In the latest Gotham recap, the genesis of a villain is realized when fear grips Gotham, Oswald gets a promotion and Fish Mooney battles for her life in a pit of hell…
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
When ‘Gotham’ started, show runner Bruno Heller said the series would be set up primarily as a procedural with each show standing on its own while an underlying story would build up throughout the season. While that has played out mostly true, the real strength ‘Gotham’ has found in its freshman campaign are when these stories are a little more drawn out and serialized. Not every crime has to be solved in a day, the same way viewers who signed on to watch this show in the first place understood that Batman’s appearance would probably only happen in the very end.
In other words, watching Bruce Wayne evolve and grow to be Batman was the entire premise of the series. Bruce wouldn’t transform into the Dark Knight in a matter of days, thus why ‘Gotham’ works better as an entire series under the same set of rules.
Case in point are the two episodes that combined for last week and this week’s follow-up titled ‘The Scarecrow’. Not only did ‘Gotham’ quietly slip in an iconic villain, but they managed to do so while building his storyline so perfectly that when he pops on our television screens again in a season or two, the ground work is already laid for how he got to be the way he is.
The other stories — most notably the continuing mob conflict — was the real strong suit of this particular episode although everything played well short of Fish Mooney’s odd trip through the basement of ‘Fangtasia’ while proving to be the boss once again before the credits even had a chance to run. Even Bruce’s story — which admittedly started out rough — ended with a sweet reunion and a great one episode tale for the boy who will become Batman.
With all that in mind, let’s recap the latest episode of ‘Gotham’ titled ‘The Scarecrow’.
Nothing to Fear
The main plot this week involves the follow up from the last episode of ‘Gotham’ where a strange, squirrely scientist was cutting the adrenal glands out of victims just moments after terrifying them with their worst possible phobias. Gordon and Bullock nearly caught him a week ago, but were foiled when he made his getaway while a victim was being rescued from the bottom of a pool.
This time around, Gordon and Bullock waste no time getting to the bottom of the case when another body is found and this time it’s a teacher. Well killers will tend to stick to not only what they know, but who they know and Gordon and Bullock are able to find the culprit by a simple search of a yearbook spread.
Gerald Crane — a biology teacher, who we soon find out was obsessed with phobias because he was obsessed with overcoming fear. His life’s work was finding a way to eliminate fear from the human psyche because he saw it as a tragic misstep in evolution. In reality what we find out is Crane’s wife died in a house fire while he and his son Jonathan were downstairs. Gerald was so gripped with fear when the house burst into flames that he couldn’t find a way to save his wife and now his mission is to use the hormones he’s stealing from the adrenal glands to basically inject himself and build up a resistance to fear itself.
Crane’s experiment works (at least once) as he tests on himself and after several injections, the haunting images of his wife walking down the stairs while engulfed in flames slowly starts to dissipate. Now it’s time for Crane to use the same serum on his son, but it’s clear Jonathan isn’t suffering from nearly the same crippling phobia as his father, but he’s going to get the medicine whether he likes it or not!
Gordon and Bullock finally track him down to his house, but it’s already too late. He’s given Jonathan the first dose and as his son freaks out, the cops bear down on him looking to make an arrest. In a panic, Gerald tries to push the limits on his son with a massive injection of the fear toxin, which sends Jonathan into a convulsing panic.
The cops arrive and Gerald is clearly no longer showing any signs of fear as he steps forward and starts firing off rounds, but Gordon and Bullock have him by numbers and you know, actual skill with target practice. A few bullets later and Gerald Crane is dead, but the battle for his son has just begun.
And thus the culmination of truly great creation for a villain on ‘Gotham’ as we leave Jonathan Crane in a mental institution, strapped to a bed with doctors saying that he’s caught on an endless loop, seeing nothing but his worst nightmares over and over and over again. The fear toxin his father used didn’t cure him — but instead left Jonathan in a constant state of terror, trying to run from the demons that were eternally chasing him.
Like father, like son, Jonathan will be consumed by fear for the rest of his life and he will one day become ‘The Scarecrow’ and hopefully that day is sooner rather than later because this is one story I could see over and over again each week.
The Basement Tapes
Fish Mooney was last seen cruising somewhere on a boat that gets hijacked by pirates and about to get into a fight with her would-be captors. Well clearly she lost because this week she’s trapped in a dingy basement in an unknown location surrounded by big burly men who mean to do her harm and a leader named Mace, who is in charge because he carries the only knife inside the dungeon of horror.
Of course it doesn’t take Fish long to cozy up to Mace and because he’s dumb and not actually a guy worth following, she quickly sizes him up, steals his blade and cuts his throat. Before he can hit the ground, Fish is the woman in charge and she’s barking orders at everyone and about to uncork a new plan of attack (one can assume for escape) but before she gets a chance to go into a long winded diatribe, a new prisoner arrives from behind the steely gates and the woman is (kind of) sobbing because the captors have gouged out both of her eyes.
I couldn’t even begin to tell you where Fish is right now, where she’s going or who kidnapped her. To be honest, at this point I don’t really care either, but I will say when this show first started, I assumed the casting of Jada Pinkett-Smith was done with star power in mind and she would be a one and done member of the first season. Now it seems Fish is going to stick around and as long as they give her a halfway decent story, I’m all for it because this show could use a better female presence and until Dr. Leslie Tompkins arrived, she was all we had.
Love Is in the Air
Speaking of the lovely Dr. Tompkins, she starts her new job as the medical examiner at the Gotham Police Department this week, which throws a kink into her romantic relationship with Jim Gordon because he’s a little weird about working with his significant other. Now let me get this off my chest before I explode — YOU SUGGESTED HER FOR THE JOB MORON!!! There I feel better.
Needless to say, Bullock’s constant ribbing doesn’t help Gordon in the love department this week and ultimately he confronts Leslie and says that they can’t kiss at work because it’s just unprofessional. She continues to push his buttons when she grabs a kiss on the cheek and says they’ll just have to sneak around a little bit better.
A couple of things — first off, Dr. Leslie Tompkins is a vastly superior character to her predecessor Barbara, who has seemingly fallen off the canvas and hopefully will never return (although I’m quite sure she will). Second, Jim is just fundamentally doomed in his relationships but at least now he has a woman in his life who will push him and not conform to his every whim while turning to cry at the first sign of trouble. I’ve said since day one that Barbara was a conflicted character with no story of her own and even less personality and it’s a shame because there really was a blank canvas to work with. Now, my hope is the writers at ‘Gotham’ find a way to build the narrative around Jim and Leslie because Barbara is the last person in the world I want to see again.
Little Bruce Wayne’s story this week revolves around a hiking expedition he goes on every year, except this is the first time he’ll do it without his father. Alfred allows him to go on this journey alone under the rules that he’ll return before nightfall unlike the times when he went with his dad and they camped out under the stars and watched the sun rise together.
Bruce goes through the woods, picking up two rocks along the way. He finally stumbles upon a tree where there are stacks of rocks with one pile marked ‘BW’ and the other ‘TW — thus Bruce Wayne and Thomas Wayne. Bruce puts the rocks down but it doesn’t take him long to slip into a bout of anger and resentment that his father wasn’t there to share in this for another year. In the midst of his rage, Bruce slips and falls down a steep hill before spraining his ankle.
He fashions a splint to brace the ankle and Bruce scratches and claws his way to the top where he finds Alfred sitting there waiting for him with a warm fire and plenty of hot tea. Bruce is angry at first that Alfred didn’t help him up, but he realizes that his butler showing up right now was the best help he could ever receive. The two share some Earl Grey and wake up the next morning to the sun rising over the hills in the distance.
Outside of the episode where Alfred basically had Bruce assault another kid with a watch, this relationship has turned into one of the real high points on the series. While I’m not sure I’ll ever be on board with a lot of time spent with pre-pubescent Bruce Wayne, this is one aspect of his portrayal that I’ve enjoyed.
Open for Business
And finally the other strong part of this episode revolved around Oswald Cobblepot finally starting to realize his dream only to have it dissolve into a potential nightmare.
The episode opens with Oswald full of worry that Maroni is going to come back and seek revenge after he betrayed him as a spy for Carmine Falcone. He tries desperately to get Falcone to offer him protection, but the Don of Gotham City instead offers Fish Mooney’s club and all the resources he’ll need to get the place back up and running. He also tells Oswald not to worry about Maroni — that will be taken care of shortly.
Oswald spends most of his time getting the new club ready. He comes up with a really fancy name — Oswald’s (so it’s not fancy at all) and the place is adorned with glowing umbrellas, clearly a sign of his future self. He even goes to the police precinct to offer a personal invitation to Jim Gordon to attend, although the detective rebuffs him with extreme prejudice. Oswald is not happy and he promises that one day Gordon will need to call on him again. Gordon discards the invitation although some part of me hopes he’ll pick it back up and remain friends with Oswald for the foreseeable future. That’s another oddity that I believe should be explored. Gordon loves to see the world in black and white but at least Oswald helps him walk in the grey from time to time.
Meanwhile, Falcone gets Maroni to back off by giving him a cruel, unrelenting judge, who has been kidnapped and is currently bound and gagged just awaiting his execution. The offering is enough for Maroni to agree to back off Penguin and leave him alone to run the club.
In fact, Maroni shows up later that night and much to no one’s surprise, Oswald’s is deader than Dillinger. He’s got one customer and a bad house band attempting to play punk rock. Maroni pours him a drink of very expensive champagne while explaining how Falcone just bargained for Oswald’s life and came away victorious. He also advises Oswald to hope and pray Falcone stays alive forever because the moment the Don falls asleep for the last time, the next day Oswald is as good as dead.
One other thing I wanted to point out — did anyone else notice Falcone’s long winded diatribe about his trust of Oswald and how he’s the perfect right hand man because he’ll never be leader? Something tells me that was perfectly placed in that moment to begin to give Gotham’s crime bosses a false sense of security. Falcone knew that a strong person like Fish Mooney was a threat, but ultimately it’s someone as unassuming as Oswald who will be the final downfall of the great mob families of Gotham.
Gotham returns for a new episode next Monday night at 8pm ET/PT on FOX.