I thought he was over the top last week. No, this week, he's seriously chilling, and he taps into the same bad-boy stuff that made me fall in love with Spike. Monaghan may become one of my favorite actors of this generation; this episode showed he had the stuff. From Russian roulette for control of the gang, to gassing cheerleaders to a fiery death (and it's heads or tails whether this was intended by Theo or totally random), Monaghan managed to pull it off tonight. And that laugh. That cold laugh! When Dobkins screws up the bus explosion, and Tabitha grace-notes him as Dobkins lies in Gordon's arms, I thought at first it was Jerome's murder: and it would have been in character. Instead after that dizzying scene we're left to wonder: these guys are terrifying, but someone else is in control. Anyone else worried about poor Gordon?


Gordon is still busy being stiff-cop, even when half his staff are dead. There's a few poignant moments for him in this episode, though. His quick interchanges with Lee (and her smirk at how embarrassed he is at showing any emotion) go a long way to humanizing the character. So does his accepting hug at the end of Bruce's awkward, adolescent confession. I wanted him to react more to Essen's death, however–and he should be. His allies are being killed off one by one, or pushed off to the side, and his half-hearted side-quest to bring Harvey Bullock back into the fold seems to show he gets this, and is trying to marshal his friends and resources–what he has left, anyway. I'm predicting Lee will be killed sometime this season, though. Don't know why, but I have a gut feeling.

The Bruce/Alfred/Wayne Enterprises storyline also made some serious progress. Last episode my concern was Bruce was turning into a stock character. Well, he's still way too intelligent, still way too emotionally mature in some ways–but when Alfred attacked that computer and Bruce broke down, what we got was 100% insight into how an obsessive personality forms and reacts. And sadly many obsessive personalities are also found in highly intelligent people. I'm not entirely sure the attack was a good idea or great plotting, but it led to great results. Bruce firing Alfred - and Alfred's return, and the terms he imposes on Bruce - are going to go a long way towards changing how this character operates. Now that Lucius Fox (Chris Chalk) is on their little team, I'm eager to see how the dynamics will change yet further. The only false moment I had was when Bruce hears about the police shooting and rushes to the station. Concern and care, yes, but Bruce was spilling out an apology while Gordon was bleeding and wounded and surrounded by dead or dying people: there's a time and place, you know? (And now to throw off my seemingly-positive review, a concrete observation: CAN you really fire someone who's apparently your legal guardian?)

Nygma's storyline is worth a mention here. Last episode I wasn't impressed by what seemed to be a retread of last season. But his split identity problems are worsening–and so is his obsession with Miss Kringle. I hope they continue to play the ambiguity of this character - it's starting to win me over.


Bits and Pieces

The scene with Theo, the mayor, and the tarantula that wasn't there. Super.

Barbara Kean chasing the mayor with a whip, and Theo asking if they'd killed him. Awesome.

That roulette scene deserves a serious mention. Jerome's constantly upping the stakes.

What happened to the Penguin in this episode? I sort of wanted Jim wrestling with the idea of bringing Penguin in for "help."

This has nothing to do with the episode, but when I looked up Chelsea Spack's biography by clicking on her character name, Kristen Kringle, on IMDB, it brought me to the page for Miracle on 34th Street. Ha!

Overall

There were dozens of fantastic moments in this episode. What this show is learning to do is string fantastic moments together into a meaningful storyline; instead of the glimmers and sparks we got last season, it felt as if we finally hit a stride, and there's a cast which is growing to work together. I'm hoping! Despite a little Gordon-woodiness, and some logical plot holes, this ep's worth an exciting 4 out of 4 working lighters.

Just do me a favor, writers. Keep the action, and bring out the humanity as well. Looking forward to the rest of the season.

6 comments:

Docnaz said...

Even though I still thought this was a great episode, I,too commented to my husband that I missed Penguin during the episode. I loved Barbara appearing at the station door and luring Gordon away. her motives were so unclear. First I thought she was protecting him, then I thought she was hurting him, then I decided she was hurting him to protect him. I liked that her emotions were not obviously. I, too, feel like Lee will die this season.

J.D. Balthazar said...

Leslie Tompkins is a mainstay of the Bat-universe, as much as Lucius Fox and Jim Gordon. Killing her off would be dramatically sound, but detrimental to the continuity of the mythos.

E. Nygma is doing some amazing things with his slow transition into the Riddler, and when he does go all the way I'm seriously looking forward to it. Ms. Kringle is clearly turning towards Nygma too. She was already showing signs of attraction before he saved her life. Now, I'm pretty sure it is his relationship to mess up.

Jerome is the Joker, but there was a throw away line in there that had me wondering. Essen said to him that he would soon be dead, and no one would remember his name. What if that is exactly what happens, he is 'killed' and forgotten. Only to return as our favorite clown prince of crime. The actor is simply too good to not keep on.

Barbara Kean is an interesting character, and I don't know where they are going with her. She is basically the Fish Mooney (i.e. created for the show) character that must play a part in Gordon's life. Because at the moment, I cannot fathom why he would name his daughter after her. So something down the line must change with her.

I thought the precinct massacre was brutal, and kind of amazing. With shades of Heath Ledger's Joker thrown into the scene, we got something so dark and chilling but at the same time very true to the Joker. I'm very glad we didn't have to watch a bus full of Cheerleaders get burned alive though, I think that might've gone a bit too far.

I'm glad Bullock is back in the game, and who is going to be Commissioner now? Loeb is 'retired' and I don't think Gordon has the seniority to be the new Commissioner. Probably a character we haven't met yet.

Great review Joseph, and I totally agree this season is already starting to fulfill the potential of season one.

Docnaz said...

Great points, J. D. I think Barbara and Gordon will be back together at some point. Long enough to have one or both of their kids. My understanding of the past portrayals of their marriage is that it didn't last and that she and the son both had emotional issues in some tellings of the story. And Barbara Gordon was a neice rather than a daughter in some tellings. Since this show is a looser interpretation of comic book cannon, there is room for all sorts of twists. I think I see a struggle going on in Gordon regarding her. Their previous relationship had little dramatic tension. This could be interesting.

J.D. Balthazar said...

Okay, so I got my information wrong about Barbara Kean. In the comics she was James Gordon's first wife, and very little was written about her. In some continuities she was killed off, in other's she was alive and used as victim bate for Batgirl and Jim. One thing is clear, her son James Gordon Jr. grew up to be a sociopath, going to far as to attack his father.

Also depending on continuity, Barbara Gordon (Batgirl) isn't Jim Gordon's daughter by blood, but through adoption after her parents were killed in some sort of accident. His biological niece. That would make sense in Gotham continuity for later down the line. Although I still think it is possible that since Morena (Lee) is pregnant in real life, they will work that pregnancy into continuity for a new version of Barbara Gordon. She has always been younger than Batman by a lot, so it wouldn't be a stretch to have her be be born on the show.

Docnaz said...

All very good points, JDB. I haven't read the comics so I rely on my 20 yo son and the internet for my info. It is interesting that The actress that plays Lee is pregnant in real life. That adds a lot to the possible scenarios.

Marianna said...

"CAN you really fire someone who's apparently your legal guardian?" i was saying the same thing!

It annoyed me when Gordon ran after Barbara without even telling anyone where he was going. She might as well have been wearing a sign that said "TRAP!" Also, none of the other police officers noticed the person whose face they had studied? Worst cops ever, but I guess that's not too surprising since it is Gothom City.