Gotham: Things That Go Boom

Not even the magic touch of the finest character gallery and the best cast on network television can save Gotham from its own stupidity.

A long time ago I made myself the promise not to resort to negative reviewing of a show to which I'm dedicated, but there's no helping it. This review will be a brutal and merciless bash.

First, the traditional short recap.
  • Oswald captures Sofia, Sofia escapes, kidnaps Martin, tries to ransom him to Oswald and Oswald pretends to blow him up. Tabitha, Babs and Selina act the windowdressing to the process.
  • Ed and Lee win a fight with a gang, becomes BFFs, Lee tells Ed there's nothing wrong with him and his Riddler persona comes back to haunt him.
  • Gordon does nothing useful and Pyg escapes.

Despite advertised in the synopsis, Bruce and Alfred don't appear in the episode. I guess Fox had to cut the scenes of Bruce doing E and having underage sex.

If you think the above sounds a bit confused, trust me, it's nothing compared to the overloaded balderdash actually aired on screen. While my second promise was to grant any shows I review dramatic license and not get stuck in petty nitpicking, Gotham has defeated my best intentions yet again by airing an installment where the entire plot is made of holes.

It's hard to say if this is the worst episode ever of the show. You could make a case for it. It's certainly less boring than 'Prisoners', but I have a hard time thinking of a single comic show episode in history more nonsensical than 'Things That Go Boom.' Unlike some previous episodes where Things Happened and they may or may not have been good, in this one, Things Happen and they all freaking suck.

If we're to go over the "main plot" first, it's pretty clear that Gotham wants to sell us on the idea of "Sofia, Criminal Mastermind." The only problem is Sofia is no criminal mastermind. She's an outright idiot, only relying on sheer luck and plot contrivance to save her own skin time and time again.

We're supposed to believe that Sofia actually wanted to be captured. How could she possibly foresee Oswald handing her over to "the Dentist" for torture with no supervision - as if he would deny himself the luxury of watching - instead of just stabbing her to death on the spot?

Further, what reason is there to get captured? All it's used for is posturing to make Sofia come across as a "bad-ass." As an example, just yesterday I saw an episode of a Korean drama where the hero allows himself to be captured in order to have all the villains gather in the same room so he can beat them up. Sure, that's a simple reason, but it's a reason.

Then, we have the hostage situation. How could that possibly work out? "Hand over your criminal empire and I'll release Martin." Regardless of whether Ozzie "pretend-kills" Martin or not, there is no scenario where he doesn't win by lying, yet Sofia, who's been "expertly playing" all sides over the season, couldn't even think of that. The saddest part is, were it not for the sheer lunacy of this installment, I could've been persuaded to buy into the characterization.

Then, unsurprisingly, the obligatory firefight ensues, and of course nobody can hit anything - I guess the guns in Gotham shoot wet pasta. The net result being Oswald's finishing line - delivered with as much gusto as I've ever seen by Robin - doesn't even come across as menacing. It just stinks of more empty posturing.

Finally, in this week of The Ongoing Character Assassination of Selina Kyle, we're now supposed to believe that the future Catwoman would be cool with kidnapping and threatening the life of ten-year-old kids. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Ed and Lee's plot is equally ludicrous. She poisons a gang leader, extorts his submission by giving him the antidote... and then he doesn't just shoot her. They're two people, neither of whom any good at fighting and not even visibly armed, surrounded by a whole crew of criminals on their own home turf. Then, to really push things home, we have the final scene where she lets Ed in on the little secret that he's actually all good, and how she hopes he still wants to be friends.

The only problem - and yes, I realize I'm repeating myself, because Gotham is repetitive in its stupidity - is that Eddie has done absolutely nothing to prove that he's "good." A couple of episodes ago he tried to think of ways to extort her to help him. There's nothing to indicate he really cares about Grundy. Every single move he's made since defrost has been ultimately self-serving. His horror at seeing his evil green friend in the mirror is equally mind-boggling. This is what his mission has been all along - returning to being the Riddler - and now, after a few kind words by Leslie Thompkins, when it happens he's stiff with horror.

More than that - as if we needed more salt to rub in the wound - this shows us that on a personal level, Edward's whole fourth season character journey has been for nothing. In essence, it's been played for comic relief and to reshuffle the deck pairing him with two new characters, and now, soon, he'll be back to his villainous ways yet again.

Ed and Grundy is actually a good and logical pairing - like Ozzie needs a Zsasz, Eddie needs someone to act the muscle to his brains - but Lee is still useless. Surely, for some people it'll be enough that she's a "strong, independent woman" and I'm sure all of us are grateful for the show snuffing out her relationship with Gordon, but we shouldn't have to settle for "not utterly obnoxious."

Her motive forgiving Jim made no sense. Her motive leaving Gotham made no sense. Her motive then returning to Gotham made no sense. Her motive staying away from Jim makes no sense, or well, it's a thing that must not be spoken of. Her motive running the fight club makes no sense. Finally, she simply isn't needed on the show. Letting her rot in a ditch off-screen through the fourth season would've made no difference to the main story. There's nothing unique about her and she has no useful dynamic with any of the canon characters. No amount of poorly applied eyeliner can hide the fact that her character is bankrupt.

This may not have been my best written review but I see no reason to waste more brain cells on so badly written melodrama. I pity the actors forced to try to sell this madness; they really deserve better. It's often said that every popular genre in the movies ultimately transitions from drama over comedy to farce. With its latest installment, Gotham's entered the final stage, and it's not a good one.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

You made a "promise not to resort to negative reviewing of a show to which I'm dedicated", which explains why you always seem to try and make Gotham appear to be better than it is by inventing a lot of faux-intellectual depth for it, when it's pretty clearly cobbled together by people who don't care and are just making shit up on the fly. Man, if you want to be a good reviewer, or any kind of reviewer, you can't ignore the negative. And there's plenty negative about Gotham.

Trey Pharr said...

For me this was the worst episode of the show.

I think I'm done now. I may return if Selina breaks free of her current plotline. I've tried hard to tolerate it, but can't anymore.

Thomas Ijon Tichy said...

@Anon #1:

I "ignore the negative"? Read the linked overview in the review. There's a difference between a critique of the general outline and tendency of a show and getting bogged down in squabbling about minutiae. I try to walk that line. That's what my promise is about.

The so-called "faux intellectual depth", well, when it's there, it's there. You're welcome to try to contend it's all baloney in those posts, but to summarize it, it's not possible to do an intellectually honest or even coherent dialectical breakdown of characters whose overall pattern of behavior makes no sense.

Gotham is schizophrenic. It's the highest of the high and the lowest of the low. Writers come and go, Bruno Heller has been outmaneuvered and we've seen a marked deterioration of helm control.

It's a bloody mess.

Phyllis Strickland said...

Yes, it's a bloody mess, in every way. Seriously Let Them Eat Pie was so stupid and disgusting I couldn't watch it. In fact this whole story line is idiotic. Every time I watch it, I say this is it, no more! But it has so much potential with great actors (not including Jim Gordon/Ben McKenzie - is the problem the actor, the way he's directed or both??) I think Donal Logue should have been Jim Gordon! At least Harvey Bullock/Donal Logue is an interesting character & very liable actor whereas I just wish Jim Gordon/Ben KcKenzie would disappear. Dump Lee & Gordon, maybe the show would be more tolerable. Lee is just an annoyance and her character has never been believable in any iteration.