Gotham: Look Into My Eyes

Gotham puts a halt to its recent slump as the show delivers a much improved third installment sketching out a slew of promising storylines for the upcoming episodes.

Unlike the first two episodes, where I am actually having a hard time remembering if anything significant took place apart from the speed-aging of Ivy, in 'Look Into My Eyes' things happen. Lots of things happen.

If we are to break it down in no particular order of importance:

Mad Hatter and Alice are introduced on the show played by Benedict Samuel (The Walking Dead, Secret City) and Naian Norvind (Crónica de Castas, Pacientes), both seemingly perfect fits for the show.

Oswald announces he's running for Mayor of Gotham in a powerful and well-acted scene in front of Aubrey James and a crowd filled with journalists. This turns a new leaf for the character and while you could claim this is simply ripping off Batman Returns and other sources, that would be a shallow view of the source material. This is the logical evolution of his arc as the Penguin has been conceived as a person of influence and political power in nearly every adaptation of the Batman mythos.

Edward Nygma is declared sane by the Arkham Board of Mental Health after some meddling by Oswald and sent back into circulation at his side. This is welcome news since the icing of his character was depriving the show of one of its top performers.

Bruce and Alfred gets to know Bruce's clone, 'Five', after which Five steals their car and his identity to go woo Selina.

Leslie returns to Gotham with her new boyfriend, leading to a couple of tense confrontations between them and Jim and a reintroduction of Carmine Falcone as Mario's father.

Out of all this, the only weak link is the part with Jim and Lee. Astonishingly, Morena and Ben keeps displaying almost zero on-screen chemistry and it's a show pairing I find myself in great trouble to root for. While Jim's hook-up with Valerie may have been rushed, they at least seem like a better match and a breath of fresh air into Jim's gloomy life. The return of Carmine, however, is a welcome surprise. He was one of the show's strongest players in season one and has a vibrant rapport with several of our key characters.

The main plot of the evening is the appearance of Mad Hatter as he comes to Gotham in search of his "sister" - unclear if fake or pretend - Alice, a girl out of Arkham with the very unpractical superpower of having poisonous blood. Now, to be fair, Benedict Samuel doesn't look like any version of Mad Hatter I've ever seen before and the show notably is missing some of the more controversial aspects of his portrayal such as the strong hints of paedophilia, apparently a subject matter a bit too stark for FOX television.

That doesn't mean the role is bad; in fact, it's stellar, with Benedict delivering a strong, charismatic and intriguing performance feeling right at home in the mad world of Gotham. The only negative with this storyline for me is the flirting with Jim jumping off the roof since for obvious reasons this holds zero suspense; the writers would do well to find a way to work around such moments.

In Batcat Land, we are sort of rehashing a tired plot device with a twist as we're getting another heartfelt conversation ending with her storming off in anger. The main difference here is the pronounced romantic overtone of the scene with Bruce taking her hand to calm her down. Overhearing the entire talk is Five who's catching up with her in the end of the episode masquerading as his twin.

It's clear that the show is playing the jealousy angle here between him and Bruce, and while you may complain about getting another triangle subplot at least you can't claim it makes no sense - whatever their differences are, Five is a clone of Bruce and Cat was nice to him in a world where he's probably experienced little love, not to mention she's pretty stunning. More importantly, David's acting and body language in both scenes has matured considerable compared to two years ago, and at this point you could actually imagine Bruce and Selina as a couple. Also, while David's noted that playing two different characters is very difficult he's doing an amazing job with it.

In summary I found this episode a joy and a great relief. I found the first two installments rather horrid and I feared for the narrative coherence and future of the series, but this episode conclusively proves that at the top of its game Gotham still has the potential to outshine every other comic-book television show ever aired, and as the show is apparently euthanizing several tired plots and bringing in new, fresh material I have high hopes for the next episodes.

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