Gotham: Unleashed

Let's just call this one "Azrael Part II", shall we?

Gotham continues right where it left off in the latest episode with the same exact tone and brand of crazy that it's trademarked over its second season. It's every bit as cartoonish as the last one, shamelessly rehashing past storylines and there's a cannonade of plot points setting a faster pace than any previous episode I can think of.

This is a crowdpleaser. It's not meant to be a thought-provoking piece of drama and I'd wager it's not even meant to make much sense, but that doesn't stop it from being a lot of fun.

The format of this episode is practically forcing me into "sound bite" mode for my review - as a matter of fact more so than its predecessor - so I've decided to go for what almost looks like a straight recap.

The episode opens with the GCPD headed by Harvey Bullock with Jim Gordon in tow storming into Arkham Asylum with a warrant. They're pointing out that records indicate how Theo Galavan's body was brought to Arkham Asylum and cremated, which begs the question how he's alive and well and Barnes is in a hospital bed. However, when they get to Strange's office all of the records are shredded, and seeing as they have no warrant to search the rest of the premises, they are forced to leave. The key dialog from that scene is Hugo saying "you have a lot of anger, James Gordon. I can help you with that." I believe that will be revisited.

The second scene is Edward Nygma emerging from the basement and getting back to his room. He's seen what's under Arkham Asylum, for some reason he wants no part of it and he decides on a daring albeit ultimately unsuccessful escape through a ventilation shaft. In fact, the only narrative purpose for his storyline in this episode is to provide Selina with directions as he runs across her on his way out of the joint.

The next important scene takes us to GCPD headquarters where the police force is gearing up for the search for Galavan. Bullock's giving a rousing speech which, I guess, means we know who to hang the crown on when Barnes kicks the bucket.

Then we have Bruce visiting Selina. Predictably, she's less-than-enthusiastic about helping him investigate Arkham Asylum after the way he blew her off a few episodes ago, so Bruce is forced to play his trump card - her friend Bridgit might be locked up at Arkham as well. Selina agrees to help but insists she goes alone. Now, I get that teenagers think they're immortal, but this is rather amusing considering only three episodes ago, Alfred mind-tricked Bruce into breaking up with Selina under the pretense that he "shouldn't put that little girl in danger." Now as the plot dictates, he comes running back to her and not only does he enlist her for his cause, he also sends her into a life-threatening situation with no backup whatsoever.

This only further underscores what a poor decision I think Gotham made in 'Into The Woods' by having Bruce buy the description of Selina as "that little girl" as a reason to exclude her from his secret life - especially considering how there's no way Gotham will be able to resist using them together in future action scenes. What we are left with is a scenario where Bruce has no problem trading the girl for the mission, but when push comes to shove he has no problem risking her life for his own interests either. I really doubt that's what we're supposed to take away from it and I suppose Bruce might be foolish enough to think she's in no danger, but it's quite a tempting conclusion. On the plus side, this gives Camren Bicondova the most screen time she's had to work with since 'By Fire' in her mission to save Bridgit, even if it's quite short on dialog. As usual, she's great at selling her character's physical representation.

Most of the rest of the episode plays out like an action movie. Azrael gets his hands on his fabled sword after a fight scene and Tabitha gets stabbed in the process, as he remembers that his original mission was to eradicate the Wayne dynasty. This sets up for the second elaborate fight scene where Alfred goes toe to toe with Theo at Wayne Manor and gets thrown out of a window, Bruce runs Theo over with a car, Jim shoots him multiple times in the back and Penguin and Butch shows up at the end to literally blow him to smithereens.

The important developments of this episode were as follows:

Azrael died at the end - more specifically, at the end of Butch's bazooka (yeah. Bazooka.) I believe that putting an end to this incarnation of Azrael before he overstayed his welcome was a smart choice on the part of the show. Penguin also managed to set up Theo as the ultimate scapegoat and the person responsible for Everything Bad That Ever Happened to Oswald, Butch and Tabitha. That might have been more than a stretch for Butch, who got brainwashed into Ozzie's service, forced to watch as Ozzie killed his dearest friend and then chopped his freaking hand off, but in effect this plays out as the reconciliation between these parties.

Tabitha got severely wounded by Theo and the scene by the hospital bed sort of confirms that the relationship between her and Butch isn't meant to be viewed as a strict business arrangement. Drew Powell sold that scene and the subsequent confrontation with Oswald very admirably. It's probably the finest piece of acting I've seen from him on the show. It's anyone's guess if Tabitha will die, but I doubt it - she is the Tigress, after all. She's filling her niche role rather nicely, and there are a lot of juicy possibilities in future interactions with Oswald, Selina and the rest of the cast. Allowing her to step out of the generic bad-ass cliché also worked wonders for her character. However, since Fish is returning in the next episode, and seeing as she and Butch have history, I would assume that miss Galavan will be out of service for the rest of the season.

The end of the episode trapped Selina in Indian Hill with a crazed Firefly. Now, everyone and their dog knows Selina won't be roast beef anytime soon, but this will clearly be used as part of Bruce's motivation for the rest of the season. Selina's had to come to Bruce's rescue more times than I can count and it's about time Gotham shows us the reverse, so I look forward to the resolution of that story. The only real question is whether Hugo will succeed in driving her insane. My spontaneous feeling is that it would be a bad idea. Camren isn't a very experienced actress - hardly a criticism against a sixteen-year-old with a primary background in dancing - but the Selina role is tailor-made for her and she's got it down pat. Playing an intentionally haywire, over-the-top character requires a different toolbox and I fear it might fall flat.

All in all, the acting of this episode was great as always, and it was very much an ensemble show, with all of the characters having something meaningful to do. It's easy to contrast that with season one and several other television shows where it sometimes seemed a character was just there because the actor needed screen time.

Now, I will round up my review with the funniest line of the episode.

"See, I will not buy this whole uber-villain nonsense! I mean, if he wanted to wear leather, he should just wear leather! This is Gotham City! Nobody cares, right?!"


Docnaz said...

"See, I will not buy this whole uber-villain nonsense! I mean, if he wanted to wear leather, he should just wear leather! This is Gotham City! Nobody cares, right?!"

My husband said this was the best line of the series.

I was excited to see penguin show up and save the day. And the RPG ( bazooka per you and my husband).
It is funny how I first saw it in Buffy the Vampire Slayer in a season finale and now have seen several shows use it as the trump card in a conflict. ( Most recently in THe Walking Dead).

Unfortunately, I am not a fan of Fish Mooney. She irritates me and I was hoping to never see her again.

Thomas Ijon Tichy said...

The second best line of the episode was Butch to Tabitha: "I'll eat more fruit!"

Marianna said...

The ventilation scene made me laugh, as ventilation scenes always do, because the ventilation shafts were conveniently large enough for an adult to comfortably crawl through and at no point do they get hit with unbearably hot or cold air. Do these ventilation shafts serve just for people to sneak in and out of buildings?

I don't think Harvey will become captain, or if he does it will be only an interim position, because he should still be a detective by the time Jim is commissioner.

By the way Selina's hair is WAY too nice for a street kid. She clearly gets regular, expensive haircuts and looks very clean in general.

Did anyone else really want Azrael to say "What's that do?" when Butch showed up with the bazooka?

Despite the complaints, I actually liked this episode. I had my concerns about the Azrael plot, mostly because James Frain isn't my favorite, but they pulled it off. Wear leather indeed!