Season One, Episode Ten – “Lovecraft”
By Matt Fleming. Fox’s Gotham heads into network television’s winter holiday break with an episode that is as packed with action and emotion as it is with corny lines and predictable character beats. The series temporarily ends with enough intrigue to bring viewers back in January, just as long as they don’t join a Monday bowling league. Gotham creates as many questions as it does answers in an episode packed with clever twists and terrific performances. Unfortunately, amidst the show’s attempt to finish strongly, small mistakes and distractions keep “LoveCraft” from leaving the audience fully satisfied.
Episode ten (named for businessman/Wayne-murders-suspect Dick Lovecraft) begins quickly, as assassins breach Wayne Manor in pursuit of Bruce and Alfred’s houseguest, Selina “Cat” Kyle (Camren Bicondova). As Alfred (Sean Pertwee) reveals his amazing fighting skills, Bruce (David Mazouz) and Cat flee on foot. Detective Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie)’s team-up with Harvey Dent (Nicholas D’Agosto) has apparently backfired, and his partner Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue) is none too happy to have to clean up the mess. With the supremely badass butler in tow, Bullock seeks the assistance of Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett-Smith). Alfred appeals to her humanity, and she acquiesces. The cops find the kids in an elaborate but rundown secret mall for crooked kids, but not before the snake-like female assassin comes close to killing Cat. Bruce manages to keep her distracted long enough for his girlfriend to make a clean break, but the assassin ultimately evades the police. Unfortunately for Gordon, the assassin succeeds in killing Lovecraft with the detective’s gun, leading Mayor Richard Kind to transfer him to Arkham Asylum’s security detail.
While Bruce and Cat flirt their way to safety, Gotham’s underworld is inching ever closer to total anarchy. Carmine Falcone (John Doman) deals with the fallout from last week’s heist on his armory, flexing some muscle for once. His double agent Oswald Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor) assures him that Fish Mooney is behind his woes, but omits a key detail, satisfied knowing he has planted seeds of discontent. Mooney can tell that Falcone is on edge, but she still doesn’t realize how close she is to losing her struggle for power.
Gotham’s race to the finish line of the season’s first half begins with some much needed action, and Sean Pertwee provides a stirring performance as Bruce Wayne’s ass-kicking caretaker. Pertwee’s Alfred has spent much of the series trying to stifle the future Dark Knight’s curiosity, so it is refreshing to see how much he really loves his liege. The relationship between butler and Batboy is rich, and these two actors share some great chemistry. Speaking of chemistry, the budding relationship between young Bruce and Cat is taken to the next level in this week’s episode. Knowing who he can trust is a part of Bruce honing his craft, and it seems as though the future Catwoman may be a surprising ally. After she shields him from the crooked ruffians, he saves her skin, and is repaid with a quick smooch. For a series about Batman’s origins, one that tries to focus on everything but Batman, the future detective is front and center this week. It remains to be seen if Gotham can sustain its season by increasing the presence of a preteen.
For all the awesome provided by Alfred and the kids, much of the episode misses the mark. The female assassin (Lesley-Ann Brandt), purportedly a new spin on Bat-villain Copperhead, is pretty tough and has no problem knocking out Jim Gordon, yet she is the world’s worst child-killer. Her other target, Dick Lovecraft (Al Sapienza), practically wets his pants when he’s confronted by Gordon, and is dispatched before any real info can be gleaned from his “files.” While I understand the introduction and elimination of a character is an effective way to move the plot forward, Lovecraft merely serves to take Jim Gordon into Arkham Asylum, a move that seems unnecessary. Gordon, the only cop who consistently pursues justice, is punished for not preventing Lovecraft’s death, and is kind of thrown under the bus by his ally, Harvey Dent. For his efforts, Dent is also pretty useless in the episode, revealing his willingness to toe the line of ambivalence in Gotham’s justice system.
As Gotham’s impending mob war comes closer to fruition, John Doman’s Carmine Falcone finally shows some gusto, and it seems that Fish’s plan to undermine her boss has merely lit a fire under his ass. Falcone is angry, a new emotion for a character more often seen enjoying opera and wearing cheap-looking suits. Oswald Cobblepot continues to compel, although Robin Lord Taylor doesn’t have the screentime needed to carry the show. Sal Maroni is absent for now, and while David Zayas’ manic mobster deserves some more action,Gotham is content letting The Penguin talk around his absence. With so many impending double-crosses, this subplot can feel like a drag.
Gotham has consistently insisted on bringing new faces into the packed series every week, and the show is beginning to bloat. With less than an hour to reconcile multiple season-long stories, the show can get confusing, often content with letting its convolutions breeze past the viewers like a foul wind. Batman is a character with a rich history and a list of supporting characters a mile long, that is sure. Gotham seems to believe that it needs to shove the whole of it into this one season, just in case they don’t get round two.
Someone’s pulling the strings in Gotham, but it doesn’t seem to be any of the fifty-odd characters we’ve already seen in ten episodes. This kind of suspense-building leads Batfans to endlessly speculate on the end game of Gotham’s first (perhaps only?) season. Is it gonna be a Joker? The Court of Owls? A precursor to Killer Croc, but you know, like just a guy whose name is Crocovich? None of these conclusions seem beyond the audacity of the series, who used their Fall finale to pay off viewers with two tweens kissing. Hopefully the introduction of Arkham Asylum brings more to the show than detract, but the last thing it needs is a new character (or even an entire building) full of more characters. Gotham, I’ll see you in January. Take some time to shed some weight.
-In addition to his ass-kicking, Sean Pertwee also has some of the episode’s best lines. The way he rebukes Bullock calling him a valet: “I’m a butler.” Well done, Alfred.
-Speaking of Bullock, now that Gordon is working Arkham, maybe he can get Alfred a job on the GCPD? Like some alternate universe where Alfred and Jim Gordon switch roles. I’ll bet Jim could make Bruce’s breakfast.
-The underground child-crime mall was plucked straight from 1990’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ Foot Clan. Well, minus the skateboarding.
-The fence, Clyde, was a terrible amalgam of scuzzy and stereotypes. None of his lines would ever be spoken in real life, criminal or otherwise.
-Harvey Dent is a blip in a series that introduced him with a lot of hype. Hopefully, he isn’t shoved down viewers’ throats through the second half.
-Bruce Wayne has apparently never worn a t-shirt and jeans. He likes being a bad boy.
-The roof jump was cool, but all the commercials made it seem like it tied into the chase. Nope, just Bruce trying really hard to keep his girlfriend around.
-The preview for the second half of Gotham looks interesting, but Arkham Asylum could go off the rails quickly. What’s the over/under on seeing every single villain in the rogues gallery? I’ll take the over.