So far, one of Fox's most ambitious shows, Gotham, has proved to be nothing more than a jumbled mess of forced Batman references, unbearable dialogue, and dull, heavy-handed storytelling that frustrates and appalls rather than becoming the show we know it can be. However, we are pleased to report that this week's episode, “Arkham” marks a strong step up for this floundering show, finally favouring actual plot progression over the senseless meandering that made its first three episodes such a damn drag. Dark, suspenseful, and genuinely exciting, Gotham's spectacular fourth episode shines a ray of hope on a show that had almost finished digging its own grave. It may finally be Gotham's time to wow us, and we couldn't be happier.
As Gotham's gangs begin to pound upon the drums of war with increased vigor, James Gordon (Ben McKenzie) finds himself tackling a much more pressing issue. Oswald Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor) has returned to Gotham and seeks his help, knowing that he won't be killed. A mysterious killer preys upon Gotham's political elite, prompting Detective Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue) to seek help from the conniving Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith) as a last resort.
Ben McKenzie and Robin Lord Taylor are bona fide scene-stealers, exuding confidence and leadership among a bumbling cast that desperately needs some of that. Jada Pinkett Smith's role as Fish Mooney expands, much to our chagrin. Her horribly miscast character becomes increasingly annoying with each successive episode, robbing her of any villainy she might be trying to convey and instead solidifying her place as the show's weakest link.
A handful of the show's most glaring missteps remain intact here, but this time it's clear that the showrunners are attempting to make amends for their past follies with better writing, better direction, and better dialogue. Gone are the exhausting Penguin jokes. Gone are the cell phone conversations that presumably take place in the '70s. The schlock that defined the first three episodes has been replaced with actual substance, finally falling into step with its own unbelievable potential.
Of course, with such a dramatic spike in quality comes the realisation that the show functions in extremes. Mediocrity isn't an option. Since its premiere, Gotham has either failed miserably or knocked it out of the park, suggesting that it may be incapable of accomplishing anything in-between. This worries us here at STARBURST, because we gamble our time (and energy) with each new episode. It's never clear if we'll get Emmy Award-winning, character-driven drama or the sloppy, amateur writing and direction that has defined the show thus far. That's a huge problem, one that needs to be rectified soon if Gotham ever hopes to stay as enthralling as it proved it can be.
However, if Gotham can deliver episodes as fun, exciting, and intriguing as “Arkham” on a weekly basis, it could become one of the best shows on television. We can't wait to see what new surprises await us in next week's episode, “Viper.”