Despite being named after the city, Gotham has curiously avoided telling stories about the titular metropolitan area itself. Instead, the show has taken several nosedives into the deeper waters of Batman mythology (for better or for worse), which in turn leaves much to be desired in terms of world building. While Gotham may introduce characters and concepts that will someday be important (in a series we’ll never get to see), it does very little to flesh out its own world or timeline.
That changed somewhat in this week’s episode, as the lens was turned away from nods at the Joker and Scarecrow and instead looked at a more obscure character in DC’s canon: the Red Hood. Of course, comics readers know that, for a time, the Joker once masqueraded around Gotham City as a crook called the Red Hood, but Gotham‘s interpretation of that storyline is different and more in tune with the New 52 iteration of the concept, the Red Hood Gang.
For this, I applaud Gotham, as it would have been all too easy to resort to similar hamfisted fan service tactics. Instead, the episode grappled with larger themes that led to a far more compelling storyline than a simple and straightforward villain origin would have.
As Gotham enters into the final stretch of its 22-episode first season, I’m happy to see that some of the seeds planted early on are finally starting to blossom into interesting story arcs. Fish and Penguin have begun to suffer as a result, but the Wayne Enterprises subplot is slowly coming into focus, while Harvey and Jim’s weekly cases are starting to shed some light on the city as a whole. This is a firm step in the right direction, and a sign that Gotham might go out with a bang.
Gotham has thankfully stopped taking itself too seriously, and has injected just the right blend of humor and drama into the last few episodes. For a while, the writers were trying too hard to play in all corners of the proverbial sandbox, rather than stick to one specific tone. Last week’s episode found a nice balance between carnival antics and the creepiness we’d expect from an early (possible) Joker. I thought that might be a fluke because of the circus setting, but that sentiment carried on into this week’s episode with similar results.
The majority of the hour focuses on the titular Red Hood Gang, a new group of bank robbers who become famous when one member cockily starts wearing a red hood and throws some of the stolen money into the streets in order to create a diversion and escape. The beauty of the Red Hood Gang (which were far more devious and deadly in the comics) is that anyone can be under the hood, making it incredibly hard to track them down. That idea is toyed with somewhat in this episode as the hood becomes a sort of cursed artifact that gets passed between members of the gang as they begin to kill each other off.
Besides a few amateur actors in the gang, the stuff with the Hoods was enjoyable and fun to watch. I like that Gotham has laid the foundation for masked crime and vigilantism, and am excited to see the idea explored further in subsequent weeks. I also like that Jim and Harvey are becoming less and less the focus of the series, and are instead simply the people that we follow from point A to point B in each week’s case.
Their characters were never adequately developed to begin with, and it’s far more interesting to see Gotham toy with new ideas and cases each week than to watch more Jim/Barbara melodrama. We did get a bit of problematic Barbara stuff this week (she’s just letting street kids like Selena and Ivy stay in her place because…?), but she’s getting a significantly truncated bit of screentime, which I’m completely on board with.
Gotham is also getting better about shoehorning characters into episodes each week just to remind us that they exist. Riddler was thankfully completely absent this week, and though I have a bit of a crush on Morena Baccarin’s Dr. Thompkins, she had no place in this week’s proceedings and was appropriately nowhere to be seen.