GOTHAM Recap: “Arkham”

     October 13, 2014

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Hot off the news that Fox’s Gotham will be adding six episodes to their premiere season, we get to enjoy the fourth installment titled simply, “Arkham”.  By rights and by design, the first season should be exactly one-quarter of the way through their planned story arc by episode’s end, but now that pre-plotted landscape may be in for a shake-up thanks to the new episode orders.  Will we get some bottle episodes?  Some spin-offs featuring side characters that were tossed out of early edits due to time constraints?  Whatever we end up with in the long run, at least we get a chance to take a peek at the original design for a few episodes.  After all, there’s a war coming.

Hit the jump for my Gotham recap.

gotham-arkham-donal-logue-ben-mckenzie-zabryna-guevaraAs I always do on these recaps, I’ll break each episode of Gotham into four sub-sections of story arcs.  Unlike previous installments, I’ll take a page from “Arkham” and start with the scene-stealing character, The Penguin.

Penguin’s Rise to Power

Penguin steals the show right from the outset as “Arkham” picks up where “The Balloonman” left off.  Though Gordon’s close to beating him to death due to his uninvited arrival, Penguin makes him an offer he can’t refuse, one that promises to feed the good detective news from the criminal underworld.  He reiterates the now-tired statement that a war is coming, but thankfully we get some movement on the plot point in this episode.

Although Penguin shows up at Gordon’s fiancee’s place in a shiny tux, he still dons his dingy dishwasher-ware as he overhears Maroni talking to his underlings, though he gets chastised by the restaurant owner for his trouble. Before long, the restaurant gets shot up in a robbery, but Penguin grabs a sack of money and hides in the freezer, impressing Maroni’s thugs. Maroni lets his appreciation be known for Penguin’s actions and promotes him to restaurant manager (since the previous one bled out all over the tablecloth). Bonus: the promotion comes with yet another new suit!

I’m starting to jump on the Penguin bandwagon now, especially since we see the method to his madness.  Behind the scenes, it’s revealed that Penguin set up the robbery in order to get into Maroni’s good graces.  Not to reach too far too fast, Penguin also ties up the lose ends by dosing his hired thugs with a batch of deadly cannolis.  Classy guy!  Gordon’s going to have to smarten up quite a bit if he’s going to go toe to toe with Penguin.

gotham-arkham-ben-mckenzie-erin-richardsGordon’s Quest

This week, Gordon not only has to contend with the surprise arrival of Penguin (and the awkward questions it raises from Barbara), but also a mysterious hitman who is taking out politicians with a highly specialized weapon.  I like that the writers are trying to add their own flavor to Gotham’s new class of villains, but so far the vigilante Balloonman and the Anton Chigurh-esque hitman aren’t making their way into my own personal rogues gallery.

Anyway, the crime of the week ties in nicely to both the death of Thomas and Martha Wayne, and the promised War of Gotham.  What’s the catalyst?  Well the murder of the billionaires certainly gave the mayor and other politicians ammunition for a platform of “change”, but it also clears the way for the Falcone and Maroni mob families to make their moves.

Gordon learns of the Waynes’ plans for Arkham Asylum, a facility that would help the city’s unfortunate.  Maroni, however, wants the contract for a waste-disposal facility and the rights to refurbish Arkham, while Falcone wants control of the low-rent housing projects.  In the title town, guess who wins between the mob and the martyrs?

Gordon’s efforts at preventing an all-out mafia war are about as effective as his attempts to assuage Barbara’s mistrust (though she reveals her past relationship with Montoya, which displeased Ol’ Jim rather a lot, to the point that an ultimatum from Barbara leads to them parting ways temporarily).  Gordon eventually figures out – thanks in part to an assist from Penguin, which Jim accepts quite readily – that the hitman is after the mayor next.  Of course he stops the guy, since he and Bullock unload about a dozen bullets into the man, and nearly off each other in the crossfire.  *I will give the director this, it was a very cool backlit fight scene, but it was ultimately let down by a silly resolution.

gotham-arkham-donal-logueBullock’s Path to Redemption (or Not)

Bullock didn’t have a whole lot to do in this episode, but at least he was up to his same old entertaining tricks. He starts off by trying to slip the case, but the death of the councilman and his aide lands on his desk anyway.  So, of course he roughs up another street hood that upsets Gordon yet again.  While the good guy of Gotham puzzles over his clues, Bullock pays another visit to Mooney.  She gives him a bit of information on their mysterious hitman, but once again lands Bullock in her pocket for a favor to be named later.  The only glimmer of hope we saw from Bullock was when he hesitates to shoot the hitman, even as he’s about to assassinate Gordon.  That restraint lasts all of about three seconds.

Wayne’s Coming-of-Age

We don’t see a whole lot of Bruce this time around either, except to see him wake up from a nightmare, after which Alfred asks him if he was in it, half-seriously. Master Wayne is now trying to find a connection between his parents murder and the Arkham plans, and learns the hard lesson that compromise may be necessary to prevent a war, even if it tarnishes his parents’ legacy. He makes a good point that everything they fought for is falling into the hands of criminals, and I really enjoy the fact that the writing is prepping Wayne to avenge not just the death of his parents, but the descent of his beloved city.  He asks Gordon if Gotham can be saved… Is he talking about the show or the city?  We know the series will be around for a while, but is it going to live up to its potential?  That’s the better question, Master Wayne.

Rating: C

Miscellanea:

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  • Penguin: “Nobody looks for a dead man.”
  • Mooney: “Come to me so I can take you in.” What is this dialogue…
  • So is Nygma going to show up in every episode just to offer one helpful bit of advice, creep everyone out, and then wink at the camera to say, “I’ll be back soon, as The Riddler!”? Yeah, probably.
  • I appreciate the writers trying to keep a bit of levity in the show, such as the receptionist that almost got shot by Gordon and Bullock when they were searching for Gladwell.
  • Maroni: “I wanna hit em where it hurts. I wanna hit the mouth.” Hit the what?
  • Okay, so that “C, L, M” clue was … pretty lame.  Not only was the hitman’s lackadaisical handling of his own hitlist some lazy writing, but once again Gordon’s Eureka moment felt forced.  Please, please, please invest in some better mystery/crime writers going forward…
  • Speaking of the writers, it’s pretty obvious that the bulk of the work is handled by men.  Two of the three women with regular roles are both incredibly attractive, previously had a lesbian relationship, and only talk about the central hero?  And the other woman is a psycho who’s now recruiting young women to fight to the death for a role in her crime family as a sexy assassin? Okay…
  • Gordon: “Twerk.” Yeah, I know he said, “It’s work,” but it sure sounded like “Twerk.”

How do we feel about Gotham so far?  And what does the new episode order mean for the show going forward?  Let us know in the comments!

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