My eldest son (19) wandered in during this week’s episode during the scene where the snake finds its handler’s body. I tried to explain.
His response: “This show is so dumb.”
Yes, it is. That was made even clearer when I watched Sleepy Hollow immediately after Gotham. After floundering for some time, Hollow has found its stride again. Gotham is in the same old rut and looks to remain there.
That’s evident with the tale of a possible Joker origin in this episode. The Joker is the nuclear option of Batman stories. If you’re going to use him, it needs to be memorable and unique, especially with Heath Ledger’s Joker from The Dark Knight seared into recent memory.
Gotham fumbles its chance.
This potential Joker is Norman Bates at a circus. He has a mother complex and a split personality. And, of course, he kills his mother too, and has a crazy laugh.
So, once again, bringing in elements from the comic couldn’t make me love this episode. I wanted to enjoy the glimpse of the parents of Dick (Robin, Nightwing) Grayson, John (Robert Gorrie) and Mary (Abbi Snee) Grayson. Unfortunately, their courtship consisted of petulant teenagers yelling at each other over a family feud and then appearing at the end, with all problems solved, engaged, with a half-hearted promise to name their first son after Gordon.
I could make a snarky remark and point out that this episode contained Barbara Kean (Erin Richards) and was therefore destined to fail but she’s actually tolerable for the most part, having girl-time with Selina (Camren Bicondova) and Ivy (Clare Foley) in the Clock Tower. Barbara’s as clueless as ever because she believes Jim might want her back after all this time. Hello! You left him for drugs and your other lover! He’s moved out!
How this dunce of a woman ever became Barbara (Batgirl) Gordon’s mother is beyond me. I know: Barbara Gordon has had consistently better writers in various shows than her mother does in Gotham.
But, to the case of the week, which featured a murder at Haly’s Circus, a danger date for Lee (Morena Baccarin) and Jim (Ben McKenzie), and vaguely entertaining circus folk. We see a bit of the Flying Graysons, a fictionalized version of the Flying Wallendas. Enjoyable, though I wished for the Grayson’s classic red costumes rather than the odd Harley-Quinn clown-style patterns they wore in this episode. The high-wire act devolves into a brawl when a clown car disgorges a family of angry clowns intent on beating up the Grayson family.
This, unlike the potential Joker, is funny, especially when Gordon discovers the current flare-up of an old family feud is due to a rivalry over the resident circus snake charmer, Lilah. Said snake charmer is soon revealed as a murder victim in a ridiculous sequence where Gordon sets the snake free to find her mistress. Snakes have a good sense of smell, Jim claims. That’s true but I’ve never heard they’re good at finding corpses of their owners. Maybe that’s in the GCPD handbook, chapter 11, subsection 13: Finding missing circus performers.
Jim hauls basically the entire circus to the precinct. “Your primary suspects are a clown and an acrobat?” Essen (Zabryna Guevara) says, hand on her hips. Meanwhile, Lee is had a good time despite the murder victim. “Best date ever. Who gets to see a circus brawl?”
After more banter between Jim and Lee, and a prophecy from the circus psychic, (the wonderful Mark Margolis), our danger date pair find an axe that eventually leads them to the killer: Lilah’s son, Jerome (Cameron Monaghan). At first, Jerome claimed he didn’t mind his mother’s sexual escapes. After all, if she’d been less adventurous, he might not exist. Once confronted with the bloody axe and the truth of his parenthood, however, Jerome devolves into the proto-Joker.
“Don’t nag me to do the dishes when you’re been banging a clown in the next room!”
Good advice for mothers or fathers, I should think.
Jim and Lee celebrate their mutual satisfaction with a well-solved case by making out, which is when Barbara walks in, spots them, and walks back out again. I wonder if Barbara will do something interesting next episode, like help Selina steal things?
There are several other plots circling around the circus murder and Fish Mooney plotting a prison takeover gets most of the screen time. Jada Pinkett Smith gives her most compelling performance of the season, using a man for a literal soapbox to organize the inmates. She has a twisted plan to deny their captors what they want: the inmates themselves, who are being used as living body parts for reasons unknown.
Fish can get some of them out alive but only some. Her plan becomes clear when the guards call out for the next prisoner on the body part list to come forward. He does and the other prisoners beat him to death, thus denying the guards and their captor what he wants: a living donor.
As she saunters out of the prison to confer with their mysterious captor, I suspect she’s about to sell out her fellow prisoners and that the whole thing was a ploy to get on the other side of the bars. But it would be fascinating to see Fish actually stay true to her word.
Meanwhile, Young Bruce (David Mazouz) is intent on keeping the board of Wayne Enterprises true to their words to stay on the straight and narrow. Bruce chides his company board for irregularities and outright corruption. The board dismisses his concerns but obviously someone will target him for death because of what he knows because this is Gotham City, after all.
I wondered why Bruce didn’t find a smart lawyer and sue Wayne Enterprises to have his legal guardian, Alfred (Sean Pertwee), gain the authority to replace the board? Maybe there are no smart lawyers in Gotham.
Meanwhile, Oswald (Robin Lord Taylor) only has a slice of story this week, thought it’s delicious because we see Mama Kapelput (Carol Kane) sing at Penguin’s new Umbrella Club. Unfortunately, the club’s audience isn’t as in thrall to her singing as Oswald and business isn’t good. Victor Zsasz (Anthony Carrigan) is sent by Falcone (John Doman) to give Oswald a new second at the club: Butch (Drew Powell).
What, what, Butch? Yes, Butch. Seems Zsasz tortured/brainwashed him into compliance and now he’ll do whatever Oswald wants. I’m good with that. I like having Butch around.
Alas, Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue) received short shrift this episode but he did get in one zinger at the end.
“You got laid, didn’t you?” Bullock says to Jim. “You slept somewhere without a razor and you smell like soap.”
Great detective skills, Bullock. Hope you use them to solve crimes in upcoming episodes.
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 at Wired 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.