Robert Tiemstra ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
“You’re so deep in the maze, you can’t see over the wall!”
Before you get too excited, be warned: This episode of Gotham has nothing to do with the works of famed horror author H.P. Lovecraft. While James Gordon (Ben McKenzie) does stare into the abyss of Gotham for a good chunk of this episode, Cthulhu is nowhere in sight. This is about systematic corruption, not ancient cults (although the prospect of a demonic cult in Gotham is an intriguing one). This episode is named after Dick Lovecraft (Al Sapienza), who was Harvey Dent’s main suspect in the Wayne murder conspiracy. The writers try to push this to hold together Gordon’s half of the season arc, despite having more in common with dental floss than garrote wire, as plot threads go.
And yet, running with the garrote wire metaphor, this hour of Gotham holds more tension than most of the season thus far, kicking off with a small gang of leather-clad assassins to assault Wayne Manor (when is someone in a TV show going to acknowledge that a bunch of assassins traipsing around in squeaky leather is actually a terrible way to stage a covert assassination?). Both Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) and Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova) are forced to flee, pursued by these mysterious assassins, who are likewise being pursued by James Gordon, Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue), and Alfred Pennyworth (Sean Pertwee).
After the initial home invasion sequence, the episode is propelled into steady chase mode, which proves more beneficial to this series’ budding character development than anything else. Gordon and Bullock now have an easy and earnest rapport, working efficiently together despite their polar opposite personalities. It turns out the best thing that could possibly happen to the Bruce/Selina dynamic is to throw the pair headfirst into Selina’s world, and let her teach Bruce how to survive. The urgency within this episode trims the awkward dialogue and forced character moments down to a minimum, and allows the action to play out in a direct, no-nonsense kind of way.
While the world of LoveCraft may be centered entirely around Gordon’s investigation (finally we get to see an instance where the rug is pulled out from under Gordon’s feet without undermining his competence), the true star of this episode is Sean Pertwee as Alfred. So little in the history of Batman lore has Alfred been unexploited as a guardian figure in Bruce Wayne’s life. Most adaptations are content to leave Alfred as a humble voice of reason who must also fix the caped crusader’s eggs on toast when requested. Here Alfred doesn’t only take the place of a concerned father-figure, he hunts Bruce Wayne’s pursuers like he’s about to take up the mantle of Batman himself to get the job done (or, perhaps more accurately, the mantle of James Bond). Pertwee is able to infuse everything Alfred does with honest compassion for Bruce’s well-being, and it leads to perhaps the most poignant moment this series has yet to offer – “If you died… who employs Butlers anymore?”
There are some curious missteps in this plotline in the form of the Gotham mob scene. Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Oswald Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor) continue their various efforts to undermine Don Falcone (John Doman). While none of it is actively awful (although admittedly, Fish’s outlandish outfit when sitting amongst a bunch of Mafiosos in suits does prompt some unintentional giggles), it detracts from the effective tension of the rest of the episode every single time director Guy Ferland cuts away to it.
Gotham has a tenuous relationship with potential, but now it’s starting to hit its stride that almost makes audiences forget its earlier blunders. It would have been easy for them to return things to the status quo once Bruce Wayne had been found and the assassins dispatched, but for the first time, the Gotham writers do not take the easy route. By the time Gordon ends this episode as a disgraced cop heading to work as security at Arkham Asylum, audiences get a sense that maybe, just maybe, this show is headed for more complex uncharted waters.
Overall Episode Grade: B+