Gotham – Season 2 Episode 11
“Rise of the Villains: Worse Than a Crime”
Gotham’s mid-season finale could easily have been the full season finish. Gordon chooses, seemingly once and for all, which moral path he’s taking – and properly murdering someone this time rather than leaving a tiny sliver of doubt as there was after his carpark killing. Further, the bad guy was thoroughly defeated – or was he, given the talk of a certain Professor Strange?
Maybe it felt like a big finish because of the style of the episode. Gotham’s genre shapeshifting this week gave us a western – maybe a noir western. Either way, there were definitely some western classics throughout. There was the building of the ramshackle team of desperados, forced together by circumstance and who can’t quite work well together. They had Cat as the quirky team member with the sneaky skill set rather than straight gun slinging and also Lucius – that guy who shouldn’t be part of the team because they self-acknowledge they can’t shoot for … well, you know the phrase. They even had Leigh as the wiser woman who knows violence never solved anything, left behind when the posse rides out. Oh yes, and they even, even had, the almost betrayal at the end when the team threatens to turn on itself at the crucial moment. However, it works, I think. Gotham is lawless. After all, even Sheriff Barnes can’t bring law to this town, and that’s the point of Gordon’s storyline: if the law can’t help you what will you do?
Hmm, wish I knew my westerns better because all I can get to from there is the A-Team. Too bad, as ‘Worse Than a Crime’ was definitely western – spaghetti western too, I think, with the flying father shot out of the air in the defeat of the secondary bad guys, the monks, at the standoff at the sacrifice. Yeah, fine, I admit I can’t take that one any further.
Even at the end I’m not sure I was ever able to work those monks out. They were clearly the far lunatic fringe of Gotham’s society of villains. They wanted to cleanse Gotham of all its evil but specifically for the benefit of the Dumas family? Bit of a selfish saint there in St Dumas? But people are odd in general and if you’re raised from birth to believe a certain thing then you don’t question it, so it works well enough. I did like Bruce’s response to Galavan’s little story of woe though: “I’m sorry about that” – what else could you say? It’s good, gentle, relevant humour.
I definitely felt sorry for Silver being caught in that mix though. This episode she was struggling to find her way, caught between the desire not to be involved with the grim Dumas family plots and wanting to be part of the only family she has left. Brutal requirement though: you know you’re worthy of the family name if you have the guile to win back a broken heart and then are cruel enough to smile as you betray that heart again just before it dies. Is this mentioned in the teachings of St Dumas? What did he do to get canonized?
Whether I did or did not get on with the monks though, seems a tiny issue, as I’ve really enjoyed Bruce’s plotline the last few episodes. Looking back on season one I think I see quite a difference in David Mazouz between how he looked then to how he looks now – so much younger then. I’ll never really know if the writers have taken this into account with Bruce’s development but I’d believe them if they said they had, as Bruce is learning fast. In the last few episodes he’s seriously shown a talent for deception.
I had wondered as I saw Bruce and Silver’s scenes start this week whether Bruce was wanting to believe Silver? I’d could believe that; he is still quite young and we have seen him suffer some desperation, some need for it all to just go away. And I was pleased to see the idea of Silver betraying him coming back in, perhaps part of Galavan’s need for theatrical revenge for his ancestor’s treatment from the Wayne family. It did even play out as I thought it might: love conquers as Silver decides she just can’t go through with treating Bruce so badly.
Again I don’t bring this up as a bad thing; again I thought it was played with relevance and well. Silver’s plan to get Bruce to trust her was acted out so well, it was good enough to make her motives an open question to me. I considered she was being fake but I did feel it could go either way. Moreover, a pretty face could pull in a teenage boy; it could have worked. Bruce sees through it though. He knows deception it seems – fitting for the Batman to be to have that talent. And all the lies build nicely to the twist that, all gains of deception aside, sometimes honesty can work better: Bruce claims there is hope for Silver and then in the moment where he has nothing to gain from it makes a show for her uncle that saves her life. Though she cannot save Bruce in the end he perhaps saves her.
Silver in the last few episodes has received a lot more attention and gets to do a lot more than her early episodes promised. This is good. I’d feared for the female characters of Gotham early this season. Cat has been good and believable. Leigh has definitely become a good character, making mature decisions and avoiding some sitcom clichés. On the flip side, I thought Barbara had been short changed, that she deserved a lot more screen time to get out the plot she was involved in. Then there was Kristen – unreal or insane at best – and Tabitha: just nothing given to her to her to make her interesting; she was just supposed to be cool somehow. For me though, Silver has happily joined the former ranks – great character.
Despite all the good work this episode from the rest of the cast, this is still Gordon’s episode, which is a good thing for the show not named for Batman. Gordon starts out in a lot of trouble – perfect for the western hero – with Barnes sticking hard to the letter of the law, declaring Jim an outlaw. The show also opens with Gordon dreaming of a butterfly and Barbara. The butterfly – a chance to begin again; was it a forerunner of Barbara coming back from Indian Hill? Perhaps it was just acknowledging that she almost turned back into the real Barbara at the end of her fight with Jim. Or maybe it was signalling that Jim needing to be begin again and start back on the better path?
Gordon’s season two choice has always been one of the moral path he will walk. Standing over Galavan he is faced with this choice directly: does he make the same mistake that he did with the Flamingo or does he follow Barnes’s example? I think I may have preferred this scene to play out a little longer in place with just Gordon and Galavan. Bringing in Barnes to give the order really pushes the choice home but it’s as heavy as the position of Galavan matching the position of the Flamingo. It’s not a big thing but we have had this choice built up for eleven episodes, so we do know the ins and outs of it already.
More of an issue for me was the rapid scene change that comes in again just to make Gordon’s choice of what to do with Galavan a cliff hanger. But it’s only a departure from that choice for about twenty seconds; does that really count as a cliff hanger? Worse, doesn’t interspersing the two Gordon scenes with a silly joke from Bruce about a “perfectly feasible escape plan” ruin the mood?
Stylistically this episode there’s some good and bad again. Mixing the images of the dirty Gotham with the pretty Gotham matches the feel of the plot but I’m still not quite taken with all the comedy choices: that mix of silly and black again. I didn’t really know how to react to Alfred’s hand appearing out of the rubbish or the wacky face Taser. Also, Bullock’s jokes were spot on last week: he had the black humour that matched the feel of the episode. This week he gets to repeat the Ghostbuster staircase joke – and three times no less. And what was with the prepared parachutes for the escape from Galavan tower? Adam West to floor 45 please? The hidden parachute cupboard just needed a sign over the lever next to it saying ‘pull in case of hero attack’.
Maybe I was OK with the ‘as if by magic Lucius appeared’ moment. I was a fan of Mr Ben as a kid. Better humour though was Leigh’s talking in front of the sociopath joke with Penguin and Lucius catching Nygma by surprise. Nygma is now caught up his own riddles, unable to escape them, and it really worked for me that he panicked when the clever Lucius solves Nygma’s riddle there and then.
So, what felt like the end of the season was a pretty solid end, with an episode as good as the season started – not quite as good as the two build up episode for me, but Gotham’s best finale so far perhaps. I thought it was going to leave us with the second half of the season dealing with the consequences of the first. Nygma’s pretty much played his hand by not disguising his connection to Penguin and Gordon can’t get away without repercussions from that final choice. Gotham moves fast though, so it’ll probably give us that at the same time as two / three new villain threats from Wayne Enterprises / Professor Strange and Mr Freeze. With most of the scene switching problems gone though it could work out very well.
The desperados ride out to save Bruce in the mid-season finale of season two that really hit hard enough to be the full season finish. It was a solid episode for me that wasn’t quite as good as the two previous build-up episodes but certainly lived up to the season’s beginning.
Gotham’s genre shapeshifting finished here with a western; and I think that’s fitting for the city itself. Gotham is lawless and Gordon’s choice this season has always been one of what he will do when the law can’t help the city. I probably could have done without the spaghetti-western finish where the monk’s leader throws himself into the air to be shot down but the gathering of the posse, Leigh as the wiser woman left behind as the gang ride out and the standoff before the fight at the sacrifice were all great fun.
Bruce and Silver’s scenes really stood out this week. There was always the question in my head as to whether Silver was going to be as good a character as Cat and Leigh. Cat’s been good all the way through and Leigh has become a very mature character that avoids so many soap opera clichés. There was the danger though, that Silver would suffer from Kristen and Tabitha’s disappointing plot problem – they just weren’t given anything believable or interesting – or from being short changed like Barbara. In the end though, Silver has suffered, switched sides and hopefully been saved from the worst the Dumas have to offer.
Bruce has similarly kept my attention. He’s learned so much and realistically shown the traits that could bring about a Batman: a talent for deception, someone who will leave the bad guys reeling but still with a heart at his core. Bruce claims there is hope for Silver and then in the moment where he has nothing to gain from it makes a show for her uncle that saves her life. Though she cannot save Bruce in the end he perhaps saves her.
Fittingly, this is not Bruce and Silver’s episode, it’s Gordon’s. Gordon starts out in a lot of trouble – perfect for the western hero – with Barnes sticking hard to the letter of the law and declaring Jim an outlaw. Then, as it all comes to a head he is faced with the embodiment of his season two choice: standing over Galavan will he put down the villain permanently or will he stick to the law? Will he make the same mistake as he did with the Flamingo or does he believe Leigh that the Flamingo’s actions do not reflect Jim’s own?
The final scenes with Jim didn’t quite hit as hard as the rest of the episode for me. The choice is heavily laid out for us the viewers with Barnes turning up to embody one side of the choice and Galavan falling into the same position as the Flamingo did to embody the other. Moreover, splitting Gordon’s scenes with a throwaway joke from Bruce didn’t really seem to create a cliff hanger moment because the interruption was so short, serving only to break the tension. Not a massive issue perhaps but enough of a moment breaker for me that I didn’t get the same high that I got last week.
All said and done though, this was probably the best Gotham finale I’ve seen and the season’s first half ended as well as it began. Further, we were teased with there being a lot more still to come – Professor Strange and Mr Freeze – that with all the improvements made to Gotham season two could work really well.