Gotham – Season 3 Episode 11
“Mad City: Beware the Green-Eyed Monster”
I wonder if the Gotham mid-season finale has split its audience’s opinion based on people’s preferred character. If you don’t think Gotham should have a Batman then you’re never going to like the amount of time given over to Bruce and Selina this week. Thing is, I thought theirs’ was the stronger of this week’s three plotlines. Jim’s was the weakest for me, probably because I’ve struggled so much with Lee’s choices in season three but possibly just because of the inevitability of melodramatic problems in a love triangle. Leaving Nygma and Penguin’s story, which I’d place somewhere in the middle: It offers the promise of an interesting chaos to come but robs me of the crime-duo buddy-story I’ve long hoped for.
Another notable point about ‘The Green-Eyed Monster’ is that no major villain was defeated. I’m used to both Gotham’s mid-season and full-season finales having an end-of-level boss – or at least lieutenant – takedown. Does this mark a point where all the major Batman enemies have been introduced and now more time is going to be spent on existing characters?
Alternatively, do you need a main villain defeat to enjoy a finale? Perhaps again you do feel this way but think the defeat of Talon covered it? Personally I don’t need this and I’d say that ‘The Green-Eyed Monster’ was one my top episodes of the season so far.
I did wonder for a while if finales are by definition more enjoyable than other episodes simply because they get a climax but then I remembered ‘Transference’, which closed out season 2 – I was not a fan. Reflecting on ‘The Green-Eyed Monster’ then, I think I can say that I enjoyed it more for what actually happened and especially because Goddess Plot didn’t have too much influence: With the exception of a certain challenge that I promised last week I wouldn’t bring up again, I think all the characters this week made decisions that fitted their nature and goals, none having to do anything out of character purely for the needs of plot advancement.
Mario could have killed Jim in the laboratory? Well, he could have, but he wanted Lee to hate Jim, which seems reasonable for an insane, still-doctor-clever jealousy. Like Barnes, Mario never had unstoppable Hulk rage. In both cases, during the early stages of the virus the victim has consistently been able to enact a plan.
But Tetch needlessly gave up all that information to Jim? Actually I wouldn’t say needlessly. I’d say instead that this is Jim’s return to form. He’s not the muscle of the GCPD – despite being pretty good in a fight – he’s one of the force’s top detectives, which he’s proven many times before. In Jim’s presence Tetch has fallen into rhyming language whenever he’s gotten excited or stressed and here Jim takes advantage of it. I love to see this. It’s one of the best things about Detective Gordon as a character and I can’t get enough of it every time it’s used.
If it weren’t for inevitable love-triangle problems Jim’s being dragged through I would have rated his plot higher because of this good use of Jim’s capabilities. As it is, that final shot of the knife falling away in slow motion, all out of sight of Lee who only saw Jim murder her beloved for no reason, could easily have been taken out of an episode of Dallas, Emmerdale or any other over-the-top soap opera you can name. I get that we’re watching comic book material here but still, isn’t everything about this love triangle far too far into melodrama and bad afternoon-TV plotting?
The underlying idea feels like it should work. An investigation into the beast within us is perfectly fitting for Jim Gordon trying to work out how much of an idealist he can afford to be in a city that corrupts everything and everyone within it. Jim’s tried following the right path, he’s compromised himself for what he sees as the good of others and now he’s struggling to come back from the edge without becoming what he started out fighting against.
On that edge is the rage that wells up in someone who follows the law and just can’t believe that others can flaunt it so blatantly, and then get away with it! And Barnes is the perfect exploration of this… but Mario? It does allow Jim to consider the beast within still but not to do with any choice he has to make himself? I don’t know, perhaps it does: He might reflect on how he needs to make sure he doesn’t follow the example.
Actually given that Jim did unhesitatingly shoot two of Falcone’s henchmen, maybe does still have his own monster to deal with. They were still moaning after they fell though, weren’t they – indicating that he didn’t intend to kill them?
All this being a possibility though, I’m still having trouble accepting Lee’s decisions that lead us here. Fair enough she’s been through so much that she ends up slapping Jim but the idea that she welcomes Falcone as a father in law is beyond me. She’s never been into the bad boys before, has she? And it can’t be about getting the stability that Jim can’t offer, what with marrying into a crime family and all.
And whilst we’re vaguely on the subject, though I promised not to talk about it, can I just say: Doesn’t Zsasz still doing odd jobs for the Falcone family prove my point about certain people having too much influence still and certain other people needing to be wary of this?
Alright, “a promise is a promise Mr Frodo”; I’ll leave it be. Back onto the positive.
Bruce’s plot was so enjoyable this week that there were only a couple of little things that gave me even the slightest pause. (Not positive enough? Stay with me.) I did wonder if Bruce could possibly have the strength to hold Selina up on that rope. However, does that really matter? It didn’t spoil anything, so I’m happy to say no. I also found myself a bit wary when Selina’s mother showed up but honestly at this stage that can only be my darkness, so I’m leaving it there.
Beyond that the scenes were a joy to watch. I always like to see Alfred and Selina together – don’t think they ever disappoint. Even to the extent that though you know Selina’s walkaway – after Alfred points out Bruce has protected her from the Court of Owls – is just a fake out. She was always going to come back and see Bruce in a better light with it but the act of leaving for a bit is just her style. It’s in character and it still has a value: When she comes back you can say “I knew it”. If she didn’t come back you’d know there was a problem. It’s the consistency here that makes it a good thing.
On the consistency front I still say that Bruce and Selina’s fledgling relationship is much more interesting to watch than Jim’s drama. To some extent this is no doubt because of the skills of the actors. Camren Bicondova and David Mazouz both manage to do just as much with a look as they do with a line. Take Bruce’s confident grin for example, when they’re on the roof opposite the Court of Owls’ safe house, just before he declares Selina to be his girlfriend after all. They’re all little moments but they add so much.
To be fair the two aren’t hampered by melodrama in their writing – not to detract from their ability. For whatever reason though, their scenes have a strength in subtlety that the adult romances aren’t given. That little kiss on the cheek that Selina gives Bruce before they begin the rope walk tells Bruce everything he needs to know about their relationship. It’s a thousand words in a single picture that requires no slow motion camera work or ‘dramatic music’ to hammer the point home.
Coming away from the main characters, I’d also say that Bruce’s scenes still measured up to this mark. There were the simple things like it just being nice just to see Selina as Cat again: a confident and capable acrobatic thief. At the other end there’s also Talon. Using hardly any dialogue Gotham created in Talon a credible enemy with a high threat level that you easily believed needed four people to bring down. I like to see Alfred – ex-SAS serviceman – showing off his skills and often think he should do better against some opponents but against Talon it was clear that Bruce, Selina and Alfred together were outnumbered. I never thought they would die of course, but the serious threat meant they couldn’t do better than escape by themselves – even then not all of them.
‘The Green-Eyed Monster’ is my pick of the season so far, neatly dodging a lot of the problems I’ve had with many of the previous episodes.
Nygma and Penguin’s plot has had some high moments throughout the half season but I think the best of them have been concepts rather than actual story turns. And though they’ve clearly achieved a lot together I think it’s a shame that they never went on any real adventures as a criminal partnership. The war that’s coming promises to be the very chaos predicted by the Court of Owls. In the next half season I think this could easily keep me glued to the screen but so far in my head their plot is downgraded more towards just the setup for that, rather than being great by itself.
Jim’s plot reached a high during ‘Red Queen’ that his plot since has struggled to live up to. It’s like he had his mid-season finale four episodes ago and has been loitering around a crazy romance for something to do whilst the other main characters catch up. This is a great shame for Ben McKenzie in my mind, as ‘Red Queen’ showed what the actor can do and even just Jim’s short moment with Tetch this episode shows what the character can do. I hope ‘The Green-Eyed Monster’ is the end of Gotham trying to copy Dallas and the melodrama gets put to bed here once and for all.
Bruce, Selina and Alfred’s scenes this week were my over and above favourite. I’d rather they’d gotten an episode to themselves in fact, as Jim almost got with ‘Red Queen’. Then we might have enjoyed more of the threat posed by Talon and more of the back and forth between Selina and Bruce, and between Selina and Alfred even. It might seem a shame to you that Gotham is so much about Batman-yet-to-be but the subtlety in the writing this episode and the ability of the younger actors as a matter of course go to prove why the Bruce plots are in such demand.