This week’s episode felt like a Batman-less show desperately in need of Batman. At the end of last week’s season premiere, I was cautiously optimistic that the writers would avoid its usual one step forward, two steps back routine, but tonight definitely felt like shame on me territory.
As dashing and courageous as Jim Gordon may be, he’s still no Batman no matter how desperately the showrunners want to fit his round peg into that square hole. That’s a big problem since Gordon practically has to be a superhero to battle these villains when he’s surrounded by bumbling fellow officers.
Jerome is leading the other Arkham escapees (save Barbara) on shock and awe headline-grabbing acts of violence, including tossing bodies from the Gotham Gazette to spell their group name — “Maniax.”
Ringleader Theo Galavan is impressed with their actions and encourages them to embrace their more theatrical side, a charge Jerome is more than happy to answer with gusto.
Cameron Monaghan is no longer teasing the possibility of being The Joker and is just flat-out paying homage to Heath Ledger’s take on the character. Both the show and Monaghan would be much better off with their own take on Joker rather than trying to draw parallels to the movie universe Batman.
Gordon, meanwhile, is leading the briefing on the escaped Arkham inmates. I know for the dramatic reaction shot to Barbara’s picture it’s necessary to have Leslie sitting in on this briefing, but it seemed odd that the medical examiner would be in an operations strategy session.
The cops seem to be 100 percent on Team Gordon now, which seems a major twist from last season. The one holdout is bartender Bullock, who is adamant he’s not returning to the force even before his fiance chimes in.
Even without Bullock, Gordon is barely able to stop Maniax from igniting a school bus filled with cheerleaders. That was one of the few times the show really embraced the craziness of Gotham’s psychotics, but it felt cheap that the inferno didn’t spark was because their lighters didn’t work on two occasions. Just as Gordon and crew capture one of the escapees, Tabitha Galavan kills him with a high-powered sniper rifle to prevent him from snitching. Clearly there won’t be a long-term future for any Maniax members.
As for the boy who would be Batman, Bruce and Alfred dig deeper into the future home of the Batcave and learn that Thomas Wayne practically had a “Batman Starter Kit” in the works with weapons, computers, and a bulletproof vest. I’m pretty sure if I squinted hard enough I would have seen the dinosaur and giant penny.
Alfred’s sudden about-face of Bruce’s efforts to uncover Wayne Tech’s dirty secrets by smashing Papa Wayne’s computers came out of nowhere. It felt forced and seemed more of a stalling tactic on the main Bruce subplot this season.
I would have liked to have been able to buy into Bruce’s firing of Alfred a little, but the writers continue to rush through potentially interesting subplots. How would Bruce have managed without Alfred? What would Alfred do without having to dote on Master Wayne? Would Bruce ask Selina to move in now that he’s got the Manor all too himself?
Not at all surprising to anyone who’s paid even a little attention to the pacing of the show, Bruce quickly makes good with Alfred at a train station in a sequence straight from a romantic comedy. Bruce wants Alfred to train him and he’ll do whatever Alfred asks, including going back to school, but Alfred’s on his own in terms of fixing the computers.
The episode’s best moment occurred when Alfred randomly stumbled into a bar where Lucius Fox (Chris Chalk) just so happened to be relaxing. Alfred sizes Lucius up to determine if he is a trustworthy ally and warns him if he crosses Bruce.
For all the bizarre interactions with characters in the Batman mythos, developing a bond between Alfred and Lucius makes sense seeing as how they’ll eventually be the key support staff once Bruce assumes his superheroic identity. Lucius gets stuck on computer repair duty, which should last right up to mid-season sweeps or the season finale. Place your bets.
Onto the most ridiculous segment of the episode. Despite a department-wide briefing where the mugshots of each of the escapees was shown for all to see, Barbara strolls into the police station just long enough to call Gordon and have him run after her. Literally no other officer gave her a second glimpse.
Gordon runs into an ambush where Maniax’s enforcer, Aaron, pummels him in the alley. Like I said last week, the Gordon/Barbara interactions need to be limited to be most effective, and the writers are already going back to that storytelling well with diminishing returns.
Gordon fared better than his colleagues as Jerome and a few goons disguised as cops waltz in and shot up the department. Jerome didn’t roll in with an army, but somehow the trained police are no match for a few shotgun-wielding thugs?
This should have felt like a big moment or a shocking mid-season cliffhanger, but considering how inefficient these officers have been, it’s probably a mercy killing. No worries, though, the department’s important characters — Nygma, Ms. Kringle, and Leslie survive the attack.
Not so fortunate is Commissioner Essen, who comes out on the losing end of an exchange with Jerome. It’s more than a little annoying that one of the show’s few minority characters gets killed off just as she was getting interesting.
In a silly moment since the department should be on extra high alert and no civilians should have been allowed entry, Bruce and Alfred come in to the station to check on Gordon.
Back in Essen’s office, Gordon prepares for the next move when Bullock announces he’s returning. Just then Jerome’s video message threatening all of Gotham airs. The villains have risen, but is anyone going to be around to stop them?
Rating: 6 out of 10
This episode really needed Batman to swoop in to the police department and save the day, and he’s not arriving any time soon. Blowing through some interesting story threads for the shock factor of the police department attack felt way too soon this early in the season. We could hope the fallout will be good, but at this rate, I’ll just hope for sensible and worry about being entertained later.