REVIEW: GOTHAM – SEASON 1, EPISODE 15 “THE SCARECROW”

“AHHHHHHHHHHHH! AHHHHHHHHHHHH! AHHHHHHHHHHHH! NOOOOOOOOOOOO!! SCARECROW!! NOOOOOAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!” – Jonathan Crane for like the next 6 years.

You know what I really love about Gotham? It’s such an uplifting show. No children are being psychologically scarred by their parents’ weird obsessions with fear, no wounded children forced to climb up steep hills because their brass knuckle-happy butler thinks they need to toughen up.

Me, forever.

Crane/Gordon/Bullock Plot:

Some old English teacher gets killed by hoodie-clad zombies? But it’s just the Cranes looking for those precious, precious adrenal glands. This murder gives Bullock a chance to be fucking creepy by dropping a “high school girls didn’t look like this back in MY day.” Besides informing the audience of how underage girls get this 50-year-old man’s dick hard, the worst part about this line is that is serves no purpose. Is it supposed to be a piece of “character” for Bullock? Why? We’ve already seen that he’s a man who has no problem getting the attention of women of legal age. We’ve already seen he likes women closer to his own age, even. Why put that in there? Because some writer though it was true, which is gross, and none of the other writers saw this as a problem, which is doubly gross. To the writers – All y’all motherfuckers need Jesus. (I’d say they need to view women of ALL AGES as people but I’m thinking Jesus is more likely.) 

Gerald Crane is in a spooky house doing some shit to an adrenal gland that would right at home in the Saw franchise. I’m not particularly squeamish, but, gross. I’m sure that shit isn’t sterilized. He injects the unsanitary adrenal reduction into his arm while staring at a staircase and we get some of that Batman Begins Fear Effect with the images. There’s fire and a 1940s looking lady asking Crane why he didn’t save her. (Because she was on fire and saving her would have meant both of them would have died a horrible death? Just a guess.)

Gordon and Bullock go talk to Crane’s old colleague and she immediately presents them with information about Crane’s love of adrenal glands. Glad Gordon & Bullock don’t have to actually do anything to acquire this information. They learn that Crane sees fear as an evolutionary flaw, which, for a scientist, makes no god damned sense. Fear is actually a vital evolutionary tool that helps us survive – if we didn’t have fear we’d do things like touch weird vagina snakes on alien planets and get mutated into whatever that guy turned into in Prometheus. They also hit up some microfiche and learn that Crane’s wife didn’t die in a car accident like he claimed, she died in a house fire. This could have been a great reveal for the audience, but unfortunately we already knew someone burned to death due to the Batman Begins Fire Fear Scary Fear effects from earlier.

The Dynamic Duo go to the old spooky house, which makes Older Crane think he needs to put an entire syringe worth of unsterilized* adrenal fluids into his son ASAP. This is obviously far too much Fear Gunk to be injecting into anyone, but since this is TV and people on TV only operate in service of a 48-minute story, Old Crane jabs Young Crane in the neck.  He does this while they are sitting at the base of a scarecrow. Young Crane starts screaming, alerting Gordon and Bullock to their whereabouts, and Old Crane starts shooting at them, outnumbered, without cover. (This is why we need fear, Crane.) He gets shot and dies. The End.

Except not really. Young Crane is now stuck in a hospital being tormented by an invisible scarecrow. He’s the only BabyVillian thus far who gets what amounts to an actual origin story.  I’ll take it

(*If you want to know why I keep harping on this go read about what happened at the beginning of the AIDS crisis and why so many young hemophiliacs fell victim to the disease. Or watch the documentary Bad Blood: A Cautionary Tale. The great new drug that made hemophilia manageable for the first time in history was made by taking plasma from everyone who donated tossing it in a vat, mixing it together, heating it a little, and calling it good. Except “donated” is the wrong word – the only place they could get a large, consistent supply of plasma is by tapping the homeless and prison populations and paying for it. Some of these people were not in the best health and some of them were IV drug users. The drug companies thought a little heat would kill whatever diseases might be in the plasma vats. Nope. HIV and Hep C were spread to 90% of hemophiliacs using this blood product in the early to mid 80s. This is how Ryan White contracted HIV. I still remember standing in line at the supermarket with my mom and seeing his face on the cover of People magazine after he passed away.)

Jimmy Gordon/Leslie Tompkins plot: 

Jim & Leslie walk through the snow in what is a lovely “winter in the city” shot. Sadly, the setting is the only thing that’s romantic about this scene because Jim has no game whatsoever. He mentions that he hasn’t seen her apartment yet. Oh. Be still my heart, Jim! What could be more romantic than “so…you live at a place. I would like to experience said place via my ocular receptors”? What lady wouldn’t have her panties dropping for that? As hot as this has made Leslie, she says no, she’s starting her new job tomorrow. What job, Jim asks, because he forgot about the ending of last episode while trying to come up with that smooth “can I come to your apartment for sex” line. The medical examiner job. You know, the one Jim told her to take. The one he basically gave to her before making out with her in the middle of the bullpen like this is Armageddon and Aerosmith is getting paid by the chord. THAT job.

I DON’T WANT TO CLOSE MY EYES I DON’T WANT TO FALL ASLEEP…

At work, Leslie is more interested in making out with Jim all over the precinct than she is in learning where the break room is. This makes Jim uncomfortable because he doesn’t want the other cops – who hate him – to make fun of him for making out with a super hot girl. As pointless as this particular plot point is, I agree with Jim. It is unprofessional to be shoving your tongue down your significant other’s throat while at the office. Right now, Leslie is Nina Hyena from Roger Rabbit:

It’s also really gross to ignore your partner’s obvious discomfort and keep kissing them anyway. Consent isn’t just for women – if your partner says “stop kissing me at work”, STOP KISSING HIM AT WORK.

Penguin/Maroni/Falcone Plot: 

Penguin is back from his Bus Trip with Kindly Church Ladies and Falcone is somewhat ok with having him back. He’s more concerned with the décor of Fish’s old club. Penguin is trying to beg for protection but Falcone gives less than three shits about helping Penguin. At this point, who can blame him? He’s been nothing but trouble since he arrived, he’s been playing everyone so you can’t really trust him, and he doesn’t like coffee. For some reason he hasn’t be roasted to death by Falcone, Zsasz, Maroni, and Mooney all standing in a circle holding flamethrowers. Because really, the only way the mob handles a guy like Penguin is to put him 6 feet under, regardless of how much money he makes.

Penguin kinda….?…changes the décor of the club? I guess? It all looks the same except there is now an umbrella where the fish used to be. He calls his new club “Oswalt’s” disappointing all Batman fans because this is where you would actually drop something like “The Iceberg Lounge” into the show. He invites Jim to his club and Jim is all, “No. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to run before my stage 5 clinger of a girlfriend finds me.”

Penguin and Riddler are drawn together in the precinct. They don’t do anything but it’s cool to see them together.

Back at the lounge, no one shows up for the Penguin’s grand opening, except for a punk guy who insists on lonesome skanking in a diner club, and Maroni. Maroni tells Penguin he is so going to die as soon as Falcone does, and we finally have a character acting the way they should towards Penguin, given his past behavior. I hope Falcone dies soon and we get a 6-episode arc of Penguin vs. Maroni with Penguin finally outmaneuvering Maroni in the end and killing him. Then Fish can return and THEY can battle for Head of Gotham. As Penguin’s plot is the only one with any forward momentum, it makes sense to spend more time here instead of in the “freak of the week” procedural the A story has devolved into.

Fish Plot: 

I have no fucking idea what’s going on in this plot line. She’s been captured by the guy she ran at full speed at the end of last week’s episode. She has a “New Butch”, she stabs a guy and takes over rule of the hodgepodge of extras assembled in a…warehouse? Catacomb? Then some lady is brought back to the Mystery Jail without her eyes. Ok. Next plot, please.

Bruce/Alfred Plot:

Oh, Bruce. Oh, my precious, darling, baby Bruce. Can I hug you and make you hot cocoa and take care of you so you can grow up to be somewhat well-adjusted instead of just another Gotham whack job?

Once a year, Bruce and his father, Thomas, would take a hike to a spot and watch the sun come up. Even though his father is gone, Bruce decides to carry on the tradition and go on the hike. This is a great character moment for Bruce because it’s so easy to see how this same dedication to personal history leads us to a vigilante who leaves two red roses in Crime Alley every year on the anniversary of the Wayne murders.

During his hike, Bruce encounters piles of rocks that he and his father had left to mark their tradition. He’s trying so hard to keep it together but this visual reminder of what he’s lost undoes him. He rips the rock piles apart, he cries, he screams. (Side note – I love that Bruce’s voice hasn’t dropped all the way and he’s still capable of that high-pitched child’s scream. I just want him to stay as young and innocent as possible before the world does more damage than it already has.) He stomps off and tumbles down a giant hill, spraining his ankle. He does not fall into a cave full of bats. In another great moment for him (and another great performance from David Mazouz), we see the grit and determination of the Man Who Will Be Batman as he tends to his own injury and pulls himself back up the hill. This is exactly what Batman would do – he’d rely on himself and his seemingly limitless willpower to overcome this obstacle. That’s why I felt cheated when he reached the top of the hill and fucking Alfred is sitting there. I’ve read a lot of comments saying that this is Alfred just “toughening Bruce up”. I think that’s incorrect – Bruce doesn’t seem to need “toughening”. So far he’s pulled off running from assassins, seeing his parents killed, dealing with the possible death of Jim Gordon, and getting his heart broken. Kid’s still standing. For me, Alfred sitting there is more evidence for my “Alfred is terrible” folio. It also clashes with who Alfred is supposed to be for Bruce.

I’ve always felt that Adult Bruce has three identities, not two. He has Bruce Wayne, walking caricature of an alcoholic, spoiled rich kid who isn’t much smarter than a packet of ramen noodles; he has The Batman, the living embodiment of vengeance who seeks justice in an unjust city (this is also the symbol others can take up when Bruce is gone); and, finally, there’s Bruce.  He’s probably about 80% Batman, 20% Bruce Wayne, but he is different from the other two. This is the man underneath it all. This is the part that can fall in love, this is the part that can empathize with another orphan and take him under his wing, this is the part who believes that what he’s doing will make someone else’s life BETTER.  And Alfred is the link that keeps this Bruce tethered to reality. He keeps him human. He keeps him morally grounded. Without Alfred, Bruce could so easily become what he fights against. So when Alfred, he of the “Let’s beat in a kid’s face in with a watch and then eat pizza to celebrate!”, is the driving force behind Bruce becomes Batman (like he is being set up to be on this show), what happens to Bruce the man? Who does he hold on to? 

I don’t mind Alfred and Bruce in the woods together, it’s a sweet image. But what should have happened is as follows: Alfred finds Bruce when he’s about halfway up the hill. Alfred immediately offers to help, but Bruce, in his stubbornness and determination, refuses. Alfred insists. Bruce says, “Alfred, I WILL fire you.” Alfred, ever the enabler, sits and watches as Bruce, this boy he sees as a fragile creature in need of protecting, pull himself to the top of the hill using nothing but his willpower. Then, when Alfred suggests getting him medical attention, Bruce insists he’s fine and that they sit and watch the sunrise. And then Alfred, so proud of this resilient, smart, amazing boy; smiles.   

However – Alfred calling Bruce “Master B” and a “cheeky monkey” is fucking hilarious.

Next Episode :

Please don’t let it be the Joker, please don’t let it be the Joker, please don’t let it be the Joker…

AND

Leslie & Jim go to the circus, maybe? I fully expect to see Dick Grayson’s dad almost get kneed right in the balls and then he’ll say, “Careful! I want to have kids some day!” Because Gotham = subtle.

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