Season One, Episode Seventeen – “Red Hood”
By Jarrod Jones. Does anyone else remember last week, where Gotham made an attempt to tease all of us in a very big way concerning a certain Clown Prince of Crime (and went so far as to drag Dick Grayson’s parents into it)? No? Well, that shouldn’t surprise you; every episode of Gotham is designed to enter through the cornea, bounce around the cerebellum, and then get shit out like yesterday’s chorizo taco. If you look hard enough, there are itty bitty flourishes that make Gotham worth sitting through, and for the most part tonight’s episode had nearly everything we could possibly hope for. Yeah, I know. I didn’t see it coming, either.
WHAT WORKED: How did “Red Hood” pull it off anyhow? There’s no reason to dance around it; most of the episode’s chutzpah came from one single man, and that was David O’Hara. While the name is innocuous enough to be dismissed by the casual television viewer, the man’s instantly recognizable, whiskey-scorched Scottish accent perked up the ears of any cinephile sitting in the living room. The thirty-year acting veteran (who has shown up in films like Hotel Rwanda and The Departed) popped into the world of Alfred Pennyworth (Sean Pertwee) to dredge up Alfred’s violent past, most of which effectively provided a gradience to the stalwart butler’s typical slate-grey disposition. (And it made Alfred’s near-Matrix-like antics in the mid-season finale make that much more sense.) I can’t believe it, but “Red Hood” can be summed up thusly: best episode ever.
O’Hara’s involvement with the show ultimately gives the conflict between Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) and Wayne Enterprises more intrigue and anything that has ever flowed between Carmine Falcone (John Doman), Sal Maroni (David Zayas), Oswald Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor), or Fish fucking Mooney (Jada Pinkett-Smith). There was plenty of reason to think that young Bruce Wayne’s involvement with Gotham would spell certain narrative interference, but after tonight I’m tuning in to see how thoroughly Bruce Wayne trounces that smug group of Wayne Enterprises lackies. Because it’s gonna feel good.
Yah, Barbara Kean (Erin Richards) is still back, but “Red Hood” featured yet another disgusting facet to her character: Her very gross leering of Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova) – which, the hell? – led to someone finally telling some truth to the very maligned character. To see Kean get faced by a pre-teen was enough for me to crack a smile.
Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) finally yanks his tongue out of Leslie Thompkins long enough to pull a shift with Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue) Bullock: “Make with the DDs: Dirty Details.” Aw. It’s been far too long.
WHAT DIDN’T: Fox would probably like it very much if we all dwelled on the “shocking” moment that “Red Hood” had in store for us. But the fact that Fish Mooney tore her own eyeball from her ocular cavity certainly didn’t shock me; it merely validated the fact that Gotham‘s writer’s have absolutely no clue what to do with her character. (Though her particular subplot now somehow includes the Re-Animator himself, Mr. Jeffrey Combs, so that’s something.) It’s not enough that Fish is already completely ridiculous, now she’s gonna have an eye-patch too.
So Butch Gilzean (Drew Powell), given to the Penguin under a hypnotic spell by Mr. Zsasz for some damned reason, appears to be clear-headed and perfectly fine (plus or minus a few visibly fake scars) while he figures a way to schlep booze into Cobblepot’s nightclub. (Because mob bars apparently don’t bother with distributors or wholesalers.) Do the writers of this show actually get together at any point to compare notes? Because this literally makes zero sense.
BEST LINES: “I need a danish.” – Bullock. It’s a line that perfectly sums up the inanity of this episode’s case-of-the-week: The Red Hood Gang begins with a whimper. But with a show named Gotham, it’s easy to get used to disappointment. So just go with it.
BEST MOMENT: Reggie vs. Bruce. Watching Alfred train Bruce how to defend himself has been a practice in bonding more than warfare, so it was intriguing to see a brute like Reggie encourage the inner rage of the burgeoning vigilante. Showing the boy how to fight dirty (and getting his nose bloodied for the trouble) gave considerable pathos to this subplot. It somehow turned Gotham into a show I really enjoyed. (For one episode, at least.)
EPISODE’S MVP: Sean Pertwee. “Red Hood” unveiled a little more about Alfred Pennyworth’s pre-butler days, and Pertwee handled the dramatic heavy lifting beautifully. It seems like the show’s writers are finally giving Alfred and Bruce something to do aside from haphazardly butting in to the show’s other subplots, and it’s about damned time. Watching Pertwee go on damage control is one of the show’s few highlights. More of him, please.
– So now’s the time to say that Jeffrey Combs (Re-Animator) is a guest-star on Gotham, and while he’s the lackey and not the heavy, I’m locked in for the rest of the season. (As if I ever had a choice anyway.)
– Combs, for you kids keeping score at home, provided the voice to Professor Jonathan Crane, alias The Scarecrow, in the fourth season of Batman: The Animated Series. (You know, the really scary version.) Combs also provided vocal work for Justice League Unlimited as The Question. (And totally ruled at it.)
– It’s funny. Since the New 52 is going to be a distant, hideous memory as of June, the fact that Gotham holds itself so near to DC’s ill-conceived line will only serve to date it in the future. There may have been two different incarnations of the character, but the New 52 version of The Dollmaker is shaping up to be Season One’s big bad. (Well, at least, for Fish.) So expect to see a lot of amputees by episode 22.
– And since we’re on the subject of the Dollmaker, let’s talk about his name for a bit. (Because, why the hell not?) This episode sees the (still unveiled) mastermind’s name revealed, and it is Dulmacher. Get it? Because if you didn’t, here’s Fish pronouncing it slow enough for you:
Yup. Pretty gross.
– While the episode could have attempted to shoehorn a Joker avatar into its Red Hood Gang subplot, the show’s writers displayed a rare burst of self-control by shooting the would-be Joker-clone in the chest. Restraint.