Gotham: 307 “Red Queen” Review
Reviewed by Charlie Pickard.
“This city tore my love from me, so I’m plunging it into insanity”
‘Red Queen’ was a lean character study that balanced a few too many plots while still being an enjoyable episode. This didn’t quite reach the heights of the previous Tetch episodes (mainly due to limited screen time for the excellent Benedict Samuel) but on the whole straddled the high bar set by Season Three thus far.
Valerie Vale and Jim Gordon have officially ended their relationship after her near-death experience in the previous episode. Despite Gordon telling Tetch to shoot Lee, Vale thinks he knew Tetch would do the opposite of what he said. If he was prepared for her to die then she certainly won’t be his lover anymore. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were to have an on-off relationship throughout the rest of the season. In spite of this, Lee is still the object of Gordon’s affections, as was predicted. Jamie Chung and Ben McKenzie delivered good, emotional performances, which set the tone for the rest of the episode.
This was a showcase of Jim Gordon – an intricate exploration of his gruff character. While Tetch tries to poison Gotham’s wealthy at a dinner with Alice’s infected blood, Gordon hallucinates due to a dose of the titular ‘Red Queen’. He goes on a journey through his subconscious, aided by Barbara, who he must still have feelings for deep down. Erin Richards was as reliably wacky as ever, but the episode belonged to McKenzie. With such great material for Gordon compared to previous seasons, he must be relishing his role. Season Three is primarily serving as a way of breaking down Gordon’s character and examining his psyche before he can be built back up. It’s great to have such an astute focus on the main character.
We take a trip through Gordon’s mind, beginning with his past. He fights in a war and then follows a masked Bruce Wayne, who pushes him over a ledge into the GCPD where everyone is dead. This could represent his future if he doesn’t protect his city, leading to him returning to the GCPD at the end of the episode.
The hallucinations provided great character work for Gordon, showing us his ideal life with Lee and their potential children through the frame of a circa 1930s perfect household. The family soon disappears as Gordon slips further into his subconscious where his final destination is the past once more, but an alternate one where he gets to talk to his father.
It was insightful to learn more about Gordon’s rarely mentioned father. The two characters had good chemistry, with the elder Gordon having a similar speech style and mannerisms to his son. There was depth to the writing, with Jim wanting to be a good man like his father. This led to the brilliant twist that his presumed-dead father is still alive and, surprisingly, appears to be the head of the Court of Owls. It will be fascinating to see how the rest of the season plays out if Gordon Senior is the over-arching villain now that Tetch is behind bars. Furthermore, Gordon Junior’s decision to re-join the GCPD will put him firmly in opposition of his father, although it’s a shame he couldn’t have been an amoral bounty hunter for a few more episodes.
Following his hallucinatory trip, Mario wakes Gordon and takes him to be treated. The animosity between the two is tangible following Gordon telling Tetch to shoot Lee, with Mario saying he helped Gordon because it’s his job. He likely didn’t want to do it otherwise. The plaster on Mario’s neck was of particular intrigue – the way Gordon looked at it implies that it won’t be something as simple as a shaving cut, but perhaps something more nefarious.
On the acting front, Benedict Samuel presented us with a truly insane version of Jervis Tetch, far removed from the calm hypnotist we initially met. It was unnerving to see him kiss Alice’s corpse, and perhaps gratuitous. Tetch is truly deranged when he finally gets caught by Barnes and the GCPD after evading them for so long, cackling whilst being pummelled by Barnes. Samuel portrayed his lunacy exquisitely. The character deserves a rest for a while, but his eventual return will be very welcome.
The Penguin’s subplot took the twist of him learning that the Riddler has feelings for Isabella, the Miss Kringle lookalike. Penguin tries to break the pair up by telling Isabella about Riddler’s time in Arkham, but his plan fails and they become even closer. Excluding the absurdity of the pair being virtually in love after just twelve hours (a typical example of Gotham’s desire to race through plots), it feels somewhat counter-productive to have Penguin’s love for the Riddler be rejected by the latter’s liking for a woman. It never seemed likely that Gotham would commit to a homosexual relationship, but the way in which the Penguin takes the role of being the bitter ‘stalker’ is questionable. Perhaps he could instead have spoken to the Riddler about his feelings for him in a mature, adult manner rather than connive to ruin his newfound romance, but that would appear to be too much to ask of writer Megan Mostyn-Brown. Melodrama will always oust realism in this show.
Mostyn-Brown struggled to balance her plots, with Tetch feeling side-lined due to too much focus on the Riddler and Penguin. The first half of the episode felt quite slow, and it was only when Gordon’s hallucinations began that it began to pick up the pace. It would probably be best to devote an entire episode to one plot and then the same again the next week for another, rather than split an episode in two each time and add further subplots into the mix.
Regarding such subplots, Bruce Wayne’s story this week didn’t amount to much more than him cooking a meal for the tardy Selina Kyle. The pair admit that they have reservations about being a couple but both want to do their best and have a proper relationship. This sub-plot felt extraneous and would have been better held back until the next episode, but at least it advanced a classic will-they-won’t-they angle.
Faring far better once again was Captain Barnes. Michael Chiklis seems to be relishing his new storyline as he portrays the leader’s descent from grace. His exposure to Alice’s blood continues to cloud his mind, while he rages at those around him. This is evident in the scene where Barnes strangles the lab employee and almost kills him. This ruthless streak will only worsen, and it may not be long until Barnes kills someone innocent. Moreover, he learns that it could take years to find a cure for people infected with Alice’s blood. Despite this, it was still a shock to see the Captain writing his own Will at the end of the episode. It’s highly likely that his days are numbered.
The direction from Scott White was the best I have ever seen in Gotham. There were many exquisite shots, with perhaps the best one being the shot of Alice’s body having blood being taken out of it. White’s camera rotated as it panned out from a close-up, then flipped onto Tetch and rotated on him. This created a surreal feeling to the horrific act of Tetch using his sister’s corpse; whilst being extremely stylish. The standout shot of the episode, however, was when Gordon looked at Tetch as he ran down the staircase in the hospital. Tetch was framed within intertwining sets of stairs as he looked up at Gordon. The use of frame-within-a-frame highlighted him and his importance as he stared at Gordon, daring him to follow. This marvellous technique demonstrates how great the show can look with the right people behind the camera, and it would be a crime for White not to return.
Similarly, the editing was superlative, particularly during Gordon’s hallucinations. Images stretched and colours changed to represent different feelings and ideas, while overlays and cross-fades were aided by some beautiful cinematography. The mania of Gordon’s mind was well and truly encapsulated. In addition, the music was as exciting as ever, complementing every scene through a range of genres. For instance, it was compelling when Gordon saw Tetch in the hospital while visiting Valerie and ran after him, the frantic music matching the pace of their chase.
This week’s episode wasn’t quite as good as some of the previous ones but was solidly written and incredibly directed. It wrapped up some stories while advancing many others. Jervis Tetch’s arc deserved a better climax after the sterling work done across multiple episodes, but it won’t be long until he returns. One of this show’s best ever cliff-hangers indicates that the shift in focus towards the Court of Owls and Jim Gordon’s father will be unmissable.