Gotham: 304 “New Day Rising” Review
Reviewed by Charlie Pickard
“I know that we can’t change the past, but there’s a difference between moving on and letting go.”
Gotham hit its stride this week, delivering a great episode that set the bar for the season and was an improvement on its predecessors. This was one of those rare occasions where everything coalesced in perfect harmony to create a cracking slice of TV.
Election Day has come round quicker than Wayne Manor goes through door locks. After minimal build-up, The Penguin vies to become Mayor of Gotham while the Riddler and Butch compete over who will be his second-in-command. I was glad that Butch finally has a proper storyline, as he has been in the background for much of the past half-season. I imagine the Riddler and he will battle each other from now on, and the former will undoubtedly win.
The Penguin’s campaign is a clear allegory to the current US Presidential Election, complete with a parody ‘Make Gotham Safe Again’ slogan. The parallel is appreciated, as politics is a pertinent topic that deserves to be represented even in superhero shows. Penguin wins the election by the end of the episode, after thinking he has been betrayed by Riddler, only to learn that the people of Gotham truly support him and he didn’t need to bribe officials. This is a new angle that brings Penguin firmly into the public eye. Following the villainous Theo Gallavan’s turn as Mayor, I would have expected the people of Gotham to be savvier when electing their next one.
As per usual, Robin Lord Taylor and Cory Michael Smith excelled in their roles, with Taylor standing out in particular as he showed an overwhelmed, tearful side of the Penguin. Their interplay was also comedic, while the chemistry they share perhaps hints that the characters view each other as more than friends. This would be a relevant representation in modern times.
Benedict Samuel continued to shine as Jervis Tetch following his excellent debut last week. His performance was even more deranged now that he knew where Alice was, and we saw his nihilism in the cold open when he killed the man with a hammer. However, his desire to find his sister ultimately worked against him.
Naian Gonzalez Norvind portrayed Alice superbly. She looked perpetually frightened of Tetch finding her, and had a tragic demise when she accidentally fell and was impaled. Alice was a tragic character; she deserved a better life, rather than one of subservience to her brother (and hinted incest). It was a shame that she appeared so briefly, but her death will make Tetch, who escaped, even madder when we next see him.
Technically, the low-angle shot of Alice’s impaled body was fantastic: we saw her high up on the spike, with a sliver of light attempting to break into the room, only to be blocked by her corpse. This symbolised the life of darkness Alice led, not through choice but purely as a victim. Director Eagle Egilsson and his cinematographer conjured just one of many superlative shots here.
For instance, his work impressed in the scene where Jim Gordon is hypnotised and wants to kill himself. The direction was kinetic and fast, with an array of angles such as close-ups being used to showcase Ben McKenzie’s face. Similarly, the editing was incredible, with red filters signifying Gordon’s rage in addition to high-key lighting and out-of-focus shots, all of which created a heightened sense of surrealism. The final component was the sound editing – the ticking of Tetch’s clock, aided by the tense music, make it seem possible that Gordon will shoot himself.
He manages to snap out of his reverie, however, by recalling Lee’s words. She told him that he should let go of her instead of burying his emotions. The ex-lovers agree to still be friends, which displays good character development for the usually immovable Gordon. He’s happy that she’s happy, and Mario can care for her whereas Gordon can’t.
Elsewhere, Bruce Wayne and Alfred want to find the doppelgänger before it does anything bad. However, it actually saves Selina Kyle from being mutilated by the men in the bar in a frenetic fight scene (Egilsson also worked on Arrow, where fights are abundant). The doppelgänger gets stabbed, exposing its true identity to Selina, before they share a kiss.
It leaves her and finds Bruce Wayne in the end, where the duo speak before the artificial creature leaves for pastures new. Things don’t go that smoothly, though, as Kathryn approaches it at night and has the Talon kidnap it. She wants back what she had Hugo Strange create, and we can be sure that it won’t be long before the doppelgänger returns with a vengeance.
Continuing his stellar work was, of course, David Mazouz. The difference between his characters was highlighted when they faced off against each other. His Bruce Wayne is suave and conscientious but naïve; while his doppelgänger acts more like a normal teenager, although very jaded and despondent. Mazouz has proven with this arc that he will only continue to grow as an actor, as he gains more prominence in the show as he matures.
Writer Robert Hull balanced the different tones of the episode with ease. The menacing plot with Alice and Jervis was balanced by the politics of the Penguin, as well as the humorous exchanges between Bruce and Alfred about Selina kissing the doppelgänger. His acute writing wasted nothing and he covered a range of plots with flair, supplemented by a collection of witty lines. I certainly hope Hull writes more episodes this season.
The conclusion of the episode is enticing – Alice’s poisonous blood drips onto the unsuspecting Barnes, whose face transforms before returning to normal. This was a welcome twist for a character who hasn’t had much to do recently. Barnes may be the latest to be infected by Alice’s blood, but there are also Tetch’s vials of the stuff to be considered. I wouldn’t be surprised if he does manage to infect more people with it and create monsters like the short-lived ones from Indian Hill.
I said in my previous reviews that the best of Season Three was hopefully yet to come – I just didn’t expect it so soon. This was a tremendous episode with a delicate balance of story, an intense pace and some exciting cliff-hangers. The acting was good but over-shadowed by the brilliant writing and direction. The return of the Court of Owls and the Penguin’s new role will hopefully ensure that Gotham’s current form continues.