After numerous lifeless hours, Gotham brought the fireworks last week, giving us the first installment in months that effected change for the characters. Seven days later, the show had an opportunity to put its foot on the gas and give itself significant momentum into the hiatus, before the final run in April. Instead, it eased up. “Everybody Has a Cobblepot” wasn’t the off-the-wall feast that I anticipated coming off last week, but a methodical episode that delivered intrigue in subtler ways.
While “Red Hood” gave a glimpse of where I think Gotham will eventually settle, as a bonkers crime-drama that consistently shocks its audience, episode 18 showed promising range. Though overall a relatively tame episode, at the center of it was a well-constructed and acted story surrounding Gordon’s never-ending quest to clean up the GCPD. Arnold Flass (the detective Gordon arrested for murdering a witness five episodes ago) returned, but the focus was not on Flass, instead targeting the man on top of the mountain. Commissioner Loeb has been the clear thorn in Gordon’s plan to rid the police department of corruption from the beginning. There’s not much to be done when the man in charge is as crooked as Carmine Falcone. Last night, when Gordon learned that Loeb has dirt on nearly every cop in the GCPD, he set out to find some soil of his own on the Commissioner. That led him to investigate the mysterious murder of Loeb’s wife, which led him to a mysterious farmhouse on the outskirts of Gotham, where he finds Miriam.
Miriam Loeb is the Commissioner’s daughter, played brilliantly Nicholle Tom. Despite the show’s inability to put characters in decent stories, it has done a wonderful job of finding capable actors to embody the supporting players that are needed week to week. Tom was no exception. In what was a deliberately slow, though not plodding, episode that unraveled the mystery of the Loeb murder in an effective manner, it was the conversation between Miriam, Gordon and Bullock that shone. While the episode lacked significantly in any sort of action, it helped bridge that gap with some solid exposition here, with much of the heavy lifting being done by Tom. Gotham has had numerous moments like this throughout its first season—moments that ignite the spark in your mind that says this show could be something special, if only it could get past many of its shortcomings. But, for every well-crafted bit of dialogue, there are a handful of cringe-worthy moments in Gotham, and this hour was no different.
Much of the season, I have knocked Gotham for its inability to manufacture a decent action sequence. I wish I could say that the situation has improved over the weeks, but it hasn’t and it’s crippling the show. Last night there were several moments that could have been heart pounding, but were instead heart-rending. Nearly every movement looked awkward, ill planned and poorly executed. It’s mind-boggling, really, when Gotham’s TV cousins, The Flash and Arrow consistently deliver cinema quality action (granted, with a super-trained vigilante and a superhero) week in and week out. Gotham can’t put it together when push comes to shove, and it makes for flat episodes that need to rely heavily on the show’s writing, which has rarely been a highpoint.
The biggest disappointment of the night, though, came from Fish. After last week’s shocking spoon to the eye, we quickly learned that Dr. Dulmacher patched Fish up good as new. The only difference is that her eye is now blue. While the show pulling back on what appeared to be a monumental change is a letdown, I can’t say I’m surprised. But I’m also not vehemently upset. The Dulmacher storyline is proving to be the sort of dark, twisted territory I’ve wanted Gotham to visit often, and instead of being peppered in for shock value, the writers are taking their time with it. Fish working with the doctor is an interesting move as she seems both willing, given the fact it will help her achieve her ultimate goal, and disgusted. Dulmacher is, at this point, still a bit of a wild card. Depending on how closely, and to what version, of the character from the comics the writers adhere, he could go a number of ways. He seems situated to be a fixture in the final episodes of the season, but also could be held off until next fall. And while Fish may have a new eye, a point does need to be made that some real strides have been made inside the walls of the GCPD thanks to Gordon. This week, by gaining leverage over the Commissioner, Gordon opened the door for significant change in the future.
?We’ve reached the moment I’ve been waiting for all season. That may sound obvious—aren’t we always waiting for the final episodes? But with Gotham, it is even more apt. From the beginning, the show has illustrated a desire to play the long game, and now the game is up. With only four episodes left, it’s time for the writers to quit stacking their deck and play the cards they have. Thankfully they’re heading into the break off two of the season’s stronger episodes, and a fair bit of momentum still left from “Red Hood.” This is the moment Gotham can prove itself worthy of a second season. It’s already been picked up, yes, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we should be tuned in.
Eric Walters is a Detroit-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. For more of his TV musings, follow him on Twitter.