Gotham concluded its first half-season with a mix of satisfying, action-packed, tense scenes and groan-worthy dialogue. It picked up relatively soon after the last episode, with the assassins that were hinted coming after Selina Kyle. Right off the bat the unfortunate level of goofyness of this episode was apparent.
Even in a TV show about comic book characters, the assassins were just cartoonish and out of place. Gotham has done a decent job balancing its comic book roots and keeping the show grounded in a gritty realism, but these goofballs just threw it all out of whack. Everything from the world’s worst disguise when they entered the Wayne manor, to not being able to hit anything with a gun, to some terrible dialogue and a general lack of menace. Every single line they delivered was an attempt to be slow and dramatic but it came across as painfully stilted. They were nothing but dopey henchmen who were needlessly played up to be ruthless ninja assassin types and it fell completely flat at every turn.
Luckily, there were some interesting plot lines through the episode that made up for a lot of these issues. The dynamic between Bruce, Salina, and Alfred is still my favorite in Gotham and the show heavily focused on it for the second week in a row. It also mixed things up by having Alfred team up with Harvey Bullock to try and track down Bruce and Salina after they ran away.
The two had a pretty great good cop/bad cop thing going – even better than the Bullock and Gordon duo. Much more balanced, with Alfred still being the “good” cop, but not the exaggerated degree that Gordon is.
In general, Alfred is a much more grounded and open-ended character than Gordon. Officer Gordon has a very strict destiny to become the uber-righteous Commissioner Gordon and it hinders his character development and believability quite frequently throughout Gotham. He is seemingly not allowed to make realistic and weighted decisions – everything must be the absolute most law abiding decision possible. The show’s overbearing message of just how corrupt the city is also gets toned down when super-cop Gordon isn’t trouncing around being better than everyone. Meanwhile, Alfred is free to do whatever it takes to keep Bruce safe, which usually involves kicking a lot of generic assassin behind.
On the Bruce and Selina side of things, the two had a nice romp through the city of Gotham. They started the episode being bickering children, similar to last week, but gradually grew throughout as their circumstances became more dire. You could argue that there have been a lot of times that Bruce has shown hints at becoming Batman, but this was the first time he was really acting the part – running around the city, being brave in the face of the real danger. A lot of people aren’t prequel fans, and that’s fine, but as someone who enjoys them Gotham is doing a great job of setting up young Bruce to be the Dark Knight.
Bruce and Selina also run into Ivy (thankfully the only future Batman villain introduced in this episode) who did a great job of being genuinely creepy without overdoing it. In her short scene, she was able to get across the point that her story was tragic and she had a motivation for becoming a villain. That’s all we need, and if we never see her again that’s perfectly fine. If Gotham insists on introducing every Batman antagonist known to man this is how they should do it, not by continually pushing their cliche in your face until they become a parody of themselves (see: Riddler).
Fish Mooney’s big plan to take down Falcone is still as wholly uninteresting as it always been. There was one kind of neat scene where Falcone starts it by shooting the man who was tasked with guarding his vault and failed last episode. Thanks to some swaying from the Penguin (in his normal, sly style), Falcone is beginning to suspect that its Fish who betrayed him and revealed where his money was hidden and leads to a tense, if a bit cliched, conversation at the dinner table. I was really hoping they would kill Fish in this episode as the big mid-season cliff hanger, but that never happened. Nothing really happened at all with the mob’s storyline, it just continues to stumble along.
The adults in the episode ranged from weird to just awful with their deliveries. One scene in particular, towards the end of the episode when Harvey Dent and Gordon were meeting with the major, featured some shoddy lines and blatant over-acting from Richard Kind. I’m normally a fan of Kind’s but he has always teetered on the edge of over-acting during his time as Mayor Aubrey James, and this scene threw it over the cliff. Dent randomly quoting SShakespeareand James finishing the quote did it in for me personally. Just an awful scene.
The result of all this over-acting and unwanted Shakespeare quotes was that Gordon would be transferred to Arkham as a disciplinary action to cover up the truth of what happened to Dick LoveCraft. This opens the door to a lot of interesting plot potential with a prominent character at the city’s insane asylum, and a Gotham free to be run by warring mobs without do-gooder Gordon roaming the streets.
Outside of that, there were a couple other lines that were either poorly written or poorly acted, it was hard to tell. Even the normally solid child actors of Camren Bicondova (Selina) and David Mazouz (Bruce) delivered a couple lines in particular that were grating to listen to – like they were a first-time actor reading off of a script: “Don’t.. jump!” comes to mind right away. As well as when they were first leaving the manor and Bruce was whining to Selina. While it could be attributed to his character meaning to be a stressed out kid, it could have been done much better than it was. He reminded me of Carl on The Walking Dead and that is absolutely not a compliment.
Despite some poor acting and questionable antagonists, the episode wasn’t a bad way to end the show’s first half-season. Alfred kicked all kinds of ass, plot lines moved satisfyingly forward, and it set up nicely for the events about to come. If the past few episodes are any indication, Gotham is ditching its monster-of-the-week formula and forced villain cameos to focus more on Bruce and Gordon, which is perfectly fine with me. Despite some major bumps in the road earlier on, the show seems to be on the right track.