Martin Carr reviews the twenty-first episode of Gotham season 4…
In bearing witness to the psychological trauma metered out by ‘One Bad Day’ you have to ask why questions are still hanging over Gotham’s renewal. With watershed boundaries torn down, blood ebbing between the cracks of a city in ruins and all hope lost what more needs to happen. In a tightly plotted forty minutes of television rule books have been re-written, censorship parameters redefined and Frank Miller levels of Killing Joke punishment unleashed. ‘One Bad Day’ fulfils the prophecy for anyone who ever doubted Gotham and its potential to surprise, shock or reinvigorate a predictable format. With graphic amounts of self-mutilation, an art installation drenched in florescent psychosis and enough carnage to satisfy any audience Gotham delivers a death blow.
Helped in no uncertain terms by Cameron Monaghan’s Joker we see a fulfilment of characterisation which neither disappoints nor diminishes the myth. Cold bloodedly calculating this belongs to Monaghan and Mazouz in equal measure. Trials of character which get beneath the surface of psyche is rarely depicted on-screen, but ‘One Bad Day’ is a pay off like no other. Going darker than even Nolan’s trilogy dared to delve, Gotham lights the blue touch-paper beneath that singular story thread and steps back.
Using video projection and an oppressive concrete setting Bruce Wayne is put through the ringer, undermined and left to rot. Redemption is fleeting as his sartorial adversary makes sure those scars run suitably deep and change him forever. With the arrival of one iconic character, a grand standing performance and scenery chewing understatement others suddenly diminish in importance.
Everyone from al Ghul to Jim Gordon are demoted in the presence of Monaghan. Relationship arcs between mainstay cast members pale in comparison to our zoot suited Crown Prince of Crime. However the difference between them and this Joker is that we have something fresh. He represents no archetype, no stereotype and certainly fails to conform to predisposed ideas of character. Theatrical, calculating, supremely confident yet psychologically off the chain, this man operates within an emotional vacuum.
That virtually everyone else feels like padding between the scenes is a mark of his impact and justification of the need for another season. As for the how of Gotham getting greenlit this reviewer suggests you look to Lethal Weapon. From that simple action the ridiculous nature of television scheduling should become clear if not crystal. If only the value you placed on art were not measureable in terms of revenue this world would be a better place.