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Gotham S1.17 "Red Hood" Review

After last week’s episode we were hoping that we’d found Gotham’s Joker, but maybe not. “Red Hood” once again delivers another potential Joker, though in a far more subtle way. No, we don’t mean in the form of the really crap comedian on Penguin’s stage.

Even if you’re not immersed in DC comic book law you can’t have failed to notice that some of the criminal gang members in the episode started acting in a very Joker-ish way when they donned the titular “red hood”. Some of them were a bit more Jack Nicholson than Heath Ledger but they all had their manic moments.

More DC-literate viewers, though, would have come away from the episode loaded with Easter eggs. The Red Hood gang, for example, does exist in the DC universe. It first appeared in Batman #0 after the New 52 reboot and was a gang formed in the aftermath of Thomas and Martha Wayne’s murder, when criminal activity surged. The Joker played his part is wiping the gang out.

However, the name “Red Hood” has been used by two other characters in the DC universe. One was Jason Todd, a former Robin killed by the Joker in Batman: A Death In The Family (1988-9) and later resurrected by Talia al Ghul. Death left a big chip on his shoulder so he became Red Hood and started exacting revenge and being a pain in Batman’s butt.

Finally, before the Joker took a dip in a face-altering chemical vat he was a criminal known as… Red Hood, as explained in a belated origin story for the Clown Prince of Crime written by Bill Finger for Detective Comics #168 (1951). Complicating matters further, in Batman: The Killing Joke (1988) Alan Moore has the Red Hood gang approaching a struggling stand-up comedian to ask him to help them with a criminal raid on a chemical plant… you can see where this is leading, no doubt.

So by the time of that wonderfully chilling final shot of the episode – with a kid picking up the hood, putting it on and shaping his fingers into a pretend gun – you have to wonder if the last week’s episode could have been a “red” herring. Hopefully not, though this would make a great, unexpected Joker origin too.

But was there anything in the episode for those not immersed in DC law? Hell yeah. That was all just optional extras. The main plot with the hapless gang going power crazy over a piece of scarlet cloth was witty, exciting and delightfully odd; after all, are we supposed to believe the hood really did have special powers?

A Fine Vintage

The wine that Bruce fetches from the Wayne manor cellars is a ’66 vintage. 1966 was the year the 1960s Batman TV show first aired.

Then we had Fish gouging out her own eye rather than letting the Dollmaker’s lackey take here peepers away. Er… yuck. You certainly can’t claim this show is predictable. At least know we know how this plot links in with the rest of Gotham; the Dollmaker (or “Doctor Dulmacher” – it’s not difficult to join the spare body parts) was mentioned earlier in the season, as the employer of the two child catchers in the episode “Selina Kyle”. Jada Pinkett Smith’s acting still has all the subtlety of circus clown but the body farm plot continues to be one of the surprise highlights of the second-half of this season. Gotham goes gothic; nowt wrong with that.

Fish isn’t the only one left losing blood at the end of the episode. Bruce’s threats to the board lead to them employing one of Alfred’s old mates to infiltrate Wayne Manor and find out what their fledgling boss has on them. Quite why he ends up stabbing Alfred is unclear; it seems a bit of an overreaction if all the board wants is to make a move on Bruce. Whatever the case, the scenes with Reggie, Bruce and Alfred bonding – though with an edgy undercurrent between the old military pals – are casually entertaining enough to make the betrayal suitably shocking.

Elsewhere, Penguin is having an alcohol supply problem and Butch steps in to help out. The fact that Penguin seems unnerved with Butch’s assistance seems at odds with what we were shown last week with Butch helpless to resist Penguin’s commands. It feels like we’ve missed a chunk of the story somewhere.

Anther unconvincing character reversal occurs in the deeply dull flatsharing-future-femme-fatales plot line. Last week Cat was telling Barbara how to dress to impress her man. This week Barbara’s recovered her fashion mojo and is giving Cat tips on what to wear.

Blimey, is that what the writers on the show think it takes to create “interesting” female characters?

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Best Line

Bruce: “My friend has been stabbed.” (Just because he said “friend”)

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Best Moment

We certainly weren’t expecting Fish to gouge her own eye out. This show really does want to be Game Of Thrones, doesn’t it?

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Jacob’s Ladder Remake

In fact, Fish’s plotline is all-round disturbing in all sorts of ways at the moment. Her walk through the “wards” was like something out of the film Jacob’s Ladder.

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Symbolism

Though it probably means nothing at all, you have to admit, when you obscure the middle of the umbrella logo in Penguin’s club, it looks an awful lot like a Batman logo…

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It’s Wossisname

Jeffrey Combs, who here plays the “Office Manager”, is best remembered for multiple recurring roles in the Trek franchise (the Vorta Weyoun and the Ferengi Brunt in Deep Space Nine, the Andorian Shran in Enterprise) and the film Re-Animator. He also provided the voice of the Joker in the animated series The New Batman Adventures.

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Another Owl Girl

Hang on! For a moment we thought this was the same improbably spectacled young woman who turned up at the phobia support group in “The Fearsome Doctor Crane”, but scanning the cast list proves otherwise. Maybe Gotham is going to do a “Parliament of Owls” storyline, but featuring a cult entirely comprising of oddly nun-like women.

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The Write Stuff

Danny Cannon, the man who turned his career around after the disaster of Judge Dredd to become one of the most sought-after and respected TV directors in America (he directed the Gotham pilot and famously defined the visual style of the CSI franchise), rarely gets a sole writing credit on an episode.

More Info

GenreAction
Description

Inexplicably good tie-in to the 1989 Batman film. What a soundtrack!

PlatformNES