[This is a review of Gotham season 1, episode 9. There will be SPOILERS.]
The month of November is known as television’s famed sweeps period, and with it traditionally comes some of the best television episodes of the year. Gotham is using the entire month to establish the stories which will help drive the second half of season 1. Hopefully.
In this week’s episode, “Harvey Dent”, written by producer Ken Woodruff, Gordon (Ben McKenzie) meets assistant district attorney Harvey Dent (Nicholas D’Agosto), who has a plan to use the recently apprehended Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova) to coax a confession from the wealthy Dick Lovecraft (Al Sapienza) about the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne. Meanwhile, an explosives expert named Ian Hargrove (Leslie Odom, Jr.) is forced to create weapons for the Russian mob, while Oswald Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor) begins to uncover hidden allegiances within the city. Elsewhere, Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) takes a liking to his new houseguest, and Barbara (Erin Richard) settles back in to her former life.
Harvey Dent arrives in Gotham, dual personalities and all, and D’Agosto’s animated portrayal gives us a new look at a largely untold aspect of this familiar character. Though his face remains as yet unchanged, the abuse that Dent received as a child has affected him more than any future acid bath will, allowing us to see how his other personality manifests itself within his life, and how he uses it as a strength. As a hopefully reoccurring character in the series, it would’ve been nice to see the alter ego be held for a more impactful scene and not simply used to introduce a new arc still waiting to be developed. Fortunately, this week’s episode title does not necessarily dictate the only strength of the episode.
Bruce Wayne and Alfred (Sean Pertwee), who are generally the series’ outsiders, have finally been gifted a larger story for this episode. Like all their previous inclusions, Bruce and Alfred remain the strong foundation for this world to be built around. This time, however, another series heavyweight, Selina Kyle, has been added to the mix, which gives Bruce some time to bond with someone his own age. Selina allows Bruce to explore a side of himself Alfred is unable to reach, while Bruce’s earnest interest in his new friend allows her to reveal the child-like innocence and hope – even if it is cliché – which continues to drive her.
Elsewhere, Gordon and (less) Bullock’s relatively simple explosives case transitions into an impressive bit of plot development. Hargrove, who is seemingly the only person able to handle explosives properly, ultimately becomes the reason for Arkham Asylum to reopen, and Mayor James finally acknowledges that some of Gotham’s inhabitants may need protection from themselves as well as those who would like to make use of their unique abilities.
In many ways, Gotham is quite an impressive new series. All of its characters are, for the most part, either well-serviced, well-cast or exceptionally well-cast. This is likely something that plays in the series’ favor, yet there’s still an overall sense of inauthenticity which continues to bring the series down. Barbara, for example, is as disposable of a character as you’ll find on network television. Her emotions are inconsistent as ever, and her actions, though salacious, mean absolutely nothing to what her character has been and still is – instead, they’re just a tagline to the episodic theme.
Of course, Mr. Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) still remains the most impossible character in this series, and it’s honestly all too unfortunate for the actor. Fortunately, Liza’s fireplace photo of her and Falcone – the boss she is loyal to (wink) – overshadows whatever riddle requirements Gotham PD has for their staff (or Penguin, in this case). These unbelievable elements act as a reminder of the heavy hand which must make sure all the many plots threads are fully serviced within the limited amount of time they have.
Gotham still has much growing to do. Thankfully, it appears that those running the show are taking the steps to continue to evolve the series as it makes its way to episode 22, the season one finale. How the series will ultimately look compared to its original 16 episode order is anyone’s guess – but don’t be surprised if those 6 additional episodes become what decides the future of the series.
Gotham returns next Tuesday with “LoveCraft” @8pm on Fox. You can check out a preview of next week’s episode below: