Gotham Season 1 Episode 20 Review – ‘Under the Knife’

Martin Carr reviews the twentieth episode of Gotham…

Unbalanced personalities, damaged psychosis and narrative conventions all jostle for position, in this penultimate portion of Gotham on Fox. Erin Richards, all but forgotten in the ebb and flow of events, comes to the fore opposite Ogre extraordinaire Milo Ventimigilia. Elsewhere Lord Taylor continues his plotting while the underused Carole Kane milks eccentric like a crazed bag lady playing dress up. Shoehorn in a coming of age subplot to give teenagers Bruce and Selina relevance, and everything else remains business as usual at Fox.

 

 

Now I have defended Gotham relentlessly against conspicuous and vocal opposition. My evidence has been heartfelt but in the main fallen on deaf ears. Educated in comic folklore and able to spout from a position of assumed supremacy, these debates were short lived. My reasoning time and again was always to take it on face value. Ignore for a moment all other incarnations good, bad and mediocre. This was never going to be a Nolan or Burton affair. Frank Miller and those of his ilk would have nothing to do with this creation. I understood their concerns when Danny Cannon was mentioned, as Stallone’s Judge Dredd remains a benchmark for abysmal. These pleas remained unheeded and I wrote on. As Gotham is in the home stretch and Constantine remains at the mercy of NBC , I am prepared once more to cut Gotham some slack.

Yes the inclusion of Barbara Keen is forced, elements of this burgeoning teenage crush are saccharine to the point of diabetic coma, but consider Bullock. Here is a character lumbered with every clichéd line going. Love for another on the wrong side of the law, curmudgeonly custodian who tolerates then learns to respect his rookie partner. Logue had them all and prevailed. Something sadly lacking in Corey Michael Smith’s Edward Nygma, who was given minimal screen time, no arching narrative and a love interest which felt like plot device. Smith has made the best of a bad lot.

 

 

Punching above his weight in the love interest stakes Smith is given little to work with and tends to fall back on cliché. I am not apportioning blame but merely pointing out the need to give him something else to do. That it has taken almost twenty hours of television to make Nygma relevant is a travesty. That his transformation should tie into the title card with a modicum of subtlety is to be applauded. Elsewhere however this lightness of touch has been applied by someone with boxing gloves.

‘Under the Knife’ refers on a basic level to dissection, whether that is physical or psychological. Plastic surgery plays a part, while the obsession with knives for medical purposes or sexual gratification is ham fisted in its execution. Scenes at the charity ball reminded me of staged moments between Keaton and Pfeiffer in Batman Returns. While the use of gothic horror elements felt at odds tonally with everything else. As I have said in the past these actors are blameless. This venture succeeds and fails on narrative, tone, cohesion and focus. However what is lacking, despite its well documented renewal, is a sense of purpose. In this reviewer’s opinion Gotham occupies that middle ground between grounded reality and heightened fantasy, making it a ‘Jack of all trades and master of none’.