Gotham: The Fearsome Dr. Crane

Ed Nygma: “I wanted to return this pencil. I took it from your office some time ago. I kept meaning to return it. Used to be longer.”

I’m beginning to notice a trend in Gotham’s first season in terms of the weekly stories: sometimes, it brings to the screen the memorable and grounded police drama rooted in the pages of Batman: Year One, and sometimes it chooses to go a more ludicrous route with its stories (The Balloonman certainly comes to mind) as a sort of ‘prelude’ for the wacky rogues Gotham City will eventually employ. ‘The Fearsome Dr. Crane’ chooses to go the route of the latter.

I should stress that ‘ludicrous route’ is not to be used by me with a negative connotation, in that, I merely mean it becomes quite clear in Season 1 that Gotham has a tendency to want to be two shows at once – a gritty police drama and also a prolepsis for the Caped Crusader’s rouges’ gallery. In last week’s episode, I didn’t really hide the fact that in my opinion, Gotham tends to feel almost like a stronger show when its narrative is contained to the GCPD, and Gotham’s municipal government as well. In any case, this week’s episode is actually the part-one of an investigation that begins the early origin of Jonathan Crane/Scarecrow – through his father. While it’s certainly not a bad notion to explore the origins of a villain through their extended family, Gotham surprisingly is quite subtle that the Cranes are even involved at first in this episode because – aside from the episode title – I’m quite sure the show doesn’t even refer to Jonathan’s father as ‘Crane’ at all during the forty minute run.

Gordon and Bullock this week are investigating a string of bodies that supposedly died because of or died surrounded by their worst fear. The victims are found to all stem from a support group that works to overcome their phobias with mutual support, and Bullock, smitten with one of the support group members, decides to partake in the group therapy due to suspecting one of the other members is the killer. Bullock’s hunch proves correct, with Jonathan’s father Dr. Crane, under an alias, turning out to be the culprit. Crane escapes and Gordon later is told that Crane was stealing the adrenal glands post-mortem from his victims. On the subject of Scarecrow, or future-Scarecrow anyway, I welcome the idea of introducing some of Bruce’s future rogues as children because, like Selina Kyle, it gives the show the opportunity to feature other characters around Bruce’s age that therefore can also work with or work against him. Whether the show actually takes advantage of such an idea is on the showrunners.

It’s hard to place for some reason exactly how I ‘feel’ about this episode, likely because this is just a part-one story, and that it may be easier to judge the narrative as a whole once part-two has landed. For now, I must point out that Donal Logue steals the show this week as Bullock. While part of Bullock’s story is trying to win over a member of the support group (played by Maria Thayer), once he is surrounded by others with potent phobias, Bullock isn’t just there anymore to impress a lady; he’s there to get off his chest what may have for so long been there in the back of his mind – that not only is he afraid of dying in his line of work every day, but that his philosophy of always looking out just for himself is one he’d like to do away with altogether. Humanizing scenes like this please me, knowing that the character of Bullock may not always just be the brooding, gloomy detective to contrast Gordon’s boy-scout morality.

Other highlights in this episode come in the form of two of my favorite characters in Gotham played by two of my favorite performers of the series: Oswald and Nygma, something else I haven’t kept much a secret either. Now that Fish is on the run, she tips off Don Maroni that Oswald has been secretly loyal to Falcone the entire time, prompting a confrontation between Maroni and Oswald literally in the middle of nowhere. Maroni briefly gets the upper hand and nearly has Oswald killed in a car compactor, but Oswald is once again able to weasel his way out of trouble and escape back to Gotham. I’m not familiar with much of David Zayas’ work outside of Dexter and a brief guest appearance on Person of Interest, but his scenes as Maroni against Oswald when things turn ugly are daunting to say the least. The main difference in terms of performance I’ve noted between the two rival crime bosses Falcone and Maroni is that while both give off a sense of control and absolute certainty, Maroni feels like the more likely of the two to snap on someone without warning. Which is a testament to Zayas’ performance – he’s just not a guy you want to tick off, like, at all.

As for Oswald himself, I don’t think it’s necessary again to go off on Robin Lord Taylor’s excellent performance considering how much I’ve done it before. When Maroni gets the upper hand on Oswald in this episode, it really is something to see Taylor convey arrogance, joy and then pure fear all in the span of about five seconds when he realizes the tables have been turned on him.

With Nygma, I’ll admit it is refreshing both to see Nygma’s story take him to other complications in the GCPD that don’t involve Ms. Kringle, as well as to see Gordon beginning to warm up to Nygma’s insight as the GCPD’s sole CSI. Nygma’s been suspended by Captain Essen for interfering with the precinct’s medical examiner’s work, but Gordon is dismayed to hear so because he trusts Nygma’s deductions from the crime scene over any other John-and-Jane-Doe CSI. So how does Nygma right this supposed wrong? How any other sane individual would do so – by framing the precinct’s sole M.E. for hoarding body parts. It’s moments like this that once again seem to show the audience for the briefest of moments a glimmer of the future Riddler and the bizarre labyrinth of rationality that must go on in his mind. Oh, that, and the fact that he shows no squeamishness at all from rummaging his hand around inside a corpse, preoccupied more with the ‘why’ of the crime as opposed to retaining the intact nature of the corpse.

The other progressions in this episode are as follows:
• Bruce relieves Gordon of his promise to find his parents’ killer.
• Fish stows away on a cargo ship out of Gotham that subsequently is hijacked.
• With the M.E. out of work, Gordon offers the position to Lee Thompkins. Awkward banter trying to be romantic ensues.

Other thoughts:
• While arranging to kill a support group member who’s got a phobia of pigs, Crane, in order to fool the GCPD into believing they’ve found their culprit, has his accomplice don a pig mask and butcher knives in what can only be what I assume is a clear reference to the Batman villain Professor Pyg. Sorry that I’m such a sucker for Easter eggs.
• This line from Bullock: “I’m a cop – the only thing I’m scared of is decaf coffee.” Aren’t we all?

Aaron Studer loves spending his time reading, writing and defending the existence of cryptids because they can’t do it themselves.

1 comment:

Billie Doux said...

Yes, I for one am also afraid of decaf. :)