“The Fearsome Dr. Crane” succeeds where early episodes failed. Can Gotham keep this up?
Early episodes of Gotham tried to tell too many stories, taking too much focus from the arc for the villain-of-the-week. With so many tales developing at once, viewers had to carry too many story threads and relationships from episode to episode. Given all the double and triple-crossing happening in this show, all of that baggage can become unwieldy.
Fortunately, as the show returned from a holiday hiatus, episodes became more focused, building only one or two major stories. This was achieved while simultaneously reducing the amount of baggage fans had to carry each week, making the series watchable even if viewers skipped the first ten episodes.
“The Fearsome Dr. Crane” jumps back into telling a half-dozen stories, but it does so with enough focus and simplicity to make it enjoyable, so none of the episode’s bigger arcs really suffer. The price for more direct story-telling is a loss of nuance and surprise throughout the episode, although there are a few moments that should catch you off guard.
Similar to the Electrocutioner story from a few weeks ago, the villain for this tale, “Dr. Crane,” will take a pair of episodes (at least) to wrap up. This allows the rest of the stories to flow and react to the episodic narrative without really diminishing anything. The big question is if Gotham can keep this up. Navigating this many interwoven stories from week to week can be messy, and “The Balloonman” writer John Stephens can’t be around for every episode.
Overall “The Fearsome Dr. Crane” is one of the better episodes of Gotham, effectively delivering a creepy villain against a disturbed city filled with messed up people. This is where Gotham works best. Maroni and Cobblepot serve up an exciting side-story as well. Everything they say and do is telegraphed, so there won’t be any surprises here, but it’s all delivered fantastically by David Zayas and Robin Lord Taylor.
Gotham airs on Monday nights at 8/7c on Fox, but you can also catch episodes on Fox’s website. Check out our review of the last episode, “Welcome Back, Jim Gordon”, or all of our Gotham reviews.
Fans of the Batman comics or Nolan trilogy films will easily recall that “Dr. Crane” is the given name of the popular villain, The Scarecrow. While largely similar to the source material in his obsession with fear and possessing a violent nature, this Scarecrow is not, in fact, the classic Jonathan Crane (however, he does come up).
This interpretation of the character is motivated by some vague, altruistic goal that results in harvesting the adrenal cortex of his victims after they die from their greatest fears. There’s no “fear toxin” here, but it’s safe to assume it will come up in next week’s “The Scarecrow.”
Two significant side-stories are directly adjacent to this tale. Bullock has his first real romantic interest of the series (we’re not counting Mooney as “romantic”) in someone who obviously ends up a victim of Crane. Meanwhile, Nygma deals with the repercussions of digging too deep into the investigation. His solution might be rather unbelievable, but you have to give him a hand for thinking on his feet.
Penguin’s Dreams Are Crushed
Cobblepot has weaseled his way onto all sides of this show, so it’s satisfying to see some of those lies come crashing down. With a simple call from Mooney (who’s just out on a boat this episode), Maroni is enlightened to Cobblepot’s true allegiances. Rather than just kill him outright, he tricks the tiny creep into coming out to a literal cabin in the woods for some “bonding time”.
Like I said earlier, nothing in this story is surprising. Every line is obvious before it’s delivered and there’s no way either of these characters wouldn’t survive this encounter and at least make it to the end of the season. Still, Zayas and Taylor have great chemistry on this show and it’s enough to carry you through any of their by-the-numbers exchanges.
Bruce is an awkward little kid, and his “I’m releasing you from your promise” is some odd phrasing for someone who still shops at Baby Brooks Brothers. Either way, Lil Master Wayne is now officially-unofficially taking on the task of hunting down his parents’ killer solo.
Fans of Morena Baccarin’s Dr. Leslie Thompkins and her romance with Gordon (I still think it’s adorable) will be glad to hear Gordon offer her a permanent job within the GCPD Homicide Division. It’s unclear if Gordon has the ability to hire for the position of medical examiner or if she actually accepts, but at least now the show won’t struggle for a reason for Thompkins to show up each week. And Gordon is definitely building his roster of allies in the department.
In fact, Captain Sarah Essen continues to come down on the right side of things. Zabryna Guevara has surprisingly been more fun to see on screen each week, and since it’s unlikely Essen will fulfill her role as a love interest from the comics, we can only hope that she continues to step up as a leader. Unless, of course, we’re just going to skip to the end of her “No Man’s Land” arc (maybe future spoilers there).
Bottom line: “The Fearsome Dr. Crane” proves yet again that Gotham is improving. Let’s just hope the story doesn’t become too cumbersome again.
Recommendation: Another better episode of the series that deserves a watch. If you’re new to the series, pick up with episode eleven, “Rogues’ Gallery.”[rating=4]