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Gotham S1.04 Arkham Review

After a couple of episodes featuring borderline bizarre villains, the hit man in “Arkham” is disappointingly humdrum: a DIY, screw-together spike for a weapon barely registers on the villainous gimmick scale. However, had it been fixed to an umbrella…

Speaking of which, a clear pattern is developing with this show, as once again the Penguin’s plot is the best thing about the episode. Notably, Oswald has featured in the crucial final scenes in three out of four of the episodes so far. This time round he’s stirring up trouble between the Falcone gang and the Maroni gang purely so he can extend his own influence. This guy is a regular Machiavelli, and he’s also playing Gordon as well.

Interestingly, the charisma-free cop’s best scene of the week is his opening exchange with Oswald, when he’s in danger of revealing some real emotion until distracted by some extras from an ’80s pop video…

Comic Book Roots

This is Detective Alvarez, who has been seen and namechecked on the show previously but this is the first time the show has drawn attention to him (albeit briefly). Detective Carlos Alvarez has appeared in DC’s New 52 Catwoman series.

After that, Gordon is his usual beige self, a goody-two shoes with a personality bypass. He has some relationship problems to contend with this week, with Barbara threatening to leave him unless he becomes less of a slave to his job. This turnaround from her being his biggest supporter to a suspicious sulk is too sudden and too soon in the show’s run to have any emotional impact at all. Plus, Gordon looks about as concerned by this turn of events as a man who’s been told his his shoelace is undone.

Aside from the villain of the week, the main plot is also a tad dreary, bringing to mind that opening crawl of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace – you remember, the one that dribbles on about taxes. What we’re promised is a war between of two rival criminal empires over possession of one of the greatest icons in Batman history – Arkham. Instead, it turns out to be a squabble over a recycling facility and a low-income housing estate. Presumably both both gangs have criminal intentions for their new “projects” but for the moment Gotham is making the Falcones and the Maronis look like two slightly crooked competing real estate dealers.

On the other hand, that animated Anglepoise lamp in a wig, Fish, has suddenly become very interesting indeed. Admittedly, it’s difficult to heap praise on a storyline that features girls kissing and fighting without sounding like a dodgy male letch, but there’s some intriguingly kinky and unexpected developments going on here, as Fish auditions two girls to become her “weapon”. Slightly gratuitous it might be, but at least this – and the Penguin’s machinations – are helping to give the show a bit of spice so sadly lacking elsewhere.

One more plus: the Ed Nygma has another great cameo. One more minus: the so-far promising Bruce storyline is entirely forgettable this time round.

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The Low-Down

There are so many low-angled shots in this episode, we’re now wondering if director TJ Scott spent it standing in a ditch.

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Vanishing Point

Not only does Bruce silently sneak up on Gordon in this episode, but the Penguin scarpers when the cop’s back is turned too. Still, he’s going to have to get used to it when Bruce becomes Batman, so the practice is good for him.

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The One That Got Away

It’s lucky that the spike weapon Minks is trying to describe wasn’t any bigger, otherwise those cuffs would have really scuppered him. We’re calling him Minks because that’s how he’s listed on IMDb, though he’s never named on screen. There has never been a major DC character called Minks, but the Canadian band The Stolen Minks did release a song called “Batman (You’re The Sex)” in 2006, so maybe he’s been named in honour of them.

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And Finally...

There’s a lingering shot of what looks like a metal bird on Gladwell’s desk. We can’t think why it might be significant. Maybe you have some ideas?

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New Balls Please

Ben McKenzie does an amazing impression of a tennis ball.

Gotham airs on Monday nights on Channel 5 in the UK, and on Fox in the US.

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