This show actually delivered on a cliffhanger from the week before!
And thank God they did, too. With Cobblepot finally revealing himself, several stories that have been in varying degrees of spinning their wheels got much needed kicks to the backside this week. I’m not going to declare the show perfect now, but it’s taking some big strides in a good direction this week.
Probably the biggest improvement to come out of this is what the show’s done with Gordon. As a character, he’s still one of the less interesting players, but outsidecircumstances have at least given him more to work with. We get to see how his attempts to be the better person can and do have consequences on several levels: Cobblepot’s survival and new job are stoking tensions between Gotham’s crime families, Falcone is calling for Gordon’s blood, Mooney is calling for Oswald’s, and now Bullock is marked alongside Gordon. What started off as an act of mercy in the pilot is now one of the biggest mistakes Gordon could have made, and he sees that for himself. Even when the crisis is defused within the episode, the show does a good job of making sure Gordon still learns from it – even though things worked out, it’s not because his sense of good prevails, it’s because the powers that be still have a use for him and can manipulate his sense of honesty. Whether the show runs with this ball or drops it remains to be seen, but this week’s developments may be just the dash of fault Gordon needs to start feeling like a human being instead of a bland paragon. From here, it’s going to be how he learns to live with what’s happened and how it tempers his future attempts to do right by the system and Barbara.
Speaking of Barbara, this is actually an interesting bit for her as well. Where Gordon is forced into playing ball with the mob (and even tricked into it), we see Barbara willingly make the figurative deal with the Devil to save Jim. She’s still a minor character, but the development this brings to the table has promise for where her story goes from here. And let’s face it, she needs badly that kick in the right direction.
So as you may have guessed, the bulk of this week’s story is focused on the Gotham crime families. Besides the fact that this throws Gordon out of his element-and subsequently gives him some chances to show character for a change- it also gave us the bonus of introducing a new series regular. As the tensions within the mob build up, enter Anthony Carrigan as mob button man (and future Batman villain) Victor Zsasz. For being a violent psychopath who carves his kill count into his skin, I’ll admit – I hope the show plans to do more with him in the future. His character isn’t exactly amazing writing, but Carrigan is having fun with the role, and offering probably the best medium this show has struck between ‘real world’ procedural and comic book stylings so far. He’s even flanked by a pair of assistants who look like they walked straight out of Sin City. With this, I can now say there’s one thing Gotham has over The Flash. It’s minor, but Carrigan has definitely been given the better villain role here (so far, anyway; Nimbus isn’t dead yet).
We have more time with Oswald as well. In light of what we learn from him this week, I believe the phrase ‘Magnificent Bastard’ applies. Not because he’s a good man – he’s still a violent psychopath – but because we finally get a sense of just how far and deep the game he’s playing goes. The title of this episode is more than just a nod that he’s gaining the signature ‘Penguin’ look (incidentally, I love how his new theme music seems to hearken back to Shirley Walker’s score on Batman: The Animated Series) but also applies to just how many events since the pilot he’s had a hand in. It’s a long game story that they’ve done well building up so far. We’ve gotten hints of just how conniving and manipulative Oswald is, but only hints – that this week gives us our first full step back/reveal makes it probably the first genuine ‘Oh God’ moment the show has accomplished so far.
Between last week and now, I’m starting to feel more confident about where this show is headed. Though the “resolution within a single episode” was a little disappointing, this week also did quite a bit to shake up the rut it’s been stuck in. On top of that, the direction and camera work feels more lively in these last few episodes, offering some nice angled shots- such as in Bullock and Gordon’s fight at the start of this week- than they have in earlier episodes. There are some parts of the show that still could use some help – I’m begging you show runners, do SOMETHING with Allen and Montoya, they deserve better! – but it feels like it might have finally found its footing.
Where the show goes with the changes brought about, we’ll see next week with The Mask. I’m just really hoping this isn’t going to get swept aside for the status quo, because I’m genuinely liking where this could be headed.
-Anthony Carrington’s Zsasz a nice addition to the cast
-This week provides some much needed story progression on a few fronts
-The fact they resolve the mob’s vendetta on Gordon in a single episode is disappointing
-While Gordon and Barbara are showing some signs of development, Montoya and Allen still glorified plot devices