TV Review | Gotham 1.04 ‘Arkham’

1.04aOriginal UK Air Date: 3rd October 2014

** Spoilers Contained Below **

This week on Gotham…

On the eve of an important political vote (regarding the redevelopment of Arkham), a freelance hitman is hired to take out Councillors on either side of the argument. Falcone and Maroni stand on opposite sides, and hire the same freelance hitman to take out Councillors loyal to their opponent. Gordon and Bullock are tasked with stopping and catching the killer.

Elsewhere…

 – Maroni’s restaurant is robbed and some henchmen killed, including the man who ran it for him. After Cobblepot managed to hide some of Maroni’s money for him, the crime boss promotes Oswald. It is later revealed that Oswald stages the whole thing. He murders the thugs he hired to pull off the job with poisoned canoli.

 – Fish Mooney auditions girls to become her new ‘weapon’, making the two favourites fight to the death to help her decide.

 – Barbara gives Gordon an ultimatum – tell her everything or lose her.

The Verdict…

Though there were many niggles with this episode, it was definitely an improvement on the opening trifecta. The story flowed more easily than any previously, characters didn’t feel shoe horned in, and the low key villain-of-the-week was a breath of fresh air over the zanier antagonists to date.

Let’s get those niggles out of the way.

Firstly, some of the actions of a couple of characters did not sit well. Captain Essen dismisses the murder of the first Councillor as a mugging, but how many muggings result in the victim being stabbed in the eye with an obscure, unique weapon? This was lazy writing, but was annoying rather than damaging to the episode.

Elsewhere, Barbara’s suddenly tough stance on Gordon keeping secrets from her is massively at odds with her defence of him (and her outright encouragement) last week. If they wanted to add the drama of a Gordon/Barbara split, at least build it up over a longer period of time. We barely know them as a couple, and the break is so out of the blue it barely makes sense.

This bring us nicely onto another irksome moment – the break up itself. While the scene was relatively well played out, Ben McKenzie just didn’t show the range of a man whose spouse is threatening him to make a tough, potentially life changing decision. I’m not sure if it just that McKenzie is limited in his emotional range, or whether he’s been directed to play it that way, but it did hurt the scene somewhat.

There was a certain air of convenience about a few plot points as the episode moved along. Bullock happening to know a guy doing time that (for the cost of just some cigarettes) willingly gave up both the hitman’s assumed name and place of work was a bit easy. Also, Gordon is the only person to actually link the hitman to both crime families and it is left (very loosely) implied that he has been hired by both to do hits on the other.

Despite what you may infer from all of the above, this was a pretty good episode on the whole.

Our villain-of-the-week Gladwell is played very well by Hakeem Kae-Kazim (24 (season 7), Black Sails). While previous foes have been quite cheesy, the well spoken Gladwell brings the villainy down to a more realistic level. It is a shame that he was seemingly killed off in the final stand off (it’s not entirely confirmed, but he looked pretty dead after being shot by both Gordon and Bullock) as he showed some great promise.

Oswald’s subplots were great. The opening scenes with him, Gordon and Barbara was really well done, particularly the alley scene afterwards where Gordon laments not actually killing him in the pilot episode. Cobblepot forcing Gordon to take him an an informant was an intriguing powerplay, and it’ll be interesting to see where they go with it.

The restaurant hit was excellently done. It was quite obvious that Oswald was going to be revealed as behind the hit, but that didn’t hurt it at all. In fact, we’d argue that the viewer was more looking forward to seeing exactly how the events post-hit pan out, then the mystery behind it. Robin Lord Taylor is on particular form when Maroni announces his promotion – his nervous glee is infectious.

If Oswald’s devious side wasn’t show clear enough with the arrangement of the hit, the aftermath hammers it home. His method of disposing of his hired henchmen (poisoned canoli) was perfectly innkeeping with the duplicitous ways of his character.

Speaking of duplicity, we get a nice little subplot revolving around two-faced mid-level crook Fish Mooney. Worried that Falcone will not be able to take on Maroni in a fully fledged war, Mooney auditions a selection of women, with a view to them becoming her ‘weapon’. While Jada Pinkett Smith has been guilty of overacting thus far in Gotham, she does pull off the calm-yet-oh-so-dangerous vibe particularly well this week. Having her two finalists fight to the death in an abandoned dockyard seemed perfectly in keeping with her style. Hopefully Liza (the winner) will turn out to be an interesting addition to the show.

Finally, a few other previous niggles were improved upon this week. Alfred and Bruce’s scenes were perfectly fine (and had a point!), the writers seem to have finally decided just how good/crooked Bullock is (dirtier than Life on Mars’ Gene Hunt cleaner than The Shield’s Vic Mackie), and the overall pacing was spot on.

Ultimately, Mooney, Oswald and Gladwell help elevate Arkham above its predecessors. There’s still much to improve upon, and the Arkham redevelopment aspect of the main plot was a little dryer than people may have expected. Still, this is a measurable improvement and hopefully a sign of things to come.

3.5/5

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