Gotham: Red Queen

So-so.

All in all, 'Red Queen' is a solid installment. It's well-crafted on all levels, it just lacks that extra pizzazz. It's got three plots one of which is so minor it hardly even counts - the Mad Hatter plot with Jim going on an acid trip ending up with Jervis in custody, the triangle between Oswald, Edward and Isabella, and Bruce having his first "date" with Selina. The first two plots tie into each other reasonably well while the third is completely detached from the rest of the material.

Sometimes I think that my obsessive dissecting of the promo material for the episodes actually hurts my enjoyment of Gotham. This was such a case. The episode name was 'Red Queen', leading everyone to speculate who that might be. Turns out it's just a drug. Sure, it may turn out to be something more down the line, but for now it's just a drug. We had teases of Jim's hallucinations showing him glimpses of his past and future, featuring Bruce or Thomas in what looked suspiciously like a Talon costume possibly shooting up the police station. We had a tense, dramatically lit scene with Bruce and Selina.

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Actually, hell if anyone knows...

Truth be told it all comes down to very little. Jim's hallucinations are a confusing letdown. We never get any real sense if his scenes with Bruce (?) at the police station will come into play in a future episode - in fact we can't even be sure which Bruce it is! - and his scene with Lee and the kids by the family table just seems to be wishful thinking. The episode never answers what, if anything, is supposed to be prophetic. Hell, and I thought we might get a reference to Batman...

The only evidently important part of the trip is Jim's visit with his dad, who makes him rejoin the police force by reminding him of the "code he's supposed to live by", engraved into his family ring - "dum spiramus tuebimur", or "while we breathe, we shall defend." Then, at the end, we see Kathryn talking to a man in the dark, presumably a leader of the Court, carrying an exact same ring. In fact, the entire installment is full of symbolism and foreshadowing most of which is very hard to make sense of. As an example, I've been trying to think of a reason for the camera zooming in on the band-aid on Mario's neck, but I'm lost here.

The other side of Jim's plot are his interactions with Valerie, Leslie and Mario. Again, we learn nothing. Valerie calls it quits because she knows he chose Lee, and Jim doesn't deny it. Then he talks to Lee and claims he actually meant for her to get shot, leaving us all none the wiser - although I think we're meant to infer that he just lied to Lee. Finally we have Mario who's just generally pissed off with Jim getting his girlfriend into trouble all the time.

Bruce and Selina hardly get any screentime at all in this episode but the little we get is good, and as usual no other critic has bothered to make sense of it, so it's up to me. The reason for the scene we're served is a basic inequality between them - Bruce has been spilling his guts to her over and over, while Selina hardly ever says anything. She's not a very talkative girl to begin with, and she's deathly afraid of admitting any vulnerabilities, but this exchange forces her to do it. When he asks her why she's late to their dinner she just tells him that "something came up", but Bruce calls her on the lie and she actually answers honestly - "this, you and me, it's weird for me." Meaning, she was nervous so she stalled, but their relationship is important enough to her that she came and she won't run. It's an elegant way of humanizing her character and building trust between them, and it's very well-acted by Camren. My passionate love of this pairing aside, it's probably the strongest scene of the installment.

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A side note here: I've seen some voices around the net about how it's "unrealistic" that Bruce would be able to cook an entire three-course dinner for Selina. Now, even if we forget the show canon that Bruce used to cook for Selina while they lived together, and that he can sew - "essential bachelor skills" according to Alfred - this is just another case of the show refusing to bow before outdated gender stereotypes. If it's "cute" with men being helpless in the kitchen, is it equally "cute" with women being helpless around cars?

As usual, Bruce and Selina are all about truths while Eddie, Ozzie and Isabella are all about lies. Isabella's entire demeanor practically screams "ulterior motive" and that's even disregarding the Kim Novak reference. She's the perfect woman! She's smart, she's funny, she loves riddles! She thinks it's sexy that he strangled his last girlfriend! Edward's blinded by the love of the illusion of his lost love, Ozzie is jealous and Isabella will betray Eddie, though unclear to what end. The scene between Penguin and Belle is beautifully acted in what can only be viewed as two con artists having a go at one another. Also this episode proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Edward is totally oblivious to Ozzie's romantic feelings - otherwise, why would he have invited Isabella to the Cobblepot manor? The show even manages to throw in a scene of Ozzie lamenting his sorrows to Kathryn, which is the first time they've interacted.

As I mentioned earlier, after terrorizing Gotham City's elite with the threat of a biological weapon Jervis ends up in police custody, and it's about time. Having him pulling off one contrived escape after another was getting a bit grating, and this also marks a rare case where the GCPD actually manages to accomplish something! However, Captain Barnes is clearly going insane, and I think I've now figured out who he's supposed to be. I won't spoil it to the reader, but if you're interested just read the title of the ninth episode. Given some familiarity with Batman canon or a quick Google search, you'll probably realize how the show will handle the Mad Hatter's incarceration.

In conclusion, Gotham keeps up the quality of its material lately. While this wasn't a showstopper like 'Anything For You' or even as good as 'New Day Rising,' it was on par with the last installment and decidedly better than the first two episodes of this season.


In an attempt to spruce things up a little, I decided to add animated pictures! Since I'm absolutely horrible at making these, I stole them from my friends. Credits go to alecblushed and gotham-daily!

3 comments:

millicentcordelia said...

Jim's “trip” was interesting for who it featured-Barbara, Leslie, Oswald, Bruce, and Jim’s father. Jim has unfinished business with the first four characters, and so, we assume, he also has unfinished business with his father, Peter. We learn that Jim has idealized his childhood, and his parents, beyond all human recognition. His desperation to stay stuck in the retro-fantasy with Leslie speaks to his desire to return to the safety of that childhood; yet we know that in real life, he treated Leslie miserably and did nothing but push her away.

The fantasy lets us know that Jim hasn’t attained adulthood yet. His life has been devoted to becoming a hero, like his dad; he wants his dad to be proud of him. Jim isn’t his own man, and he won’t be until he breaks free of the way he idealizes his father, and his childhood. The fact that his father may have some connection to the Court of Owls, might be the deciding factor in Jim coming to terms with his own need to establish an identity independent of his parents, and a past that never existed.

I wouldn’t say that the scenes with Bruce and Selina were detached from the rest of the episode-they were a counterpoint to the dysfunctional manner in which the adults were handling their relationship issues. Last episode, Oswald sat at a dinner table laden with food, waiting for Ed, just as Bruce waited on Selina. The difference is-Selina showed up. Bruce and Selina had “real talk”, honest and unencumbered by hidden agendas-unlike Ed/Isabella and Jim/Lee. At this point, Bruce and Selina are far more mature than the adults on the show.

I agree with you that Ed is somehow, amazingly, clueless about the fact that Oswald loves him; or that Isabella is as phony as that awful wig she’s wearing. How can this be, when Ed’s supposed to be a genius? Think back to “good Ed”, the old version of Ed who merged with “bad Ed” after Kristen’s death. That version of Ed was spectacularly clueless about other people’s feelings. He couldn’t read cues, or predict emotional reactions. He actually believed Kristen would be excited about him killing Tom.

Meeting Isabella seems to have thrown Ed off balance; he’s re-living “Good Ed’s” fantasy of the perfect woman, who thinks murder is thrilling and who loves everything about Ed without question. Real people aren’t like that, and neither is real love; Ed’s over-idealizing (like Jim) and it’s blinded him. Meanwhile, poor Oswald is suffering the torments of the damned.

This episode gave us lots of mysteries, lots of clues, and lots of reasons to stay excited for whatever comes next.

Thomas Ijon Tichy said...

That's an excellent comment touching on a lot of stuff I lazily didn't bother to include.

Yes, first of all, Jim Gordon definitely needs more backstory for us to be able to root for him, so it's commendable when the show bothers trying to give him one. It's also clear that he's idolizing his father, and the reason for that is that he really didn't see all the dirt he had to deal with when he grew up. He was "protected" from it. Furthermore Gotham uses the scene to point out how Jim and Peter aren't all that different - "I've got plenty of darkness in me" - and to call Jim out on some negative traits the audience has observed. This is all good.

The distinction between the "old Ed" and "new Ed" is also a brilliant point, as is how Isabella seems to appeal to his old self. That said - I don't find it out of character in the least for Edward not to understand emotions. That's not his forte or even in his interest - he comes at all things from a detached, logical standpoint. He wins his wars by games of logic. He won't understand Ozzie's into him unless he screams it in his face, which is exactly what Isabella does, and he's got almost zero experience in matters of the heart, which explains how he's so easily duped.

Marianna said...

Barnes reminded me so much of The Shield in this episode!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ixeh-uf9KQw