After a relatively short hiatus, Gotham announced its return with a crash, a bang, and some finely timed snark in an episode that proved to be enjoyable from start to finish.
Recently disgraced plucky Detective Jim Gordon is now working his beat in Arkham Asylum, a somewhat less-than-ideal location for the man making a stand against corruption (semi-successfully, depending on your perspective) but more than ideal for yours truly, who just happens to be a sucker for the kind of old-school shenanigans this episode features so wonderfully.
Gotham does Arkham Asylum justice. It’s undeniably the location we all know and love, dark, creepy and really not a place you’d be wise to choose for your honeymoon, but it stays well clear of over-exaggeration, with just the right amount of dodgy laughter and mysterious spectacled Doctors to be convincing without veering off into the ridiculous. Most importantly, from my perspective, the asylum isn’t simply used for effect, but rather as the delightfully worrying scene of a delightfully worrying crime.
As for the plot…
It’s fast-paced and intelligent, with more than enough twists to keep your standard viewer guessing – read: me – and never too complicated that it stopped being fun and started bordering on dull. It also featured the various other threads of season one’s ongoing narrative to perfection, artfully reminding the viewer with the return of Pamela, for example, that this is not just a Detective story set in a particularly nasty location.
The scenes with Jim Gordon and Harvey Bullock were particularly good, their natural buddy cop chemistry contrasting nicely with the drama and tension of the episode. As always, seeing Bullock react to Jim’s special brand of heroic idealism is a treat to watch, and their evolving friendship is realistic enough to be believable without losing its entertainment value.
The only things I didn’t enjoy about this fast-paced, atmospheric episode were, in no particular order, Barbara, and Fish Mooney.
Fish Mooney became my favourite character (now dramatically tied with Bullock) in episode one. She’s intelligent, ruthless, and unafraid of getting her hands dirty – exactly what I enjoy in female characters. However, by the time I reached this episode, the relentless repetition of: ‘I am a scheming schemer watch me scheme’ motivational pep-talks had long since started to fall flat, and I found myself wishing for her parts to be over so that we could get back to the fun stuff.
On the other hand, I never warmed to Barbara. Not because she wasn’t dancing around in high heels killing people and wearing dark lipstick, but because I simply don’t find her storyline interesting enough in the context we’re given. In my mind, she quickly became a wallflower set amongst the wonderfully vibrant tapestries of the other characters, and then she began to bore me. That hasn’t changed, and the conversation she had with Pamela served only to briefly amuse me, rather than endear me to her situation.
But they are very small factors, and in the wake of that episode, I have to conclude that Gotham continues to surprise and delight me with well-crafted episodes, believable as well as recognisable characterisation, an absorbing script, and an exciting storyline. On that note, roll on next week.