Martin Carr reviews the first episode of Gotham season 3…
There is a dark, sordid undercurrent to this opening episode which promises much and delivers more. Gotham spends its first forty minutes and change planting seeds and continuing the story with economy and no little confidence. Canvases have been broadened, characters deliver swagger along with glide in their stride, as Danny Cannon directs a fledgling butterfly with pitch black beauty.
Set pieces are minimal and effects sparingly used in an episode which unpacks new narrative strands, opens up and maintains existing arcs whilst implying something new along the way. McKenzie’s Gordon, Mazouz’s Wayne and Robin Lord Taylor’s Penguin are stand outs amongst a multitude of new additions and surprising moments of invention. Jessica Lucas and Erin Richards revel in their new environment, whilst Pinkett Smith struts in giving it her best Bowie with a side order of Ziggy Stardust.
Above all Gotham is setting the bar for those who choose to follow. It feels like all the sins inflicted on viewers through that initial run are nothing more than bad memories. With the variety of threats which now exist within this reality there finally seems good reason to tune in. While the subtle introduction of one Valerie Vale as personified by Jamie Chung is guaranteed to add spice where none may necessarily be needed. This cityscape now pulses with villainy, promises moments of unchecked aggression and is categorically going to the dogs.
What makes it interesting beyond the need for progression is the sense that these people are slowly sinking as well. Gordon is no longer the white knight, paragon and protector of women he once seemed to be. This is no longer a minor moment of making the wrong choice but rather an intentional transgression, which shows Gordon to be one step away from turning criminal himself. That police officer is banished for the foreseeable future and in his place we have a master manipulator eaten up by guilt and regret.
Lord Taylor meanwhile chews the screen up on every opportunity, doing his best to grandstand and embrace his moment of victory. Everyone here is feeling the glow of network success and just look healthier and better off. Logue and Chiklis are understated, Smith’s Nygma gets a moment but needs no more while those monster effects are vastly improved. There is enough old mystery, new intrigue and solid writing to make Gotham keep running and we may just have hit a winning streak with season three.
I say it once and I say it loud. Do yourselves a favour and tune in because this here is going to be one hell of a run. And if it is ‘Better To Reign In Hell’ then count me in people because Gotham is no longer about Jim Gordon if it ever was. Here we have a living breathing world in which people fail, people fall and sometimes they get back up.