'Gotham' Review: The Zsasz Effect - Plus Real Potential!

Gotham Season 1, Episode 13 - Gordon & Bullock

The choke heard around Gotham helped Fox’s fledgling show set itself on a new path by establishing real consequences. This week, the city returns to the required game that is 22 episodes a season. Each character is but a chess piece to move around this massive board, in hopes of a rewarding turn of events soon to come. The series’ soul is emerging, make no mistake!

In this week’s episode, “Welcome Back, Jim Gordon,” written by playwright Megan Mostyn-Brown, who then attended Warner Bros. Television Writers' Workshop, Jim Gordon (Ben Mckenzie) takes on a dirty co-worker, Arnold Flass (Dash Miho), who is the prime suspect of murder investigation, which forces the GCPD to decide which side of the law they fall on. Meanwhile, Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) notices the ignorance of his fellow workers; Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith) delivers Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor) a clear message; Victor Zsasz (Anthony Carrigan) proves a keen stare means everything (when bullets are unable to penetrate furniture); and Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova) forces Bruce Wayne (David Mazou) to accept some harsh truths about life, love and “Switzerland.”

There’s not much substance to this episode, if we’re all being honest. At no point do you feel that, if you simply turn your television off, you will miss Jim Gordon accomplishing anything of actual importance. This is the truth, and much of the series’ problem. It’s also completely fine this week, honestly - even for Gotham.

Gotham Season 1, Episode 13 - Gordon & Cobblepot

This tales earns a pass from such criticisms, in every way. For all intents and purposes, what we have now is a welcomed maintenance episode which continues to develop many of the harsh truths and realizations that were recently established with Falcone’s (John Doman) recent proof of maternal dominance. The city, as a whole, is a mess, and the character intentions are only as clear as your knowledge of their ultimate future. Much like the corrupt city, nothing is earned in this series, just taken. There was also never any clear intent in earning anything – Arkham happened “because”; Little Batman jumped between buildings “because”; references to the Joker were continuously made early-on “because.” The latter which is simply an extremely poor idea. That is, until the choke heard ‘round the world set an example.

Gotham is a city of lessons, essentially, and everyone has one or more they must learn. Right now, Gordon and Falcone appear to each control their respective halves of the city, law and disorder. Through them, the lesson is clear: once you figure out what you want, take it, no holds barred. What comes next, pain or gain, or the fall of a metropolis, so be it. This is the eventual outcome of the city – well before any heroes come to help 20 years from now – so why not celebrate it? In a world birthed of powerful and dangerous personalities, selfishness must drive the heart of the series, first and foremost. Outside of that, Gordon simply has to make sure each and every arrest he makes is for a reason - or else call Michael Cudlitz and bring back SouthLAnd.

Gotham Season 1, Episode 13 - Riddler

Much like Gordon’s conversation with the police chief, in which she explains the consequences of helping him clean up the city, the series, too, is feeling the consequences of simply relying on its namesakes to do much of the heavy lifting. Even if this is purely a lesson to the writers, it’s been clear from the beginning that the series title (Gotham) and the series intent (Little Batman) are at an impasse. At no point are the harsh truths of a city on the decline being woven in these stories we continue to see, as if it’s the cause of none of this. Instead, it’s simply the people who make up the city that’s the problem, which is the furthest thing from the truth.

In many ways, Zsasz is (and has been) the weapon by which the producers are laying down their wrath, and this episode makes it absolutely clear that unimportant scenes will no longer run long. With each and every gunshot (no matter its success), it’s but a single crazed maniac who is holding the threads of this city together. Without him, Gotham would be too CSI for any skilled producer to rework, and the potential of the series turns sour – especially with season 2 on the books. The series may have its hopes and dreams for who and what will thrust this tale into the television limelight, and hopefully we’ll be able to eventually see what those are, but right now it’s Zsasz’ show with executive producer Ben Edlund quietly trying to keep the tempo out back.

Gotham is still the rich kid on the block – much like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. last year – and they still have yet to have that moment where yes, all of its critics are proven wrong. The potential is there, however, and if anyone is going to prove anyone wrong, it’s certainly Gotham’s studio Warner Bros. Television, who fuels much of the lovable monster we call the television industry. Fox, the network, is bringing back X-Files and 24, so there’s that.


Gotham returns next Monday with “The Fearsome Dr. Crane” @8pm on FOX. You can check out a preview of next week’s episode below:


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