Gotham Review: 'Red Hood'
If I could sum up this episode of Gotham in fifteen words or less, it would be "that awkward moment when a show jumps the shark in its first season." It would be difficult to call this episode boring, but it would be equally difficult to call it admirable. It was a jumbled mess of an episode as per usual, but this time punctuated with moments that were trying their damnedest to be shocking, to the point that I almost became inured to it.
I say "almost" because you can't really help but be shocked at that Fish scene. Seeing someone gouge their own eye out is inherently shocking, which is why it felt too easy and gratuitous. It was superficially reminiscent of (spoiler!) Patti's death on The Leftovers in which she slit her own throat. But The Leftovers had spent an entire season establishing Patti's terrifyingly rigid fanaticism and foreshadowing the GR's sense of martyrdom, so her actions, while shocking, made sense in the context of her overall character arc. But this Fish scene, while undeniably provocative, made essentially no sense. We spent the last few weeks watching her gain control over the prison with- let's face it- unrealistic ease, just so the audience understands the extent of her badassdom. So although it would have been more predictable, it would have made much more sense for her to, say, gouge the Dollmaker's eyes out. Fish is a survivor, or at least that's what we've been led to believe all season. This stubborn bit of martyrdom was uncharacteristic at worst, premature at best, and definitely gratuitous on some level. Plus, the drama of the moment was undermined slightly since my first thought was, "Okay, that's all very well and good, but can't he just take the other eye? I don't see how this is even an effective act of defiance, let alone a win."
(Side note: we've been hearing the name Dollmaker all season, and now there's a villain named Dulmacher. This is annoying, not only because it serves as an example of Gotham's trademark lack of subtlety, but also because it undercuts the name Dollmaker. Dollmaker is an effectively sinister supervillain name because it evokes brainwashing and slavery and all the terrible things he will ultimately do. Now it just sounds like all the characters are ugly Americans who are too stupid to pronounce his name correctly.)
The other "shocking moment" in this episode worked better for me; it wasn't as shocking but it was a thousand times more earned. We pretty much knew Alfred couldn't die, but his stabbing still hit me right in the gut (no pun intended), especially when poor Bruce found him bleeding on the floor. I know I've said this in previous reviews, but it still holds true: the Bruce/Alfred storylines are consistently working the best right now. Whenever they're onscreen, the stakes are immediately raised, mostly because their relationship is the only one that's been developed enough for us to truly care. The case of the week never really registers, aside from vague annoyance at all the none-too-subtle winks at the comics canon, while the Fish storyline has been superficially exciting without ever creating a real sense of danger (at least not to her life, but I suppose you could argue that her eyes aren't doing all that well). Robin Lord Taylor is great as Penguin, but even his storylines lack any real tension (with the exception of his outing as a mole in The Fearsome Mr. Crane). We know he's not going to be killed, we know he'll probably eventually run the show, no one cares about the nightclub, etc etc.
At the beginning, I thought the last thing we would ever need was an eight-year-long Batman origin story. But as it turns out, that's exactly what Gotham should be. Although I welled up a little when David Mazouz cried with Detective Gordon (a relationship that has gotten really short shrift lately), the best scene of this episode, and one of the best scenes of the entire season, was the sparring scene with Reggie. Both actors were tightly controlled and yet both demonstrating the subtle ways in which their characters were losing control; in Bruce, we could see that he was a scared kid with a mostly benevolent, gentle personality, but we could also see the burgeoning anger and the trauma-induced grit that will help him on the way to becoming a violent yet well-intentioned man. I've said it before and I'll say it again, this show should shift towards become a character study of Bruce, while also drawing parallels and contrasts to the various young versions of villains they insist on introducing.
-I love the "Alfred's dark past" storyline. It's a Ripper for the new millennium.
-I think Alfred should really re-evaluate that whole "Bruce isn't allowed to go to therapy" clause. I realize that this maladjustment is probably essential to his eventual transformation into a costumed vigilante, but it's still kind of egregious for a loving caregiver to abide by such a psychologically detrimental rule.
-I didn't even talk about the fact that Bullock drank a beer from the same fridge where they found a dead body! Once again, there's an absolutely ridiculous part of the episode that I didn't even get to, because the entire show is so ridiculous.
-But in spite of the ridiculousness, seeing a man get fridged was a refreshing change of pace.
-Speaking of dubious feminism, I was much less annoyed by Barbara's presence this week, if only because the writers seem to be acknowledging that she's sort of a useless human being. I hated Barbara's speech about Selina using her beauty as a weapon, because it's both antifeminist and wholly unoriginal. But then, I absolutely adored Selina's response: "What good's it done you?" Considering that it's Gotham, I can't be absolutely sure that any feminist connotations were intentional, but I'll put it in the "win" column anyway.