Martin Carr reviews the ninth episode of Gotham season 3…
There are elements here which bring to mind the televisual equivalent of Mega City One this week in Gotham. Vigilante justice and police brutality all in the name of law and order, make ‘The Executioner’ more than just another episodic police procedural. Verging at times into the realm of moral fable with guns and ammo. In the darkest moments it shows how the most upstanding citizens can fall foul of Gotham’s grittier elements.
Michael Chiklis is key in depicting this fall from grace, showing Nathaniel Barnes as driven, conflicted and ultimately cloaked in hatred. A mockery of chivalry shrouded in retribution rather than justice. ‘The Executioner’ may be a blunt tagline but with multiple hangings, staged car accidents and moments of megalomania, we are painted a gaudy picture of Gotham in decline. And for me this is where things really got interesting and Chiklis dominated.
Taking on a character with such moral high ground as baggage makes his fall into darkness all the sweeter. This is the sort of thing Gotham was meant to do from the get go, but obviously there was some considerable world building necessary before we got this far. Gordon, Bullock, Bruce and Barbara are morally questionable characters drawn in broad strokes but ultimate good souls. Barnes never implied a darkness of such hidden depth and it is clearly something which attracted Chiklis to begin with. It is true what they say about everyone loving a bad guy, but the ones who are loved more are those who tumble from their high ground into purgatory. Barnes has taken that journey and represents a singular example of what one rotten city can do to the most noble of men. It is unsurprising then that apart from the unrequited bromance between Nygma and Penguin, others take a back seat in an episode which rightfully belongs to Barnes.
There is an interesting see saw effect as Gordon re-joins only for his superior to finally lose the plot. While elsewhere other segues involving Bruce, Cat and an older Ivy which serve as little more than window dressing. Whereas the Lea Thompkins contribution has been dialled back and Tetch’s connection has been drawn out too long, acting only as a means to tie up loose ends.
However those minor concerns aside Gotham continues delivering strong episodes whilst keeping the main big bad a mystery. Barnes and his moral centre will be missed, but that draws Gordon closer to the man we know he will become which is no bad thing.