‘Gotham’ 1.04 or Lose Your Gun, Take the Cannoli or Not ‘The Wire’

gotham_104_promoI think I figured out why it’s so difficult to take Gotham even semi-seriously: it’s like someone tried to make a PG-13 version of all five seasons of The Wire into one, and using disposable villains who touch on the syndrome instead not the disease.  In four episodes they’ve crammed in homeless children, corrupt cops, corrupt politicians, and irresponsible media.  Wouldn’t be surprised if an episode on unions and the Port of Gotham is in the works.  During last night’s episode, “Arkham”, I felt like I was watching School House Rock after two seasons of House of Cards.

The truth is that television audiences are far more informed and sophisticated today than they were 10-15 years ago and showrunners need to put a tremendous amount of work into writing 20+ hours of television.  The writing on this show does not feel like a lot of work.  IMHO the Gotham writers should rely much less on the inherent mythology to keep people watching.  Seriously, the best thing about Gotham right now is still newbie Fish Mooney.  Could staying true to Batman be limiting Gotham more than inspiring it?

Monster of the Week: Gladwell

Meet Gladwell, a hit man whose weapon of choice is a metallic basketball air pump that shoots pointy knives.  Or something. That was never explained, along with so much more like who paid him to kill the two Councilmen in the pockets of both Maroni and Falcone, respectively.  He starts off killing Councilman Jenkins and his aide in a parking lot, then he lights Maroni-affiliated Councilman Zeller on fire at Arkham.

Influenced by Cobblepot’s rant (“A war is coming”) Jim speculates there is a war starting between the two mobsters over Arkaham Development Project which involved a plan to turn the Arkham district of Gotham into housing developments and a build a new Arkham Mental Health Facility where Arkham Asylum stands.  This project was originally spearheaded by The Waynes and but is now backed by mobster Falcone (a self-proclaimed fan of the Waynes) and the Mayor himself.  From my understanding of it, an opposing plan by Marconi suggested building a waste disposal site and keeping the Arkham Asylum as is.  The decision would be based on a Gotham Council vote, thus all the dying Councilmen.

One particularly bad sequence of scenes involved Bullock taking Jim down to Gotham State Penitentiary, where a nameless (i.e. random) ex-hitman-turned-convict magically gives up Gladwell based on his M.O. for a few cartons of cigarettes.  When Jim and Bullock follow the man’s lead to an office in midtown, Gladwell sneaks out the back, through the supply closet, moments before they arrive at his desk.  Jim and Bullock find a sheet of paper with the letters “C-  L- M-” listed down the page.  They assume this is very relevant and that Gladwell must have dropped it.  (They also pull a gun out on an office worker who was just looking for paper clips. I did not laugh. Did anyone laugh?)  A few minutes later it dawns on Jim that the Mayor may be next and, low-and-behold, he ask for a list of his police detail which are Campos, Lazenby, and Martin.  Listed in the same order in case it wasn’t obvious enough. It was one of the most forced set-up/pay-offs I’ve seen on television in a while.  It actually hurt me.

When Jim arrives at the Mayors house, his detail is gone (presumably murdered?) but Jim and Bullock are able to stop an attempt on the Mayor in time.  I’m still not sure why it took Gladwell so long to break into the Mayor’s home if when Jim arrived Gladwell had already disposed of the police detail outside his front door.   Jim and Bullock save the Mayor but kill Gladwell in the process and so we never find out who his benefactor was.

In the end the Mayor holds conference announcing that there will be no new Arkham facility, but instead it will be retrofitted and also a waste facility. There will still be low income housing however, which it would appear would take over what would have been a larger state of the art Mental Health facility.  At this point, everyone in Gotham is either corrupt, evil, or confused.  Where are all the human characters?  The stakes are low.  Why should the audience be concerned?

Gotham B-Stories (Fish/Bruce/Barbara/Cobblepot)

In the opening bit of the episode, Cobblepot warns Jim that a war is coming and drops a mumbo jumbo of key words like “politics”, “money”, and “Arkham” but never explains why he knows this. He begs to be Jim’s inside man and demands “Kill me now. Or trust me!” Jim does neither.  Echoing this ultimatum is Barbara’s “Let me in, or let me go” at the tail end of the episode, to which (shocker!) Jim does nothing again. Breakup. Will we finally see where Jim lives now that he’s single???

Fish Mooney is up to no good in her silent war against Falcone. She holds some sexy and creepy auditions for a seductive yet brutal woman (who can sing?).

“I ain’t looking for no girl.  I’m looking for a weapon.”

“Do you want to be a woman with power, money and respect? Willing to do whatever it takes to have it all. That’s the job.”

By the end of the episode she’s got a cat fight and her girl. Meet Liza.

Meanwhile Bruce is looking for a connection between the councilman murders and the murder of his parents.  He is angry to hear that his parents original plan to build a new Arkham was thwarted by corrupt politicians and gangsters, despite Jim’s justifications that the negotiation stopped a mob war.

“I just don’t want my parents dream to die with them.”

Oh and there as a mob hit in there somewhere which, as it turns out was staged by Cobblepot so he could (a) come out looking the hero in front of Maroni (check!), and (b) actually keep all the money back from the hitmen he hired (check!). He poisons the hitmen with pastries and is on his way.  Take the money, leave the cannoli.

What We Liked

  • Fish Mooney’s auditions for her femme fatale weapon and the ultimate beatdown face-off
  • Cobblepot setting up Marconi was a somewhat unexpected revelation (I’m reaching here!)

What We Didn’t Like

  • Jim getting so startled when Gladwell breaks in through the Mayor’s door that he drops his gun and throws a magazine at him…..
  • Then magically shoots Gladwell with it although we never seem him get it back (rewinded twice!)
  • The forced contrivance with the “C L M” note (see above)
  • The police conveniently finding a dead body stored in Gladwell’s home for five years. Death by basketball pump knife. Why would a hitman keep a dead body at home??
  • Ben McKenzie’s overacting escalating
  • Jim’s reaction to Barbara having been a lesbian. The whole conversation was just awkwardly done.

What We Don’t Know

  • Who was paying Gladwell to kill politicians on both sides?
  • Who was Gladwell and is his father of importance: “My father used to say: simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”?

Four episodes in, and Gotham has three more episodes before I tune out. It was renewed for a full seasons run this week, so I hope they can make it happen because I can’t believe I’m the only one. What did you think?

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  1. […] biblical theme which it began in “The Balloonman“, continued in “Arkham“, and did a piss-poor job of in “Viper” (an episode so bad I couldn’t bare […]

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