Gotham: That's Entertainment

I want to be able to give this a good review, so I'll just cheat and not talk about Barbara.

So, there's this pejorative about television writing called fan-service.

Remarkably, "fan-service" means writing what people want. It's unclear why that's such a bad thing, but it's used as a horrible insult in almost all cases. Fan-service only means something people want that you don't want - it's rare that people are honest enough to refer to things they actually like as fan-service.

Gotham's done a lot of fan-service, and more-or-less, this whole episode is fan-service. It's in service of the fans who wanted Cameron Monaghan to remain as the Joker. It's in service of the comic-book fans through several underhanded tie-ins to that character's origin story. It's in service of fans of Bruce-and-Selina. The only thing that plain isn't fan-service in this episode is Barbara's storyline, and that one is so terrible I will simply ignore it exists for this review.

First, let's make one thing clear: There are ways in which fan-service can hurt a show and betray its whole concept, but then again, there are ways most types of writing can do that. Gotham never betrayed its concept through fan-service, only by pissing off its most loyal fans.

Unfortunately, through its zeal in checking off all boxes Gotham turns in a rather predictable installment with 'That's Entertainment', and that's only aggravated by the fact that the show actually spoiled Jerome's death in a preview photo before the episode aired (?!). The Jerome-stans, who have sort of infected the fandom like a cancer and are currently busy spamming the living hell out of the reddit, are of course absolutely committed to enjoy this episode simply because he has so much screentime, and it is an entertaining and well-acted show, but still the final result feels a little underwhelming.

The classic complaint about the Joker or "Jerome" is that "the Joker isn't supposed to have a backstory", and it's a really dumb one. The Joker's had several origin stories in the comics, and Gotham is a show whose entire reason for existence is to tell the origin stories of the Batverse characters.

The thing is this - ever since Jerome appeared on Gotham, the producers have kept insisting that no, he isn't the Joker, no matter how much he might look it. In effect, the show painted itself into a corner, since Cameron Monaghan proved immensely popular in the role, so in order to avoid simply backtracking on this issue Gotham decides to introduce "his twin Jeremiah" (that's the fourth doppelganger on Gotham, or something,) kill Jerome off and make Jeremiah the Joker.

We knew this would happen, and the way Gotham goes about it is pretty much painting by numbers. "Batman creating the Joker"? Check, sort of, by Bruce convincing Jeremiah to face his brother. The imagery of not-yet-Joker falling to his death? Check. Creating the "real" Joker? Well, that's uninspiring - Jerome just has Scarecrow whip up a gas to poison him.

The confrontation between Jerome, Bruce and Jeremiah at the music festival is well-sold. Bruce easily KO'ing Firefly in the ensuing fight is a little surprising, but the kid really could use a couple of wins under his belt, and it's treated mostly as an afterthought. If there is anything to whine about it's probably how Jim is the one to finally waste Jerome, just as he was the one to "punch off his face" in 'The Gentle Art Of Making Enemies' - it would have been far more poetic for that scene to go to Bruce, but I guess being the lead means Jim needs to get all those juicy scenes even if he can't do anything good with them.


Oh, and Bruce's birthday scene with Selina is awesome. Then again, they're always awesome, but I don't think I've ever seen Selina acting quite that lovestruck with Bruce, and it's welcome as most of the time she can come across a bit too cynical.

Despite minor misgivings, this is a solid episode, if we don't count Barbara. I desperately try to avoid thinking about Barbara.

1 comment:

Patryk said...

The complaining about fan-service can be explained with a Whedon quote: “Don’t give people what they want, give them what they need.” The trick is knowing what the fans need before they even know it.