Gotham: Burn The Witch

With Gotham returning to our screen after what I'd label a "controversial" premiere it delivers an episode with some nice moments which still fails to hit all the right notes.

Essentially, this is the first "New Poison Ivy" episode, with a decent bit of screentime heaped on Maggie Geha's character. So, let's talk about Poison Ivy.

The best comparison to the recasting of Ivy Pepper is the recasting of Octavian on Rome, since they are both Bruno Heller shows, even if that role was much more important.

When Michael Woods took over the role of Octavian, he made a concerted - not entirely successful, but concerted - effort to channel the previous actor, his mannerisms and delivery and thus ensure a smooth transition of the character. This meant that even if the two actors really didn't look much alike, the story worked, even if it was a blow to the show to lose the spectacular talent of Max Pirkis.

Maggie Geha and the script of 'Burn The Witch', on the other hand, makes zero attempt to do so as the new Poison Ivy is for all intents and purposes an entirely new character and the old Ivy Pepper persona - the sullen, deadpan young teen with the bad hygiene - is completely erased. As she says, "I was changed, inside and out." Furthermore the only real physical resemblance between her and Clare Foley is her hair. It remains to be seen if Maggie can improve on her performance, though to be fair she doesn't have much to work with in this installment. Her entire storyline consists of putting on a hot dress and murdering the fellow helping her out for throwing a dying potted plant in the trash.

On a more shallow note, Maggie is five feet ten and a half inches, making her by far the tallest female character of the cast. It's rather ironic how now that David Mazouz has conclusively outgrown Camren Bicondova at least in height, they're apparently setting him up for a ton of scenes with a girl making him look like a midget.

In essense... it is what it is. It's the worst and laziest type of recasting, but like it or not Ivy Pepper is dead. Long live Ivy Pepper. I will refrain from commenting on the change of the actress from here onward.

Once we ignore this storyline we are left with a relatively coherent story which nevertheless sometimes manages to stretch the imagination.

On one hand we have the confrontation between Bruce and the Court of Owls. In this, we have Bruce... basically capitulating to them, giving up control of his company and promising to stop investigating them or seek justice for his parents' murder just as long as they won't kill him and his loved ones. More than that, he assures Alfred how he is serious. While David has advertised this as one of his favorite scenes, narratively speaking it's not his strongest fare, with some of the dialog - particularly by the antagonist - coming across as somewhat clumsy.

Apart from that this really, really doesn't seem like anything Bruce would actually agree to, but clearly the operative function is meant to be his deployment of the Wayne "playboy mask" even in the face of his legal guardian, and also recognizing that the mission does in fact not take precedence over the safety of those dear to him, with Alfred and Selina being the most obvious.

The lion's share of the episode consists of the hunt for Fish Mooney, the result of which being Oswald letting Maria and Strange go with a warning *cough* and Jim boning Valerie.

None of these events really make much sense, but the first of them does so in a very comic-book way. When Fish was resurrected in the final parts of season two, I resigned to the fact that she was unlikely to simply die again. As this was so, I was hoping for a change in the dynamic between her and the Penguin. There was no need to rehash the entire season one conflict. We'd already done it, and Oswald won. If she was to serve any meaningful purpose on the show - and she's not gone, and neither is Hugo or most ominously Marv, even if they're all stowed away for now - I believed they needed to play at some sort of reconciliation between them.

This is exactly what the episode accomplishes, and it's a good move even if it's not very logical while delivering one of the best and most emotional scenes between Maria and Oswald as she tells him, "you rubbed my feet, when they were tired. And now look at you... the terror of Gotham. Everything I've done in my life... possibly the best thing was turning Oswald Cobblepot into the Penguin. I couldn't destroy that." It's a bit of a gag, as well, as the actress clearly recognized in interviews during season one how this was exactly the purpose of her character.

"Don't call me that! My name is the Penguin!"

As for Jim and Valerie... Well. It's obvious that the two actors enjoy some chemistry together, but their sudden tryst at the end of the episode felt a bit rushed and unearned. I'm not opposing a romantic affair between them in the slightest, as I think Jim and Leslie turned out to be one of the more screwed-up relationships on the show, but I wish they'd given it some more time.

The final moments of the show has fake Bruce breaking into Wayne Manor and confronting Bruce and Alfred. The promotion video for next week teases the introduction of Mad Hatter, a tense emotional moment between Bruce and Selina and Jim jumping off a high building in what looks to be a significantly improved installment.


hekates said...

This episode definitely had more about what I love about this show - the interactions between Fish and Harvey, the deft touch is Fish, knowing Penguin's mother fixation, using the maternal line on him. Barbara's all too brief, hilarious scene. The Ivy thing is definitely weird and the less said for the moment the better I imagine. (although c'mon, mentally she is still what ? 15? 0

Marianna said...

This show has a tendency towards giant plot holes that is rather irritating. In this case how did Jim get into the building Fish and Harvey were in without anyone noticing if the police had it surrounded?

Another thing: when exactly did Ivy learn to do her hair and makeup?