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Gotham: Arkham

For a title that mythical, you might've expected more than an episode about a city construction project. Still this wasn't a total bust as this episode paves the streets for things to come.


This is the first installment in a number of episodes spread out over the seasons detailing the muddled and confused "political" plot which will take years to make sense of. To be perfectly honest, I can't make sense of it all yet, and I'm not sure if it's because it's badly written, because they still haven't shown all the cards or because I'm just stupid.

The episode opens where it ended the last one, with Oswald showing up at Jim's and Barbara's doorstep, and Jim is predictably all but thrilled. In a "heated" discussion outside, he tells him he should've killed him and points out that if Falcone knew he's still alive he'd kill them both, but Oswald refuses to leave, telling Jim how he's "the last good man in Gotham" and that he wants to help him. Later, Oswald makes Jim a phone call with vital information about his current case to show him he can trust him.

The first subplot of the showing is Oswald staging a bloody robbery at Maroni's restaurant where he comes out looking a hero for saving half of his cash, in a successful ploy both to promote a gang war and to get promoted himself. After the mission is accomplished, he murders his co-conspirators and makes away with the rest of the cash for his own purposes. As usual Robin Lord Taylor steals every scene he's in and the bait-and-switch isn't telegraphed but rather well done, and the scene of him sitting in the gangsters' hideout feeding them poisoned cannoli with a smile on his face, in an obvious shout-out to the Godfather series, is pretty stellar.

The second subplot is Jim's sparring with Barbara, where she keeps pressuring him for information but ends up revealing to him that she and Montoya used to be a couple. The third one is Fish holding "tryouts" to find a girl as a "weapon" - supposedly to use against Carmine - and settling on a beautiful brunette called Liza after having the two finalists fight it out for the job in a Joker-esque homage.

The case of the week in this episode, which is tied into the main plot, is a professional hitman running around murdering councilmen with a gimmicky metal spike, so considering the nature of those crimes, maybe it doesn't come as a great surprise that Bullock and Essen at least want to solve it.

Turns out, the councilmen are getting murdered as a part of a secret war between Falcone and Maroni regarding the upcoming construction project in Arkham. Falcone wants the city's money to go into constructing a new, top-grade mental asylum for the criminally insane at the grounds of the derelict Arkham Asylum and build new, affordable housing next to it, in the process of which he's presumably set to make considerable profit. It's unclear exactly what Maroni wants apart from concentrating on the housing and turning the asylum grounds into a waste dump.

Since Falcone has the majority of councilmen in his pocket. Maroni hires Gladwell to whack one and shift the balance, after which Falcone returns the favor, ironically using the same hitman. The whole thing escalates until Gladwell makes an attempt to kill the Mayor, where he is shot dead by Bullock after a fight with Gordon. After this, the warring sides reach a deal where the money will be split between housing and "refurbishing" the existing hospital, giving both men a piece of the cake since Maroni will get the contract to refurbish Arkham and build a waste disposal site.

While Jim does manage to put a temporary stop to a bloody mob war that could've killed hundreds of people, the resulting compromise means yet another ambitious plan to revitalize Gotham has been squashed in favor of yet another money-making scheme and no real change will happen, greatly saddening Bruce.

Analysis and conclusion:

Through this all and true to form, Bruce Wayne and his butler sit in their ivory tower offering information and commentary. Predictably, Bruce starts obsessing about the murders and tries to make out some connection between the murders and the Wayne case. While the writers obviously want to use these scenes as "the start of Baby Batman playing detective", these characters serve little purpose in this episode except for conveniently spelling out the plan to Gordon. This storyline is getting stale and the audience's interest in them can't survive unless they get to meet other people and get something meaningful to do.

As in some previous outings despite the fact that the case-of-the-week is straightforward enough, the episode seems fractured and the storyline rather confusing to a casual viewer. This doesn't mean it's a horrible outing, as there are plenty of good scenes and the chemistry between the cast continues to shine. Oswald plays very well off Jim and Salvatore, and Jim and Harvey are starting to gel better with Nygma as the occasional weird side-kick.

It also furthers the running theme of Barbara trying to blackmail Gordon emotionally to force him to divulge police secrets she has no business knowing about in the first place - in essence, trying to make out her telling him about a former lover to be the equivalent of him giving her information that can get people murdered.

Now, for all my qualms, Gotham really does grisly cartoonish murder with the best of them, to the point of meriting an entirely new category. It's not everyone's cup of tea, but the scene of Gladwell burning the second councilman alive in an oil drum was rather brutal.

This is an episode rather light on metaphor and as such not all that easy to write a truly interesting review of. All in all, a rather mediocre installment suffering from problems in pacing and structure but somewhat saved by the character performances and the meaty plot developments.

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