Gotham: 308 “Blood Rush” Review
Reviewed by Charlie Pickard.
“You’re a police officer, for God’s sake! You have to follow the law.”
“I don’t have to do anything. I am the law. I am judge… jury… and executioner!”
The gradual slump that began last episode continued this week, unfortunately. While still a good episode, by Gotham’s standards, it was nowhere near the level of the Jervis Tetch episodes. The story advancement was admirable but the execution left something to be desired.
Despite this, I appreciated how Barnes’ story was a natural progression from Tetch’s arc as a result of him being infected with Alice’s blood (leading to his titular ‘blood rush’). Tetch made one appearance and was as electric as ever, as Barnes probes him about whether there is a cure for him. There isn’t. This enrages Barnes, who becomes darker throughout the episode.
Michael Chiklis gave a good performance in an episode centred on his character, although he largely shouts his lines and can occasionally seem one-note. Some nuance and subtlety would be appreciated. In his favour, the writers don’t give him much more to work with than ‘angry, shouting character’. In almost a season and a half we know next to nothing about Barnes outside of his job. Does he have a family? What are his hobbies? Where was he born? This evil turn would have worked far better if we knew more about Barnes.
Tonally, this episode was very dark and gritty. The Toad, who carves people’s faces off and their corpses melted, was a horrifying character. He was reminiscent of the Ogre from Season One, but there simply wasn’t enough time dedicated to him. He felt like a half-cooked character struggling for attention amidst an ensemble. This shows the difference between villains given half an episode who barely make an impression, and those who have half a season devoted to them like Tetch.
This plot seemed too unrealistic, even for Gotham. The Toad is essentially a plot device to tell Gordon that Barnes is now evil, which occurs at the climax. The killer survives being thrown out of a tall building for long enough to tell Gordon that Barnes beat and threw him. This was admittedly a good cliff-hanger, like always. The stage is set for Gordon to apprehend Barnes, who won’t give up without a fight.
Barnes’ story of being someone bad in the GCPD unbeknown to everyone feels like a re-tread of the Riddler going through the exact same thing last season. Where Ed ended up being captured and imprisoned in Arkham until early this season, it feels as though Barnes won’t be as lucky. I can’t foresee Chiklis sticking around for Barnes to become a fully-fledged villain like the Riddler, so it seems more likely that the character will be killed or incarcerated once his arc reaches its end.
Elsewhere, Mario Falcone makes an enemy of Gordon when he hits him for the time he told Tetch to kill Lee. A great deal of animosity is building between the pair and I expect Mario will eventually embrace his mob roots. Barbara turned up also to ask Lee if she misses Jim, which she denied. She’s fooling nobody, though – if Jim and Lee don’t reunite by the end of the season I will be extremely surprised.
The subplot regarding the Penguin was infuriating in several ways. The writers of this show were under no obligation to make Penguin and Riddler a couple just because the former loved the latter, as an unrequited romance can still be interesting. The problem lies with the fact that Penguin acts in such a manipulative, jealous way that portrays the iconic villain as childish, when the pair should really have an adult conversation. Their relationship can only end badly now.
It was also extreme that Penguin had Isabella killed. The character did no wrong and death was a harsh outcome for her. However, the desire Gotham’s writers have to race through plotlines meant I didn’t care one iota for Isabella. She was in the show for all of two episodes so there was barely any time for her character to develop or for the audience to learn anything about her. She functioned only as a plot device for the male characters to develop, again highlighting the sexism sometimes found in Gotham’s writing.
The Penguin, in the four episodes since he became Mayor, doesn’t actually do anything as Mayor. In this episode he sits in his mansion scheming against Isabella. We don’t ever see him in the Mayor’s office doing his duties as the leader of a city. This typifies the way in which Gotham chooses what plots it wants to focus on and what will happen. They can have Penguin be the mayor without actually doing anything; they can have Gordon be a bounty hunter and suddenly return to the GCPD as though no-one filled his vacancy when he left; the Riddler can meet a woman and fall madly in love with her in under twelve hours. Such writing choices from Tze Chun really drag the rest of the show down.
Technically, the direction by Rob Bailey had a confident feel to it, with shots being open and free. This allowed the audience to see more of the action rather than it being confined, which worked well in an episode full of Barnes’ fight scenes. In contrast, there was a symbolic shot of Barnes in his office seen partially through the blinds that emphasised how alone he felt in this episode, as though he was peering out at the world but not being part of it. This subtlety was far more effective at conveying his predicament than ten lines of shouting could ever manage.
‘Blood Rush’ was a decent episode that was more like the first couple of episodes of this season in terms of quality. A focused narrative was balanced by a lack of depth to both the Toad and Captain Barnes. His downfall is inevitable, and following that I anticipate the return of the Court of Owls and Jim Gordon’s father.