Robert Tiemstra ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
“Do you believe Gotham can be saved?”
“I believe it’s worth trying.”
When the first season of Gotham is released on DVD, and the respective episodes are laid end to end, there will most likely be a dramatic fluctuation in tone across the entire season.
Only one episode has had a significant stinger on the end to give the audience a clue that the writers have a plan for the next couple of episodes, and that episode was the weakest of the lot. Perhaps the lack of foresight is only really obvious because Fox recently extended Gotham’s peculiar 16-episode run into a full season. Since the series is already underway, that information does not inspire confidence about the show’s long-term plans. If nothing else, the writers are very willing to revel in the moment.
As mentioned earlier, this episode comes right after the terrifically tantalizing teaser at the end of last week’s “Balloonman”, and it leaves the audience little time to breathe before diving right in. Oswald Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor), James Gordon (Ben McKenzie), and Barbara Kean (Erin Richards) share some delicious moments of tension early in the episode, which makes one almost wish they didn’t kick Cobblepot out so quickly.
When safely away from Barbara, Oswald makes the strangest olive branch pitch to Gordon, for him to snoop on Maroni (David Zayas) for Gordon, and supply him with information on the crime world, as a favor for saving his life in the pilot. Gotham has often struggled with its own identity as a buddy cop show, but this inspired twist on the mythos turns that conceit on its head by essentially saying that Oswald is the most trustworthy person Gordon will ever meet. Only in Gotham City would something like this make sense.
Speaking of peculiar job offers, Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith) is continuing to beef up her own resources against Falcone through the most intimidating audition process not run by Simon Cowell. The writers have been floundering for the past two episodes trying to give Smith some interesting material to work with, and here they come up for air briefly, while still maintaining her “scheme-ham-repeat” holding pattern. John Doman’s Carmine Falcone is notably absent from this episode (presumably watching the Godfather on repeat back in his mafia penthouse), although his presence still looms large, particularly over the initial scene between Gordon and Cobblepot.
Barbara Kean becomes a more active character in this episode, voicing a very reasonable distrust of Gordon’s hidden indiscretions (cleverly centered on the name “Oswald Cobblepot”). Ironically, in trying to defend himself, Gordon sounds just like the Dirty Cop he was accused of being. But he doesn’t trust Barbara enough to let her in – this is something only Gordon, Cobblepot, and the audience can be aware of.
The main plot of “Arkham” concerns a potential gang war arising over the eponymous patch of Gotham City. Richard Gladwell, the assassin hired to kill several political figures involved with the land deal, is the first guest villain who has inspired any real sense of menace to the scenes he appears in. He’s certainly several tiers above “The Balloonman.” Bruce Wayne remains largely peripheral in this episode, but free from any casual reference to vigilante justice. His relationship with Gordon is an earnest and compelling one, and it is filled with memorable quotes like the one listed at the top of this review – a cheesy quote given weight by a massive hesitation on the part of Gordon.
Episode Grade: B+