Martin Carr reviews the eighteenth episode of Gotham season 4…
The League of Shadows, counter kidnapping, exploding heads and a kitsch musical homage with festival soundstage overtones help bring things to life this week. Monaghan chews up the screen, is given more time to hone his alter ego to unnerving affect, whilst pastiche drifts closer to plagiarism than is really comfortable for some. You see it all depends how old you are and just where you rate Burton’s Batman stint on the sliding scale of franchise starters.
For me Monaghan made for a solid looking central protagonist both charismatic, whimsical and truly chaotic, while his subtle dialogue homage made me smile. Where things get woolly and drift towards annoying is in the flagrant plot lift straight from Burton’s first film. Written by Danny Cannon and scene stealing that Nicholson/Keaton finale atop a church tower with minimal changes, it felt lazy rather than inspired. Zeppelins replaced balloons, indie music festivals replaced Prince themed carnival floats, while Gordon replaced Batman.
Everything else from that Barbara Kean segue through to a matte black Batmobile birthday present seemed superfluous. Criminal defections, Penguin centric informants and overpowering Zeppelin pilots all seemed convenient rather than character driven. Tetch, Scarecrow, Freeze and Firefly all played second fiddle to the unhinged chaos agent with an itchy trigger finger. There is obvious love for the entire Batman history from television show to big screen outings, but they do not all belong in one episode. Hat tipping is one thing but respect can be paid without making it feel like a sweaty palmed fan boy got given a blank network production cheque to squander.
Aside from these obvious though unintentional moments performances were still solid throughout. McKenzie and Logue continue to singlehandedly raise the arrest figures of the GCPD while others barely get a look in. Pertwee and Mazouz make an effective and convincing partnership even if they have little to do, no sense of peril in attendance and little more than the father and son dynamic holding things together. However what really sold this episode was that Joker in the closing credits.
With a face lifted straight off The Killing Joke there looks to be something suitably iconic coming our way. I said it a long time ago when Monaghan first played at being the man himself. Here in my opinion was an actor who had come closer than anyone else at matching Heath Ledger. There was intensity, unpredictability, playfulness and singular edge which made this Joker a challenger for the title. Since that introduction there has rarely been a misstep and so it is with episode eighteen that we finally get to see for a split second the latest incarnation. Maniacal, off the chain and most definitely off the reservation this Joker might yet prove to be one for the ages. Only time will tell.