Gotham 1.20: “Under the Knife” Review

Just Keep Going

A Television Review by Akash Singh

NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!

The glory days of Gotham several weeks ago where it seemed like it was going to go somewhere had a shorter life span than a house flea. The storylines were poignant, they tied into the Batman mythology without working too hard, and it actually made me give a damn about what might happen in Gotham for the first time in forever (I apologize for the song from Frozen now getting stuck in your head). The last week and this have overturned that goodwill into a weird antithesis of what storytelling is supposed to do. In many ways, Gotham has fallen into the most horrid of adaptation traps and frankly it doesn’t look like it’s going to get out of it anytime soon. An adaptation is a tricky feat to pull off because it has to balance two extremely difficult angles. On one hand, it has to be faithful enough to the original mythology so that viewers can retain their attachment to that sense of familiarity. Yet it has to be its own vehicle, crafting its own narrative so that it doesn’t simply become a carbon copy of anything before it. In those two episodes, Gotham achieved that but ever since then it has been an average disaster.

To begin on a positive note, the Ogre storyline from last week continues impressively, so there’s something. Gotham had this annoying tendency to kill off every single killer that the story had come across, including the interesting ones. With Ogre’s established history of going after anyone who dares to investigate him and all of their loved ones for good psychopathic measure, it seemed logical for him to go after Gordon, Bullock, and anyone related to them. The heavy foreshadowing seemed to tilt towards Dr. Leslie Thompkins because Gordon himself cares more about her and so does the audience. For Ogre to go after Barbara was an interesting little twist that would have worked wonders if the show had ever bothered to actually give Barbara a decent storyline and unlike Dr. Thompkins, we don’t care about her. There’s a decent story for her somewhere, but it always seems to just be completely lost on the writers. This week, however, Ogre kidnapping Barbara because he actually sees her as a partner may at last be an admission from the writing team that the character needed to be taken into an intriguing direction. It’s certainly the most promising attempt yet.

I’m not exactly sure how to tackle the rest of the episode because it’s more scattered than a House of Mirrors that imploded. From the very beginning of this show, Gotham has been morbidly afraid of doing bottleneck episodes and I’m not really sure why. A bottleneck episode in effect is one that largely has a singular focus (Game of Thrones’ “Blackwater” and Homeland’s “Q & A” come to mind) and that technique could have been effectively used by this show a fair number of times. It is a twenty-two episode season and we don’t really need to see everyone every week. Even if the show had been kept to its original sixteen-episode order, there’s no reason that we couldn’t have been given a couple of overarching plots with character focuses that would have allowed us to get to know them before they were thrown into deep peril as a sort of cliffhanger. We would have sacrificed certain characters from week to week, but containing each episode to a couple of storylines would have given each the room to breath. There’s plenty of time for expansion afterwards.

This week would have benefited from keeping the episode focused between the Ogre storyline, Edward Nygma’s murder of Mr. Kringle, and the investigation into Wayne Enterprises by Bruce and Selina. The latter is an unexpected delight, mostly because it recalls the magnificent ball scene in The Dark Knight Rises and overall is indicative of one of the few character improvements the show has made over its run. But there’s just absolutely no time to just stop and keep track of everything, let alone pay attention to it. Take Nygma’s transitioning into the Riddler this hour, which is insanely cool yet suffers from just not giving that vital transition the time it deserves because the fulcrum to the narrative appears out of nowhere. He discovers that Mr. Kringle has been far from the kind man he appeared as earlier. He’s a domestic abuser that doesn’t take Nygma’s warnings that he should move away from Gotham seriously for a single second. He punches him and in an insanely cool moment, Nygma reacts to his pure instincts and stabs Kringle. The camera moves in a slick, sexy fashion as he stares at his blood knife, a quiet craze building in his eyes. The Riddler is born.

Great/Not So Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:

+Barbara’s reaction to Selina declaring that she will be going to the ball. I expected a Cinderella-type montage of some sort

+/- Cobblepot planning to kill Maroni

+/- “If I got hit by a bus tomorrow, no one would care.” That was hilarious but painful at the same time.

-The writing this week for Dr. Thompkins

– “I specialize in fake boobs, but I’ve got ethics. I need a warrant.” That’s the level of quality for about 99% of the dialogue this week.

Good

7/10

Title: Under the Knife

Written By: John Stephens

Directed By: TJ Scott

Image Courtesy: Gotham Site

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