Saturday, 4 April 2015

Gotham Episode 17 'Red Hood' Review

A spate of bank robberies have managed to shock Gotham City out of its crime induced coma of indifference. What is it about these robberies that has grabbed their attention, where so many before haven’t? A red hood, a seemingly simple piece of fabric worn by the lead robber has changed the entire attitude of the city. More shockingly is the effect it has on those who wear it, are they as invincible as they feel while wearing it, if so how will Jim and Harvey stop them? Meanwhile a friend from Alfred’s past has come to visit him at Wayne Manor but is Alfred really ready to take a walk down memory lane?

So this episode came with a certain amount of expectation. The Red Hood is an infamous part of Batman lore, particularly due to his connections with the Joker. This and the previous episode have made subtle and not so subtle references towards the joker. It’s clear that ‘Gotham’ is building up to the appearance of the Joker and is laying the ground work in the audiences mind for his premiere performance. Although this excitement is being built quite nicely it has the unfortunate side effect of removing all Joker based tension from the episodes. We as an audience know that the Joker is going to be the season finale villain, he’s too important to be anything else. Therefore every failed stand- up comedian and red hood obsessed villain in the meantime is going to be a red herring.

‘Gotham’s’ formulaic and generic ‘TV’ nature is a severe problem, probably the biggest the show has. We know how television works so we know how ‘Gotham’ works. This is particularly bad since the show is pretty well written, it just feels the need to use established conventions as a framework to build off.

The majority of episodes being a crime procedural and all, end with a ‘shocking’ twist revelation. We are not meant to predict the outcome, who the killer is. The fact that ‘Gotham’ is well written now means I can watch it and work out what the most dramatically satisfying twist ending would be, thus predicting it and ruining the surprise almost every time. It’s a shame because the twists are well written but the reliance on having one every episode complete undermines the concept.

So as I suggested this episode is really well written. The stuff with the Red Hood gang is nicely handled and feels completely at home within both the universe of Batman and the world of ‘Gotham’. The gang members are nicely rounded out and feel like genuine people. The nature and concept of the red hood itself is also very interesting. The gang seem to believe that it gives them super powers and this makes them exceptional versions of themselves in the process. The episode purposefully leaves it open to interpretation if the mask does itself grant powers, as if it were cursed or if it is only magical in the minds of those who wear it.

Alfred’s friend Reggie from ‘Her Majesties Special Air Service’ is an interesting character and forces the darker past of Alfred to the service. His influence on the relationship of Alfred and Bruce is very interesting. They both get to meet the alternate version of Alfred, the one who hit rock bottom, the Alfred who never met Bruce.

Fish Mooney continues to feel limp and somewhat pointless in the show. Her scenes now seem to be used primarily for shock value. It seems a shame that she left Gotham City alive in the first place. I suspect that having the character go out when Falcone discovered her plans would have left her with more dignity than she has now. I suspect she will return before the end of the series and maybe the showrunners have a grand plan I’m missing. It would have to be pretty darn incredible to excuse this listless set up however.

The scenes with Penguin are nice this week. He has been forcibly teamed up with the reconditioned Butch to help him restore the success of the bar. These scenes are interesting because they team up the two great manipulators of the show and play them off each other. I have a horrible feeling that ‘Gotham’ will do the obvious effective thing and have Butch become his old self again at the most dramatic moment. I quite like this darker Butch however and hope that his ‘friendship’ with the penguin will long continue. It feels as if the Penguin has met his match at last and this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

So I liked this episode a lot. It seems that ‘Gotham’ has been trying a new direction these last few episodes, it feels considerably more grown up. We still have parts that seem as ridiculously ‘Gotham’ as ever, such as Fish’s adventures in the cartoonish-ly evil organ farm but for the most part the show feels smarter. It’s clear that ‘Gotham’ is taking influence from other modern television shows such as ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘Elementary’. Given that most episodes of ‘Gotham’ feels as if the most recent show the writers watched was ‘Murder She Wrote’ repeats, this new influx of modern and less conventional television is very encouraging to see. Maybe ‘Gotham’ has made itself a red hood to wear; one that the writers wear to makes themselves feel more confident? We can only hope.

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