Monday, April 27, 2015

REVIEW: 'Gotham' - Jim Confronts the Ogre While Oswald Readies the City for a War in 'The Anvil or the Hammer'

FOX's Gotham - Episode 1.21 "The Anvil or the Hammer"

The Ogre breaks down Barbara's emotions, while Gordon and Bullock go to great lengths to track him down. Meanwhile, Oswald leads a massacre, beginning an epic war, while Bruce learns the truth about Wayne Enterprises and Nygma deals with his recent actions.

"The Anvil or the Hammer" is the big conclusion to the three-part Ogre storyline. It was largely just as disappointing as the previous two episodes. The whole arc started as a way for Commissioner Loeb to punish Jim Gordon. Gordon got the upper hand in their relationship so Loeb wanted to cut him down again. So much has been built up about the Ogre being a serial killer who'll kill the loved ones of any police detective who investigates him. He misstepped and went after Barbara instead of Lee. And yet, things stemming from that mistake have been questionably murky for the sole sake of giving Barbara a plot that directly relates to Jim again.

There needed to be some guilt on Jim's part for not even thinking that Barbara would be in harm's way because of this madman. To him, Lee is the only important thing in his life right now. That and trying to make the city a better place, of course. He had blinders on and that's what allowed Barbara to be captured by the Ogre. This story has established just how violent and disturbed he can be. But at the end of the day, he's still just a man wallowing in romanticism. No woman wants to be with him and his completely dominating personality and lifestyle. The Ogre revels in that feeling. That's what motivates him to kill. When woman don't like him and his incessant need of planning every single detail of their day, he kills them - claiming that they weren't the one. That's the character's only real and consistent personality trait. When he actually appears on the screen, the show doesn't showcase the killer side of him and the real danger he poses to Jim and his career. No, instead he's simply a man trying to seduce a woman by any means necessary. It's a very stale narrative choice that had no reason being the focus of a three episode story.

In fact, the story's only real purpose is to bring about a change in Barbara. In the last episode, she was completely oblivious to the world around her. She saw the Ogre simply as a charming man who happens to have a few fetishes. She saw no harm with that but certainly didn't want to spend the rest of her life with him. It's funny that he wants her to stay in his apartment at all times to be subservient to him while the show tries to suggest that she actually has an outside life despite her only being seen in her own apartment for most of the season. Barbara simply isn't a character the show has spent the time into making the audience care about. In the beginning, she was simply Jim's girlfriend who was too often just a distraction from his work. She has been placed into harm willingly and naively too many times. And now, she still finds herself in those positions. The show still doesn't know what to do with that character except throwing her into a perilous situation. After 21 episodes, they couldn't have tried anything else to try to make her stand as an independent and necessary part of this narrative? That's just disappointing.

Barbara becomes aware of the Ogre's true identity pretty early in the episode and understandably no longer sees him as charming or sexy. She did show some resilience in trying to figure out a way to escape his apartment. And yet, all of that was undercut by her fainting after seeing pictures of all the girls he has killed. That then brings about a charge in her that doesn't entirely make sense. The Ogre pushes for her to name someone she should kill in order to break her true personality free. She names her parents out of fear. But she still feels like a numb participant when the two of them go to kill them. It's almost as if she has no understanding of what is happening around her. Like she's just going through the motions while trying to block out all the horrible things that are happening. The Ogre does kill her parents and she does nothing to stop it. She doesn't run nor is she ecstatic when Jim shows up for his final confrontation with the Ogre.

Their fight ends in the Ogre's death because that's how so many of Gotham's stories have ended. Jim doesn't feel bad about killing this criminal and that mentality could become very destructive to the show rather quickly. If he's not remorseful about the places he has to go as a part of this job, the internal struggle of the main character is no longer interesting. Much like Barbara, it has just become so easy to become numb to the way that Gotham tells its stories in the most outlandish and violent ways possible. It's so pointed in one direction that there is no time for the plot to slow down and actually analyze what all of this means to the main characters. The show has been focused on telling as much story as possible that it has lost the thread of what was potentially interesting about itself in the first place. Oswald is the only one who seems to have his mind on the bigger picture - and even that story is largely centered around his selfish desires for his own life and needing to just manipulate everyone in order to achieve them. Jim started this season vowing to catch the person responsible for killing Thomas and Martha Wayne. Jim hasn't thought about that case in a very long time. Bruce has been making significant progress - but that still only leads to further questions. Those questions are introduced and there's simply no way that the show is going to be able to satisfyingly tie them all up in an engaging way in next week's finale. The show got too caught up in providing a quantity of stories that it hasn't made sure that any of them have any quality material. And that has been the most disappointing thing about this season - which only came into further enlightenment throughout "The Anvil or the Hammer."

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Anvil or the Hammer" was written by Jordan Harper and directed by Paul Edwards.
  • For a second, it looked like the Ogre really did slit Barbara's throat when he fell to the ground after Jim shot him. It didn't happen but it sure would have been nice if the show finally just decided not to try utilizing that character anymore.
  • Oswald's story has been so pointed in him feeling anger towards Maroni that he wants him dead. The past few episodes have been building up to this big confrontation. It happens and suddenly Oswald is a different person claiming to have only orchestrated these events in order to take out both Maroni and Falcone. That doesn't make any sense because the Falcone-Oswald relationship hasn't been on display for weeks - and neither has Falcone (which makes his appearance at episode's end even more unearned).
  • Chris Chalk seems like he might be a good Lucius Fox, but it really was just a cameo appearance to say more vague and cryptic words to Bruce who will likely misinterpret them when he couldn't have been more clearer about his father being a good man despite the corrupt company.
  • Nygma really is enjoying getting rid of the detective's body after he killed him last week. Sure, he's nervous that someone will notice what he's doing when he actually brings the body to the police precinct in order to get rid of it! How much more naive can he get? Also, that note he gave to Kristin wasn't that subtle at all.
  • Apparently, there are still some things that even Harvey can't tolerate - as was suggested when he went undercover at the weird sex club.
  • This whole Ogre storyline started because of Loeb and he doesn't even make an appearance in the end to get his comeuppance from Jim? That is just bad episodic plotting.