Review: Gotham – S4 E2 “A Dark Knight: The Fear Reaper”

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“This place smells like death. Reminds me, there’s a Thai joint not far away if you want to grab something to eat after.”

Seems like Harvey is rather indifferent to the case at hand and would rather be dining on the local Thai cuisine. I can’t say I blame him; so far I’ve been content to check in to Gotham, nod my head, check out, and want to eat as well. Is it because I am indifferent to Season 4 or that I really enjoy my food? In truth, it’s probably a little bit of Column A and a little bit of Column B. While the debate over the policing of Gotham did whet my appetite, there wasn’t enough for me to bit into, unfortunately. Too much sizzle, not enough steak for my liking.

For a second episode, we see Gordon and Penguin square off over the best way to keep Gotham safe. This can only be had in the GCPD station house with a flood of press covering it and Penguin’s flair for the dramatic. The mood in headquarters is clear; Gotham’s cops don’t feel like they are making a difference on the streets, they get shot at and spat on by citizens. They get no respect at all, and have become the Rodney Dangerfields of Gotham City. I would have loved to of watched one of Gotham’s finest bemoan to Gordon about their lot in life, paraphrasing the master – “I woke up this morning and put on my uniform, a button fell off. I picked up my gun, the handle fell off. I’m afraid to go to bathroom.”

Gordon doesn’t condone Penguin’s crime license program, but he’s losing the battle. Penguin challenges him to bring in Jonathan Crane within 24 hours or he will clean up the streets of Gotham himself. When the call comes in that Crane has taken over Arkham, Gordon tells the troops to suit up as he leads the charge to the door, only to hear the sounds of silence. Simon and Garfunkel would be proud. Seems like the cops have had enough – heck no, they won’t go.

This raises a good question, at least from the cops’ perspective; why should they risk their lives helping those who don’t appreciate them? They haven’t made a difference in the fight – that’s the prevailing sentiment. Like Sisyphus they push that boulder to the top of the hill, only to have it roll back down. Then they push it back up, and it rolls down again. What’s that you say about the definition of insanity? No wonder they seem indifferent to continue fighting the good fight, but for Gordon, it’s the right thing to do.

However, in the best tradition of a Ginsu knife infomercial, but wait – there’s more!

Even Harvey stands with the troops, causing a nice moment of tension and conflict between our dynamic duo. Here we see Gordon’s “boy scout morality” as Penguin calls it, as he throws a few jabs Harvey’s way. But here is where Gordon’s flaws shine brighter than the Bat-signal; he doesn’t see the bigger picture. If Harvey joins him then he loses the rest of the cops, and he would be replaced as Captain by someone Penguin chooses. Sometimes you gots to lose the battle to win the war.

So Gordon goes in alone. Crane, now in full character as The Scarecrow, releases the inmates to kill Gordon. Cue a flashy action set piece or two where Gordon takes more hits than a golf ball at the driving range, then Crane gasses Gordon with a dose of fear juice. In a move that rivals Arnold Palmer using the Force to will a golf ball into the hole, Gordon shakes off the effects and figures out water can also do the job just as easy.

But alas, Scarecrow gets away, and Penguin gloats to all in GCPD headquarters, promising to clean up the town his way. He even offers to triple the salaries of any cop who wants to join him. Gordon sees it as being paid to look the other way, but even Harvey is tempted, as he questions what they are doing as cops. In the middle of this existential crisis, Harvey reminisces about the good old days when Carmine Falcone ran a tight ship with an army, and this inspires Gordon to visit the old man with a new plan.

It behoves me to point out that Gordon did kill Falcone’s son, and more than sparks will fly when the two meet up next week.

The other storylines involve Bruce continuing his Batman Begins-lite vigilante escapades despite Alfred complaining he is not fully prepared to face the criminals of Gotham while wearing a hooded coat and mask. He can dodge a punch, but not a bullet. What if they have guns, Alfred asks. He doesn’t know how to keep in touch with him while he leaps from rooftop to rooftop in a single bound (sorry, wrong superhero). How can they solve these major obstacles, you ask? Simple, have a very observant Lucius Fox deduce Bruce isn’t rock climbing at the back of Wayne Manor, nor is he leaping from rooftop to rooftop in a single bound looking for Selena. Then have said Foxy drop by Wayne Manor as Alfred and Bruce argue about health and safety after the former saves the latter from a gun-toting thug and present the latest military tactical gear from Wayne Enterprises – lightweight, bulletproof and with a two way mini radio. You have to love vulpes ex machina. Thus Bruce can now continue his vigilante escapes in a proto-Batman costume complete with newly made mask courtesy of Alfred. At least they didn’t have to order five thousand of them and route them through several shell companies to get them shipped from China.

The other storyline is all girl power. Babs is back, “always check for a pulse,” and plans to arm the licensed criminals with weapons from her upscale boutique and wants Selena and Tabs in as partners. They’ll know what they want the weapons for and the details of each job, so presumably they can rip off the thugs. Tabs doesn’t trust Babs until she offers her hand to be removed, like what happened to Tabs and Butch. Tabs stops short and a tense truce is forged. Selena wants in on the action as she is tired of being mistreated by the men and wants to get back at them.

Same for Ivy, who, unfortunately is shooed away by Tabs. Seems Tabs is not convinced Ivy wants out from Penguin’s grip, though we have seen the mistreatment firsthand. Ivy visits an apothecary and uses her perfumes to persuade him to give her powerful potions to make her stronger. Turns out it also messes with her DNA, so we’ll see the full effects next week and how she handles Penguin when he belittles her.

It’s a sad day when Harvey is the voice of reason on the show, but he makes sense. And I’m convinced Gordon was in part influenced by ego to prove the GCPD still has power. The bottom line is not much sarcastic Harvey, which burns my bacon. Also, the show needs to give the ladies more screen time. I can watch Penguin all day, but with wildly wicked and entertaining women such as Babs and Tabs, and upstarts Selena and Ivy (who aren’t as entertaining, but their motivations are interesting), more time can be devoted to their struggles. In short, neither horrible nor awesome, but somewhere in the meaty part of the curve.

Tune in next week – same Bat-time, same Bat-channel.

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