Review: ‘Gotham’ – ‘Arkham’

Senior Television Writer
10.13.14 48 Comments


A review of tonight's “Gotham” coming up just as soon as I swear that I voted for you…

Earlier today, FOX gave “Gotham” a full-season order – which is something Kevin Reilly said he wouldn't do (he expected the season to max out at 15 or 16 episodes), and something the creative team has suggested they didn't want. Reilly no longer has any say in the matter, and I suppose Bruno Heller and company will have to figure out how to fill six extra episodes in the back half of the season.

One plus of the added order, given the extreme likelihood that this show – basically the only bright spot for FOX in an otherwise disastrous fall – will be back for a second season, is that it will give the creative team more time to figure out what works and what doesn't, and exactly what kind of show they want “Gotham” to be tonally. Because I'm not sure this should be a show that does back-to-back episodes like “The Balloonman” and then “Arkham.”

Last week, we got a killer who literally floated his victims to their death – a gimmick that was at least within spitting distance of camp, even if it maybe wasn't camp itself. Tonight, we got a killer who murders several victims with a metal spike through the eye, and burns another one alive while we can hear the man's screams. (For a second, “Gotham” turned into an unexpected “Stalker” companion series.) One killer veers a little too close to silliness, the other is way too dark(*), and Jim Gordon looks equally baffled that he's in a city that has room for both these guys.

(*) And also, weirdly, not as menacing as he was meant to be, despite a good performance by Hakeem Kae-Kazim. The improvised spike weapon is basically only useful in close quarters, and against an opponent who isn't expecting it. When Gordon drops his gun during a tussle, “Gladwell” immediately switches to that as his weapon of choice. Pro tip: if your bad guy's gimmick weapon isn't versatile enough for him to scrap it at the first opportunity he gets to pick up an old-fashioned firearm, he needs a better gimmick. 

Fortunately, “Arkham” also gave us plenty of Oswald and Fish in action, and Robin Lord Taylor (who recently chatted with Fienberg at the HitFix office) and Jada Pinkett both remain pleasures to watch. Oswald very smartly doesn't tell Gordon about all the people he has killed – and continues to kill, this time with poisoned cannoli – and instead plays the role of willing informant, when in fact he's the one using Gordon in his campaign to take over the city's underworld. His body count still remains too high, especially given how often the show revisits the question of whether Jim should have shot him, but Taylor is the show's star attraction right now.

There remain a lot of moving pieces – Selina gets the week off, while Nygma reappears to tell the cops that the same hitman is working for both sides, and the Jim/Barbara fight suggests she may be in the background for a bit (or possibly turning back to Montoya for comfort?) – and I don't know that anything with Lil Wayne is working at the moment (other than David Mazouz being a good actor doing his best to sell very arch dialogue), but there are pieces of this Frankenstein show that are each working well on their own. If nothing else, the writers will have more time this season to figure out which parts can actually work together.

What did everybody else think?

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