Episode 104 “Arkham”
[Photos: Jessica Miglio/FOX]
Oh, Penguin, you sneaky cuss, you…
Getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning, shall we? Because this episode is a hot mess.
This episode is all about gang war. Falcone and Maroni are stepping up their efforts to exert control over Gotham, and a big piece of it involves the redevelopment of the Arkham District. Naturally, the Wayne name is invoked to generate sympathy and good will for the competing plans — one that involves a new waste management plant, and one that doesn’t. Low income housing thrown in for good measure, and the old Arkham Asylum gets updated with the latest in mental care resources.
All well and good, except there’s this guy who’s killing members of the city council in order to escalate the tension between the Falcone and Maroni factions. At first, it seems that he’s working for Maroni, but then maybe he’s working for Falcone. But maybe he’s working for both of them? Or neither of them? The episode never quite makes that clear.
Gordon and Bullock pull the case, which seems better suited for the Special Crimes Unit (noticeably absent from this episode), especially after the death of the second councilman. That makes it a serial killer, and it would make more sense for Montoya and Allen to take the case. But that doesn’t happen.
In the meantime, Barbara is having a little crisis of conscience on the one hand, and a suspicious mind on the other.
And in the other meantime, Fish Mooney is auditioning torch song singers to see which one has what it takes to become her weapon against Falcone. She tells Butch pieces of her scheme, but a lot of it must take place off-screen, because we don’t know Fish’s plans just yet. In the end she’s got two candidates, neither one of them very good at seducing Fish after telling her they each like boys (hm — why does that matter?). So when she takes them down to the docks to have them fight it out, it comes down to Torch Singer in one corner and Canary Wannabe in the other.
Seriously, did anyone else see that she’s dressed like a first-generation-with-no-money Black Canary? Fishnets, blue boy shorts, black top? No? Just me?
Then there’s Oswald. The sneaky, manipulative, too-smart-for-his-own-good heart of the show. Robin Taylor steals every scene, and his ability to switch from cowering mama’s boy to conniving cutthroat is just too fun to watch. His machinations in this episode are grand: maneuvering to become Gordon’s “inside man” with valuable information, maneuvering to become Maroni’s trusted associate (and new restaurant manager), maneuvering to get Maroni and Falcone moving against each other. It’s interesting to watch this guy operate.
But that’s the only thing that works in this episode. Oswald’s story is the only one that seems to have been thought through all the way. The rest of the episode is clunky, full of logic bombs just waiting to go off. Ken Woodruff’s script is clumsy, and there are things these characters do that make absolutely no sense at all. At all. After three solid episodes, I suppose one should expect a lemon every now and then, but there’s a lot of “Hand of the Writer” in this one.
In no particular order:
- The assassin, Gladwell, is known as an assassin. Both Minks and Fish know of him, so how could this guy work a normal job for five years without anyone tipping to the fact that he’s a hired gun?
- When Gordon and Bullock find where Gladwell works, and get told “he just went out the back”, why didn’t they go after him? Because that would have ended the episode forty minutes too early?
- Why would Fish tip Bullock to the fact that she’s maneuvering to take over Falcone’s operation by using the girl? Woodruff is assuming we remember that Fish had Falcone’s girl toy mugged a couple of weeks back. Is Liza meant to replace her? Someone close to Falcone to provide Fish with information?
- Ultimately, is Gladwell working for Fish Mooney, or is he another tool of the Penguin? Or is he working for someone else entirely?
- Does Barbara Kean not understand “operational security”? What about “need to know”? Does she think she’s entitled to every shred of information in an active investigation because she’s dating the investigating officer? Is that how it worked with Montoya? Giving Jim an ultimatum like “choose the GCPD or choose me” is cranky baby talk, and it’s beneath the sophistication we’ve seen from Barbara so far.
- Where was the Special Crimes Unit?
- Why does James Gordon feel the need to discuss his cases with a 10-year-old kid every week when he doesn’t even discuss them with his fiancée? (see above)
- Why did we never see Gladwell load his weapon?
- Why hasn’t anyone else recognized Oswald? He’s pretty distinctive.
- What happened to the kid Oswald kidnapped?
Note that Barbara continues to wear Batgirl colors. And Fish Mooney’s cultured mannerisms are clearly a deliberate act.
Next week: maybe some better detective work? Maybe it’s not super-critical that we see Gordon consult with Bruce Wayne? I’m fine seeing the kid interact with Alfred, but Gordon’s meetings are with Batman. And that’s later.
As for this episode, like my dad always says, “It’s better than a poke in the eye.”