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!
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.