Martin Carr reviews the seventeenth episode of Gotham season 4…
Plot threads are two a penny in Gotham right now, as long running character interests jockey for position alongside fledgling sub-plots. Audience attentions are split, narrative focus seems scattershot while news of series cancellation is rife. Story development is veering into the realms of doppelgangers, unrealistic love consummation and underworld team ups which seem jaded. If ‘Mandatory Brunch Meetings’ were anything like this people might not turn up and accept the consequences.
My chief concern with episode seventeen is the lack of urgency which pervades proceedings. With Jerome you have a Joker with flashes of Ledger, board room pastiche by way of The Dark Knight and what appears to be an embodiment rather than performance. Elsewhere extravagant costumes and personality quirks pass for menace and character depth which is disappointing. Nathan Darrow as Freeze is wasted, Firefly, Scarecrow and Tetch appear perfunctory, while Gordon and Bullock chase their tails. There is huge potential here and screen time which has been poured into establishing these villains as standalone threats. However issues arise when they are put in a room and cease to function, becoming nothing more than expensive looking henchmen.
Concrete bunkers, architectural geniuses and seemingly impenetrable mazes which are solved in three minutes represent still more wasted opportunity. There are moments of darkness but the set up seems rushed allowing Monaghan no time to adequately give his performance substance. Elsewhere the vaudevillian relationship which defines Thompkins and Nygma is coming close to caricature as believability is challenged. Game show parodies are a great idea and indulge Smith’s flamboyant showman persona, but this felt more like bad Batman movie choices than television show invention.
Smith has managed to give his incarnation depth, breadth and a sense of self rather than keeping things two dimensional. There are emotions which have been imbued into this Edward Nygma which make him one of the more interesting versions I have seen. What happens between himself and Thompkins however is copy book stuff which smells of writing room convenience rather than genuine character development. For my money it worked when they had a criminal allegiance but beyond that the dynamic falls apart even if Thompkins is doing it for nefarious reasons. Combine that with a finale plot twist lifted straight from Nolan’s Batman opener and we are in decidedly murky water. As we head towards the tail end of season four it would be nice to think that all these disparate threads might coalesce into a coherent whole. For the time being though Gotham feels like a lot of good work going to waste.