So, I’ll admit that last week’s preview had me bracing for a bad episode. Maybe not ‘jump the shark’ bad, but still a downturn that would be hard to recover from.
The good news is, it wasn’t as bad as I was expecting. The bad news is, it’s still a definite step down from the last few weeks.
I should start by addressing my biggest concern coming into this week: the fact the promos were laying it on absurdly thick that this episode would lead to the appearance of a Gotham-era version of the Joker. Thankfully, this turned out to be somewhat exaggerated. Instead, we got a maniacally laughing boy (Cameron Monaghan) who they hint may become the Joker, but they never fully commit to the idea.
Yes, it’s a red herring, but honestly, I feel like it’s better it was a red herring. The show’s done alright for itself with flirting with Batman errata for the most part. It shouldn’t need to bring in a gun that big while it’s still feeling out the pieces it’s already establishing as regulars.
Instead, a lot of this week is devoted to a case of the week that invokes the five most dangerous words uttered in Gotham city limits: “Let’s go to the circus.” It’s a murder under the big top storyline that plays into two rival families (and yes, one of them is the Graysons, let’s get that out there now), and goes into the old ‘Carny Code’ style of justice.
It’s the kind of material that can potentially make a good story if done right. In this case though, it’s a lot of old hat more than anything else. There’s a somewhat interesting turn by Mark Margolis as the titular character, but he can only do just so much to keep this narrative lively when it’s a lot of familiar circus story material.
Honestly, a lot of this week feels like it’s just spinning the wheels and riding on that Joker hint to carry things. Barbara’s finally back, but continues to exist solely in her relation to Gordon. It’s only made more awkward this week by the fact it ties into the fact the writers seem to be straining to find another use for Selina and Ivy. All three are stuck in a limp chunk of this episode that ends in a pretty clumsy way for Barbara to find out about Gordon’s new girlfriend.
Oswald doesn’t fair much better this week. This somewhat pains me to say after all the good things have had to say for his plot so far, but really this week just has him in a holding pattern. While it does give us a morbid touch in how he deals with a heckler at his club, all we really need from Oswald this week is in his end tag. This makes for an interesting turn (if one with some macabre implications) as we see Fish’s right-hand man, Butch, now assigned to Oswald, after some unseen, but presumably pretty disturbing quality time with Zsasz.
To his credit, Bruce actually gets more to do this week. Having had his soul-searching adventure, he’s decided to continue the investigation for himself. While all this amounts to this week is a confrontation with the board at his family’s company, it’s clearly being used to set up future events. So I’ll let him have this one. It’s one step, but still a step forward.
Fish, meanwhile, is the clear winner this week. For as uncertain as I’ve been with her past two weeks, it paid off in a big way here. After last week’s unofficial takeover, she’s now applying her mob smarts into organizing her fellow prisoners. The end result reminds us why she was in the position she was in Gotham in the first place – her negotiations are at times cold-blooded, but very effective at selling her points. Thanks to hints in next episode previews, I’m genuinely excited about where this story is heading.
So all in all, this wasn’t a bad week, but it was also not a particularly notable one. Barring a welcome return of the ruthless side of Fish Mooney, this week was a lot of stories just idling with the hint of a future Batman character as the only really notable hook to show for it. Even that wasn’t a particularly remarkable piece at that.
Fortunately, with the season wrapping up soon, and previews to go on, Red Hood looks like it will be a return to form for the show’s largely improved second half. I’m hoping it is anyway.
-Bruce is getting relevant to the story again
-This is the best Fish Mooney’s been in weeks
-A lot of this week either doesn’t go anywhere or just isn’t that interesting
-Watching the writers try and decide what to do with Barbara is getting painful