“I’m dreaming, right?”
One of my problems with last week’s episode was that we didn’t get enough time to spend with the villain, Gerald Crane. What were his motivations? Why did he want cortisol? I was a little hasty in my criticism, as this episode gave us a little more time with Dr. Crane and answers to the above questions. As the title of the episode suggests, we saw the birth of The Scarecrow as well. While not a perfect episode, it was a vast improvement on last week’s one.
Again, The Penguin occupied some of the best bits. Pleading with Falcone to protect him from Maroni was an early highlight. After cleaning up Fish’s club and renaming it ‘Oswald’s,’ he heads to the GCPD to give Jim Gordan an invitation to ‘Oswald’s’ opening. This leads to a hilarious first meeting between The Penguin and Mr. Nigma. Nigma shadows him until the Penguin asks ‘Can I help you?’ What follows is rare comedy gold! Nigma evens squeezes in a fact about Emperor Penguins. The failure of the opening night, and Maroni’s threat to The Penguin, is also another highlight of the episode.
“We’re all afraid”
But the praise doesn’t end with The Penguin. We find out that Crane wants to stop fear. In typical mad scientist fashion, he injects himself with his own serum. The nightmare visions induced by the serum are brilliantly done. A woman (his wife) walks down the stairs, fire blazing behind her. It reminded me of both the ‘fear’ scenes in Batman Begins and Batman: Arkham Asylum. Hallucinatory and a little disturbing. For once, we are given enough time with the villain. In true righteous villain mode, he wants to stop fear for the good of humanity (and, after letting his wife die in a house fire, stop his own fears). The road to hell is paved with good intentions…
Of course, he isn’t the Scarecrow, but even if you hadn’t caught the reference to his son as Jonathan, this episode lays on the Scarecrow foreshadowing thickly. Too thickly, in fact. There was no subtly, just a big scarecrow behind Gerald’s son, Jonathan. While the writers avoided the usual Gotham criticism of Batman’s enemies being in their 70s before Bruce Wayne grows up, the Scarecrow references were as blunt as a steel chair to the head. Most of the people watching Gotham will know the names and real names of villains, sidekicks etc. Give us some credit! And, after his dad is shot by Gordon and Bullock (in a ludicrous gunfight), Jonathan ends up in hospital. As Gordon looks on at him, Inception music blares out to tell us that this young boy will become someone evil…(and, as an aside: Why didn’t Bullock and Gordon think to go to Crane’s house beforehand? Surely the first place to go when looking for a murderer is a former address…)
Bruce Wayne’s story running throughout the episode felt unnecessary and forced. So Alfred lets Bruce go walking in the forests alone? Because that’s what Bruce used to do with his dad? Despite Alfred taking Bruce to Switzerland after the assassins came after Bruce and Selina, Alfred thought it okay for Bruce to hike through forests? Of course, Bruce injures himself (after seeing some expertly stacked piles of stones…until I saw Bruce’s and his dad’s initials on them, I thought we were in for a Gotham/Blair Witch Project crossover). And it turns out that Alfred just waits for Bruce to drag himself up a hill! There was a small pay-off in a nice scene showing Alfred and Bruce enjoying the sun rise, but mostly it felt like a way to shoe horn Bruce into the episode.
“Things are going to change”
Fish apparently lost the fight to the man at the end of last week’s episode, as the first time we see her, she is in some sort of underground dungeon. The man in charge, Mace, has that position of power because he possesses the only knife in the dungeon…oh, okay then…I am sure if he was rushed by a bunch of guys the blade wouldn’t do him that much good. And it doesn’t save him from Fish, who worms her way into his arms, only to stab him with said blade. And now that she has the blade, she rules the roost. Contrived, yes, but a good way to show that Fish doesn’t need anybody’s help. She is capable of handling things on her own. At least her side-story didn’t take up too much screen time. But, again, a little more focus on the main story would have been appreciated. But I can’t grumble much.
(And by the way, the circus is coming to town soon; will we see the Grayson family?)
VERDICT: 7/10. One of the best Gotham episodes yet. Barring the obvious introduction of a new villain and an unnecessary Bruce Wayne story, most of the screen time was used up efficiently.
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(Click here for my review of Episode 14: The Fearsome Dr. Crane)