Monday, February 2, 2015

REVIEW: 'Gotham' - Jim Tracks a Killer Obsessed with Phobias & Oswald Takes a Trip with Maroni in 'The Fearsome Dr. Crane'

FOX's Gotham - Episode 1.14 "The Fearsome Dr. Crane"

Fish reveals a secret of Oswald's, prompting Maroni to take him on a trip to test his loyalty. Meanwhile, Gordon and Bullock hunt down a killer who targets victims with severe phobias and Bruce confronts Gordon for failing to make progress on his parents' murder case.

Gotham has been no stranger to fan service so far this season. It's not so subtle in some of its themes and character introductions in order for comic book fans to geek out and regular viewers to know who the character being introduced will one day become. It's a tactic used often and not often used well. What's the point of pointing out who these characters will become in the future if there's no journey to that point?

Dr. Gerald Crane is introduced in this episode and it feels like every other episodic story the show has done so far. It was all leading up to that scene where his son - the future villainous Scarecrow - talks to him while he's trying to kill his latest victim. That interaction has utterly no importance unless you know how that character is important to the Batman mythology. And yet, it's a disservice to the Gotham mythology. The show is focused too much on paying homage that it's not crafting its own story in a satisfying way. This episodic plot gets no resolution in the end. Jim and Harvey confront Dr. Crane at the pool and he gets away. Afterwards, they don't have any urgency in trying to capture him because the episode is ending. In the middle of the episode, they care that not everyone associated with the murders has been captured. At the end when Crane escapes, Jim and Harvey are more focused on the respective woman in their lives. That's not consistent character writing. What's the point of leaving things open-ended if one of the main characters isn't going to deliver an intent of action for the future.

Elsewhere, how in the world are we suppose to miss Fish if she never leaves the screen? The last episode ended with her heading out of town to avoid being killed by Falcone's men. She vowed to return some day stronger than before. The effect would have been much better narratively if we didn't see her time away. She could be absent for a few episodes and then return in a fresh and new way. The show seems hesitant to do things that way though. I understand her phone call to Maroni to out Oswald as a double agent. That feels like something that character would do following their last confrontation. But why did we have to see her life on the boat? She's not clinging to life. She's being pampered. How did she get all of this luxury in the first place? She was heading out of town quickly and they expect us to believe she was able to pull together a ship and crew who would treasure her like this? And then, they all get killed in the end anyway by mysterious forces. It's one thing to isolate Fish and make her feel like she's hitting rock bottom. But these narrative decisions just make no sense at all.

It has been a long time coming that Maroni would find out the truth about Oswald and react accordingly. That was a tense back-and-forth between two characters. That was the plot that had the most interesting story dynamics because it has been building up consistently throughout several episodes. They're both keeping these big secrets from the other and yet they are suppose to be partners in this criminal enterprise. It's just fun watching Oswald scrabble to stay alive. When that character is put under duress, great things can happen. Yes, he's this master manipulator of events. But he's even better when he has to think quick on his feet in order to stay alive. Some of the lies he says aren't that smart. Only a fool would believe them to be true. This is actually the first episode when Maroni doesn't play as a fool. He feels like a man putting the pieces together and trying to eliminate this big threat to his empire. He's not successful but the future promises a better direction for him now that this huge reveal is out of the way.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Fearsome Dr. Crane" was written by John Stephens and directed by John Behring.
  • Ed gets suspended for a little bit because he keeps interfering with the medical examiner's duties. His later frame job hints at the criminal mind developing within him. And yet, what was the end goal? Just to lift his suspension? Or did Ed want the job too? Because that's going to Jim's new lady friend.
  • Speaking of Morena Baccarin, she has been under-utilized and -developed so far. They threw her in a relationship with Jim because they have more chemistry than he ever did with Barbara. And yet, this new job could allow her to become a better integrated part of the show. She would no longer have to give vague, non-detailed reports on what's happening at Arkham too.
  • Bruce tells Jim he no longer has to live up to the promise of catching his parents' killer. Like I said, it has been far too long since Jim even thought about that important case. He's too busy and distracted with other things.
  • Selena also has to pop up again to tell Jim the exact same lie that she told Bruce last week - because the two of them couldn't meet up to tell each other that information. We needed to see and hear it again.
  • Harvey's monologue about being scared of dying in an alley was a great moment for that character. But how much of it was real and how much of it was a performance to impress the lady he is smitten by?
  • No Barbara this week. So I guess this episode wasn't as bad as it could have been.