Martin Carr reviews the tenth episode of Gotham...
A Penny(worth) for your thoughts? Alfred gets medieval while ‘Gotham’ goes to the dogs…
‘Lovecraft’ is a great name but not it turns out such a great title. What we have here is failure to communicate. Danny Cannon and Bruno Heller, who represent the creative help in this equation, are developing a disturbing habit of naming episodes after people who they choose to ignore. They did it last week in ‘Harvey Dent’ and continue the trend here with Al Sapienza’s Dick Lovecraft. However before I get emotional and begin on a course which will end in some form of expletive laden tirade, let us examine why this is happening, beyond the obvious that is.
To begin with there is the extended run. Danny Cannon mentioned recently that stretching Gotham from sixteen shows to twenty two might cause problems. Based on the evidence here there are already warning signs up ahead. Storylines which I considered meaty only a few short weeks ago are now being referenced in reduced chunks. For example Lord Taylor’s Penguin gets a maximum of ten minutes screen time in which he is able to achieve nothing. My belief is that this tactic safeguards their strongest story elements, thereby maximising any finale further down the line. And let’s be honest, if you were making a choice concerning strong narrative elements Bruce Wayne, in this incarnation, would not be amongst them. So why focus there unless your opinions were limited.
Now before you corral a lynch mob and begin sharpening your knives let me clarify. This is neither the fault nor responsibility of David Mazouz. He gives us his best doe eyed interpretation of innocence and muted angst from within an ivory tower. But he is after all only a bit part player in the story of Jim Gordon, so no harm done. Neither can we pass judgement on Sean Pertwee, who remains intelligent, exacting and disciplined in his portrayal of guardian and butler Alfred Pennyworth. Where then can we honestly lay blame if blame is be apportioned?
Dare we point a finger at the network? Those money men who offered a sixteen week run but then saw those dollar signs and got greedy. Audience ratings were up, Nielsen was happy and Gotham had flourished. If they squeezed a little harder was it possible to get a larger market share? It seems the question was never asked merely a demand acknowledged and storyline compromised. What this amounts to is a mishmash of stories which neither gain momentum nor engage effectively.
Now you have a production team hastily re-editing episodes, shooting new portions to slot in alongside existing footage and trying to make things work. However as much as this works in film, television has neither the budget nor timeframe to accommodate such extravagance. If only they had left well alone we would have had a tightly scripted first season, with clichéd dialogue issues and tonal concerns, but undoubted audience interest.
What we have in light of these compromises is an episode without substance or guile. Only Pertwee emerges from this mediocrity smelling of roses. Showing a side of Alfred neither Michael Caine nor Gough hinted at during their extended tenure in the role. This unfortunately is not enough to rescue Mackenzie, Logue and company from going through the motions, seemingly happy to tread water in between ad breaks. My hope is that this remains a one off. Only time will tell.