‘Gotham’ Weekly Review: Rise of the Red Hood Gang

By February 25, 2015

This week’s primary plot on “Gotham” proved to be an intriguing twist with what was expected given the subject matter, since it decided to form a new history for the identity of the “Red Hood” by melding together two previous iterations from the comics. We also got another look at Bruce Wayne’s continued development — as well as at his legendary temper — due to a chance run-in with a former SAS colleague of Alfred’s. In a way, that first subplot was the most interesting part of the episode.

That is, until someone lost an eye.

“Gotham” kicked this episode off with a very familiar object to Batman fans the world over: a red hood. In DC Comics mythology, the Red Hood identity has been inexorably tied to the Joker: in the Golden Age, it was his name as a “master criminal” before he became the Clown Prince of Crime. Before the establishment of the New 52, the Red Hood was the name of a criminal mantle that was passed between various low-level hoods to throw the cops off of identifying who the “leader” of their gang is.

The first eppearance of the Red Hood was in 1951's Detective Comics #168. Since then, the identity has been interpreted in a few different ways.

The first eppearance of the Red Hood was in 1951’s Detective Comics #168. Since then, the identity has been interpreted in a few different ways.

Within the comics, one of the men that wore the hood was a failed chemical engineer, working as a poor standup comedian in an effort to support his pregnant wife. After he’s convinced to help a gang pull a heist on the factory he used to work in, the robbery was foiled by Batman: Gotham’s new masked vigilante. In a fit of clumsiness, the man wearing the hood went over the side of a catwalk before Batman could save him. When he came out, his skin was bleached white, his hair turned emerald green, and his mouth was stretched into a rictus grin.

In the New 52, DC revised the Red Hood moniker by making it the central item worn by “the Red Hood gang,” a calculating and swift-acting criminal organization prevalent in Gotham before Batman’s arrival. In the “Zero Year” story, which depicts Batman’s formation in the new continuity, one of the Dark Knight’s first targets is the gang, ad it’s assumed that the leader of this incarnation has gone on to become the Joker as well.

The Red Hood gang in this episode is sort of a melding of the two concepts, which produces an interesting, though not totally unexpected result. Of course, the Joker (or the kid who will become the Joker) is nowhere to be found in this episode, so it’s all about the low-level hoods creating this identity to both throw the cops off of identifying them, and to be more theatrical in their robberies. All in all, this element of the episode was rather by-the-numbers, with an ending about as you might expect. More interesting this week was the arrival of Alfred’s former colleague in the SAS, who’s run in with Bruce during his fight training and eventual treatment of his old friend ends up revealing a new element of the story of Bruce and his family’s company.

And then, of course, were the underworld elements, limited this week to Fish and her captors, the leader of which we now know to be a DC Comics villain. The lengths she goes to to try and protect herself and her new friends is equal parts admirable and disturbing, and certainly led to one of the more shocking moments of the episode. Overall, this week was satisfying, but the main course in the Red Hood plot ended up being a little too basic for my tastes. Thankfully, things are left open-ended for that damn hood to make a comeback down the road.

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Chris Clow
As a former comics retailer at a store in the Pacific Northwest, Chris Clow is an enormous sci-fi, comics, and film geek. He is a freelance contributor, reviewer, podcaster, and overall geek to GeekNation, Batman-On-Film.com, The Huffington Post, and Movies.com. He also hosts the monthly Comics on Consoles broadcast and podcast. Check out his blog, and follow him on Twitter @ChrisClow.