Talk about a clue in the title, although it’s a little bit of a tease, too. You don’t need to be much of Batman fan to know who Jonathan Crane is, so as soon as Julian Sands appears in the opening scene as a murderer who, for some reason, delights in making sure his victim is as terrified as possible before chucking him off a roof, you can’t help filling in the blanks.
The guy clearly has a fear-fixation, which ticks the box marked Scarecrow, but he’s too old, surely? By the time Bruce is Batman, he’ll be well into his Zimmer-years. Then we learn he’s called Todd, not Jonathan, but that could be a pseudonym. Then the clincher: he mentions a son. Before long we meet that son, and he’s called… well you can probably guess.
Oddly, though, the first time we encounter this terrifying future villain he’s worrying about a parking infringement (“The meter ran out…”). This is either the most disappointingly mundane entrance into Bat-mythlogy ever, or way-too-subtle attempt at irony: “Hey look, this guy who will become a master at scaring people is scared of getting a ticket!”
While we wait for Emo Kid to morph into Evil Kid, it was great to have Sands, as his dad, camping things up in true ’60 Batman villain (although when he was stroking that miniature pig he was more like a bargain basement Blofeld). The episode was full of delightfully quirky moments like that – including Ed Nygma returning the stump of a pencil to Miss Kringle and Essen doing a double-take when a cop crosses the office carrying a severed arm – and also packed with great one-liners, from Essen’s, “Get your hand out of that corpse,” to Dent’s self-effacing, “I’m a cop. The only thing I’m scared of is decaf coffee.”
Julian (A Room With A View, Warlock: The Armageddon) Sands has previous form in DC TV; he played Jor-El in two latter-season episodes of Smallville.
The main plot, then, was a deftly crafted Gotham procedural with a memorable baddie and a sense of macabre fun (though Dent’s leap of logic in pinpointing the exact swimming pool where Crane had taken Scottie is suspiciously convenient). But there was so much more to savour as well. While the Cat and Bruce scenes were a little perfunctory – treated like some necessary script housekeeping to be dusted under the carpet as quickly as possible – the Penguin and Maroni battle of wits was utterly compelling. The car-crushing scene maybe could have done with a little tightening up but Penguin’s solution to avoid being scrunched (phone the guy operating the machine and threaten him) was a perfect piece of Penguin thinking.
It was also a great episode for Ed Nygma. His gleeful expression when he shoved his hand into a corpse was a mite disturbing but his revenge on the crooked (and inept) medical examiner was a doozy.
What the hell is going on with Fish, though? All her scenes felt like they’d been edited in from a cheap ’70s action series. Never at any point did her cabin convince you she was anywhere else other than in a hastily built set in the corner of a studio.
Gotham airs on Monday nights on Channel 5 in the UK, and on Fox in the US.
For more on top sci-fi TV shows like Gotham, subscribe to SFX.
|The one where||Gordon and Dent try to nail a serial killer who murders people according to their personal phobias, while Maroni learns the truth about Penguin.|