Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Review - Gotham: 2x19 - "Azrael"


Gotham
Episode 2x19 - "Azrael"

Synopsis

With Theo Galavan suffering from mental instability after being brought back from the dead, Hugo Strange convinces the former Mayor that he is the reincarnation of Azrael, one of the legendary figures from the Dumas Clan's history books. With Gordon close to discovering Indian Hill, Strange sends his super-powered assassin after the former detective with the aim at ending the investigation into his experiments.

Review

After firmly throwing plausibility out of the window last episode by resurrecting the dead, Gotham revels in its new status-quo by spotlighting formerly deceased ex-Mayor, Theo Galavan. With a splintered psyche, and reciting passages from the Book of Dumas, Galavan has returned incomplete, forcing Hugo Strange to implant false memories that convinces the bewildered science experiment into thinking that he is the reincarnation of one of the ancient knights of the Dumas Order – Azrael. Interestingly, Azrael is a key character in the Batman mythos, heavily tied to the Order of Saint Dumas, and even a one-time replacement for Batman during the epic "Knightfall" saga. With superior speed and strength, Galavan inhabits the role perfectly and clad in his cape and mask, he obviously inspires a wide-eyed Bruce Wayne as he clings to the shadows and strikes fear into the GCPD cops – it's great to finally see a prototype Batman introduced to the show.

The scene where Azrael attempts to execute Jim Gordon in the GCPD headquarters is utterly thrilling as he disables the lighting and begins to take out the cops one-by-one. It actually looked like a live-action re-enactment of one of the 'Invisible Predator' missions from Batman: Arkham Knight and it was great to see the character darting in and out of the shadows in a Batman-esque manner. While James Frain originally played Theo Galavan as a corrupt business mastermind obsessed with his family heritage, I'm enjoying this new take on the character as an amnesiac assassin who seems to revel in playing the role of an ancient knight. After his surprising mid-season death, the character seems to be providing some stronger continuity between the two halves of the season. Admittedly, Hugo Strange is still being sold a little short, although he gets a lot more screen-time and character development here. I'm still hazy on the character's motivations beyond just doing things for shits and giggles – it's still not clear why he let Penguin and Barbara Keen out of Arkham Asylum, but for some reason wants to keep the Riddler locked up. Hopefully, he will make it out of Season Two alive and be around to act as the 'big bad' of Season Three – given that he killed the Wayne's and effectively started the show, he deserves a longer tenure than half a season.


While Galavan's resurrection has created more synergy between the two halves of this season, there is still a disjointed feel to this back-set of stories and I can't help but feel that the Hugo Strange storyline has been rushed. I am enjoying this Azrael development and Gotham continues to surprise and push hard against its boundaries. There was a really cinematic element to this episode, especially the scenes in the GCPD, and it's great to see the series lean further on the more outrageous criminal elements of Gotham City. Once his identity was revealed, on public television no less, it was clear how many sub-plots that his resurrection would affect. Clearly, Tabitha and Butch are going to be drawn into the fray once more after sitting on the sidelines throughout this second half of the season, and Penguin, who has been chilling out with his step-mothers decomposing corpse can finally get the revenge that Jim Gordon denied him. Hopefully, Galavan will become the focal point of these remaining episodes – especially if he regains his old memories – and Hugo Strange can be shuffled off out the back door to return at a later date. I must admit I do enjoy BD Wong's performance, and his interactions with Miss Peabody – they definitely deserve more screen-time to shine!

Yet again, this was another fantastic episode of Gotham and a perfect example of how this series bucks the usual season structure to shock and surprise its fans. With three episodes remaining, it seems that everything will be coming to a head and the sins of Gordon's past will come back to haunt him. This season has almost broken the character and saw him cross lines that perhaps he shouldn't have crossed. Lucky for Gordon, the one man he has murdered in cold blood has come back to life, so in effect he has a do-over here and the audience can continue to root for the character despite his missteps. While it has felt disjointed at times, I'm convinced the series' writers can resolve their issues in these remaining three episodes and set up another thrilling season finale akin to last year's “All Happy Families Are Alike”. While it might not have felt as meticulously planned as its first season, this year of stories have been great fun to watch as Gotham moved away from its organised crime elements and focused more on the criminally insane and super-powered threats. I eagerly await what structure the series' third season will take – perhaps it will start to focus on Bruce Wayne's journey to becoming Batman, given that David Mazouz himself has grown and evolved over the past two years to offer a credible take on a teenage crimefighter-in-training. No matter what Gotham has planned for the future, I'm sure it will make for absolutely nail-biting TV!


Score - 9.7 out of 10

Next Episode - "Unleashed"
Azrael is loose in Gotham City, which sparks Penguin's need for revenge. Meanwhile, Bruce enlists Selina's help in tracking down Professor Strange as he evades arrest for his experiments.

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