|Enter the Electrocutioner|
Gotham suffers a sort of identity crisis much like Harvey Dent himself. Not the hamfisted younger version introduced earlier in the series but the much more villainous future Two-Face of Batman canon. On the one hand, the show is a police procedural with sometime buddy cops Gordon and Bullock trading quips and arguing over how to handle a case. On the other, there's a gritty mob crime drama with riveting and cunning characters on the verge of destroying one another. Guess which show we'd like to see more of?
Compounding the show's dilemmas are the abundance of storylines vying for screen time. And not all them of them deserve their share. Take for instance, the odd appearance of Barbara Keen. After a falling out with Renee Montoya she heads home to see her parents who are disturbingly stoic and emotionless to have her there. I could not help but wonder, why am I watching this right now?
There was no sign of young Bruce Wayne and Alfred this week after that relationship began showing some signs of purpose and chemistry. Perhaps if the show had originally planned for 22 episodes they could have prepared for these storylines to better evolve organically. Unfortunately, the initial order was for 16 episodes and after 'What the Little Bird Told Him' it certainly feels like things are coming to some sort of conclusion.
The show begins with a great sequence of the Electrocutioner, now on the loose after escaping Arkham last episode, walking down the street with his mute accomplice in tow while Johnny Cash serenades the scene. It's the type of direction and camera work you'd see in a feature film. It works because it tracks the villain of the week demonstrating his ruthlessness in a way that is engaging and shocking. Unfortunately, the Electrocutioner devolves into a cartoonish baddie as the show goes on. Even his capture is astonishingly weak. I'm talking rage-throwing-the-remote weak.
These mood swings in tone hamper the show from truly taking off. Gordon gets on the Electrocutioner case by bluffing and talking in some weird accent. He's suddenly overconfident, defiant and determined to get his man. His relationship with Dr. Leslie Thompkins is blossoming, but I can't for the life of me determine how or why. They've spent little time together and so far haven't shown enough sparks to light a match yet make out. This despite the best efforts of guest star Morena Baccarin who is radiant and charming but poorly served by the script.
What keeps me coming back is the mob storyline that allows pros like Jada Pinkett Smith, John Doman and David Zayas to scheme and plot against one another with menacing glee. Breakout star Robin Lord Taylor as the Penguin gets to put a monkey wrench in Fish Mooney's plan to kidnap Liza and force Falcone to skip town forever. A re-energized Falcone makes Mooney pay with Liza's life as the 'little bird' in question is the Penguin who informs him that he's been duped by the young admirer. It's a show of strength and power by the Don that resonates when he takes Mooney hostage after earlier considering retiring.
If only the rest of the show's storylines took themselves more seriously or were at least as consistent as the mob plot. Gotham is really two shows in one. A thrilling mob crime drama surrounded by a schizophrenic police procedural dramedy. With a full season this year, plus a season 2 order, Gotham has the time and the support to continue to find itself. Hopefully, fans will stick around long enough for the show to reach its potential.
Check out scenes from next week's episode, 'Welcome Back, Jim Gordon.'