Showing posts with label Gotham. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gotham. Show all posts

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Review - Gotham: 3x14 - "The Gentle Art of Making Enemies"

Gotham
Episode 3x14 - "The Gentle Art of Making Enemies"

Synopsis

Fixated on killing Bruce Wayne, Jerome takes advantage of the city-wide blackout to achieve his task. Meanwhile, Ed reveals himself to be the architect of the Penguin’s downfall and prepares to carry out his final act of revenge.

Review

Wow, that was a near-perfect episode of Gotham, and a much better mid-season finale than the disappointing ending to “Beware the Green-Eyed Monster”. Finally aware at how much Cameron Monaghan energises the show, Gotham made ample use of him during this episode as he took Bruce hostage in a carnival of terrors, somewhat reminiscent of “The Killing Joke” at points. Taking inspiration from all that came before him, Monaghan chews the scenery like Jack Nicholson’s Jack Napier and has the edginess of Heath Ledger’s Joker. Ultimately, he is best described as a real-life version of Mark Hamill’s voice-acted Joker, which is high praise indeed. The show’s writers wisely avoided angering the series’ fan-base by not killing off the Joker at the end of this episode, but attempted to shock fans with the apparent death of the Penguin instead. Obviously, we know that he’ll be back – death doesn’t quite hold the same sense of finality anymore in Gotham, and I think he’ll return alongside his former mistress, Fish Mooney, at the end of the season.

The scenes with Bruce and Jerome were absolutely mesmerising, teasing the character’s eventual rivalry as Batman and the Joker. I loved the sequence where he begun stapling into Bruce’s arm, and how he attempted to hold in the pain to deny Jerome any pleasure. This, and the sequence in the Hall of Mirrors where Bruce beat Jerome to a bloodied pulp, demonstrated how far the character has come over the past three years and I hope that this marks a concerted effort from the show’s writers to portray Bruce as a capable force to be reckoned with. If Gotham returns for a Season Four, we need to start seeing a prototype Batman running about the streets, learning his trade on the streets. His speech at the end of the episode with Alfred certainly seems to suggest that this is where the show is headed and I think David Mazouz is now old enough to convincingly portray Bruce as a young vigilante. I mean, Robin was his age when he started out!


The other major confrontation that fuelled this episode’s narrative was the long-awaited clash between the Riddler and the Penguin. I loved his initial acid-based death-trap, which just felt so “Riddler” in nature with its Rube Goldberg Machine design. I also like that the Penguin actually proved that he loved Ed by not betraying him to save his own life – it was a nice touch, and one that may mean that there is some glimmer of reconciliation at the end of this story-arc. Riddler seemed conflicted in that wonderfully-acted pier sequence, and it actually felt touch-and-go whether he would let the Penguin go or not. Obviously, Oswald has history with these waterside executions but he wasn’t quite as lucky this time around – although I certain that he will be “fished up” by his former mentor and Hugo Strange. As for the Riddler, he still has to deal with Barbara, Butch and Tabitha but I suspect that he will begin to take the first steps to his more flamboyant comic-book identity during the remainder of this season, especially considering the title of the next episode.

This episode was the closest that the series has ever come to feeling like a true Batman prequel, placing James Gordon in the background for one episode to focus on Bruce Wayne and three of his most famous enemies: Joker, Riddler and Penguin. It was fascinating to watch, and I really hope that Gotham can maintain this same excitement and character development for Bruce Wayne across the remainder of this series, as his Court of Owls story-arc has come second-place to James Gordon throughout the season. Given Uncle Frank’s appearance at the end of this episode, I suspect Gordon will be dragged into Bruce’s troubles and we will start to see some resolution of the whole convoluted and overdrawn ‘secret society’ storyline that has dragged Season Three down. This series is always strongest when focused on a single maniac figurehead, be it Penguin, Proto-Joker or Mad Hatter – if Season Four can weed out the series’ more ridiculous elements and return the focus onto Bruce Wayne’s growth into Batman, then I’m sure the series will continue to course-correct itself with fantastic episodes like this.


Score - 10 out of 10

Next Episode - "How the Riddler Got His Name"
Edward finally gets Oswald to pay for his terrible actions and finds himself with a new dilemma on which path to take.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Review - Gotham: 3x13 - "Smile Like You Mean It"

Gotham
Episode 3x13 - "Smile Like You Mean It"

Synopsis

Gotham City is gripped by madness as Dwight unites the followers of Jerome in an attempt to resurrect the former Maniax member. Meanwhile, Barbara and Tabitha continue their plan to ruin the Penguin’s standing within the underworld by using his love for Ed against him.

Review

Wasting little time, this episode of Gotham dealt primarily with the resurrection of Jerome Valeska, positioning the character as the latest “big bad” to appear in this season. After making an impact with his debut appearance in Season One and his untimely death in Season Two, the show’s writers seem to have finally committed to the idea of having Jerome be the series’ incarnation. Cameron Monaghan does a brilliant job at bringing the character to life (again) as he borrows elements from both Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger’s takes on the character, creating an interesting Joker medley. Riffing on the recent “Death of the Family” storyline occurring in the Batman comics, this version of the Joker has had his face removed and stapled back on – it’s a great visual and I’m surprised the series was willing to go there. With his facial disfigurement, Valeska seems to have that extra oomph that sets him apart from previous incarnations – I particularly liked the scenes where he was wearing bandages and talking with a slight lisp. It really emphasised the maniacal nature of the character, channelling his inner Joker perfectly.

Despite this clear movement towards establishing Valeska as the Joker, Gotham still shies away from naming him as the character and part of me was hoping that this episode would end with him christening himself with the name. That said, I did get a kick out of seeing the Joker-esque logo appearing as spray-painted graffiti all over the city. One element that felt inconsistent was the size of this cult that worshipped Valeska as their “prophet”, it seemed to fluctuate in numbers and I think it was purely so that the writers could have the flexibility to bring them back again in the future. I’m not sure how I feel about the Joker in charge of an army of loyal followers, especially ones who seemed crazier than him. Now that Gotham has gone to great lengths to bring the character back from the dead, I hope they utilise him wisely and make him into a true threat for Gordon and his city.

"Let's put a FACE on that SMILE"

Whilst Gordon and the GCPD were dealing with the threat of the Joker cult, the other core storylines running throughout this season seemed to be spinning their wheels, waiting for their turn in the spotlight. The plot involving Selina and her mom fizzled out rather disappointingly, especially since everyone involved actually commented on the predictability of her mother’s deception – it just seemed like an excuse to explain away Selina’s commitment issues and then force a wedge between her and Bruce. That said, I did like the scene as Selina attempted to fight Bruce and he defended himself against her blows. It seemed very reminiscent of the relationship between Batman and Catwoman in Batman Returns, and a nice foreshadowing to their eventual costumed alter-egos. Elsewhere, the Penguin plot-line continued to plot along and Edward Nygma couldn’t even be bothered to make an appearance to advance the story. Again, this felt rather “by-the-numbers” in its approach as Penguin continued to become the “Crumblepot” reported in the Gotham Gazette.

Yet again, Gotham continues to display a schizophrenia to rival that of its most infamous residents. On one side, this episode was taut, thrilling and exciting with the Jerome storyline, but it padded out the episode with some slow, predictable elements in other areas. This split in focus has been evident throughout the season as the series lurches from storyline to storyline – compared to the operatic twists and turns of Season One’s mob-war story-arc, it feels like Gotham has become a cluttered mess of different narratives – each one vying for prominence. The Jerome storyline seems like a natural lead for the remainder of the season, but there are plenty of untouched elements to be dealt with, including the Court of Owls, Fish Mooney and Hugo Strange, the Mad Hatter and Barnes, Penguin and the Riddler. Hopefully the remaining nine episodes of the season can bring some stability to this “Mad City” arc and deliver a cohesive and satisfying climax.


Score - 9.4 out of 10

Next Episode - "The Gentle Art of Making Enemies"
With Jerome on the loose with one target in mind, Bruce and Alfred's safety is compromised. Meanwhile, Gordon's Uncle Frank pays him a visit whilst Nygma and Penguin are forced to confront their issues face-to-face with possible deadly consequences.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Review - Gotham: 3x12 - "Ghosts"

Gotham
Episode 3x12 - "Ghosts"

Synopsis

Despite being cleared by the GCPD for Mario’s murder, Falcone and Lee both want Gordon to pay for his crimes and hire Zsasz to carry out the assassination. Meanwhile, during a routine murder investigation, Gordon and Bullock uncover a mysterious cult dedicated to worshipping the memory of Jerome Valeska.

Review

Despite my concerns at the end of the mid-season finale, Gotham addressed the burning issue of Gordon killing Mario Falcone with surprisingly speed by forgoing the formality of having Jim protest his innocence to the police force. Opening up with Mario’s funeral, it is quickly established via dialogue that the GCPD discovered Mario’s infection in an autopsy, corroborating Gordon’s initial claims in “Beware the Green-Eyed Monster” and explaining his decision to shoot the man. Of course, while he is legally innocent of the crime, he has still incurred Falcone’s wrath - resulting in another hit being placed on the unlucky detective. It was great fun seeing Victor Zsasz in a prominent role again, hunting down Jim Gordon with a psychotic glee. Anthony Carrigan does a great job with the character, hinting at his casual disdain for human life and foreshadowing his eventual descent into a trophy-obsessed serial killer. I was a little disappointed at how quickly the hit was called off, although given Zsasz’s efficiency, it was inevitable that this plot point would have to be reversed in order to maintain the status-quo.

While it’s too early to tell, there is a sneaking suspicion that the rushed nature of this sub-plot may be due to poor reaction to the mid-season cliff-hanger and the show’s writers have quickly revised their original plans in order to push ahead with the Jerome Valeska resurrection instead. After writing out Fish Mooney and putting the Indian Hill escapees back in the bottle, Season Three of Gotham has been an odd bag of aborted storylines. In fact, aside from the Mad Hatter plot thread – there hasn’t actually been a consistent through-line. With Jerome presumably picking up the baton from Benedict Samuel’s Mad Hatter, it seems Gotham will be returning to its winning formula of a single insane antagonist tormenting the city. Cameron Monaghan’s turn as Jerome during Season Two was a highlight of the series so I am very intrigued to see how Gotham handles this ‘proto-Joker’ when he is eventually resurrected.


Another subplot that has delivered less than expected is Bruce’s battle with the Court of Owls. While this episode provides a slight hint as to the true purpose of the Owl statue, as a shining light reveals some secret blueprints on the wall – little else of interest happens in this episode. Selina’s mother seems like an unnecessary wrinkle to the plot, and I am flabbergasted that no-one has thought to ask her why she was at the Court of Owls’ hideout. Clearly she knows something about the organisation! Despite this, it was good to see Selina let down her guard and showcase her vulnerable side – sometimes her sarcastic attitude can grate, especially when it comes to her and Bruce’s relationship. Obviously, the pair are destined to break-up at some point during the series and go their separate ways towards super-hero and super-villain destinies – I just hope it isn’t for a while yet as I like their awkward relationship.

Another relationship that I liked, and has sadly ended, is that of the Riddler and the Penguin. Here we see the beginning of Riddler’s plan to drive the Penguin insane – a surprisingly simple task, it turns out. As Penguin’s father appeared and disappeared as a ghostly image, I was worried that the show wouldn’t be able to adequately explain how Riddler achieved such as special effect – I mean, he’s not Mysterio… but the reveal of Clayface was a brilliant one, and I wonder if he’ll be used again in the future to bring back other dead characters? It seems that the Riddler’s plan to “completely destroy” the Penguin will be a slow-burner as he strips away everything the former mob-boss holds dear – starting with his position as Mayor. Unfortunately, Gotham hasn’t really spent much time in showing how important this new role is to Oswald Cobblepot, so his inevitable sacking won’t have the same amount of impact as his previous ‘low points’. Hopefully, the show-writers can take this grudge-match into an interesting direction and not drop it midway through in favour of a different story-arc.

Ghosts” certainly leaves Gotham in a stronger place than its mid-season finale did, but it continues to leave plenty of narrative ‘plates’ spinning and I am very intrigued to see how they will all come together to form a cohesive storyline. While this episode manages to condense the action to three distinct storylines, Gotham does have the habit of becoming a bit cluttered and unorganised at times, and it does feel like there are a number of different antagonists (Court of Owls, Jerome, Barnes, Falcone, Penguin/Riddler, Fish Mooney and the Mad Hatter) all vying for the spotlight. Hopefully the series can streamline some of these elements and end this season with a clear format, addressing and completing the various plots it has set in motion.


Score - 9.1 out of 10

Next Episode - "Smile Like You Mean It"
On the run from Gordon and Bullock, Dwight tries to revive Jerome and, in turn, activates his acolytes around Gotham City. Meanwhile, Selina's mom's intentions in Gotham are revealed, and the power play between Penguin and Nygma escalates as Barbara's plans are set in place.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Review - Gotham: 3x11 - "Beware the Green-Eyed Monster"

Gotham
Episode 3x11 - "Beware the Green-Eyed Monster"

Synopsis

Convinced that Mario Falcone has been infected with Alice Tetch’s blood, Jim Gordon attempts to reveal the truth to Lee and put an end to her wedding, but is Mario one step ahead of him? Meanwhile, Bruce enlists the help of Selina and Alfred to steal a powerful weapon from inside the Court of Owls’ secret safe house. 

Review

With much of the episode’s focus firmly on the relatively undeveloped love triangle between Leslie Thompkins, Mario Falcone and Jim Gordon, this mid-season finale of Gotham ended on a whimper rather than a bang. Infected with the same virus that drove Captain Barnes to murder the guilty, Mario’s affliction takes the form of a paranoid jealousy of Jim Gordon – causing him to construct a devious plot to discredit the detective in front of his bride-to-be. It’s a bit convoluted, and veers into the realms of clichĂ© with a last-minute declaration of love moments before Thompkins is due to walk down the aisle. Personally, it would have been far more interesting if the series had avoided the Tetch virus sub-plot and instead had Lee ditch Mario at the altar, spurning him on to become a heir to the Falcone crime family out for revenge on Gordon. Instead, the show reverted to one of its favourite (and over-used) plot devices – framing Jim Gordon for murder and presumably, getting arrested or thrown out of the GCPD. When Gordon shot Mario and the knife slid from his hand into the ocean, I almost let out an audible groan – the return from the hiatus will now be preoccupied with Gordon proving that it was self-defence and not the cold-blooded murder it appeared to be. When Gordon shot Galavan, it was bold and exciting – but this, this was just frustrating.

The more interesting elements of the episode were relegated to sub-plots with the mystery surrounding the Court of Owls shuffled off to one side. As a result, the heist for the mysterious ‘weapon’ in the safe seemed extremely low-key and it almost undermined  the supposed omnipotence of the Court of Owls that two kids and a butler could break into one of their buildings and steal one of their most-guarded secrets. That said, I’m intrigued to find out what exactly is within the Crystal Owl statue that the trio stole, and the introduction of Selina’s mother is a wonderful little wrinkle to the storyline. I’m calling it up front, I predict that she may become a love interest for Alfred – giving him someone other than teenagers to hang about with. Knowing Gotham’s penchant for naming their half-seasons, I’m expecting the tail-end of Season Three to be focused on the Court of Owls – especially since they’ve begun to appear in both Gordon and Penguin’s story-arcs.


Anyone hoping for a swift resolution to the Penguin / Riddler subplot would be disappointed as once he discovered the truth behind the Penguin’s duplicity, Nygma changed his tactics and instead opted for a prolonged campaign of revenge. In an extreme case of ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’, Riddler found himself paired up with Barbara, Butch and Tabitha in a situation which just emphasised the ineffectualness of Butch and Tabitha. Despite swearing to kill Nygma on sight, the pair reversed their position and instead traded angry scowls and gritted teeth at the man who cut off Tabitha’s hand – this makes as much sense as Butch continuing to work for the man who cut off his own hand, even after he was freed from the mind control. While the idea of a Penguin vs. Riddler gang-war is exciting, I wish the series hadn’t wasted an extremely intriguing same-sex romantic plotline to get to this point. The sudden appearance of a Miss Kringle-lookalike stretched credibility a bit too far, and felt like a way to put the pair at odds without positioning Nygma as a homophobe. While I might not appreciate how the writers got to this point – I am very intrigued to see how the show will handle two of its core cast-members going up against each other.

Unfortunately, this was the weakest episode of Season Three and one that saw Gotham reverting to some of its lazier plot devices. The series works best when it flouts convention and introduces surprises into the established continuity of the Batman mythos, but the series’ constant obsession with having Gordon kicked out of the GCPD, or framed for murder, has definitely lessened the impact. Rather than wondering “how will Gordon get out of this one”, I’m instead thinking “how long will it take for Gotham to move past this”. When the show returns in the new year, I’m hoping it will have learnt some lessons from the inconsistent tone to this first half of Season Three – the strongest episodes revolved around Benedict Samuel’s Mad Hatter, who injected unpredictability into the mix – something that felt lacking in the Court of Owls focused moments. With Selina Kyle’s mother making an appearance, and the mysterious figure from the Court of Owls bearing the Gordon family ring, I wonder whether there will be a more family-centric tone to its remaining episodes. Whatever the focus may be, the second half of Season Three will need to achieve a better sense of cohesiveness if it wishes to remain as strong as Season Two.


Score - 8.9 out of 10

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Review - Gotham: 3x10 - "Time Bomb"

Gotham
Episode 3x10 - "Time Bomb"

Synopsis

Determined to get revenge for the death of Isabella, Nygma kidnaps Butch and Tabitha and begins to subject them to a barrage of torture techniques, unaware that Barbara Kean is on the hunt for them both. Meanwhile, Gordon must protect Mario Falcone from assassins targeting him ahead of his wedding to Lee, and Bruce Wayne attempts to deal with the mysterious group searching for the key that Ivy stole.

Review

Time Bomb” is an appropriate title for this episode of Gotham, not just because of the exploding car sequence in its cold open, but also the way in which the writers attempted to cram in plenty of story development before the series’ mid-season finale hits. While it was jam-packed with momentum from the outset, the episode never felt overly busy and rushed – scenes like how Riddler kidnapped Butch and Tabitha were excised in favour of exposition, ensuring a tight and brisk pace from the beginning. It was also an episode filled with revelations – Riddler discovered that Butch wasn’t the one responsible for Isabella’s death, Bruce discovered a potential ally in his fight against the Court of Owls and the audience discovered that Barnes was not the only one to be affected by Alice Tetch’s blood. Each of these revelations are set to drive the narrative of the show into the mid-season finale, and beyond – no doubt the re-emergence of the Court of Owls will result in them taking the main stage for the second half of Season Three, whilst the inevitable feud between Penguin and Riddler will reignite the gang war plot strand. Gotham has done a great job at building each of these subplots towards their crescendo, although some of its plot threads (Valerie Vale, Jervis Tetch and Fish Mooney) have been discarded throughout this first half-season.

It was great to see Edward Nygma experimenting with death-traps, something which will become a more prominent theme in his Riddler persona, and the emotional torture that he put Butch and Tabitha through was very similar to The Mad Hatter’s own trials for Jim Gordon earlier in the season in “Follow the White Rabbit”. Ultimately, I think that Tetch’s version was more effective as Benedict Samuel managed to better convey that sense of unhinged grief, whereas Cory Michael Smith was a little too maniacal in his approach. I have to applaud Gotham for having the balls to go the extra mile and having Tabitha lose a hand – too many other shows would have wimped out and had Barbara arrive just in time to save the day. While it seems likely that she will get it reattached, much like with Valerie Vale’s shooting in “Follow the White Rabbit”, it was a genuine shock and a worthy pay-off to the lengthy setup throughout the episode. Interestingly, Nygma’s antics in this episode consolidates a new threat to the Penguin’s crown as Gotham’s kingpin as Barbara Kean, Butch and Tabitha unite together with the promise of revenge and war upon the Penguin and his organisation.


The threat of war was also seen in Bruce Wayne’s storyline as he scrambled to meet with those hunting down him and his friends in an effort to renegotiate the truce, only to discover this was a different organisation committed to defeating the Court of Owls. Coming so soon after the whole St Dumas conspiracy in Season Two, there is the feeling that Gotham is retreading old ground with yet another sinister ancient organisation running things from behind the scenes. Even the Owls’ mysterious assassin feels reminiscent of Theo Galavan in his Azrael persona, albeit with much less verbal input during his attacks. Hopefully the writers will be able to offer something different with this storyline, although considering the Court of Owls are in possession of the Bruce Wayne clone – I strongly suspect we’re headed for a ‘bait-and-switch’ situation with Fake-Bruce taking the original’s place for the latter half of the season. Even though this storyline has been given little prominence during this “Mad City” phase of the season, it has been the least enjoyable aspect and hopefully it doesn’t become the main focus of the series once its returns in the New Year.

Unfortunately, subtlety is not one of Gotham’s strong points and from the opening conversation where Mario expressed too much interest in Captain Barnes’ condition and a possible test to discover who was afflicted, it was obvious he had been affected by the same virus. I’m assuming that the mysterious plaster on his neck during “Red Queen” must have been something to do with his infection – although, it’s unclear whether it was intentional or not. Poor Mario Falcone was doomed the minute he returned to Gotham with Lee as he was merely a hurdle in her relationship with Gordon, waiting in the wings to be dispatched at the soonest convenience. I’m a little bit disappointed that the show will make him into a mindless villain, especially so soon after Barnes’ own transformation, as it would have been more interesting if he’d been a genuine nice guy alternative to Gordon. I’m curious as to why the Court of Owls got involved and attempted to assassinate Mario – how would they even know he was infected? It was fun to see Falcone revert back to his criminal roots, especially when he indulged in an impromptu dental examination in the interrogation room – if Mario is killed off, I suspect he will return to his role as mob-boss pretty quickly, especially if Gordon is the one who pulls the trigger.

As a standalone episode, this was a densely-packed tour through all of the current storyline percolating in Gotham, but it also demonstrated the scattered nature of the season with plot threads being dropped or put on hiatus in favour of pursuing other ideas – it’s almost as if the show cannot decide on what its main focus. In this episode, the Court of Owls seemed to be a recurring theme and with the Mad Hatter languishing in an Arkham cell, I suspect the series will attempt to knit its disparate plot threads together and focus on one common enemy.


Score - 9.3 out of 10

Next Episode - "Beware the Green-Eyed Monster"
Mario and Gordon face off before the wedding, Selina meets an unexpected face and Barbara comes to Nygma with information about Isabella.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Review - Gotham: 3x09 - "The Executioner"

Gotham
Episode 3x09 - "The Executioner"

Synopsis

Gordon suspects Barnes is responsible for the numerous vigilante murders taking place in Gotham City, but struggles to convince the rest of the GCPD of his findings. Meanwhile, Poison Ivy finds herself in trouble when a jewel theft goes bad, forcing her to team-up with Selina and Bruce. 

Review

After building up Barnes’ descent into madness over the past few episodes, the conclusion to this sub-plot lacked any real sense of resolution as Gotham once again reverted to half-measures to prolong the storyline. Barnes’ downfall was very reminiscent of Butch’s journey in “Anything for You”, even down to the point where the writers avoiding killing off the character when it seemed like the logical conclusion to the story-arc. Locked away in Arkham Asylum chanting “Justice”, Barnes is ready to be used again whenever Gotham needs to fill an episode – given the manner in which he was defeated, I wouldn’t be surprised if he returned to threaten Lee. The reluctance to kill off Barnes renders Gotham slightly impotent and serves to showcase the series’ shortcomings – I think it would have been a much stronger statement if Gordon had put a bullet through Barnes’ head, albeit reluctantly. It would have been another reason to hate Tetch, fuelling this rivalry between the pair.

Another example of the reluctance to commit to a storyline was seen in the Penguin / Riddler subplot. While I applaud the writers’ decision to have Riddler quickly discover the suspicious nature of Isabella’s death – it felt like a slight cheat to have him instantly blame Butch for the act. Still, this prolongs the story-arc and adds some more dramatic tension between Oswald and Edward. I’m a bit disappointed that the Penguin’s love for Riddler and the sudden appearance of a Miss Kringle doppelganger were introduced purely to build this rift between the two characters. It feels artificial and forced, reliant on unrealistic comic-book tropes – it would have been far more interesting to have had the Penguin embark in a relationship with the Riddler and deal with the aftermath of a break-up. It would have been the brilliant departure from continuity that Gotham should revel in – as it is, it feels like they’ve tried to be daring but have pulled back at the last minute. Saying that, the pair might still become a couple with this dark secret lingering between them – that would be an interesting development!


The most engaging element of this episode, and unfortunately the aspect that was explored the least, was the situation that Ivy, Selina and Bruce found themselves in. The actual reveal of an older Ivy was a bit underwhelming, although both Camren Bicondova and David Mazouz’s reactions were brilliant. The most intriguing part of this sub-plot was that the stolen Emerald contained a key – presumably for the Court of Owls – bringing the characters back into the foreground. After establishing a truce with Bruce in the opening episodes of this season, this shadowy organisation hasn’t really had the impact on the series that we’d expected with the writers focused more on Jervis Tetch and his sister’s dodgy blood. Now that Barnes is locked up, it seems that the writers will be returning to the core mythology surrounding this secret society and its plans for Wayne Enterprises. Gotham still seems to be a bit patchy when it comes to its overall season development – after the Season Two finale, it seemed like Season Three would focus more on the escaped Indian Hill test subjects and the Court of Owls, but we’ve seen little evidence of either across this initial batch of episodes.

There were some bright spots in this episode though – the tense car journey and ‘cat-and-mouse’ conversations between Gordon and Barnes were some really strong moments and Michael Chiklis got to explore his character in greater detail. On the whole, however, it definitely felt like the writers were holding off on any actual resolutions in this episode and the focus was on transitioning characters into the next stage for these final few episodes of the year. Maybe it’s because I cared more about Butch as a character than Barnes, but I found there to be no real tension in his downfall and eventual ‘outing’ as a villain. With “Anything for You”, I was genuinely concerned that Butch was about to be killed off, but with this episode, I expected Barnes to get a bullet to the head and was disappointed when it didn’t happen. With the Court of Owls and the Riddler/Penguin ‘murder mystery’ still to be explored, there’s plenty of mileage for the remainder of this season to cover, but the show has dipped slightly since the Mad Hatter was incarcerated, showing that it needs a flamboyant villain to drive the plot.


Score - 9.2 out of 10

Next Episode - "Time Bomb"
A threat to Lee and Mario is exposed on the eve of their rehearsal dinner and Falcone comes to Jim for help. Meanwhile, Nygma plans his revenge and Bruce learns more about the Court of Owls.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Review - Gotham: 3x08 - "Blood Rush"

Gotham
Episode 3x08 - "Blood Rush"

Synopsis

With the virus-infected blood of Alice Tetch running through his veins, Captain Barnes struggles to keep his rage buried deep whilst the criminal underworld of Gotham commit more atrocities. Meanwhile, the Penguin plots to break up Ed and his new girlfriend, Isabella.

Review

Clean-shaven and wearing a tie again, Jim Gordon returned to the GCPD with a reduced sense of fanfare, with even Bullock pointing out that he’d left and returned too many times to make a fuss out of it. For once the focus wasn’t on the grim-faced detective, but instead one of the more undeveloped characters in the Gotham universe – Captain Nathaniel Barnes. So undeveloped, I had to google Michael Chiklis to find out his first name! After getting some virus-infected blood in his eye 28 Days Later style, Barnes has been gradually gaining super-strength and an uncontrollable sense of rage. Instead of turning into a kill-crazy zombie, he has focused his anger towards criminals and adopted a rather violent vigilante streak. After making little impact to the series’ narrative since replacing Captain Essen in Season Two, Chiklis is given a little more material to work with in this episode as we witness his inner turmoil as the rage and paranoia builds inside of him. This is a welcomed change to the character who previously spent most of his time in a wildly inconsistent love/hate relationship with Jim Gordon.

Once again adopting a streamlined approach to dealing with its ongoing storylines, there was a really interesting symmetry to this episode, which not only charted Barnes’ descent into murderous rage but also simultaneously showcased Ed’s attempts to put it behind him and move on. I liked how these two storylines dovetailed with each other, portraying the same theme of resisting the ‘killer inside’ but adopting totally different approaches to the subject matter. Another recurring theme for the episode was love triangles as the tension between Gordon, Lee and Mario heated up alongside the unlikely coupling of Riddler, Penguin and Isabella. In both cases, violence won out as Mario threw a punch at Gordon and Penguin organised his love rival’s death. I do wonder whether Isabella is truly out of the picture this early on, though. To have her flit in and out of Ed’s life so quickly seems like a waste of Chelsea Spack’s talents, besides her existence seemed far too coincidental especially in an episode that featured a doctor face-swapping. I still think she was working for Butch and part of some revenge scheme, but I guess we will have to wait and see.


I have to admit that I initially thought the murdering plastic surgeon was going to be revealed to be Mario Falcone, adding more tension to the love triangle whilst presenting Gordon as the hero. There was that odd moment last episode where the camera lingered on a Band-Aid on his neck, hinting at some mysterious secrets in the Doctor’s life, but it wasn’t followed up upon here. I’m actually surprised at how far the series has swerved away from its focus on the Indian Hill escapees and The Court of Owls to its latest fixation on Jervis Tetch and his dead sister’s rotten blood. Admittedly, it’s probably a much more exciting direction for the show and Benedict Samuel plays the Mad Hatter perfectly, but it can be infuriating to see plot threads dismissed so quickly. The show seems torn between being a police procedural set in Gotham City and a superhero prequel show for Batman and it’s this dual personality that often creates a schizophrenic narrative in the series. That said, this current direction is working for me and I’m enjoying seeing the Mad Hatter unleash his own brand of craziness into the city.

While this was mostly an origin episode for Barnes’ new persona, “Blood Rush” managed to develop other aspects of the show with a polished sense of symmetry. With the Mad Hatter behind bars for the time being, the focus has shifted over to the fruits of his labour – the hulk-like rage of Captain Barnes: the Executioner. Presumably the rest of this season will focus on Gordon attempting to discover more evidence that his former mentor is now currently mental, and possibly locating a cure to the virus. It feels like this is the beginning of the curtain call for Michael Chiklis on this show, and it’ll be great fun to see him take his leave whilst cleaning up Gotham’s streets in a gloriously gory fashion. After standing in for him during the hiatus between seasons, Bullock seems all but ready to step into his job as captain, so it seems like an inevitably that Barnes will meet his end soon. I’d also imagine that the Penguin / Riddler subplot will soon lead towards a bitter break-up for the pair, especially if Isabella survived her assassination attempt. As much as I wanted to see Gotham develop the pair into a couple, it seems that Cobblepot’s crush was merely introduced to give the friends a reason to become enemies. There’s still plenty of plot threads left to be developed for the remainder of the season, and with the Mad Hatter storyline drawing to a close, I wonder if the show’s writers will be reintroducing Fish Mooney and Hugo Strange into the mix before the mid-season finale.


Score - 9.3 out of 10

Next Episode - "The Executioner"
Gordon and Bullock become suspicious of Barnes and go through evidence of a murder at Lee and Mario's engagement party. Nygma goes to Penguin when he doesn't hear from Isabella. Ivy leads Selina and Bruce to trouble when she reveals her identity.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Review - Gotham: 3x07 - "Red Queen"

Gotham
Episode 3x07 - "Red Queen"

Synopsis

Dealing with the ramifications of Vale’s shooting, Jim Gordon is forced to face his inner demons when The Mad Hatter sends him on a drug-induced hallucinatory trip. Meanwhile, The Penguin must come to terms with Nygma’s sudden, new relationship.

Review

I’m the not biggest fan of ‘dream episodes’ in serialised dramas – often they are just an excuse for directors to get a bit artsy, throw in plenty of obscure metaphors and get the cast to act out-of-character for a bit. “Restless” – the ‘dream episode’ from Buffy the Vampire Slayer stands out as a strong example of the format, making the dream portion of the episode integral to the actual plot of the episode and providing genuine insight into the characters’ motivations and unconscious thoughts. Here, Gotham attempts a similar tactic as Jim Gordon is sent on a drug-induced hallucination trip into his own psyche, accompanied by his former lover and nightclub owning nut-job, Barbara Kean. While I liked the Sin City film-noir take on these sequences, the actual content didn’t seem to be that important to the narrative, visiting aspects of the character the viewer is already familiar with.

While some of the dream scenes were wonderfully abstract (Bruce Wayne wearing a weird face mask), other elements were painfully predictable (Gordon’s vision of a perfect home life with Lee) – however, the most interesting segment was when Gordon spoke with his father. Briefly mentioned in passing during Season One and Two as his motivation for becoming a police officer, this sequence flesh put a face to the name and set up his parental connections. Given the tantalising reveal at the end of this episode, it seems that Gordon’s family may end up receiving more focus than ever before – it’s deceptively vague as to whether the mysterious leader of the Court of Owls is Gordon’s father, or perhaps another branch on his family tree. A similarly intriguing mystery was the plaster on Mario Falcone’s neck – it wasn’t present in earlier scenes and the camera seemed to linger on it to emphasise its importance, although nothing was said. Perhaps it is covering up a ‘Court of Owls’ tattoo, or maybe he has injected himself with Alice Tetch’s blood? It definitely stood out, especially since subtlety isn’t usually Gotham’s forte.

"Say What Again. I dare you, I double dare you."

The focus of this episode was on getting Gordon back on the GCPD, and thankfully, the writers gave the decision much more importance than the previous times he’d left and re-joined the force. Clearly, there’s a revolving door at the GCPD entrance… It may have been a bit clunky and heavy-handed at times, but I’m glad that Gordon’s state-of-mind was finally addressed. Rather ironically, the GCPD seemed to operate a lot better without his meddling, managing to capture Tetch and his goons with relative ease. With increased self-awareness, Jim returned to his role in the GCPD and one must wonder if he’ll also attempt to rekindle his romance with Lee – now that both Vale and his sub-conscious have confirmed that he is still in love with her. The love triangle between Gordon, Thompkins and Falcone Jr. is obviously designed to fuel more tension and drama for the detective, but part of me thinks he’d be better suited with Valerie Vale – there was better chemistry between the pair and she is a strong independent woman.

Doomed romances seems to be a recurring trend in this season of Gotham as the Penguin was royally snubbed by the object of his affections, Ed Nygma. If you slow down the scene, you can almost pin-point the moment where his heart breaks in two – it’s almost enough to make you feel sorry for the murderous psychopath. The suddenness of this new relationship doesn’t ring true for me, and it seems clear that Isabella is an obstacle for the pair to overcome – given the high levels of coincidence, part of me wonders if it might be some kind of trap. Perhaps Butch has employed an actress to get close to Nygma as part of a revenge scheme – it just feels too good to be true, and the normally cautious Riddler has fallen for this girl completely. Hopefully, the suddenness and convenience of this sub-plot will be given an explanation within the series, rather than being a result of behind-the-scenes interference. Another romance seemingly destined for downfall is that of Bruce and Selina. After all, we all know that they don’t end up together and if Bruce is happy, he won’t ever become Batman! As a big fan of their relationship, I hope the writers keep things going well for a bit longer before pulling the rug out from underneath the pair.

While this episode lacked the same intensity and strong pace as its predecessor, it was a solid introspective piece on the series’ lead character. It wasn’t the most innovative and striking dream sequence ever – that award stays with Buffy the Vampire Slayer – but it provided some insight into Jim’s mind and hopefully put him back on the direction to becoming the Jim Gordon we all know from the comics. Obviously, Tetch’s imprisonment is only a temporary development for the character and given that he has discovered Barnes’ secret – I suspect we may get some much-needed movement on that storyline.


Score - 9.2 out of 10

Next Episode - "Blood Rush"
Barnes starts to feel the effects of a recent incident and begins to go mad. Meanwhile, Nygma is out of his depth in his relationship with Isabella and Carmine Falcone throws Lee and Mario an engagement party

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Review - Gotham: 3x06 - "Follow the White Rabbit"

Gotham
Episode 3x06 - "Follow the White Rabbit"

Synopsis

Driven to madness after the death of his sister, the Mad Hatter engages Jim Gordon in a game of cat-and-mouse that puts the women closest to him in serious danger. Meanwhile, The Penguin finds himself struggling to express his true feelings to his new love – The Riddler.

Review

There’s a hint of Die Hard With a Vengeance about this episode of Gotham as we see Jim Gordon get dragged into a game of cat-and-mouse by the Mad Hatter, rushing from pay phone to pay phone to take part in some twisted moral dilemmas. Taking up the lion’s share of the episode, this plot thread fuelled the entire episode and felt truly cinematic in scale – evoking memories of the Die Hard sequel and a hint of the Saw franchise too. With an episode littered with references to Alice in Wonderland, it came as no surprise that the final set-piece would take place at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, and Benedict Samuel has done a brilliant job at portraying the unhinged hypnotist. The tension had been built up all throughout the episode, so to have either one of the women escape unscathed would have been an anti-climax. While it may be surprising that Gordon chose Vale over Thompkins, I suspect he was fully aware that the Mad Hatter would shoot whoever he chose and he was actually protecting Lee by pretending he loved Vale. I applaud the writers for actually following through with the threat and not copping out – the brutal way that the Hatter shot Vale in the gut was quite shocking and even though she’ll likely survive the wound, it was still a bold moment.

The episode was even bolder with its secondary sub-plot which had the Penguin realising that he was in love with Ed Nygma, and attempting to gain the courage to approach his friend with his feelings. While Gotham is no stranger to LGBT characters with Barbara Kean bed-hopping between male and female characters on the show, the decision to have Penguin come out as gay and potentially begin a relationship with the Riddler is ground-breaking stuff. Robin Lord Taylor has played Oswald Cobblepot as sexually ambiguous throughout the series, so this twist doesn’t feel forced or sensationalist in any way – unfortunately, it does seem that Nygma won’t be reciprocating those feelings anytime soon, especially since the writers have re-introduced Chelsea Spack as a new character, bearing a strong resemblance to the deceased Miss Kringle. It’s unclear whether Isabella will have any connections to the late Kristine Kringle, but it’s clear that the Riddler finds her attractive and will no doubt form an unhealthy relationship with his dead ex-girlfriend’s doppelganger. I wonder if this rejection will cause Penguin to revert back to his spiteful criminal ways – after all, the advice he gave the lonely boy seems to suggest that his answer to rejection is to hurt those who reject him.


This episode really benefitted from its strong focus on just these two parallel storylines with only key cast members making an appearance. I appreciated this more streamlined take on the series as sometimes less is more, and while the series does have a large ensemble cast – it doesn’t need to feature every character in every episode. The absence of Bruce, Alfred, Ivy and Selina means that those storylines can be developed in greater detail in forthcoming episodes, rather than sledge-hammered into this tight narrative of Gordon vs. The Mad Hatter. While I’m normally quick to dismiss Ben McKenzie as a one-dimensional scowler, this episode allowed the character to show a bit more range in his performance and I suspect that his failure to save the day with his typical ‘one-man army’ approach may result him in returning to the GCPD. As fun as the bounty-hunting incarnation of Jim Gordon has been, Vale said it best when she pointed out that he sucked at the job – getting the subject of his first case impaled on a pipe (Alice) and failing to even locate the second one (Ivy).

Gotham always excels when it crosses the line and shocks the audience, and this was the most shocking episode of Season Three so far. Despite its ties to established Batman continuity, the writers still find ways to slip in surprises and the revelation that the Penguin is in love with the Riddler is quite the departure from the comics, and one that I wholeheartedly support. The more the series diverts from the traditional Batman mythos, the better in my opinion as the constant nods and winks to the audience about Bruce Wayne’s destiny aren’t half as interesting as seeing genuinely shocking moments unfold on the small screen. Even though it seems the scriptwriters are going to keep the Penguin and Riddler apart – at least for the time being – it is a very bold move to take two well-established characters and interpret them in a completely different way. It feels like an organic development of the pair’s relationship and whether it becomes reciprocated or not, it is a very interesting way to explore the characters. While Valerie Vale being shot in the gut might have had the greater impact in the short-term, I suspect the reveal of the Penguin’s sexual orientation may leave the bigger impression in the long-term. Having me sat on the edge of my seat for over half the episode’s run-time ensures that “Follow the White Rabbit” thoroughly earns its 10 out of 10 score!


Score - 10 out of 10

Next Episode - "Red Queen"
After coming in contact with a substance by the hand of Mad Hatter, Jim Gordon gets led on a psychedelic trip and must confront his past, present and future. Meanwhile, Penguin struggles with Nygma's new relationship.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Review - Gotham: 3x05 - "Anything for You"

Gotham
Episode 3x05 - "Anything for You"

Synopsis

Barely warm in his Mayoral seat and the Penguin is forced to confront the return of the Red Hood gang, unaware that the architect of his misfortune may be one of his right-hand men. Meanwhile, Bruce attempts to locate Ivy Pepper in an attempt to win over Selina.

Review

Things took a turn for the romantic in this episode of Gotham as love certainly seemed to be in the air for a number of couples. Firstly, we had Bruce Wayne confessing his feelings to Selina and having them somewhat reciprocated in return; then we have Jim and Valerie attempting to turn their ‘no strings’ relationship into something more; but most significantly, we had the ‘love triangle’ between Penguin, Riddler and Butch. While it may not have been an actual ‘love triangle’, there was a brief moment when Ed and Oswald hugged at the end of the episode when I thought we might see Penguin and Riddler become lovers – intentional or not, there’s definitely some sort of sexual tension between them, and I wonder if the writers would be daring enough to divert from canon drastically and make the two Batman villains gay. I’m not normally one to ‘ship’ characters in TV shows, but I might be willing to become a ‘Piddler’ for Penguin & Riddler!

The battle to become the Penguin’s ‘Number Two’ (what a lovely mental picture!) was the main thrust of this episode and it was great to see a ‘back to basics’ approach to the season’s storyline, moving away from Indian Hill monsters to focus on gang wars. In fact, Ed’s manipulation of events felt very much like a Season One Penguin move, further drawing similarities between the two characters. As much as I like Butch, I can’t understand why he is so subservient to the Penguin (the guy cut his hand off, for goodness sake!) and so, the results of this episode set things right for me in one sense as it put the two characters at odds. Gotham loves to twist and turn, and I have to admit that I was on the edge of my seat wondering what would happen to Butch as he was pressured into assassinating the Penguin. While the Penguin and Riddler are ‘safe’, he is a character unique to the series and therefore, far more interesting. Much like with Chief Barnes and his infection, there is a freedom to these characters which is very appealing in a prequel show, and an area where Gotham can elicit real reactions from audiences.


This episode was definitely a return to form for the show, which was beginning to spin its wheels somewhat and touch upon old plot threads. Fuelled by the debut of the Mad Hatter two episodes, Gotham shows no signs in slowing down, even when it has to focus on its original cast. The dynamic between Penguin and Riddler is fantastic, and while Edward Cory Smith isn't quite good enough to convince the viewer that he could turn against Cobblepot - it was quite a roller-coaster of emotions. In all honesty, both Riddler and Penguin were given short shrift in the tail-end of Season Two in favour of developing Galavan and Strange as credible threats – so, their rise to prominence in this episode is something of a welcome reward for two of the series’ standout cast members. The chemistry (sexual or otherwise) between the two is fantastic, and I wonder whether the pair will remain friends throughout the series or whether they will eventually become rival crime-lords or enemies. As far as I’m aware, there isn’t much of a ‘bromance’ between the pair in the comics – but ultimately, their interests don’t clash as Riddler is more of a flamboyant super-villain, compared to Penguin’s gangster roots.

Despite a tighter focus on the episode’s central plot, there was plenty of opportunities for secondary characters to make an impact on the story. Nygma’s return to the GCPD was handled perfectly, as was his fiery interaction with Leslie Thompkins – I wonder if that slap has put her firmly in his cross-hairs now. There were also some great moments foreshadowing future episodes, such as Ivy playing about with a confused Selina, Chief Barnes’ increased strength, or the Mad Hatter’s attempts to recreate his ‘Alice’ through kidnapped victims. Obviously, all of these plot threads will develop over the coming episodes, but these ‘sneak peeks’ demonstrate the abilities of the series’ scriptwriters and how they are able to juggle multiple story-arcs without resulting in a cluttered mess. After quickly brushing the Court of Owls and Indian Hill escapees to the side, the central narrative to Gotham has actually become stronger and more reminiscent of its initial season. While I do like the goofy superpowers of Season Two, it was a somewhat jarring shift in tone for the series which had previously been rooted in realism. While it is too late for Gotham to put that genie back in the bottle, it is episodes like this one which allow the series to revisit the Machiavellian scheming and crime drama elements from its beginnings, recapturing past glories.


Score - 9.8 out of 10

Next Episode - "Follow the White Rabbit"
Mad Hatter sets his eyes on his next victims, forcing Jim Gordon to make some tough decisions. Meanwhile, Penguin and Riddler's relationship continues to evolve as a familiar face comes back into Nygma's life.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Review - Gotham: 3x04 - "New Day Rising"

Gotham
Episode 3x04 - "New Day Rising"

Synopsis

Penguin steps up his campaign to become Mayor of Gotham City, although his allies Butch and Riddler disagree over the best way to achieve this. Meanwhile, the Mad Hatter continues to pursue his sister, Alice, leading Gordon to confront some harsh truths about his own state of mind. Elsewhere, Bruce Wayne and his clone clash over Selina Kyle.

Review

Things take a topical turn in this episode of Gotham as the Penguin’s electoral campaign begins to mirror the Presidential Election. Maybe it’s because I’m not American, but I didn’t pick up on the similarities between “Make Gotham Safe Again” and the Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan until this episode, and it was surprising to see the show make such an overt political comment. The parallels between Penguin and Trump actually benefit the storyline, providing a hint of credibility behind how Gotham’s populous would vote for a widely-recognised criminal kingpin. The people are disenfranchised with how ‘real politicians’ handle social and economic problems and instead turn to those outside the system to handle things. Hopefully Penguin’s success at the Gotham voting stations doesn’t turn out to be some grim vision of America’s future in November!

Once again, The Mad Hatter was at the centre of this episode as he continued to pursue his sister Alice, although it seems his motives were more influenced by incest rather than her abilities. I was impressed that the writers continued to dwell on the after-effects of the Mad Hatter’s hypnotism on Jim Gordon, turning him into a suicidal lemming whenever he heard a ticking sound. It was a nice way to examine the character, whilst positioning the Hatter as a very tangible threat. That said, I do hope that his abilities aren’t used too excessively as they may become slightly repetitive over time. The introduction of the Tweed brothers (destined to become Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee) was nicely done, and I like the idea of these Luchador wrestlers becoming the Hatter’s muscle over the rest of the Season. While the Alice in Wonderland references have been a bit on-the-nose in these initial episodes, I suspect they will become more prevalent now that Alice, the one thing which kept him ‘sane’, is gone and he truly becomes the Mad Hatter.


After a haircut that had him looking a bit like Damien from The Omen, I was expecting the Bruce Clone to be a bit more menacing during his ‘date’ with Selina, but instead he ended up becoming a more charming and effective version of Bruce than the real deal. While David Mazouz has demonstrated slight echoes of the future Batman in his performance, it was his clone’s efficient battling of the Betting Ring hoodlums that had me seeing a cowl in the character’s future – I just hope they can have the real Bruce Wayne displaying this coolness. Given that the episode ends with the clone being abducted by the Court of Owls, I expect he will be used as some kind of tool to further their ambitions, likely replacing Bruce Wayne on a more permanent basis. In some ways, this sub-plot has been somewhat anti-climactic and I was hoping that a cloned version of Bruce Wayne would have more impact on the series’ narrative but with the other bat-shit crazy stuff going on in Gotham City, an evil duplicate doesn’t seem that out of the ordinary.

While this episode had plenty going on, at times it felt more of a transitional episode to move our characters into specific places. That said, I was particularly shocked by Captain Barnes taking a shot of blood to the eye in an oddly placed homage to 28 Days Later. While Barnes has largely been reduced to an ineffectual authority figure chiding Gordon for his reckless and rash decisions, it would still be a shame to see the character written out of the show. Hopefully, his infection will display itself in a different way to Alice’s landlord, and the Captain will live through this. It was also interesting to see Nygma clashing with Butch as the pair fought for the Penguin’s best interests – I wonder if this rivalry will finally see Butch moving away from the Penguin to become his own man. I’m also looking forward to seeing Nygma come into contact with his old friends at the GCPD – especially since he is now legally absolved of his crimes. Overall, this is shaping up to be a strong start to Season Three with the Mad Hatter comfortably occupying the role of arch-villain left empty by Fish Mooney and Theo Galavan, whilst the rest of the series’ recurring characters find themselves shifting into new roles and status-quos with ease.


Score - 9.2 out of 10

Next Episode - "Anything for You"
Crime in Gotham is at an all-time high, as Penguin struggles to uphold his promises to the city. Meanwhile, Butch goes down a dark path with the infamous Red Hood Gang and Bruce begins to investigate Ivy’s whereabouts.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Review - Gotham: 3x03 - "Look Into My Eyes"

Gotham
Episode 3x03 - "Look Into My Eyes"

Synopsis

The Mad Hatter arrives in Gotham and immediately makes his presence felt as he hires Gordon to find his Indian Hill escapee sister. The Penguin publicly announces his candidacy for Mayor, further integrating himself into a position of power. Meanwhile, Bruce and Alfred attempt to find out more about the mysterious Bruce Wayne duplicate from Indian Hill.

Review

After two episodes cleaning up loose plot threads from the Season Two finale, this episode of Gotham introduces its latest “big bad” as the Mad Hatter makes his way to the town in search of his missing sister, Alice. The Indian Hill breakout remains the driving force behind the narrative, and while it’s still fresh and new at the minute, I do hope the show’s writers won’t just keep using the Indian Hill escapee origin story when introducing new characters in the future as it will get tired fast. With only subtle hints to his fixation with Alice in Wonderland seen, this incarnation of Jarvis Tetch is presented as more competent and malicious than his comic book counterpart. The opening sequence where he demonstrates his skill for hypnotherapy to gain himself a home is chilling and his attempts to get Jim Gordon to kill himself later in the episode had me on the edge of my seat. He certainly seems a captivating character so far and Benedict Samuel’s portrayal is spot-on, conveying his menace effectively. I also liked the directorial flourishes used to emphasise his hypnotic abilities such as, the focus on his stopwatch and the way he aligned the ticking with the victim’s heartbeat – it was very effective and amplified his creepiness exponentially.

With the return of Leslie Thompkins, Jim Gordon’s love life once again became a central element to Gotham’s storyline and I had to admit that I’d written Leslie’s new fiancĂ© off as a background character who’d have no importance going forward. How wrong was I? The reveal that he was in fact the son of Carmine Falcone was expertly handled and adds a completely new perspective on the love triangle, given his father’s connections. The possibilities of this complicated love triangle (or pentagon, if you include Valerie Vale and Barbara Kean) are fantastic and I’m looking forward to Jim’s love life causing him more grief in the near future. I’m also glad that Falcone has returned to the series as he made a significant impact on the series throughout Season One and I greatly enjoyed his cameo during Season Two. I quite like the scrappiness of Jamie Chung’s Valerie Vale and the way she brushed Jim off following their one-night stand, and I hope the writers can keep the character from becoming mopey and obsessed with dear ol’ Jim.


Also returning to the series after a prolonged absence was Richard Kind’s Mayor Aubrey James, who faced competition in the Mayoral Election by the Penguin. While this sub-plot seems like filler to keep the Penguin busy now he’s defeated Fish and Galavan, it allowed for some fun scenes and I enjoy Robin Lord Taylor’s take on the character – it just feels like the writers have exhausted their ideas and perhaps he should be relegated to a supporting character. That said, I love seeing him and Cory Michael Smith’s Riddler together on-screen and their reunion at the close of this episode was brilliant. I’m not sure where this sub-plot is headed, but if it means we get to see the Penguin and Riddler teaming up, it may prove to be a fun distraction from influx of Indian Hill focused story-arcs.

Another key element of the episode was Bruce and Alfred’s interactions with Five, the Bruce Wayne doppelganger who had escaped with Indian Hill and become fixated with Selina Kyle. Clearly stumped on how to deal with a clone, the pair attempted to keep it fed and locked away in Wayne Mayor but, of course, it developed clone envy and attempted to steal Bruce’s identity and potential girlfriend. Damn those clones! I’m intrigued to see where this storyline is going as the concept of an evil Bruce Wayne is something that hasn’t been explored too much in the comics. I hope the character won’t be used to drive a wedge between Bruce and Selina as I find them a cute couple and they’ve been estranged too many times in the past two seasons already. Ultimately though, I have no idea what his purpose may be and because it is such an unexpected twist to the Batman mythos, I am very interested to see where the writers will take it.

Overall, this was another solid episode of the series and the introduction of a season “big bad” has definitely helped fill in the void left by Galavan and Strange’s absence. While normally I would dismiss the Jim Gordon Romance subplots as inconsequential drivel, the addition of Mario Falcone has increased my interest tenfold and I hope the series will return to its focus on organised crime now that the Falcone’s are back and the Penguin is busy attempting to legitimise himself.


Score - 9.5 out of 10

Next Episode - "New Day Rising"
Penguin gains power as he closes in on the nomination for mayor of Gotham. Meanwhile, Gordon turns Alice in to the GCPD for the bounty whilst Bruce and Alfred race to find Bruce's doppelganger after learning he's assumed Bruce's identity.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Review - Gotham: 3x02 - "Burn the Witch"

Gotham
Episode 3x02 - "Burn the Witch"

Synopsis

After contact with one of Fish Mooney’s monsters, Ivy Pepper undergoes a dramatic transformation and finds herself in control of her own destiny. Elsewhere, the million-dollar hunt for Fish Mooney continues as Gordon, Vale, Penguin and the GCPD attempt to stop her from finding Hugo Strange and discovering a cure for her illness.

Review

After instigating panic on the streets of Gotham, the Penguin had engineered a citywide manhunt for Fish Mooney, the titular witch of this episode, even going so far as to create his very own lynch-mob of ‘concerned citizens’. Admittedly, this was one of the cheesier elements of this episode – which is saying something since it also included an aged version of Poison Ivy killing someone because they threw a plant into the bin. I found it tough to believe that people would form a violent militia to attack super-powered threats, mostly because of how quickly it seemed to happen. If the writers had spent more time developing this particular plot thread, it would have been more realistic but the Penguin’s sudden rise in popularity just rang false to me and considering that future episodes involve him running for Mayor, it seems that it will be an ongoing plot point. That said, I quite liked the confrontation between Fish and Oswald and the explanation behind why she left him alive – so much has happened to these characters since Season One, it seems natural to bury their rivalry and redefine their relationship as ‘mother’ and ‘son’, especially since the Penguin craves that familial connection after the death of both parents in Season Two.

Having Jim Gordon as a bounty hunter remains an interesting plot device for the show, although Ben McKenzie doesn’t quite sell this more ‘morally grey’ version of the former GCPD cop. His banter with Valerie Vale was a highlight of the episode, and while it was predictable that he would end up checking her tonsils out with his tongue, I didn’t expect Lee to return to Gotham so quickly. With Barbara Keen still on the scene, it seems like Gordon’s love-life will become even more complicated than before. Hopefully, Valerie Vale will remain as combative with Jim after swapping saliva with him as I like this dynamic and Jamie Chung does a fantastic job as the over-zealous journalist. Out of the prospective love interests she seems best-suited for ol’ Jim, although given her profession and her willingness to jump into danger, I wonder if she has a target on her head already.

*Sigh* They grow up so fast...

The cliff-hanger ending of last week’s episode which saw Bruce Wayne abducted by the Court of Owls had a surprising denouement which left me wondering what Bruce and Alfred’s endgame was. Clearly they had some plan going into this confrontation, but it wasn’t entirely clear what it was – perhaps it was just a bluff to get confirmation that the organisation existed. I must admit that this aspect of the episode felt derivative of previous episodes of Gotham and the Bruce Wayne sub-plot needs a sharp kick up the backside, which hopefully the appearance of his doppelganger will provide. I was surprised at how quickly the writers united Bruce with his duplicate, and this feels like a more exciting and unpredictable route for the character’s storyline to follow. With the Court of Owls looking to remove Bruce Wayne from the picture and take control of Wayne Enterprises, could Bruce end up using this duplicate to fake his death and go abroad to train up as Batman – it would mean a time-jump at the end of this season, but it would be worthwhile to speed up the character’s evolution into the caped crusader.

There was plenty of things going on in this episode, although unlike the season opener, it felt more measured in pace. Not every character was given screen time and the narrative benefitted from this more selective approach. In typical Gotham fashion, the show still managed to surprise and the sudden appearances of both Bruce’s doppelganger and Leslie Thompkins were testaments to the series’ tendency to expedite plot threads quicker than expected. Given Jada Pinkett Smith and BD Wong’s position as ‘special guest stars’, I wonder if Fish and Hugo Strange will be kept out of the spotlight for the next few episodes, only to return with dramatic fashion in the mid-season finale. It would allow the show to focus on its other elements and return to the overarching threat of Fish Mooney’s cabal of monsters when necessary. Season Three is still proving to be slightly cluttered in terms of its many narratives, but hopefully future episodes will return the show to its more streamlined focus of two or three plot threads.


Score - 9.2 out of 10

Next Episode - "Look Into My Eyes"
Hypnotist Jervis Tetch arrives in Gotham to search for his sister, Alice, and hires Gordon to help find her. Meanwhile, Penguin decides to run for mayor and Bruce's doppelganger begins to channel him, causing some confusion around town.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Review - Gotham: 3x01 - "Better to Reign in Hell..."

Gotham
Episode 3x01 - "Better to Reign in Hell..."

Synopsis

Six months after the Indian Hill fiasco, Fish Mooney has crafted a crime empire made up of super-powered threats and taken control of Gotham’s criminal underworld. Unwilling to return to the GCPD, Jim Gordon works outside of the law to take down the Indian Hill escapees, whilst Penguin attempts to re-consolidate his own organisation. Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne returns from overseas with a new mission – to expose the mysterious Court of Owls who influence events within Gotham.

Review

Over the past two seasons Gotham has moved away from the realism of organised crime and gang wars to focus more on crazed criminals and super-powered threats. Towards the end of the second season, the series lent heavily on its science-fiction elements and resurrected characters from the dead, granting them a range of fantastical powers by the demented Hugo Strange. This moment definitely changed the format of the show, aligning it more with the other DC superhero TV shows from The CW and Marvel’s Agent of SHIELD. The third season embraces the concept of super-powered villains and almost recreates the status-quo from the initial season by having the Penguin pitted against his nemesis, Fish Mooney. With a six-month time jump at the start of the episode mirroring the show’s own hiatus over the summer, much of “Better to Reign in Hell…” is focused on re-introducing our favourite characters and showcasing their current status quo.

The most notable change is Jim Gordon’s decision to become a bounty hunter working outside of the GCPD to apprehend the escaped Indian Hill convicts for monetary recompense. It’s an interesting diversion for the character, removing his loyalties to the city and the law, and it certainly fits well with his decreasing set of morals throughout the second season. Hopefully the show will remain committed to this plot point, rather than quickly reinstating the detective to his familiar posting within a few episodes. The rest of the cast are shuffled into familiar roles with Barbara and Tabitha working together as nightclub owners, mirroring the Penguin’s own attempts to own a club in the first season. Interestingly, Butch and the Penguin remain partners in crime despite the fact that Butch had regained his own free will – considering Penguin cut off his hand, I’d have expected Butch to want to kill him and re-join with Mooney. This definitely felt out of character and the show has made no attempt to explain why Butch would want to work for his former enemy. Hopefully future interactions with Fish Mooney will explain Butch’s bizarre choice of allegiance.


Not willing to showcase any famous Indian Hill residents in its opening episode, most of Fish Mooney’s new gang members were no-name monsters. It would have been more interesting to see Killer Croc and other super-powered Batman villains working with Mooney, but instead they opted for a two-dimensional set of supporting characters. Controversially, Gotham has decided to sex up its Poison Ivy character by making her into a twenties-something bombshell and while I’m not sure how I feel about that decision, I quite liked the in-universe explanation behind the ageing as Ivy found herself in contact with a man with ageing abilities. The character herself has been largely useless for the past two seasons and this drastic change should hopefully provide some more interesting story options, although it will take some time to get used to seeing her as post-teen. If only they could magically speed up Bruce Wayne’s ageing and get him into the cowl! That said, Bruce returned from yet another break from Gotham with Alfred intact and proceeded to piss off the Court of Owls. I’m enjoying David Mazouz’s portrayal of Bruce, and am very interested to find out more about his emo clone.

As a re-introduction to the series “Better to Reign in Hell…” did well to touch base with the series’ expansive cast, spending enough time with each character to showcase their evolution over the past six months. Things certainly moved along at a swift pace for the majority of plot-lines, but I suspect that future episodes will focus on a modest selection of characters to tighten the focus, like in previous seasons. Despite changes to the status quo, there was a great deal of familiarity with this season opener as characters echoed previous plot-lines to an extent. With Lee seemingly written out of the season, it appears Jamie Chung’s Valerie Vale will be Gordon’s next love interest to clash with Barbara Keen. While this season opener felt like an odd mix of Season One and Season Two plot-lines mashed together, the show certainly shows promise as it confidently moves away from the crime genre to a more generic superhero-themed show. With its frequent sidestepping of Batman continuity, the series needs to make a bold statement and depart from the constraints of audience expectations – with Gordon placed in a semi-vigilante position working as a bounty hunter, it would make more sense to have him become Batman instead of Bruce, subverting expectations and providing Gotham fans with a different take on the Batman mythos.


Score - 9.5 out of 10

Next Episode - "Burn the Witch"
Fish Mooney takes matters into her own hands to locate Hugo Strange, forcing Gordon to reluctantly team up with journalist Valerie Vale to find her. Penguin rises in popularity after criticising the work of the GCPD and Bruce’s investigation of the Court of Owls is compromised. Meanwhile, Ivy Pepper is reintroduced into Gotham city.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Review - Gotham: 2x22 - "Transference"


Gotham
Episode 2x22 - "Transference"

Synopsis

Under orders from the Court of Owls, Hugo Strange begins plans to erase evidence of his experiments at Indian Hill by detonating a bomb that will wipe Arkham Asylum off the map. Can Jim Gordon, Lucius Fox, Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle escape before the explosion, whilst preventing the inmates from doing the same?

Review

The Season Two finale of Gotham had plenty of scattered sub-plots to contend with in forty-two minutes, but fortunately they were all taking place within Hugo Strange’s laboratory of horrors, Indian Hill. Sure, it was a bit frantic at times, but it did all come together without seeming over-filled and rushed. Whereas the Season One finale was a satisfying climax to a year’s worth of crime drama and Machiavellian plotting by the Penguin, the Season Two finale seemed more focused on setting up the series’ status-quo for the next series, populating Gotham City with a bunch of augmented freaks to plague the GCPD over the next twenty-two episodes. I was worried that Jada Pinkett-Smith’s turn as Fish Mooney would be a brief two-episode cameo, but it seems that she will be back in a full capacity next season, presumably taking charge of her new ‘family’ of freaks to clash with the Penguin. In fact, I’d have been happier if their ‘reunion’ had taken next season as it felt rushed and odd that she would leave Penguin unconscious on the streets without killing or capturing him.

Aside from the outbreak of monsters from the bowels of Arkham Asylum, Gotham also teased a new ‘big bad’ for Season Three in the form of The Court of Owls. I quite liked the conversation between Alfred and Bruce regarding another investigation into the conspiracy surrounding the death of his parents, and how Alfred thought this was the end – only to find out that there is another layer of mystery to be solved. While The Court of Owls is interesting, I am far more invested in the bevy of creatures let loose onto the streets of Gotham – presumably this will lead the show back towards its “monster of the week” format and allow the writers to introduce more familiar villains from the Batman comics. Killer Croc seems to have been teased heavily and the writers have mentioned The Mad Hatter may be making his debut during Season Three. With so much going-on, there’s no danger of this series running out of steam any time soon as it has transitioned from crime drama to a fully-fledged superhero genre show.


The biggest “WTF” moment to come out of the episode had to be the appearance of what seemed like an evil version of Bruce Wayne. My initial guess is that Hugo Strange made a clone from Bruce’s DNA, but perhaps it could be a twin brother separated at birth. Given the series’ attempts to bring The Court of Owls into the story, perhaps this alternate version of Bruce Wayne is Lincoln March – a character in the Batman comics claiming to be Bruce’s younger brother. Either way, this is a plot development that I am very interested to see explored further! There were plenty of fun moments in this chaotic finale, most of which came from Ben McKenzie take on Clayface pretending to be Gordon. I loved seeing this more exaggerated version of Gordon with the inane grin, overcompensating gruff voice and completely out of character persona. At times I've found McKenzie’s take on Gordon to be weak and one note, but in this episode he actually showed some depth – portraying both Clayface-Gordon and Drugged-Gordon. I also wonder how much the character will be changed when he returns after finding Leslie, and whether Monica Baccarin will return to the role.

While I enjoyed seeing Hugo Strange’s empire crumble and his cockiness melt away when he realised he’d messed up, I hope that this isn't the last we’ll see of the character and he’ll regain his position of manipulative mastermind again soon. Compared to the Season One finale, this episode left me with a lot more questions and excitement about the future of Gotham, as it threw plenty of twists and turns into the narrative to be dealt with when the series returns. While I was initially hesitant about the series pushing the boundaries of realism and resurrecting characters from the dead, it has been a great move for the show and revitalised it completely, unleashing the more colourful aspects of the Batman mythos onto the small-screen. As for why the Court of Owls pushed Strange to perfect the resurrection formula? I suspect that the head of their organisation will turn out to be Ra’s Al-Ghul and this whole endeavour will be the series’ version of the infamous Lazarus Pits that the character uses to cheat death in the comics. Overall, this was a strong finale filled with plenty of avenues for plot development when the series returns for its third season in September 2016. It’s been an absolute roller-coaster ride of a second year that has easily surpassed its equally fantastic first year, so I have high hopes for the show when it returns for its third.


Score - 9.7 out of 10
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