Gotham was a mixed bag this week, with some stuff being really good, completely in character and other stuff being completely out of character. Firstly, everything involving Bruce Wayne was great. David Mazouz continues to be one of my favorite actors to ever play that character. A lot of actors have made a good Batman, but a terrible Bruce Wayne, or vice versa. While we’re never going to see him put on the suit, he is hitting all of the right character beats and as goofy as this show gets, I’ll always be grateful for the amount of attention paid to Bruce’s developing psyche. This is really the one area of his development that no live action or even animated adaptation has really tackled in depth. We’ve seen him before the deaths of his parents, we’ve seen him in training to become the Batman, already focused on his goal. But what led to that decision? What turned him into that person?
The reason I’m bringing this up so much now is because in this episode, Bruce was faced with the most adult decision he’s had to make so far. Theo Galavan offers Bruce the man who killed his parents in exchange for his company, because he’s a connected criminal like that. I think Bruce has maybe even been somewhat suspicious of Galavan in their conversations, but he is very tempted to take the deal and most kids left with that decision would. The moment where he asks Alfred what he should do and starts crying as he says, “Is it wrong that I just want it to be over?” is gut-wrenching. It’s easily one of the best moments of the show so far.
But then, of course, there’s the rest of the episode. Most of the main plot is centered on Gordon’s reunion with Barbara, and by reunion I mean she kidnaps him and is supposed to kill him, but doesn’t. It’s not even clear to me if she intended to go through with it, having watched the episode. She seems really gung-ho about the idea of getting her revenge on Gordon, some of which is probably deserved on his part, but then when she actually has him there she mostly seems to want him to confess that he still loves her.
It could have actually been really interesting and the Barbara/Jim dynamic could have worked really well, but it’s so cartoonishly played. Everything’s done in extremes. All season long, Barbara has been just about the most cartoonish villain we’ve ever had on this show and she’s not even a villain from the comics (that we know of, at least) while Gordon is just so aloof to the point where you wonder if he ever actually liked her that much to begin with. That’s actually something I’d like to see dealt with, Gordon’s confession that he never really cared for her even when they were engaged.
Rounding things out, there’s the Nygma plotline of going out into the woods to bury his one-time love interest, although he’s pretty clearly over her now. The moment where he killed her was excellently played and he was so broken up about it, but he was pretty much fine the next morning, which disappointed me to say the least. Everything so far has depicted Nygma is capable of empathy and for that particular episode, he did show guilt for what he had done. Now, halfway through the second season, we’re not only changing the way his character has been portrayed, we’re completely changing his psychosis.
But the main problem I have with this scene is that, while it’s interesting and creepy in theory, it doesn’t feel like the Riddler. Nothing about it really strikes me as Riddler-esque. Granted, this is something we’re supposed to build to over time, but the Riddler was never a psychopath or some sort of serial killer and that’s absolutely what they’re turning the character into here.
Overall, it felt like somewhat of a minor misstep in a season that’s been getting consistently better, but it was at least saved by Bruce.