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Gotham S1.15 "The Scarecrow" review

Just wondering: if every scene with Bruce in the woods were edited out of this episode, would it have made any difference at all to his arc plot? Probably not, unless stones engraved with his dad’s initials prove to be the dullest smoking gun in the history of drama.

“The Scarecrow” is a fairly humdrum episode as it is even without all that Bruce-goes-Bear-cub-Grylls B-plot. Factor them in and you’re left with a rather dreary 45 minutes, enlivened here and here by the odd moment of Gotham weirdness.

Honestly, what are we supposed to feel about the Bruce plot? There’s some lovely, impressionistic photography and the music wells up emotionally so… something, presumably. But all he does is throw a few stones in a hissyfit and slide down a hill. None of it comes across as particularly pivotal in the creation of Batman. Worse: it's really, really, really dull.

The Scarecrow plot is better, though hardly filled with scintillating sleuthing; Gordon and Bullock nail their man with the help of a microfiche news clipping! Gosh. Still, the Cranes’ nightmare visions are suitably eerie, and Jonathan’s scarecrow hallucinations make the straw men in Doctor Who look like plush toys.

On the plus side the Maroni/Falcone meeting ends on an unexpectedly pervy note, with a judge having a bondage nightmare clearly about to go viral on YouTube. The first encounter between Penguin and Ed Nygma is wonderfully edgy (and Ed’s riddle is a good’un). Maroni’s later visit to Penguin’s (slightly naff-looking) redressed night club is another masterpiece in understated threat.

Musical Interlude

The band at Oswald’s are destroying The Stranglers’ “No More Heroes” (rather apt) though the lone pogoing punk seems to be enjoying himself.

Dr Thompkins improves with every episode; her effect on Gordon, in terms of making him a much more likeable hero, is near immeasurable. Their coy chat about the bonking potential of the the various rooms in Thompkins’ apartment has the same vibe as Marion Ravenwood navigating her lips though Indiana Jones’s minefield of aches and pains in Raiders Of The Lost Ark. Then she continues in adorably flirty mode for the rest of the episode. While we’re happy for Morena Baccarin that she’s landed a major role in Deadpool, we’re a bit worried what that means for Gotham. Hopefully she’s filming the movie between seasons but there’s a nagging feeling that she’s just too good for Gordon to keep around for too long; perceived wisdom in TV drama is that happy relationships are dull.

Then we have Fish Mooney doing bargain basement Kafka. To be fair, this leftfield plot development is certainly intriguing, and we have to congratulate Fish on going from latest inmate to new boss in three easy steps: 1) identify current boss; 2) kill current boss; 3) strut around over-enunciating wildly. It may have been more effective if Jada Pinkett Smith didn’t act like a drunken giraffe possessed by the spirit of Eartha Kitt; she’s not threatening, she’s hilarious.

Don’t worry about the problems this week though. The next episode is an absolute blinder. Just remember that slightly incongruous date Dr Thompkins invited Gordon on this week… It wasn’t merely a throwaway line.

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First Encounter

The first meeting between Penguin and Riddler-to-be Ed Nygma is a peach, especially the way they eye each other up suspiciously as they circle around the police HQ. It’s also worth mentioning the gorgeous cinematography throughout the episode. Director Nick Copus seems to find all kinds of new ways of shooting the Gotham precinct set.

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Namechecking 1

A lot of the names in the yearbook that Harvey searches through are the names of members of the production team (mostly accountants). Wonder if the photos are the of the same people?

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Namechecking 2

Charley Beal, the coast guard in the story on the left, is the name of an art director on Gotham. Lauren Rockman, the writer of the story on the right, is an assistant art director on the show.

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Nightmare Visions

The shaky-cam effect used to show the Cranes’ nightmares is very similar to the technique employed by Christopher Nolan for the Scarecrow’s visions in the Dark Knight trilogy.

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Yup, that scarecrow was scary. The later all-CG versions in the hospital were freaky too, but the CG enhancements to this practical scarecrow prop were more subtle and effective.

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We don’t normally harp on about editing gaffes on TV shows as they are made at such an intense pace, but the difference between the way Harvey shakes hands with Dr Thompkins in one shot and the next is so drastic it’s distracting.

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Taking The Piss

This a visual metaphor, right?

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Best Line

Fish: “A firecracker goes off once and then just lies there. What you’re looking at is the fourth of July.”

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

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