It’s been three weeks since Gotham came back from its mid-season hiatus. The first episode was honestly lackluster, and having Fox skip a week didn’t help.
This sounds like a lot of grumbling, but honestly, it just makes me glad this episode was a welcome step back in the right direction.
As a series, Gotham seems to be at its best when it’s consolidating its stories, rather than trying to keep a lot of balls in the air. This week, they only have three major threads going, and all have enough overlap that it works well compared to last week’s various loose ends.
First and foremost, the show is finally starting to make Gordon work as a character. Even though this episode marked a return to (relative) status quo for him, it was also the most enjoyable I think he’s been on the series since Penguin’s Umbrella.
Part of this is due to the fact that Gordon finally seems like he’s starting to work with the rest of the setting. Over the first half of the season, his biggest problem was being a one-dimensional good cop who only had his interplay with Bullock to keep him going. As the story forced him to start playing ball, he started to develop more of a personality to stay on top of things.
This week, even if Gordon is restoring the norm, it’s in a way that still feels like a welcome change for him. Despite the escape of Jack Gruber (a memorably creepy Chris Heyerdahl) falling out of his jurisdiction, Gordon is not only determined to bring him in, he plans to use him as his leverage back onto the force.
It’s the kind of move early Gordon wouldn’t have dared make, but now that he is, I’m glad he’s doing it. Especially since, along with this “new” Gordon, the whole procedural element of the show is starting to skew a bit more comic book. This isn’t a first for the show, but the fact they’re owning it more here -Gruber specializes in weaponizing electricity -makes it feel less out of place and more like a sign of a shifting tone. Even the way the case is resolved feels like a nice change from the first half’s tense standoffs at gunpoint.
And while I’m on the subject of shifting tones, wow…the mob storyline shifted a lot faster than I was expecting- and that is a plus.
After spending much of last season biding her time, Fish makes her play to take out Falcone. As the first chunk of the episode goes, she even seems poised to win it, too. Enter everyone’s favorite smug agent of disorder, Oswald.
The last fifteen minutes or so of this episode is probably some of the most involving material I’ve seen on Gotham since its pilot. We end this with a split between a maintained status quo (Falcone remains in power) as well as some serious shaking up of the game board all the same (Fish’s fate as of this point remains up in the air, but she won’t be going quickly).
Without giving too much away, one standout surprise of events is found in John Doman’s performance as Falcone. I’ve liked him in the role so far, but much of the writing has left him as a passive side character, conferring with people in peacetime moments and just making plans for the future. This week, he reminded everyone why his character is not someone to be crossed in a fairly shocking fashion. It speaks pretty well for Doman that the shift doesn’t feel out of character either – it’s more like that ‘you just made the boss angry’ moment of dread.
Really, this is the happiest I’ve been with the show in a while. About the only thing I would mark against this comparatively is the fact that Barbara’s still in a narrative rut. While there’s some accidental comedy to be taken from her visit to her WASPy-as-Hell family, it just doesn’t feel like it adds anything to the overall episode.
Likewise, we have a follow-up on Nigma’s awkward crush storyline that doesn’t add much to things beyond setting up an amusing part of the standoff later. Though his job with the GCPD does at least make it a bit easier to work his storyline in without it feeling like a massive jump. Plus, I give the show some points for avoiding the clichÈd way it could have gone and actually just outright admitting ‘Yeah, this is kind of creepy.’
Those aside though, this genuinely has spiked my interest in where things go from here. Yeah, some of it could get comic and silly, but honestly, compared to their first flirtation with it, they’re wearing it well here. Plus, right now that may be just what this show needs to really help it depart from that standard procedural shadow it’s been operating in.
Well, except for the mob. They’ve been a pretty solid story from the get-go. They’re free to continue with shaking things up too.
I went into this second half with mixed sentiments, but damned if I’m not sliding into cautious optimism now.
You’ve got me again Gotham, don’t disappoint me.
I’ll be looking forward to seeing how the dust settles when Welcome Back, Jim Gordon airs next week.
-Series is finally starting to develop a voice that, if they stick with it, could be a great direction
-The mob storyline is heading into an unexpected direction and I’m liking it for that
-While Gordon is finally developing, Barbara is really still just sort of there
-Dr. Thompkin’s character arc so far is shaping up to be disappointingly predictable