Gotham has always felt like an amalgam of a handful of shows: part procedural, part superhero origin story, and part crime drama, the series has played around in several genres with middling results but always feels its most defined and well-rounded when dealing with the power struggle between Fish, Falcone and Oswald Cobblepot. And this week was no different.
The mob plot has felt a bit stagnant over the last few weeks, partly because it’s been treading water while awaiting tonight’s inevitable events. It was delightful to see Mooney’s plans finally come to fruition, even if they quickly came crashing down around her. John Doman, Robin Lord Taylor, and Jada Pinkett Smith continue to shine as their characters, and easily remind us that they’re the best parts of the series. I still find it remarkable that Smith, whose character has been completely fabricated for the series, manages to embody her character and flesh her out more substantially than those who play characters based on decades worth of source material.
It was a shame to see Liza go, especially since we saw so little of her over the past few weeks. As much as I wanted this storyline to come to a head, it could have easily been fleshed out even more. I would have much rather seen more scenes in the Falcone household than throwaway appearances from Selina Kyle and Ivy Pepper that fail to service the episode as a whole.
Speaking of throwaway characters, Barbara Gordon makes another appearance and… yeah, does absolutely nothing. Figures.
As good as the mob storyline is, Gotham is sadly not a show that primarily focuses on that corner of the narrative. I worry that the slight bit of momentum gained from this episode will dissipate when episode thirteen, another run-of-the-mill “villain of the week” stories (this time featuring Scarecrows dad! Yay?) concludes.
I also wonder how much better the series would be if it had stuck to its initial 16-episode run. There’s a great show in here somewhere, but it’s buried underneath a mountain of conflicting ideas. Having ideas is one thing, but executing them in an effective or at all meaningful way is another. Gotham is chock full of half-formed nuggets of storytelling brilliance that never get fleshed out. Gordon working at Arkham Asylum was an exciting development that has now been completely thrown by the wayside, leaving little room for an exploration inside the walls of the iconic building that will someday house the city’s darkest criminals and psychopaths.
Similarly, jumping the gun on the Dr. Thompkins/Gordon relationship smells eerily of contrived melodrama. Before long, Barbara will make her way back home and find her fiancee with another woman. Are we supposed to care about this? The show has certainly given us no indication to do so, so now I worry that anything that happens between Gordon and Thompkins will suffer the same fate as the series’ other potentially compelling relationships and end in a resounding (and wholly unsatisfying) thud.
In the end, Gotham manages to do some weird things in week twelve. It nails the mob storyline once more and places those characters in an interesting place for the remainder of the season, but it once again fumbles around with the central stories and truncates what could have been a compelling arc for Gordon.
It does, however, end on a rather poignant note, as Gordon is left embracing Dr. Thompkins and staring off into the distance left by a co-worker who informed him of what happened at Mooney’s place. It’s a deep, subtle moment that feels very real and, ironically, out of place in Gotham‘s usually skin-deep narrative. As much as the series struggles with the bigger picture stuff, it is finally fleshing out the smaller character beats. And that counts for something, right?