Gotham Review: “Arkham” (Season 1, Episode 4)


Now four episodes in, Gotham remains a vexing enterprise, and this week it leaned heavy on the crutch that I like to call “Batman Easter Egg Wac-a-Mole.” On “Arkham,” we deal with it head on, as the titular asylum is at the center of a re-development scheme that could result in a gang war if it doesn’t go the right way. On top of that, a small time thug who shares a nickname with the flightless birds of Antarctica starts to make his move against the city’s mob power players.

Picking up from last week’s “The Balloonman,” Gordon has words with Oswald, who he told never to come back to Gotham, but Gotham is Oswald’s home and thus he will not leave. What he can do is help Gordon in the war that is to come, a war that may very well start with Arkham, or rather “Arkham City,” a section of Gotham that has fallen into disrepair and is now the home of a shanty town. And yes, also the defunk asylum that holds such a specific place in Batman lore. So the plot hinges on real estate. How very Lex Luthor.

Mayor James is endorsing a plan to revitalize Arkham City that was organized by the Waynes before their murder. The plan, to build affordable housing and a state-of-the-art medical facility on the site of the old asylum, will be highly advantageous to Carmine Falcone. A competing plan, which will revitalize the existing asylum and turn Arkham City into a waste disposal site, is being fronted by Sal Maroni. How this means war, is never really explained, but before you can say “building permit,” the big vote at Gotham City Council is threatened by a killer taking out politicians on both sides of the debate.

Richard Gladwell is our villain of the week, and he kills people with a spring-loaded ice pick thingy in a metal baton. Who Gladwell is working for is never revealed, but he’s professional and he’s mercifully short on whimsy. The two hench-people of the Dollmaker and Davis “The Ballooman” Lamond waffled in some sort of netherworld between the flamboyant criminals of Gotham City’s “future” and the more conventional criminals of the pre-Batman age, which is why they didn’t really work out. Gladwell is a workman-like assassin despite his funky choice of weapon, and Hakeem Kae-Kazim, perhaps best known for playing bad guy Col. Dubaku in the seventh season of 24, doesn’t ham it up like he’s in the 1960s Adam West Batman series.

Speaking of ham, Robin Lord Taylor continues to be a standout as Oswald “Don’t Call Me Penguin” Cobblepot. He gives Gordon a key clue that helps stop Gladwell and save the life of the mayor, but it was also Penguin’s sole act of altruism this week as he spent the rest of his time scheming to climb the ladder in Maroni’s organization. A team of gunmen rob Bamonte’s and kill the restaurant manager. Oswald appears to have saved some of Maroni’s money and thus gets a promotion by the grateful mob boss. However, we learn at episode’s end that Oswald orchestrated the robbery, and he gets rid of the accomplices with a poisonous twist on “leave the gun and take the cannoli.”