Gotham: 303 “Look Into My Eyes” Review
Reviewed by Charlie Pickard
“Deep down, you want to die, Jim. You want to end this miserable, empty, loveless life, don’t you?”
This week’s episode of Gotham was very satisfying. It scratched and clawed at greatness, desperate to return to its sophomore zenith, but fell just short of it. Nevertheless, this was an episode that had a great new villain, a focused narrative and a feeling of urgency. Temporarily gone were Fish Mooney and Hugo Strange, leaving the show free to focus on the arc of Season Three. Their absence was more than made up for by the captivating Jervis Tetch, played mercurially by newcomer Benedict Samuel. He seized his opportunity to shine and was the biggest success in this episode.
When Tetch performs at the beginning, at Barbara and Tabetha’s club, it’s clear he’s no ordinary hypnotist. His whispering to the wealthy man pays off later when Tetch arrives at his home. Ordering the stupefied man to kill his wife and himself so that Tetch can have their grand home establishes him as a sinister, manipulative villain. The brutality of the scene shocked me, especially when the man bludgeons his wife’s head. This darkness serves Gotham well, and helps to ground it as a show where not all the villains are comedic and whimsical.
The lighting in this scene was superlative: Tetch was silhouetted at the end of a corridor with intermittent lightning illuminating him. Surrounded by shadows, he provided a threatening silhouette; these were the only standout shots of the episode, whereas the directing and cinematography were standard for the rest of it.
Samuel was excellent on his debut. He had a strange charm about him, while his titular eyes were enchanting. There was depth to the character, courtesy of the nuanced acting. This certainly wasn’t a one-note villain. Sterling work was done by the hair and costume departments on completing Tetch’s overall appearance – he was akin to a Victorian gentleman, which didn’t surprise given Gotham’s token anachronism.
Atmospheric as ever was the music, permeating the scenes in Wayne Manor with a sense of unease. It also complemented Tetch’s appearances, in tandem with the sound effects of ticking clocks. Something so simple was used so effectively to enhance his hypnotism scenes.
Tetch’s search for his sister, Alice, leads to a tense showdown that leaves Gordon hanging from a ledge. We gain insight into his troubled psyche, learning that he feels dying would make everything easier. This is a far cry from the man Gordon will one day be, demonstrating that there is a lot more character development to come. He harshly arrests Alice, after she saves his life (conveniently arriving just as Tetch counts down to Gordon’s death). She’s clearly too dangerous for him to let her go back on the streets.
Elsewhere, Penguin manages to get the Riddler released from Arkham, which pleases me as the latter is a character with plenty of potential. The two partners in crime will undoubtedly provide entertainment as they attempt to make the Penguin Mayor of Gotham. At least this duo gets dedicated screen time, unlike the under-used double-act of Barbara and Tabetha – who in particular is yet to do anything of merit.
‘Look Into My Eyes’ was written expediently and skilfully. Series regular Danny Cannon crafted an episode that felt like the true start of Season Three, with no time for Mooney or the Court of Owls. Storylines progressed, the pace was rapid and there was a tremendous balance between the four main plots. In place of witty lines were ones with heart and passion. Instead of a definite conclusion, Tetch escaped, ready to return (next week). While the tone was uneven, the ambition can’t be faulted.
Arguably the best performance this week was delivered by Ben McKenzie as Jim Gordon. Mario Falcone, Lee’s fiancée, patches him up at the hospital after his fight in the burnt-down bar. When Gordon learns who he is, we see a range of emotions ripple through his face: disbelief, regret, jealousy, sadness, all conveyed subtly. He still cares for Lee, and threatens Mario in his typical wry style.
Despite being Carmine Falcone’s son and Lee’s new lover, Mario comes across as likeable and genuine. He’s a doctor who helped Jim and seems to care for Lee, something which the former couldn’t do without endangering her. It remains to be seen whether he stays this way or becomes more like his father. My bet would be on the more exciting option.
David Mazouz continued his streak as he played Bruce Wayne’s doppelgänger opposite himself for the first time. This highlighted just how different the two characters are, and Mazouz continued to use subtle acting techniques, such as changing his intonation, to differentiate between them. He then played a combined version where the doppelgänger pretended to be the real Bruce in front of Selina, leaving us with a tantalising cliff-hanger.
The introduction of the future Mad Hatter gave Gotham’s plot a welcome injection. By focusing on fewer characters and side-lining the older ones, it managed to feel like almost a completely different show compared to the previous episode. The writing was sincere and the acting excellent. However, the best of Season Three is hopefully yet to come.