Without the Wolf
A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
Gotham just had the most consistent episode of its first season. Red Hood is an episode that smartly avoids a plethora of the cliches and terrors that have plagued the show for so long (not all, as I’ll note, but still). The episode settles in to focus on the aspect of the show that works the least (the crimes of the week) and painstakingly builds it into something quite the opposite. Throughout this season I have expressed a significant amount of concern (and rightfully so), that the show simply doesn’t understand what it wants to be and the first sixteen episodes were a relatively frightening indication that they would never learn. Considering last week was supposed to be the season finale, that this episode turned out as strongly as it did is a marvel in and of itself, but it gives me some semblance of renewed hope that the show has learned from its mistakes and was able to take that feedback and hopefully conclude the extremely uneven season on a string of solid episodes. That isn’t to say there aren’t some irritating issues, there certainly are but at least the show for this episode at least has finally dispelled a largely competent hand after so long.
The opening sequence was fantastic and for some reason the strange music mix actually worked as the rag-tag team stormed the bank for its funds. Not exactly the most well-thought out plan, they find themselves cornered quickly by the Gotham police department. Their loud-mouthed leader immediately throws a plethora of their money into the streets as a gamble so they can escape in the chaos, yelling “We are not here for your money, we’re here for the bank’s money.” It makes perfect sense, but outside of being a well-executed crime scene, Gotham goes back to the social commentary it has forgotten ever since the episode Harvey Dent. One of the most significant aspects of the Gotham mythology and why Batman does resonate as much as it does is because of the class inequality that is often so deftly explored within those stories. The very wealthy of Gotham have always exploited the working class and without a doubt there’s a significant parallel to the real world. That parallelism is certainly a significant part of why Batman’s mythos has become as relatable and thus popular. When the money is drifting through the streets of Gotham and the people rush towards it with their hands outstretched, grabbing the bills out of thin air, the indignation is rightfully reserved for the institutions that stand imposingly within the camera frame.
The red hood itself comes about as a concept rather than an actual individual, a neat little trick that creates a symbolic narrative thread to the eventual rise of Batman. Even more so, Red Hood is the first episode of Gotham that really signifies the conditions that would give rise to such a figure. Gotham’s complete corruption and how its institutions are perpetrating the income inequality that arises from it for their own benefit has been touched significantly a couple of times, but it has largely been thrown under the proverbial bus for the sake of, well, who know what. But here it manages to make its way across all angles of the story and that sort of thematic unity that is so often found in the episodes of prestige dramas was found here tonight. Significantly, the second man to wear the red hood (and whom had shot the first), recognized his victim’s speech about the significance of what the red hood had so quickly come to symbolize and utilized it himself within seconds. When his comrade wanted it for himself, he found himself lying on the floor, bleeding. But even this man was extended the sympathy of Gotham tonight as Gordon and Bullock discover that his targets were banks that had denied him a loan because he didn’t have enough collateral. All he wanted to do was start a bakery and get his life on track so he could build something respectable for himself. It was a startling moment of poignancy and if Gotham can strike more nerves like that, we’re all the better for it.
Bruce and Alfred get a nice subplot where Alfred’s former colleague of sorts comes to visit. Having formerly been a secret ops agent for the government, he is now homeless and got picked up for sleeping under a bridge. It’s a nerve that the episode strikes well, as most of us can recall veterans who were abandoned on their return. His history with Alfred is fascinating and I frankly do want to see a badass, black ops Alfred at some point through a flashback perhaps. But if Reggie’s past with Alfred was intriguing, his stabbing of him was far more so. Bruce’s panicked “My friend has been stabbed” was a moment of sweet poignancy that really works over one of the few relationships this show has built carefully. I had complained a bit back that the show had dropped the shadiness of Wayne Enterprises from its framework so to see that aspect of Gotham come back has been a real treat. As it is, Reggie was hired by the company’s board to stab Alfred and buy them enough time to manhandle Bruce and ensure that his newfound dedication to cleaning out his company doesn’t get in the way of their profits. It’s a chilling, terrifying scene that is the perfect encapsulation of another oppressive enterprise, in the form of a corporation, taking out what gave birth to it in order to keep its oppression strong and its profits steady. This might be the longest review I’ve ever done for Gotham and deservedly so. I have just found it extremely difficult to care enough about the show so ardent on destroying its relationship to basic storytelling and insulting its viewers along the way because of it. Tonight changed for the better and I hope Gotham can keep it up.
Great/Not So Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+“The red-headed man was nice.”
+“This bank hires communists.”
+“Keep your head straight while it’s up there.”
+“He’s right – any objections?”
+“Oh, this is inconvenient.”
+“What good’s it done you?” Selina, you might be speaking for the show’s treatment of Barbara as a whole
+Bruce as the wine connoisseur
+Snakes taste like fast food apparently
+“Banks don’t care about people like me.”
+“Perhaps it’s not our friends, but our enemies that define us.”
+“I need a danish.”
+The consistent theory of the Red Hood bringing them luck being so prevalently believed in despite it being debunked
+Gordon rushing to see Alfred was a nice touch that kept in line with this episode’s thematic unity
+Maroni owning the liquor was a neat touch, as is Cobblepot getting a partner
+Mooney’s entire enterprise was fantastically nauseating, driven to the point where she takes her own eyeball out and smushed it into the ground. It was a powerful scene in another impressive institution that preys so often on those weaker than them – in a literal and figurative basement of sorts.
-Barbara continues to be treated hideously by the writers. Here she’s trying to, what exactly?
-The dialogue overall still needs work
Title: Red Hood
Written By: Danny Cannon
Directed By: Nathan Hope
Image Courtesy: Locker Dome