[This is a review of Gotham season 3, episode 4. There will be SPOILERS.]
Last week's episode of Gotham brought Jervis Tetch, aka the Mad Hatter (Benedict Samuel), into the show's ongoing "Mad City" arc. Whether or not that subtitle implies that Tetch will be the big bad of the first half of season 3, this week sees the character's story really kick into high gear, as he recruits some help in his quest to reclaim his sister Alice (Naian González Norvind). Considering how that particular objective plays out, it's entirely conceivable that Mad Hatter will only intensify his efforts to make Gordon (Ben McKenzie), the GCPD and Gotham in general pay for meddling in his family.
In addition to Tetch, this episode -- titled 'New Day Rising' -- finally gave characters like Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) and Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova) more to do. Even though these two future members of Batman's rogues gallery ultimately were brought in to service the storylines of Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) and Bruce (David Mazouz), respectively, they do offer a bit more character development and set up intriguing events for their own tales as well. Plus, let's not forget that ending, which wraps up all three storylines in epic fashion. It's plain to see that season 3 is just warming up, but first, let's discuss the events of 'New Day Rising' and establish how it did in fact live up to its name as a turning point for Gotham.
GORDON VS. MAD HATTER
Part two of Gordon's mission to take down the Mad Hatter -- or, at least, the man who will someday soon adopt that moniker -- continued with this episode. While the character's obsessive hold over Alice is in keeping with other incarnations, the addition of an amusement park felt a bit too Joker-y for Mad Hatter, as chilling as that deadly moment with the high striker was. In addition, the Terrible Tweeds didn't bring much to the table other than brute force, and though they are simply meant to be Tetch's muscle, characters like Butch Gilzean (Drew Powell) prove there's room for depth in even seemingly stock characters.
What does work about Mad Hatter is Samuel's pitch-perfect performance. Like Penguin and Nygma (more on them in a moment), Gotham's version of Mad Hatter successfully rides that line between hammy and genuinely creepy. Here's a guy that is unhinged in all the most interesting ways, drunk with the power he wields and -- now that he likely holds Gordon and the city of Gotham accountable for his sister's death -- armed with the motivation necessary to push him even further down a dark path. Like a moody mix between real-life magic men like David Blaine and Criss Angel, Tetch has just the right look and attitude to become a world-class Gotham villain in the near future. Here's hoping the show gives him that chance.
As usual, Gordon's never-ending wrestling match with his inner demons was among the weakest elements of this episode. This is a subplot that Gotham has explored several times already, and it has yet to bear any more fruit than it did the first few times the show tread this road. At least now that Barnes (Michael Chiklis, whose talents continue to be squandered in a pretty uninspired role) is infected with Alice's blood, the GCPD may face some actual change that might allow the show's primary focus to develop into something more interesting. Please?
MAKE GOTHAM SAFE AGAIN
Wow, politics work really fast in Gotham because apparently we're already up to the mayoral election. Considering the brilliantly planned timing of this storyline (and the pointed social commentary of Penguin's campaign slogan, "Make Gotham Safe Again"), it's disappointing that Gotham failed to explore Penguin's bid for the office of mayor a bit more thoroughly. This first part of Penguin's story could have used a few more episodes, and timing the Gotham mayor election the same week as the real-life U.S. presidential race would have been just so satisfying.
Regardless, we finally get to see more than a fleeting glimpse or two of Nygma. "Arkham made us stronger," he tells Penguin at one point, and this common ground has given the duo a solid foundation on which to build a dangerous alliance that will only spell trouble for the city. Nygma's insistence that Penguin run a clean election (and his conflict with Butch over the matter) not only help to endear him even further to Penguin but also prove that he is the smartest character on the show by a significant margin. Sure, Nygma claims his actions were based on his belief in Penguin's ability, but let's be real. There's no way Nygma isn't acting on his own self-interest. After all, manipulating Penguin in this way did result in Nygma's appointment as Mayor Cobblepot's new chief of staff. We can't wait to see where this one goes.
Bruce and Alfred (Sean Pertwee) realize that the former's doppelganger (sorry, emo Bruce) has fled Wayne Manor, and naturally the future "world's greatest detective" doesn't take long to figure out that emo Bruce tracked down Selina. Of course, he doesn't get to them until after Selina discovers emo Bruce's identity, and the pair share a kiss. No doubt, this moment is the beginning of the "next level" teased for Bruce and Selina this season, who share a complicated relationship both as their alter-egos and as Batman and Catwoman.
By the end of the episode, emo Bruce gets scooped up by the as-yet-unnamed organization behind Wayne Enterprises (i.e., the Court of Owls), but chances are, we won't see him again until closer to mid-season. If season 3 is following a similar pattern as last year's batch of episodes, then the entire "Mad City" storyline will come to a head before the holiday break. In the meantime, emo Bruce made enough of a splash between Bruce and Selina to make both a little more self-aware of their burgeoning feelings for one another. Mazouz and Bicondova always have such great chemistry together. So that part of the story should be a treat in coming weeks.
Gotham continues next Monday with 'Anything For You' @8pm on FOX.