Gotham (2014) season 1, episode 4
WRITER: KEN WOODRUFF
DIRECTOR: TJ SCOTT
AIR DATE: October 13 2014
"Arkham" is the latest episode of Gotham, and this is the first we actually see of the asylum that figures so prominently in the world of the Dark Knight. The underlying story features a political struggle with strings being pulled by the two mob bosses, Carmine Falcone (John Doman) and Sal Maroni (David Zayas), both of whom are infesting the city with corruption while determined to have effective control over Gotham.
Arkham in this case is not just the asylum, but the area around it, and it’s been mentioned earlier in the series. The neighbourhood is a slum, and there’s been a move in the city towards reviving it. The Waynes were working towards that, it seems, before their murders, and the efforts have been hijacked by Maroni and Falcone, pulling strings of local officials, because both of them stand to benefit from conflicting visions of the project.
Politics would make for a bad concept for a television show (The West Wing or House of Cards notwithstanding), so instead of going with such a dry topic, and this being a police procedural, the episode goes for murder, with a ruthlessly effective and rather anonymous assassin (Hakeem Kae-Kazim) working for both sides, dispatching of politicians looking to vote one way or another. Gordon (Ben McKenzie) and Bullock (Donal Logue) have the bad luck to get the case assigned to them. The banter and arguing between the two detectives really works; they come to the table with two very different world views, and yet in working together we’re seeing these two relying on each other. It’s the bedrock dynamic of the show, and both actors are doing well in conveying that.
We get more character development on other fronts. Bruce (David Mazouz) worries about the legacy of his family being cast aside for those business interests who have a shadier agenda. Jim and Barbara’s relationship is at an impasse when Barbara (Erin Richards) comes clean about her former relationship with Renee (though has she said everything there is to say?). It leaves them at a crossroad of distrust on both sides. Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith) is busy plotting her own moves, resentful of the way she’s been treated by Falcone. Her method of auditioning new staff is a bit eyebrow raising. And Oswald (Robin Lord Taylor) continues to prove himself to be an overly enthusiastic sociopath, chalking up more kills to his list. That said, however, he shows for the first time the deviousness we really expect in the Penguin. He’s aligned himself with Maroni in a rather unusual way while also forming a strange understanding with Jim Gordon... and yet he’s playing his own game, and it’s an audacious one.
The assassin Richard Gladwell - at least that’s the name he uses- is intriguing. His signature is the use of a particular weapon. The fact that he works for both sides in this particular dispute is a nice touch, I thought - he doesn’t play favourites. He comes across as a polite sort of fellow, but quickly shows himself to be thoroughly dangerous and effective in what he does. It’s a peculiar combination, but then he is a professional, and a professional always finishes what he starts. If the actor seems familiar, he should be. Kae-Kazim turned up in 24 during one of its seasons, and has done a tremendous amount of film and television work.
There’s one other character that bears mentioning, though it’s not a person. It’s Arkham Asylum itself. The place has been referred to, mentioned as closed down, and its surroundings something of a blight in Gotham. It was wise not to show it until now. When we first see it, it’s at night, something we’ve gotten used to in the pages of the comics of course. A man is being murdered in a grisly way in its courtyard, and Arkham is exactly as you expect of it: gothic, gloomy, and dangerous. It’s a feeling that remains in daylight, looking at the place in full light. It still feels oppressive and as if it’s the sort of building you would instinctively go out of your way to avoid. In choosing this place for their Arkham, the producers got it right.