Gotham Review: 'Under the Knife'

Tuesday, 21 April 2015 - 12:19PM
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Tuesday, 21 April 2015 - 12:19PM
Gotham Review: 'Under the Knife'
This was a better episode of Gotham than most, just by virtue of the fact that it had some amount of dramatic tension and fewer outright embarrassing moments than usual. "Under the Knife" continued the slightly-more-compelling-than-average villain arc from last week, featuring a perfectly game Milo Ventimiglia, put the most despised character in peril, and finally gave the audience a (fairly satisfying) payoff on Edward Nygma's storyline. There was still an abundance of clumsy exposition, a complete lack of subtlety, and an absence of any unifying theme or idea, but at least now we have Riddler?

Jess Mariano as a DC Comics character



The Ogre wasn't quite as goosebumps-inducing as last week, but he's still better than most of the one-off villains we've seen, and the plot managed to have some emotional stakes. Yes, his motivations were overly simplistic, indicating that the writers would have been better off leaving them more of a mystery. (It worked for Hannibal Lecter, right?) But he's still truly pathological, in a way that's a little more grounded in real-life dangers than, say, Balloon Man, and the fact that he tends to go after detectives on his case personally makes it, well, personal.

That being said, it was a mistake on so many levels to bring back Barbara in order to place her in the Ogre's path of destruction. It only served to remind us that a) she needs to be stranded in her own plotline because she's irrelevant, b) that Gotham has a serious gender problem, as Barbara's only ever functioned as a particularly whiny damsel in distress, and c) that Barbara's the worst and no one cares if she dies. In fact, most of us would welcome it. 

Baby Bruce



I've said it before, and I'll say it again, Bruce Wayne is- shockingly enough- the only character on Gotham who even approaches being psychologically layered (aside from Alfred). The most wonderfully subtle part of this episode by far was his character development, particularly since this was the first time we saw the beginnings of his transformation into both Batman and playboy millionaire Bruce Wayne.

David Mazouz was note-perfect in this perfect; at times he was the same earnest, idealistic, all-too-mature young boy that we've been seeing since the pilot, and then at the drop of a hat he was a typical teenager trying to charm girls in leather. He wasn't just Baby Bat this week, but Baby Bruce as well, and it was remarkably well-done, at least when grading on a special Gotham curve. Granted, I still didn't care about what was actually going on in his plotline, but I'll take my victories where I can find them.

The Riddle Man



Nygma's story in this episode was almost a microcosm of Gotham as a whole; it involved a lack of sensitivity to social issues, stale cliches, and then one inspired moment, followed by a prompt ruination of said inspired moment. First, the episode played on the tired "bitter virgin nerd" trope as a stand-in for organic development of villainous motivations for Nygma. Then, it randomly turned Kristen Kringle into a victim of domestic abuse, when there's been no previous indication that this might be the case. And then, instead of developing this point at all, this very serious and complex issue is used as a mere plot device to inspire Riddler's vigilante justice/newfound villainy. In one sense, I liked that Nygma killed for the first time out of some twisted sense of justice, as this will allow for more parallels and contrasts between him and Bruce Wayne, but I have little hope that the show will make this connection in a meaningful or interesting way.

I loved one moment from Riddler's scenes; namely, his hilarious "Oh dear" when he realizes that he's stabbed the abusive cop. The delivery was perfect, and it was exactly what that character would say at that juncture. But then, in true Gotham fashion, the writers managed to ruin that one shining moment by beating a dead horse very much into the ground and having him say it over and over, until it wasn't funny at all anymore. Oh, well.

Penguin's Oedipus Complex



Penguin felt mostly inconsequential in this episode, which is also a mistake. Robin Lord Taylor is such a great performer, it's a shame to waste him on a few scenes that feel superfluous, like you could lift them right out of the episode without losing much. And this just highlights the main problem of the show: a lack of thematic focus. I had to separate my review into different sections this week because there's no thematic connection between the disparate plotlines, nothing holding everything together. Remember when this was going to be a cohesive show about the city of Gotham and its "sickness"? Remember when that was a thing?

Afterthoughts

-Where on Earth was Fish? You know a show is overstuffed when it can have a huge climactic escape last episode and fail to follow through on it at all in the next.

-The "I love you" moment between Thompkins and Gordon felt contrived, like if you were Jim's friend in real life you'd tell him he was moving way too fast. But I liked that Thompkins was a mature, reasonable adult about the Ogre situation. She probably should have left Gotham, if we're being honest, but at least she didn't get overly dramatic or play the damsel in distress.

-Least subtle moment of the episode: the juxtaposition of Ogre's pre-surgery face with his currently handsome face. HE GOT PLASTIC SURGERY, WE GET IT.

-Of course Barbara is terrible enough that she's the only potential "lover" to actually get along with the Ogre. Touche, Gotham, touche.
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