Gotham Review: "The Scarecrow"

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Mild progression is the name of the game in this week’s episode of Gotham. Gordon and Thompson’s relationship progresses, Bruce Wayne progresses further into Batman, Scarecrow progresses into Scarecrow, and Fish Mooney progresses to be an even more pointless character. None of this is done perfectly by any means, but “The Scarecrow” isn’t a total bomb of an episode.
Gordon and Thompson’s relationship is explored quite a bit in this episode, but it’s a shame that the two have almost no chemistry. Individually, they are both interesting enough characters, but together there is no spark whatsoever, and it doesn’t feel intentional. Part of it is Jim Gordon’s stern wall of emotionless law that dictates his life, but another part of it is the actors having no attraction on screen. Whenever the two of them are on screen flirting (or whatever the bland, uninspired version of flirting is), it feels like an unneeded break between other far more important events. It’s never clear that they’re actually in any kind of relationship, other than when they awkwardly kiss. There’s a chance that this whole relationship is setting up something down the road, but unless they can finally feel like an actual couple together, the impact of whatever is coming is going to hit like a spitball instead of a bullet to the heart.
Bullock, always the third wheel, continues to not do much in the episode besides follow Gordon around and make creepy comments about underage girls.
When the episode is out of the muddy relationship segments, Gordon and Bullock are chasing down Crane, and catching onto him quickly. It’s all comic book mumbo jumbo, but the explanation of Crane’s demented scientific experiments and how he is using the dead bodies is genuinely interesting. Whenever the show decides to actually be a crime drama based on a comic book instead of an everyday serial it’s really effective. Crane’s experiments with using adrenal glands to stop one from feeling fear is an effective motivator to keep his villainy interesting while the cop duo go through their normal spiel of following clues and tracking him down.
Unfortunately, while the premise is interesting, the delivery of everything in Gordon and Bullock’s story leaves a lot to be desired. It continues to show flashes of being a good story with decent continuity, but it keeps crashing back into procedural cop drama hell. Following vague clues, having characters conveniently know the correct information, and weak action scenes all dot the otherwise interesting landscape. I can’t say that I’m disappointed with how Scarecrow becomes Scarecrow (according to Gotham, of course), but the events leading up to it feel like they would have been better handled better on any other show.
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Visuals revolving around this newfound power of Dr. Crane are hit or miss as well. Some of them are genuinely creepy, while other fear-based imagery is just corny, and puffed up with cheap editing effects that took me out of it more than anything. A spindly demon at the foot of a hospital bed is absolutely horrifying on its own, but when you doll it up with rapid camera movements and weird filters it kills it. The effects are clearly trying to get across that Jonathan Crane is going insane, but it isn’t needed. He’s seeing a bunch of moving scarecrows with burning eyes, we get it. He’s crazy.
Penguin continues to take one step forward and two steps back in the city of Gotham. Finally getting complete control over Fish Mooney’s old club and protection courtesy of Falcone, things start looking up for Oswald Cobblepot. Until, that is, a few well-placed threats knock him back down a peg or two. Sure, it’s a really obvious visual cue, but seeing the overflowing wine looking suspiciously like urine from a terrified Penguin is a nice little bit of camera work.
Seeing Cobblepot and Edward Nigma interact is a lot more fun than I anticipated. Initially, like everything else in Gotham, it seemed like the two meeting at GCPD headquarters would be another “hey look at these Batman characters you know interacting, isn’t this fun?’ moment in the show, but there is some real tension in their scenes. Of course, it’s impossible to mention something positive about Penguin without bringing up Robin Lord Taylor’s performance, and that very well is what sold the interaction between the two future supervillains. Even Nigma’s forced riddle actually made sense for once, and served to put a wedge between the two characters that will surely grow and be re-incorporated later.
Up until “The Scarecrow,” Bruce Wayne’s segments have arguably been some of the best within the show. Especially last week when he took a first assertive step towards coming Batman, his story has been really looking up lately. That changes significantly this week when he goes on a hike that he and his dad used to take before you-know-what happened (spoiler: Batman’s parents are dead). On this hike, he gets mad at some rocks, kicks said rocks, and falls down a hill when he angrily pouts away from them. It’s one thing to show Bruce losing control of his emotions and making rash decisions, but the whole series of events just comes off as comical instead of the intense character-building moment it’s meant to be. It does serve as a vehicle to cement Alfred as Wayne’s new father figure in his life, so it was far from a worthless scene, but it is lazily thrown together just to get to the final outcome.
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And finally, Fish Mooney. What the hell is going on with Fish Mooney? She’s been an annoying splinter in Gotham‘s side since day one, and now she’s festering and just becoming a direct hindrance on the show. Somehow she ended up in some kind of underground prison (or homeless person repository?) where she quickly learns the pecking order and deceives a way to climb up it. Her whole story is becoming a massive mess, and the only hope is that she’ll die soon.
The worse part in this otherwise average episode is the extremely lazy segway into The Joker’s appearance next week. Thompson wants to take Gordon on a date to the circus? Seriously, Gotham? I would say you can do better than that to segway into a new character, but I honestly don’t know anymore.

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