This week, “Gotham” returns to a level of normality, but it still manages to flourish in a few places.
For such an early point after the return, a lot of things seem to come to a head. Gordon rather conveniently returns to the halls of the GCPD, Fish Mooney decides to play her hand against Carmine Falcone, and another villain from DC Comics and Batman lore makes an altered appearance. With Gordon, who basically sells information he doesn’t have to get reinstated as a detective, he’s back on the job without missing a beat, and goes up against the show’s iteration of the Electrocutioner: a Batman villain that made his first comic book appearance in 1981.
This version of Electrocutioner is somewhat different than what comic book fans are familiar with: he’s quite a bit older, and is a bit more of a sterotypical crazy instead of the hero-turned-mercenary of the comics. His appearance here doesn’t really enhance the episode, as the presence of overly sociopathic criminals is starting to make things a little too crowded for my liking, especially when there’s very little explanation for how they became the way they are. More satisfying was the character’s appearance as a gun for hire in 2013’s Batman: Arkham Origins video game, where Batman went up against Electrocutioner as he was hired by Black Mask.
The most satisfying elements of this episode came in the form of the subplot dealing with the Gotham City mob, and the power struggle happening between Falcone, Maroni, and Fish Mooney. Over the last several episodes, Fish has been formulating her plan to remove Falcone from power by using a woman she hired that would remind Falcone of his mother, then Fish would kidnap her in order to drive the old man out of the city. All of these elements are funneled into a satisfying, if not totally unexpected conclusion. As always, Penguin proves to be an x factor, manipulating the major players in a way that will ultimately help him to become the character we all know: one of Batman’s more uniquely formidable adversaries.
Also given satisfying service this week is the continuing evolution of Edward Nygma’s character, in the form of a co-worker he’s taken a romantic interest in. Thankfully, when it comes to the future Riddler, “Gotham” is taking an uncharacteristic “slow burn” approach, giving is an idea of why he could become the villain he’s destined to be. It’s an old tale, to be sure, similarly explored in previous Batman comics as well as films like Chronicle (though far more muted than that example).
Riddler is a tricky character to write and portray, as is evidenced by the widely popular charaterizations of him over the past 25 years: there aren’t many, and there are even fewer when looking outside the realm of the comics. Thankfully, actor Cory Michael Smith’s portrayal of Nygma is proving to be appropriately awkward and nuanced, especially considering that he won’t be the shy nerd in the corner forever. When he comes out of that shell, Gotham at-large will pay quite a price.
So, while overall this is a less remarkable episode of the series’ first season thus far, it still had its moments. With all of the cards on the table for the mob story, and with the first appearance of Commissioner Loeb, there are some interesting new players on the board. We’ll just have to see how they all come together in the weeks to come.
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