Gotham Episode 1.4 Recap: Arkham

The Video-Game player in me perked way up when I learned this week’s episode was titled “Arkham.” One of the most well-reviewed franchises in games of the last decade, Arkham Asylum/City/Origins and the to be released Arkham Knight have done much to bring a whole new generation of people into the world of Batman. I was incredibly interested to see how Gotham would portray this institution as well if any of the franchise’s canon would be brought into the show or at least used as an Easter-Egg. While not much of that happened (aside from a reference to “Arkham City” on a map) the episode did not leave me disappointed.

As always, let’s get the negative out of the way:

Bad

-I can’t quite put my finger on it but the Gordon/Barbara/Montoya story line just really brings the show to a halt. In all honesty, it doesn’t have much of anything to do with the lesbian angle to Barbara and Montoya as much as the fact that relationship issues just do not seem in place in a show like this. If anything, I think it would have been better for Gordon and Barbara to already be married and for the show to explore how a marriage deals with the life Gordon must lead as a man trying to be an honest cop in a crazy city.

-I’ll get to Cobblepot a bit more later, but for now I’ll just say that it’s becoming a bit hard to believe he can commit so many murders that never come back to him. He’s now poisoned three people with food from the restaurant (presumably) that he works at. Maybe Oswald is assuming that Gordon wouldn’t want any attention brought to him as a suspect but the rest of the universe within this show still operates and someone is going to stumble upon those three guys in that apartment right?

-I wanted to celebrate the fact that Barbara and Fish Mooney both seemed to get out of their respective purgatories of the apartment and the night club, but each scene featuring them out of their usual element almost seemed forced as those scenes could have happened in the apartment and nightclub anyway. The idea in moving the characters around, environment-wise, is to give them specific things to do that require them to be at those places. At this point, it just comes across as weak writing.

-I liked Gladwell as the villain of the week, if only because a hit-man is a plausible character in a world like this, but his weapon of choice had me thinking more about how creepy and sinister Anton Chigurh was than about Gladwell himself.

Good

-I haven’t read a ton about this, yet anyway, but I enjoyed how ferocious Ben Mackenzie was as Gordon in the first scene with Cobblepot. The yelling/growling was very Batman like and while this might seem odd to people I think it make sense. Gordon will come to have a unique relationship with Batman, that begins as suspicious, if not hostile, turn into one of trust and support. I’ve always thought that while Gordon stuck to working through the law to serve people, he sees something in Batman that reminds him of his younger self as well as some representation of who he wished he could have been or become.

-So far, Oswald Cobblepot is working circles around everyone else. When he says he can see things a way others can’t he is actually right. The reveal at the end of the episode shows how adept Oswald’s mind can be at playing parties against one another for his own purpose.

-I’m really enjoying what Gotham is doing with young Bruce Wayne. I get that some people’s main point against the show is that it is Batman without Batman. However, I think that complaint just fails to understand what this show is all together. As much as Gotham City is changing and the power players are making their plays, a young boy is grieving the death of his parents and also changing into a person who hates what the city is, hates injustice and is trying to figure out what can be done about it all. The exchange at the end of the episode between Bruce and Gordon was spot on:

Bruce: So do you really think Gotham is worth saving?

Gordon: I think it’s worth trying…

This idea is so central to the heart of Batman that it really cannot be overstated. Batman/Superman #87 has the following exchange, which is one of my favorite pages in all comics and I believe demonstrates Batman’s philosophy quite well:

Credit DC Comics

I know that Batman has been portrayed as someone who thinks he can eradicate crime in Gotham, but I think the best characterization is that Bruce knows he can’t, but that he’s going to try anyway. Seeing the genesis of this idea in his mind is really neat and I thought it was well done. I think more moments like this are the key to this show gaining any kind of longevity, not that they have to involve Bruce and Gordon but that we begin to see the motivation for characters at a deeper level. As much as I complained to anyone who would listen about Lost, I truly did enjoy the back-stories presented just as much as the mystery.

Things seem to be heating up on Gotham and if these events are given great background this show could begin to find a more appreciative audience in die-hard comic fans as well as fans of great television in general.

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  • Mike Ward

    Interesting thoughts. I agree with your “bad’s” and you first two “good’s”.

    Interesting thoughts about Bruce in this show. I’ve mostly found him unnecessary. I think they are going for something like you describe. I’m not sure why it hasn’t been working for me. Maybe that I don’t find him very well integrated into the show. It feels like Gordon realizes he’s in a Batman spin-off so he figures he better go talk to pre-Batman from time to time.

    Overall I really disliked the episode a lot more than I liked it. I’m committed to giving this show two more episodes, but it better get one track or I’m done with it.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/1morefilmblog/ kenmorefield

    I was somewhere between you and Mike. One issue I have is that the *look* of the show bothers me. Sooooo much teal. The police headquarters reminds me too much of The Shield, and how many scenes can one take with rays of white light coming in through back windows? The Gordon apartment is all yellows and browns, and then when Barb shows up at police it gets all yellow instead of teal. (In the one scene where mayor is outside of Arkham, even the city seemed to have different degrees of sunlight at different places.

    I’m wondering if the Barb-Montoya thing isn’t necessarily that they are lesbians but that their being so situates the show in the current historical moment rather than in an amalgam of 30s, 70s, contemporary.

    And I agree with whoever said the violence is a bit too sadistic rather than comic bookish. Seemed like the only reason to extend the gasoline was to give the burn victim more time to scream.

    Here’s what I want: somebody smart. For all the scheming and plotting going on, the plots are pretty thin. Batman was a detective. There should be elements of the politice procedural. Even in Law & Order they figure things out.

    Nice to see Nygma again, though. And I liked that they had Cobblepot reach out to Gordon. Interesting that the three major villains (Riddler, Penguin, Catwoman) all start out on side of law or at least try to work through it.

    But overall..let’s vary the length and look of scenes, please.

  • Scott

    Ken, my favorite color schemes so far they’ve used were the shot with Oswald walking in the second episode outside of Gotham, I thought there was a nice richness there as I’ve thought some of the other exterior scenes have had as well. It’s weird, I think the show looks it best, outside during the daytime which is very odd for something so connected to Batman. Then again, I’m color-blind so some of my view of the colors used on the show might be off.

    I can’t help but wonder if Nygma starting off with the GCPD is influenced by last year’s video game “Arkham Origins” where Nygma is shown to have begun as part of the GCPD as well. Previous to this, I can’t remember any origin of him that involved any connection to the GCPD.

    Mike, I see what you mean. I thought it was smart to have that scene earlier where Alfred came to Gordon for help with Bruce. Even if Gordon doesn’t maintain a mentoring relationship with Bruce, them engaging in that for a season really adds something to the characters relationship that I enjoy.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/1morefilmblog/ kenmorefield

      Your knowledge of the video game probably helps here. I wondered if Nygma working with police was eventually going to be a riff on HANNIBAL and/or DEXTER….

      • Scott

        It may very well still be, as more people are aware of those than the plot points of 4 video games. Interestingly enough, I think the narrative work, as well as voice-acting in some of these games is really getting to the point where they are creating just as compelling work as some tv shows and films, especially when you think that they are participatory works. That’s probably a whole other discussion but the Arkham franchise itself has used a wide variety of Batman works to create its own universe and I imagine Gotham is doing the same.

    • Mike Ward

      I remember that scene with Alfred coming to Jim, and I liked it even though I didn’t find it very believable that Alfred would approach Gordon about that. I liked it anyway, and I liked Alfred in that scene. You could really see how he cared for Bruce a lot in that scene. The show has kind of made me think that the idea of Alfred raising Bruce might work even though I’ve generally disliked the idea and preferred the original version where Bruce and Alfred didn’t meet until Bruce was grown and already Batman.

      Also even though the Jim and Bruce scenes do seem a bit out of place to me one thing I do like about them is that they show how Jim and Bruce might know each other well later.

      Different versions of Batman over the years have handled the relationship between Bruce and Gordon differently, but in some version they know each other quite well, and this is perhaps ones version of why that is.