Gotham S1EP4: social

“Arkham” is everything wrong with Gotham. Which is a shame, because there are some great moments in this show.

When we look back on the first season of Gotham, hopefully we’ll remember “Arkham” as its lowest point. Because if this show gets any worse than this, it will be insufferable. On top of the dialogue problems the show has suffered from, the newest episode doesn’t just ask us to suspend our disbelief. To enjoy “Arkham”, you would have to expel your disbelief and your disbelief’s whole family would have to move to a new school district.

Someone is killing councilmen? Put the rookie and his lazy partner on it. The suspect ran into the supply closet? Wait, there are some papers on his desk we should look at first. Creepy guy approaches you in the middle of the night and hands you a strange object? Better point it at your eye like he asks.

Every show, movie, and video game requires that you ignore this stuff on occasion, but “Arkham” hits you with poor decisions and unrealistic police work so often that it can’t be overlooked. Before long, these problems are so distracting that you’d be forgiven for missing that, aside from its persistent issues, Gotham does a lot of great stuff.

The acting is still fantastic, save for Edward Nygma and Barbara Kean. The cast does a great job with a terrible script and they manage to continue delivering boring, clichéd lines with enough emotion or nuance to make it work. And yes, I even think Bruce is pretty okay, even though the show would benefit from reducing his screen time or giving him something better to do (“Arkham” and last week’s “The Balloonman” actually pull this off).

The villain-of-the-week starts off well. Hakeem Kae-Kazim is great in his first few scenes as a hitman working for the two opposing sides of a mob conflict, simultaneously. Unfortunately, during the climax his character is reduced to a pointless line about hitmen and a throwaway fight scene.

Visually, “Arkham” does some new tricks that Gotham should use in the rest of the series. Not everyone may be a fan of the pans and zooms, the shadows and fog, but it all creates a unique style for the show that works well with the weird/creepy side of Gotham City. Check out the clip to the left for one (decent) example, but be warned there are spoilers for this episode and the seasonal arc. If the show does follow this trend, though, hopefully it can avoid leaving gaffing tape in frame or playing off accidental lens flare as “style”.

While the episodic plot involving the hitman and rival mobsters is a bit of a mess, both of the stories about Cobblepot and Jada Pinkett Smith’s Fish Mooney are fun to watch. At times they are rather predictable, but these are two of the best cast members on the show and they perfectly capture that horrible side of Gotham’s underworld. This show might be worth watching just to see what happens with these two characters.

Gotham is on Fox, Monday nights at 8/7c. It’s also available to view on Fox’s website and Hulu. The rest of this review is deep in spoiler territory.

The Hitman:

Gordon and Bullock are the only two detectives put on the case of a murdered councilman, and even though Bullock wisely points out that killing government officials isn’t worth the money (it’s cheaper to buy them rather than paying off their replacements), it still turns out to be an assassination. The detectives catch a break by asking a random, unnamed character in a prison, “Hey, you know a guy that stabs people?”

It’s all very straightforward yet inexplicable, especially when Gordon and Bullock learn the guy is working an office job for some reason. Maybe to maintain his cover? It wraps up with a simple, boring fight scene that doesn’t send Kae-Kazim off as well as he deserves. Still, we get a lot of Richard Kind as Gotham City’s sleazy mayor, and he’s just fantastic.

What’s up with Arkham?

Hinted at for a few episodes, Arkham is both the name of the city’s former asylum as well as a district nearby. Currently, crime lords Salvatore Maroni and Carmine Falcone are fighting over building contracts for it, which are being voted on by council members. So, they each hire the same hitman to kill the other’s councilman.

The Wayne family was working to demolish and rebuild Arkham to be a proper mental health facility (remember, Bruce’s dad was a doctor in the source material). All this serves to bring us back to the moment that started it all: the murder of the Waynes. In the end, Falcone and Maroni each get a bit of what they both wanted: renovations to the current asylum and the district to be turned into low-income housing and waste disposal (Gotham City sucks, just in case you didn’t get it by now).

In the Houses of Falcone and Maroni:

The compromised deal for Arkham will leave Falcone’s grip on Gotham City weakened (for some reason), and his subordinate, Fish Mooney, is preparing for the change. She intends to take over the city, and that apparently means holding auditions. After hearing young women sing, she tests their abilities of seduction and has them beat the crap out of each other. The whole thing plays out awkwardly and hints that maybe Gotham should stay away from complex gender issues.

Meanwhile, Cobblepot is infiltrating Maroni’s operation quite well, while offering to help Gordon along the way. Cobblepot likely believes he is truly the best thing for Gotham City, which would explain why he’s helping Gordon, but he’s not afraid to get his hands dirty. The story plays out predictably, especially when he offers canoli to some fellow criminals but doesn’t dig in. (What?! They’re poisoned?!) As simply as it all plays out, Robin Lord Taylor (Cobblepot) and David Zayas (Maroni) are fantastic and I really look forward to seeing more of both characters in the future, even with all the problems the show has.

Jim Gordon is terrible at relationships.

The episodes ends with the completely unemotional breakup of Gordon and his fiancé, Barbara Kean. It feels like Gotham was trying to do something emotional there, but it should probably just stay away from that area. When Gordon gets angry about Barbara’s past relationship with Montoya, it’s because Montoya is harassing him about Cobblepot, and not because she’s a woman (thank god Gotham didn’t go that route).

Bottom Line: “Arkham” is the worst this show has given us so far. Let’s hope it stays that way.

Recommendation: If you were thinking about dropping this show from your schedule, after this episode I wouldn’t blame you. Check back with us next week, we’ll tell you if it gets any better.

[rating=1.5]

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