Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Gotham Season 1 Episode 4 'Arkham' Review

So, a gang war is brewing this week in ‘Gotham’. The conflict is over the abandoned Arkham Asylum site. Both Falcone and the Maroni want the contract to redevelop the area. Both parties are willing to kill to get that contract. Can Jim Gordon stop a gang war from erupting, even if it means sacrificing his personal life in the process?

So this episode of ‘Gotham’ is a notable improvement over the preceding weeks’ attempts. ‘Gotham’ is at its best when it is showing the conflicts between the old crime families; when it is avoiding the more salacious super villains. What the gangsters bring to the show is an element of reality, a level of grounded truth. What has always fascinated people about the world of organised crime is the code of honour and sense of family that exists within it. Neither Falcone’s associates nor the Maroni family are entirely evil and these shades of grey make them interesting dramatically.

The dynamic between Batman and his costumed foes is far more abstract. The relationship is far more visual and thematic in nature, making it harder to relate to it in the process. When Batman is fighting the Joker he is fighting the concept of chaos. When Batman goes after Falcone he is going up against a man, a man who made rationalised decisions to get where he is.

This week’s episode opens where the last one left off. Jim Gordon receives a visit from Oswald Cobblepot, who is offering him information to help stop the upcoming gang war. Jim is suitably angry that Oswald has reappeared in Gotham and is left shaken by the risk that this has put his own and Oswald’s life in. This element is expanded as the episode goes on as it drives a wedge between Jim and Barbara. Jim’s unhealthy devotion to his police work is a vital element of the character and one that I’m glad to see being introduced in ‘Gotham’.

Barbara’s previous relationship with Renee is expanded upon and explained this week, making Barbara’s character more rounded in the process. Jim’s inability to deal with his partner’s previous relationship with a woman is a nice touch and it makes him seem less perfect, more human.
The villain this week, in the form of Gladwell the assassin, is very strong. Gladwell’s psychopathic nature, combined with his ruthless method of killing, makes him a very menacing villain. The moments where he talks to his victims are genuinely unsettling.

Fish Mooney is very interesting this week. We see that she is auditioning female singers in her club. The caveat is that she wants singers who are capable of seduction. The concept that these young singers are so desperate for a career break that they would be willing to prostitute themselves is very dark. The fact that they would literally fight each other for this opportunity is a subtle indication of how messed up life in Gotham really is.

As always, Oswald’s attempts to climb up the underworld of Gotham remain highly enjoyable. A nice moment of this episode is the realisation of exactly what Oswald means by his vision of the future Gotham.

Gotham has a wonderful feeling of inevitability to it. Certain characters, such as Bruce and Oswald, feel touched by fate and on a fixed course. This week for example suggests that the old Arkham Asylum might be demolished. We know that this can’t happen and it seems that the universe of ‘Gotham’ also knows. Seeing Jim Gordon endlessly try to stop the corruption of Gotham while the latent insanity of the city slowly festers is wonderful.

So has ‘Gotham’ finally hit its stride? It’s hard to tell based on this episode alone but ‘Gotham’ certainly feels more self-assured this week. Episode 4 feels more confident and we as an audience are benefitting from that fact. If the show continues on this trajectory it has the potential to become something pretty special.

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