On the D/L – Gotham
Season 1 Episode 15 – “The Scarecrow”
Gotham delivers an origin story for one of Batman’s deadliest villains as Dr. Thompkins starts work at the GCPD.
First off, I really liked the story that set up The Scarecrow. I actually thought it was really well done and a clever take on it to make Jonathan’s father Gerald responsible for how he is later on. I thought that delving into the psyche of Gerald Crane and exploring the source of his greatest fear as well as his insanity was a nice touch.
Last week he admitted that he was afraid of failure which -as Gordon pointed out- is really vague because everyone is in one way or another but it turns out that the failure that Gerald is afraid of is incredibly specific. His fear stopped him from saving his wife from burning to death in a fire and that’s something that’s haunted him ever since. It adds a tortured sense of humanity to the character and makes him almost sympathetic. It really helps that Julian Sands plays him as almost a man possessed who is only half aware of what he’s doing. There’s a sort of daze to his methodology that actually works really well.
I also really liked that he was determined not to let the same thing happen to his son. In his own twisted way he cares about his son and really wants to cure him of the fear that is inside us all. He sees fear as an illness and appropriately feels that there is a cure for it.
Naturally it doesn’t go quite as well as expected and Jonathan is driven mad by his father’s makeshift “cure” for fear. The birth of The Scarecrow was a really effective scene that was very well shot. From the foggy setting to the hallucination of the demon scarecrow it all looked fantastic. A fitting beginning for such an iconic villain. I wonder how long he’ll be incapacitated for.
In true Gotham tradition, the episode gets almost as much wrong as it gets right. I really struggled to believe that Maroni would give up on his desire to kill Penguin because Falcone paid him lots of money as well as threatening him with a judge that we’ve never heard of until now. Having Penguin hiding behind Falcone’s influence while Maroni tried to get at him would have been a fantastic dynamic to play with but Gotham showed a complete inability to follow through on it. It’s a shame really as it does make sense that Maroni would only let Penguin live as long as Falcone’s there to protect him.
I really couldn’t be bothered with Fish in the situation she was in. Her rising to power in some sort of underground lair was a really weak story that I couldn’t find myself caring much about. Fish was much better suited in the Gotham City power struggle but the writers seem to be toiling to give her interesting stuff to do now that she’s removed from the situation.
Gordon and Leslie’s (or Leigh as he calls her apparently) relationship received some development but it all felt a bit typical. It went though the normal tropes of people in a relationship trying to hide said relationship from work colleagues as well as the complications of someone you’re seeing starting work in the same place. Given that it was Gordon’s idea in the first place I really don’t see the problem at all and it all seems to be pretty manufactured. Gordon’s hangup about not kissing in view of his colleagues is ridiculous considering how insane it all is at the Gotham City Police Department. It would probably be the least talked about behaviour in there. At least we got some funny lines out of Bullock to tide us over. Also it’s a better relationship than Gordon and Barbara who thankfully has been missing for the past few episodes.
I did enjoy the scene where the Penguin and Riddler met for the first time. It was appropriately awkward and goofy with each character trying to out creep the other. I think Nygma won hands down but it was still a funny scene that provided a mild chuckle.
I was also surprised that I enjoyed the Bruce and Alfred subplot. It started the usual way with Bruce thinking he can do things alone and then in the end realising that Alfred is what he needs to deal with his issues. It’s well worn ground but this one seemed more authentic than most. The scene gave a nice father/son vibe to their relationship and I liked that.
An uneven episode that manages to give an atmospheric and thrilling origin for an iconic Batman villain as well as delivering the sort of nonsense the show has become known for.
The birth of the Scarecrow was really well handled and I like the angle that was taken. I really enjoyed Julian Sands’ detached portrayal of Gerald Crane. He was a man running on a sort of maniacal autopilot as he struggled with his insanity. I like the way that Gerald thought about fear and the explanation of what led him to think like that. I also thought it was interesting that in a twisted way he wanted to save his son from being consumed by fear. There was a lot of complexity to Gerald Crane and Sands managed to deliver a layered performance.
I thought that the followup of Penguin hiding behind Falcone to protect him from Maroni was really weak. Maroni’s reasons for giving up his agenda to kill Penguin really didn’t work for me and seem to be a waste of a plot thread with lots of potential.
I was similarly disinterested in Gordon and Dr. Thompkins relationship. This episode seemed to drag it through a sea of mediocrity and relationship tropes that have been well worn in other shows. They have decent chemistry and Bullock got some funny lines out of it but on the whole it was really weak.
Some amusement was to be gained from the Penguin and Riddler meeting. Each character was trying to out creep the other with Nygma flying in front but it worked as a little comedy aside.
The Bruce and Alfred story more or less worked this week. There’s a standard formula of Bruce trying to go it alone and then realising that he needs Alfred’s help but there was more authenticity to it than usual and they gave off a nice father/son vibe that was actually quite pleasant to watch.