Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Gotham Episode 15 'The Scarecrow' Review

The police search is still on for Dr Crane after his murderous rampage in the last episode. Meanwhile the Penguin is attempting to reopen Fish’s nightclub, although Maroni may have other plans for him. Fish herself has more concerns than the loss of her nightclub when she wakes up in an underground prison, surrounded by violent criminals.

So this episode, ‘The Scarecrow’ spends the majority of its runtime resolving last week’s cliffhangers. The various plot strands of this episode resolve around the concept of fear, rather appropriately. A lot of the episode follows the Crane family, filling us in with a lot of much needed backstory. We learn to sympathise somewhat with Gerald Crane, who we learn is trying to “cure” himself from having fear. A sympathetic villain is far more engaging and the successes he has with his methods do add some slight grey tones to his ‘madness’. An interesting drug addiction metaphor is used to equate Gerald’s desperate need to rid himself of fear with that of an addict needing their fix.

The fact that his son, Jonathan, does not want to follow in his father’s footsteps adds an element of pathos to the episode. I like that the interruption by the police is the main reason that Jonathan’s fear removal goes wrong. A feeling of inevitable destiny follows all of the classic Batman characters who appear in ‘Gotham’, from the moment they appear their fate is sealed. It’s interesting when the character is sympathetic as we find ourselves rooting against the destiny of the character. The origin of ‘The Scarecrow’ is well handled but the Crane family owning an old scarecrow in their garden is a little on the nose.

Most of the Penguin parts of this episode are relatively unmemorable due to the fact that they barely feature the Penguin. We get several scenes with Maroni and Falcone talking about how cool/terrible the Penguin is but Oswald is absent from these scenes. The scenes we get featuring Robin Lord Taylor show him redecorating his nightclub, hardly his finest moment. We do get one incredibly awkward moment where Oswald and Edward Nygma meet for the first time. I’m sure that this scene sent their respective fan girls crazy but it really doesn’t add anything to the episode aside from embarrassment.

Fish Mooney’s scenes also suffer from a lack of motivation. Fish is not a character that can exist in isolation. Without her gang and club she is a far less credible villain. The prison like dungeon she wakes up in feels like an attempt to reboot her character, forcing her to regain her empire from the ground up. Without her scheming against Falcone and her confrontations with Oswald, she really isn’t that dynamic a character. Hopefully when she returns to Gotham City itself she will regain some of her purpose within the show.

We also spend time in this episode following Bruce Wayne. Bruce is trying to continue a family tradition, without his family. In these moments with Bruce we are shown that he is learning to cope by himself. This change from child to young adult is an important part of Bruce’s development into Batman. ‘Gotham’ is also developing the character of Alfred in an interesting way. We are given the impression that older repressed parts of the Alfred character, that of the soldier, are being brought to the fore in his attempts to connect with Bruce. Hopefully future episodes will continue this trend.

So ‘The Scarecrow’ is a slightly above average episode of ‘Gotham’. The moments with the Crane family are very well handled and raise interesting questions about the natures of medical experimentation. Unfortunately experimental angles have been taken with the characters of Fish and Penguin which don’t entirely work. Penguin has been given power and Fish has had hers taken away, neither of these are a good fit for the characters as they have been established. I suspect that future episodes will restore the status quo to some extent. This would be a shame as character development is never a bad thing, even if in these cases it may need a bit of a reworking to truly work.

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