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Gotham S1.22 All Happy Families Are Alike Review

Bunnies of Gotham beware. Barbara Kean’s got a few pots-a-boiling ready for you. While psycho-Barbara may not have been good news for Gordon’s new girlfriend, Dr Thompkins, she was great for us viewers. At last – the writers havenfound something interesting to do with Barbara, though Erin Richards’ performance is still so stilted let’s hope this eleventh hour justification for having her in the show is a last hurrah, and not stage one in an attempt to turn her into an on-going crazy for season two.

Barbara’s unexpected turn for the interesting is just one of a number of surprises – both good and bad – in a finale that’s roughly equal parts climactic fireworks and disappointing damp squibs.

After last week’s cliffhanger – with Falcone’s and Maroni’s gangs going to war after some behind-the-scenes scheming from Penguin – this week all we get to see of the “war” are a couple of failed attempts on Falcone’s life, then a showdown in a warehouse. Of course it’s a warehouse. It’s always a warehouse on TV crime shows because warehouses are cheap to rent and easy to film in.

Fish and co – including an opportunistic Selina – try to make their entrance into the warehouse look impressive but in truth they just look like the backing dancers amassing at the start of an ’80s Michael Jackson pop video. Fish’s and Selina’s embarrassingly dated barnets don’t help dispel the suspicion that “Beat It” is going to blast across the soundtrack at any moment.

However, the verbal confrontation between Fish and Maroni is wonderfully edgy – all instigated with a precision-aimed barbed comment from Penguin, his speciality. Not since the Tenth Doctor whispered, “Don't you think she looks tired?” into the ear of the Prime Minister’s aide in “The Christmas Invasion” have mere words had such a dramatic effect on the balance of power. Suddenly Fish and Maroni are jostling for superiority and one “Babes” too many proves to be the patronising crime boss’s undoing. Blam. We’re honestly surprised Fish showed enough restraint to hold back that long.

The following action action is decent enough (though we could have done without Gordon’s corny two-guns-at-once shtick) but nowhere near as riveting as duelling insults. We’ve not always been kind to Jada Pinkett Smith but this time she steps up to the bar to deliver a deliciously viperous performance.

Is Fish dead? Yeah, right. Smith may have been saying in interviews that she’s not in season two, but that “death” had “resurrectable” written all over it.

Musical Note

The music that accompanies the discovery of the Bat Cave at the end of the episode is “The Montagues and the Capulets” from the ballet Romeo And Juliet by Prokofiev. You have to wonder if there’s any significance to Thomas’s choice of music to disguise his true actions. Maybe his wife, Martha, was originally going out with somebody in one of the gangs? Or maybe he just liked Prokofiev?

Selina is as unconvincing as ever, though. Her new “look” – which supposedly is meant to make her appear tough – is the kind of ludicrously overdesigned punk chic that film and TV designers have been failing to convince is in any way “street” or “hard” for decades now. She also enunciates “ain’t” like Lady Penelope doing a bad impression of Parker and her body language constantly says, “I know the camera’s trained on me right now.” Her whole performance is woefully artificial.

Penguin’s great, as ever. He actually seems to flourish under pressure, so you have to wonder if being the “King of Gotham” will actually be good for him. He now has no other crime bosses to manipulate, and no one to act as a buffer between his machinations and the law, so what is he actually going to do? But we’ll let him have his moment.

The Riddler’s token scene is frustrating. It’s another tour de force performance from Cory Michael Smith and chilling to watch but just a little too close to a Gollum pastiche for comfort. While it’s a thrill to hear him say, “Why did I have to leave a clue?” – since that will be the Riddler’s gimmick going forward – there should have been a less on-the-nose way of doing it.

Small moments stand out too. Butch’s mind-addled confusion throughout and his ultimate decision to shoot both Fish and Penguin feels authentic. It’s easy to feel some sympathy for the guy with his panda-on-a-rollercoaster expression. Gordon’s pleading expression to Falcone not to kill Penguin and Butch is very amusing and the brief conversation between Falcone and Gordon later about Gordon’s dad (the honest man who carried a knife) is intriguing. And let’s not forget the look on Dr Thompkins’ face when Barbara casually mentions killing her parents”.

Bruce’s plotline plays about sixth or seventh fiddle to all this. The discovery of the secret passage – to the future Bat Cave, presumably – should feel momentous but instead just feels, “Meh!” As a cliffhanger to lead into season two it would have been more effective if we’d seen a hint of something Bat Cave-ish. This isn’t a tease, it’s an anticlimax, the suspicion being that they’d run out of budget this season to build anything so we’ll have to wait.

And we will be waiting. Because despite a dodgy start to the season Gotham has developed into a show worth tuning back into week after week. It’s far from perfect, but it gets a lot more right than wrong. Now, if they can just axe Barbara and recast Cat…

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A Bad Man

“He’s a bad man, but he’s the best bad man we’ve got,” says Gordon of Falcone. Later Falcone repays the compliment by telling him he’s just “spoken like a true mafiosa”. All of which is very Doctor Who; not just Twelve wondering if he’s a bad man but those occasions (in “Dalek” and “Into The Dalek”) when Daleks tell the Doctor that he would make a good Dalek.

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Best Moment

We’ve been mean to Fish many times in our review of season one, but fair dues – she's great here. So we award her both best moment for shooting Maroni, and Best Line for…

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Best Line

Fish: “I am relaxed.”

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Bad Hair Day

Selina is as unconvincing as ever, though. When Fish was getting getting a makeover to look like Auntie Entity in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome she went the whole hog with the shaved-sides-of-the-head cliche. Camren Bicondova’s agent was clearly having none of that, though, so Selina has to settle for a naff pinned-back-on-one-side look that is clearly supposed to evoke the idea of her head being shaved on one side but instead makes her look like a different female icon of the early ’80s altogether – Sheena Easton.

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Feline Good

The one Selina moment we did like, though, is when she rubs her head against Fish’s in a very feline way, looking every bit the cat that’s got the cream.

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Star Turn

Performance of the week, though, goes to Drew Powell who makes Butch’s mental turmoil look like the most agonising thing to happen to a human being ever.

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Strange Philosophy

Bruce: “Why lock the door?”
Alfred: “It’s what door’s are for, isn’t it?”
Alfred proves why no one should ever appoint him as a fire safety officer.

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We have no idea why were treated to this shot of a snooty, dog-carrying woman clearly uncomfortable with being forced to share a lift with two cops and a crim. But it's kinda funny in a quirky way.

Gotham season one has finished airing on Channel 5 in the UK, and on Fox in the US.

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