Gotham: One Bad Day

The only way Gotham could've made this more of a 'Killing Joke' would've been to call it, you know, 'The Killing Joke', and that's both a good and a bad thing.

As I started writing this review, Gotham was renewed for a fifth and final season. Considering the show's atrocious numbers, the fact that we got any more at all is something to be celebrated, and I can't help but wonder what bribe-and-blackmail-combination Warner Brothers had to employ to secure the show's conclusion.

Anyway:

What the show does here is simply to take the general outline of the Killing Joke graphic novel and apply it to the existing cast of Gotham, with Alfred standing-in for the role of Gordon and Selina standing-in for Batgirl, minus all of the gratuitous rape porn. Since Selina is literally Bruce's only female acquaintance and Batgirl's not even born yet, and since Alfred's the only man he truly seems to care for, this doesn't exactly make for a surprising hour of television.

So, this obviously makes for a review with some comic book references.

The "good part" of 'One Bad Day' can be summed up in three words – "Joker", "Joker", "Joker". Yeah, I guess we aren't supposed to say the word "Joker" because of copyrights or whatever, but Cameron really does a fabulous job in the role as Jeremiah.

In fact the stellar performances of David as Bruce and Cameron as Jeremiah make the lion's share of what saves this episode despite a rather pedestrian narrative and unbelievable plot. Their bells and whistles are needed, because unfortunately Jeremiah is a less effective antagonist for Bruce than Jerome. While Jerome and Bruce at least had the street-trash-criminal versus richest-man-in-Gotham thing going on, Jeremiah is both immensely wealthy and highly educated.

Perhaps, that makes him a more formidable adversary, but that also means there's no class conflict to the story.

The other weird part is how in the inspirational story for this episode, the Joker sets out to give Batman his own "very bad day" in order to make him snap. Effectively, he's daring Batman to end his own life.

The problem with that in the context of Gotham is that Bruce isn't Batman. He's less known for being a vigilante than for being a spoiled brat. He may be the white knight or dark knight of Gotham, but Jeremiah certainly knows nothing about it. Not only doesn't Bruce really have an ironclad "kill rule", he's actually killed a person, and he was willing to do it all over again yesterday.

So essentially Jeremiah's just giving Bruce a hard time so he can give him a hard time. Sure, maybe he wants him to snap and join him in the madness, but Bruce and Jeremiah hardly have history together, and no amount of Jeremiah quipping about his "very best friend" will turn it into a compelling motivation. Pitch perfect delivery of that line though, as always.

In Baby-Batcat-Land it seems the writers of Gotham are dead set on trolling the fanbase as hard as humanly possible. We've had two "kissus interruptus" over the last episodes. Their relationship hasn't really progressed apart from some backhanded admission that "hey, we kinda love each other." Here, Selina finally gets to kiss Bruce - yay! - only to prompty be shot by the Joker afterwards - noooooo...

And, well, yeah, that might be a big no. In the show's quest to mimic its comic counterpart, this piece of decision making might be a step hard to recover from short of a reset button. Batgirl was shot and paralyzed, so Selina must be shot and paralyzed.

For Gotham this is one damn bad idea. There are no computers in Gotham City. Well, hardly any. There's no internet, no smartphones, no surfpads, no nothing. That's a good thing for Gotham, as these gadgets seem to overload every detective show on air lately. The very last thing that Gotham needs is "hacker girl," and even if they needed it, Selina would be a terrible option.

Selina Kyle has probably never even attended middle school. She's a tough-as-nails action girl, and education is no super power; it's earned through many years of work. She has literally none of the cerebral qualities of Oracle. That's not a criticism.

Anyway, this extended conflict is the centerpiece of the episode. The rest is filler – effective filler, but filler nonetheless. Ozzie's plot with Girl Power Gang and his sparring with Jim and Valeska, filler. Harvey's redemption and the "bomb plot", filler. One must say, though, it's all very well acted, and the episode is directed and paced expertly - in this regard, it might be the best outing in all of season four.

As a standalone episode 'One Bad Day' is a really good show. As a part of Gotham it may be a disaster, the jury is still out.

1 comment:

Diogo said...

I wonder how someone who's never read The Killing Joke experienced this episode. Because I've read that book many times, I know what the episode is going for, but I wonder if for someone who's never read the book, these episodes scenes will only look odd and out of place... which is not the sign of good writing.

Either way, I had decided to give Jeremiah a chance, but now that I've seen all of the episodes he's been in so far (including the season finale), I can confidently say he feels like a step down from Jerome (who for me was the single best thing on the show). Jeremiah may match the Joker's appearance in the comics more closely in comparison to his brother, but he lacks the Joker's spirit, and his relationship and rivalry with Bruce was nowhere nearly as organically well-developed as Jerome's. I mean, I get that Gotham is trying to do something different, and that's commendable... but a Joker that barely laughs? A Joker whose kills aren't at the very least a little ironic? Some things are just fundamental to a character, and taking those away lessens said character. And like I said, his relationship with Bruce feels like a leap. Maybe they should have spent a few more episodes showing Bruce and Jeremiah develop their friendship before Jerome had his "One Bad Day". They had a nice twist with Jerome tricking the audience into thinking he was slowly losing his mind (and revealing that he had already lost it all at once), but in retrospect instead of such a short-term twist in the long run it would have been better drama to watch a character we came to empathize with slowly becoming the Joker (for real), as Bruce helplessly struggled to watch his friend become a monster?