Gotham: ‘The Fearsome Dr. Crane’ Review

Gotham was frankly a weird pile of WTF this week. So much so that I hardly know where to begin…well, let’s start with the weekly case – a man targeting phobics and killing them while forcing them to confront their worst fear. Turns out this man, Dr. Crane, is engaged in some kind of crazy experiment, harvesting his victim’s adrenal glands after the fact for “research.” Typical mad scientist stuff, I guess. We will no doubt find out more about his sinister/well-intentioned project next week. (According to him it was “for the greater good.”) He managed a narrow escape this time around and was previewed to return next episode.

It is through the case that Bullock meets his new love-interest, Scottie: a forthright, spunky woman who leads the support group for phobics that our villain is using as a lab-rat source pool. Predictably, she ends up damseled in the episode’s penultimate sequence, and Bullock must heroically rescue her from her worst fear – drowning in a swimming pool. Despite this rather cliché sequence of events, their scenes together were actually the highlight of the episode for me. Granted, the spunky woman who fixes the damaged man with her love is a problematic trope. However, something about their chemistry just worked, and I’d happily sit for more of it in future.

Sadly, Jim’s chemistry with Lee seems to have cooled off a bit. I don’t think this was deliberate; their writing just did not have quite the same spark as before. The episode finds them trying to do the whole dating thing, but conversing more about Jim’s case than anything else. And at the very end, Lee demands Jim kiss her in the open at the precinct, despite his obvious discomfort with the idea. I gather it was supposed to be charming and flirty, but it just felt awkward and a bit manipulative. Which is a shame because I liked them at first. For now I’m going chalk it up to the fact that this whole episode was something of a dud in my humble opinion.

Arguably the worst aspect of it was the mob drama between Maroni and Penguin. Still feeling vindictive, the exiled Fish Mooney phones Maroni to rat out Penguin as Falcone’s secret double-agent. The two take a road trip to a cabin in the woods where they play a perverse game of truth-for-truth, until Maroni finally gets a confession from Penguin. He then arranges to execute him with a car crusher. Penguin manages to escape by calling the scrap yard owner on his cell and threatening him with the retribution of Don Falcone. I found this plot development to be a particularly facile resolution to the Penguin’s situation and it was all the more frustrating for the fact that the whole thing had very little suspense to begin with. The Penguin himself is an interesting character and I want to watch more of his story unfold. But knowing he is destined to survive the series, I cannot get too worked up when he finds himself facing a threat, and it is all the more disappointing when his narrow escapes aren’t even well-scripted.

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Ed goes through something of a roller-coaster, getting suspended initially for performing one too many unauthorized autopsies. However, due to the mysterious framing of the medical examiner – someone stuffed his locker with severed body parts – Nygma gets reinstated, this time as the medical examiner. Jim incidentally proffers the job as an opportunity for Lee, and I have to wonder if this potential conflict is going to split his loyalties. He’s always been friendlier with Nygma than most of the other cops at the precinct, but he’ll also no doubt vouch for his girlfriend. Ed also continues to develop his relationship with Kristen, who may not be everything she first appeared, according to a lingering shot on a rather enigmatic smile at the episode’s close. The show does not make clear who framed the medical examiner, and although Ed seems the obvious culprit, I suspect that might turn out to be a red herring.

On the whole, I felt this episode was emblematic of a fundamental problem with the series at large – that it lacks a concise focus. The mob drama in particular has grown intensely tiresome by this point. Honestly, I’d rather the villains stick to carrying out evil schemes against innocents rather than playing out these long, drawn out Shakespearean double-crosses with one another.  They aren’t particularly interesting narratively, and none of the people behind them is sympathetic enough to garner much audience loyalty. Bad guys screwing each other in predictable ways for predictable objectives just isn’t all that entertaining, it turns out.

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