Gotham 1.14: “The Fearsome Dr. Crane”

Maroni (guest star David Zayas, R) tests Oswald Cobblepot's (Robin Lord Taylor, L) loyalty in the "The Fearsome Dr. Crane" episode of GOTHAM airing Monday, Feb. 2.
Maroni (David Zayas, R) tests Oswald Cobblepot’s (Robin Lord Taylor, L) loyalty. Just not in the way Tony Soprano would do it.

Gotham offers such wonderful bits and pieces of stories. This episode was no different but, still, I always wonder what the show would be like if it tightened its focus.

For instance, Oswald and Maroni’s confrontation, doled out in frustrating fragments. They played a game of ‘tell the truth,” at an isolated cabin in a scene that could have been straight out of The Sopranos. I wished for the entire episode to be just the two of them, in that cabin, telling horrible truths that neither wanted to hear. (By the way, Oswald apparently has never watched The Sopranos or he’d know never to take a ride anywhere with a mobster who suspects you of selling them out.)

If this had been The Sopranos, the confrontation would have ended with Maroni or Oswald dead. Since it’s Gotham, and we know Oswald survives for years, instead Maroni puts Oswald into a death trap. Oswald, of course, escapes. And we’re back to the beginning of the season, with Oswald headed back to Gotham to enact his revenge. Again. (I’m sure the church group who found Oswald won’t convert him. That ship has sailed.)

The entire mob plot is spinning in circles. None of the major players—Maroni, Falcone, Fish, Oswald—have died yet. The biggest event so far has been Fish being forced into exile and that isn’t likely to last long.

Is there progress on the police front? Some. Our villain this week is obsessed with making people’s worst phobias come true, though, mostly, this gives a chance for us to learn about Harvey Bullock’s love life. I’m not complaining, as this focus provides a chance for great Bullock snark.

Bullock starts quipping early, at the scene of the first murder.  “We’re on a rooftop. Don’t tempt me, Nygma,” he says to our proto-Riddler. And when Essen arrives and tells Bullock to be careful at the edge, he says, “You know I don’t start drinking until noon.”

Bullock calls the only contact number in the victim’s pockets and one Scottie Mullins arrives at the police station in response. We immediately know she’s important because she announces her name, loudly and clearly. Bullock is instantly smitten and promises to find the killer, who seems to be picking his victims from Scottie’s phobia support group. (There must be a huge need for those in Gotham, given what the city is like.)

Gordon comes up with a lead, as he’s traced one of the items used in the rooftop murder to a warehouse. (Everything happens in warehouses or abandoned property in Gotham.) Gordon calls this a “thin lead” but Bullock has a girl to impress, so they follow it up.

Professor Pyg from DC Comics.

The lead pans out. Gordon and Bullock rescue a kidnapped victim, who has a pig phobia, from a killer wearing a pig mask. This is a call out to DC Comic’s Professor Pyg, a Batman villain who likes slicing and dicing people for insane reasons. This isn’t the comic book Professor Pyg, however, because Gordon and Bullock kill him, making it a rare win: villain dead, victim rescued.

But Gordon is somehow convinced that Pig Man wasn’t working alone. Essen says “let it go,” which is like waving a red flag in front of Gordon.

Bullock decides to attend the next meeting of the support group even though the danger has seemingly passed. He still needs to impress Scottie Mullins, though he initially laughed off the idea of sharing phobias. “I’m a cop, the only thing I’m scared of is decaf coffee.” Eventually he confesses his fear of dying alone in an alley to the support group.

Since the main villain escapes to menace our detectives in the next episode, I predict Bullock will have to overcome this particular fear next episode. That villain? He’s part of the support group and he’s easy to spot because he’s the only one played by Julian Sands.

The Scarecrow, courtesy of DC Comics.
Julian Sands aka Todd aka Gerald Crane abducts Scottie under Bullock’s nose. A race ensues to find the exact pool that caused Scottie’s original pool phobia because that’s where Crane will kill her as part of his experiments on adrenal glands.

Gordon and Bullock arrive in time to save Scottie. However, Crane escapes, no doubt with the help of his teenage son, Jonathan, who will eventually grow up to become the villain known as the Scarecrow, seen in numerous comics and on-screen in the Nolan Batman movies.

Next episode promises to show us more of how young Jonathan eventually morphed into a super-villain. I’m guessing fear and bad parenting is involved.

If any more parents of Batman villains are shown to be villains themselves, I’m going to start a new support group in Gotham: “My Parents (or lack thereof) Made Me Evil.”  Young Roman Sionis (Black Mask), Ivy (Poison Ivy), Jonathan Crane (Scarecrow), and Selina (Catwoman) can all join. Perhaps Ms. Kapelput can make tea and cookies for their meetings.

Detective James Gordon (Ben McKenzie, R) discovers that Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova, L) has been staying in Barbara's apartment in the "The Fearsome Dr. Crane" episode of GOTHAM airing Monday, Feb. 2.
Detective James Gordon (Ben McKenzie) discovers that Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova, L) has been staying in Barbara’s apartment.

In other developments, Essen’s not the only one to tell Gordon to “let it go.” Gordon encounters Selina at the Clock Tower and remembers that he’s still supposed to be investigating the murders of Thomas and Martha Wayne.

Selina tells him that she lied when she saw the face of the Waynes’ murderer. We think she’s lying now but Gordon never gets a chance to find out since she jumps off the balcony and blends back into Gotham.  (No worries. In a nice behind the scenes look, Robin Lord Taylor shows that Selina is not actually jumping from rooftops. Whew. Good to know.)

Gordon receives his walking papers from Bruce once he reports this dire news. Bruce says he’ll take over the investigation into his parent’s murder. And Alfred simply shrugs and points out that there’s no changing Bruce’s mind. I guess we know who’s the guardian of who, Alfred?

Morena Baccarin guest-stars as Dr. Leslie Thompkins in the "The Fearsome Dr. Crane" episode of GOTHAM airing Monday, Feb. 2.
Morena Baccarin as the lipstick-wearing Dr. Leslie Thompkins.
And, meantime, Gordon tries to romance sexy doctor Lee Thompkins under the guise of police work. Gordon makes for a lousy date but Lee calls him on it  (she put on lipstick for him!) and things seem to be progressing smoothly.  No word on Barbara Kean this episode.

Nygma too receives a tiny encouragement from his crush, Miss Kringle, and his warped brain blows that up into actual approval and interest. Rather than accept being fired for interfering with the corrupt medical examiner, Nygma puts body parts in the man’s locker. This somehow leads to the examiner being fired, which seems odd, but Nygma is back and owes his crush a pencil. (Don’t ask but I find myself weirdly interested in how it all turns out.)

And Fish? Fish dropped the dime on Oswald to Maroni, leading to their trip to the cabin. She’s arranged to leave Gotham via ship until pirates attack. And Fish knows the head pirate. Dun..dun..dun..dun!

Jada Pinkett Smith as Fish Mooney in the "The Fearsome Dr. Crane" episode of GOTHAM airing Monday, Feb. 2.
Jada Pinkett Smith as Fish Mooney, the most feared pirate in all the seven seas.

So what did we learn?

That the police plot still needs cohesion, perhaps some actual planning on the part of Gordon, Essen, Bullock and Montoya. They’re always shown as reacting to events and this makes their efforts to reform Gotham seem not only weak but also stupid.

That this weird focus on future Batman villains takes away from the only villain we need to see right now: Oswald.  At least Nygma’s role is well-integrated into the police story.

My biggest hope for the season: that it pays off with more than Oswald escaping again or Gordon and Bullock defeating another father of a Batman villain.

And that Bullock never gives up on snark.

Corrina Lawson is a writer, mom, geek and superhero, though not always all four on the same day. She is a senior editor of the GeekMom blog atWired and the author of a superhero romance series and an alternate history series featuring Romans and Vikings in ancient North America. She has been a comic book geek all her life and often dreamed of growing up to be Lois Lane.

Read all posts by Corrina Lawson for Criminal Element.

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