Gotham introduced another DC universe staple last night with the inception of the red hood. Gordon and Bullock are tasked with hunting down a criminal gang whose first blip on the radar is a bank robbery in which the seeming leader is shrouded in a bright red hood. Due to a random stroke of fate, this guy – who is actually a relative nobody in the crew – manages to avoid injury despite being targeted by security. His improvised mask then becomes something of a talisman amongst the gang who trade it off, but all still ultimately meet unfortunate ends. Although the case itself is rather uninteresting, it does provide for a few good buddy-cop moments between Gordon and Bullock, always a trove of small delights. The actors have an increasingly engaging chemistry, and their repartee often is a high note in the show’s writing.
However, most of the real action takes place elsewhere. After coordinating her coup, Fish Mooney is brought up to negotiate with the head honcho’s mouthpiece. He, the head doctor, is apparently away. And although she seems to make headway initially, she eventually gets backed into a corner and must take drastic action. So naturally, she gouges out one of her own eyes with a spoon to keep them from being used as a transplant against her will. This is perhaps the moment when it becomes most clear what Fish Mooney is really made of. She probably could have negotiated her own release and sacrificed the other prisoners, or at least kept her own eyes and given them someone else’s. But she seems determined to keep the upper hand and not give an inch, and crazy as her strategy might have been, I’ve never admired her character more.
Can’t say the same for Barbara, who has continued to let Ivy and Kat live in her apartment. Although I initially found this development intriguing, they managed to take it completely off the rails with one scene. In a sequence of epic ew, our resident daytime drunk issues a subtle but no less creepy come-on to Kat as she tries to convince the young girl to embrace her feminine beauty and sexuality as a weapon. Kat maintains her rightful resistance and tells Barbara off, asking “What good did it ever do you?” But still, the fact that they had Barbara do that was SO unnecessary, so gross and frankly reiterative of one of the oldest homophobic tropes in the book: that queer people are all pedophiles who prey on children to ‘convert’ them. Seriously Gotham, that went beyond bad writing directly into blatantly offensive territory.
But speaking of bad writing – or more accurately painfully predictable writing – one of Alfred’s old friends shows up on the doorstep of Wayne Manor on a dark and stormy night asking for shelter. He shares a tale of woe and although Alfred seems wary about his presence, Bruce invites the man to stay. We all know more or less where this is heading, and ultimately it ends with Alfred getting critically stabbed by his former comrade as he appears to be making off with the China. Granted this was a cover all along, for it is revealed at the episodes end that he was hired by Wayne Enterprises board to infiltrate the Wayne house, provide intel on Bruce’s activities, and put Alfred out of service so that Bruce could be targeted for a take-out. Again, Gotham suffers here in its status as a prequel, for there is no real suspense over whether the butler will live or Bruce will die. The ‘how’ matters of course, but a threat that cannot be realized cannot ever be especially threatening.
Finally we have Oswald and his new side-kick Butch. After being convinced it is in his best interest to switch loyalties last week, Butch becomes Oswald’s new right-hand man, helping him resolve his issues getting the night club running. Turns out Maroni sells liquor to their whole side of town and his hatred of the Penguin supersedes his desire for business. Butch coordinates a shakedown of another liquor establishment to get the goods for Oswald, and he seems genuinely touched. Butch’s friendliness with Penguin appears genuine, but he could also be playing the long con. His love for and loyalty to Fish was pretty well established earlier on, but maybe he really has switched sides.
I don’t know if the Penguin should trust Butch, and he clearly doesn’t either. But the question is an intriguing one and the part of this episode I actually found by far the most engaging. Whatever the outcome here, I hope it is something interesting and unpredictable. The mob drama on Gotham has been decidedly dull so far. I would like to think they’ve found a way to redeem some of those storylines into a halfway decent narrative.