This week's episode of Gotham has proven yet again why people who decided to skip out during Season 1 from the lack of a Batman story made a huge mistake in doing so. Not only does the majority of this episode hits heavy on the Bruce Wayne/Batman upbringing, but it also presents itself in tone and atmosphere as a traditional Batman story.
First off, let's talk about the amazing sense of setting taking place in this episode as we venture deep into the underbelly of Gotham. One of the greatest things about the universe of Gotham in general, whether you're referring to the comics, animated series, movies, etc., is the beautifully presented dark and twisted atmosphere showcased through various locations and character designs. We've seen the series explore parts of the city since the beginning of Season 1, but I feel that the greatest example of some of the more colorful and dynamic aspects of Gotham are best shown here with the introduction of a new gang led by a man named "Cupcake" and a Jerome themed night club.
That perfect blend between an apocalyptic-like sense of chaos as well as intrigue and artistic beauty is exactly what I expected to see when exploring the darker corridors of Gotham. It is through the perspective of a curious and determined Bruce Wayne that we get to see this side of the unforgiven and brutal city and I loved every single second of it. It should also be noted just how adult rated this night club that Bruce explores is as we get several sights and sounds implying a very sexual and crazy environment which is obviously no place for a kid.
This was one of the best parts of the episode for me as I admired the brilliance of the writers showing the audience a setting that was not only foreign for us, but even more so for Bruce Wayne who is obviously new to this type of scenery. This entire episode plays as a very strong character study for the character, so seeing this world through Bruce's perspective was perfect as he travels alone on this journey of vengeance and justice.
Who exactly is Jeri?
Speaking of Bruce's journey, let's talk about that Jerome themed night club as well as the singer (Jeri) who eventually tells Bruce where Matches Malone is located. Lori Petty does an amazing job at delivering one of the most entertaining performances in this episode as a wild and crazy yet strangely subdued with a mysteriously dark history character. There was something peculiar about how calmly and sisterly-like she handled Bruce's situation despite the gravity of it all. I've been loving these highly dynamic minor characters on the show this season. These are some of the best side characters that Gotham has offered in my opinion and I'm hoping we do get to see a lot more of them in the future.
Jerome's Club or Cult?
Before we get to Bruce's story, let's talk about that club which really caught me off guard at first, although it does perfectly point back to the Jerome character quite brilliantly. Those of you who read my quick thoughts on the matter regarding Jerome's death inspiring a future of "potential Jokers" will remember that I completely hated the idea at first. However, there is something quite fascinating and surprisingly entertaining about the idea of having a cult-like following to what can be considered "Subject Zero" in the Joker try outs of the show.
What exactly created such an event of people gathering together to party in front of a large screen showing news footage of Jerome is beyond me, but that's part of the crazy and whacky charm of Gotham after all. Some things are either shown to be eventually analyzed down the line or simply shown with no sense of context whatsoever and without any intentions to explain in the future. One can merely speculate for now. However, I do believe that our Joker story arc will be showing its presence every now and then through means such as these.
Bruce Confronts His Demon
Now, let's get to the real meat of the episode which involves one of the most significant moments in the entire series thus far as far as the Batman origin story goes. The major question that's been carried around through Bruce's story has always been "What will you do when you finally discover your parents' killer?". This is the first time that I've actually seen this moment executed in live action in which I must give full props to the writers and director for perfectly delivering it here. The performances of both David Mazouz as Bruce and Michael Bown as "Matches Malone" were arguably the greatest performances I have ever seen on the show thus far.
You can feel the intense atmosphere practically pouring out of the screen once Bruce enters Malone's apartment and stalls about hiring him to kill someone until finally getting to his real intentions. What makes this such a powerful and emotional scene isn't just the fact that Bruce is holding up a gun to his family's murderer with the intent of killing him, but that he begins to feel conflicted about it once he realizes the type of man Matches really is. The dialogue between the two is pretty heavy as Bruce constantly attempts to make Malone remember his face and the entire incident by describing it in detail.
This leads to arguably my favorite scene on the show dramatically speaking which is the moment when Matches finally remembers the incident and actually encourages Bruce to kill him, so that he may be at some twisted form of peace with himself. You can see the struggle in Bruce's eyes being hit with something completely unexpected and realizing that the monster that he imagined for long is nothing more than a brutal yet troubled man. What's even more striking is not only does he decide not to kill him, but he actually places the gun on the table and walks out with absolutely no regard to his safety.
There's something very impactful about watching him leave knowing that the man before him was nothing more than a person waiting for death and not the soul torturing demon that he probably imagined. It is here where Gordon finally catches up with Bruce in which we we hear a gunshot coming from across the hall. The look in Bruce's eyes knowing that the gun he left was used to kill his parents' killer after all despite him physically holding it himself was again amazingly performed by David here. Once Gordon rushes into the room to witness Malone's suicidal, you can see a sense of fear, conflict, and rage all building up within Bruce in the hall officially making him snap.
This leads to a very significant and pretty epic scene in which we see Alfred calling out to Bruce in the "pre-Bat cave" (as I like to call it) only to find a letter from Bruce telling him that he has decided to live on the streets with Selina in a plane to essentially be surrounded by the horrors that he wishes to fight in the future. One of the strongest lines in the letter is when he says "You can't kill murder. You can't get revenge on Evil. You can only begin to fight such things by not doing them.". If this isn't the ramblings of a future cape crusader then I don't know what is.
Again, the dialogue and performances are its most powerful in this episode and is very much so in this scene as we see Alfred broken up inside about Bruce's new journey in becoming what we the audience knows to be the beginnings of his Batman persona (or at least his ideals). This is definitely the biggest Batman related episode so far and we didn't even need to see a costume or gadget which deserves much praise in my opinion. This is the Batman origin story that I've been waiting to see since Season 1 and I'm more than happy to say that the writers and producers have fully delivered on their promise.
Overall, this is by far one of my top 3 favorite episodes as it not only pushes the Bruce Wayne story further than I expected, but it also does so in the most organic and beautifully directed manner that I could ever imagine. It should also be noted how fantastic the cinematography was here utilizing the lighting to perfectly enhance the darkly lit and shadow heavy atmosphere of the scenes and situations. The world building was extraordinary and the storytelling was amazing making this an episode to never forget. Much like what I said about the Mr. Freeze story arc in previous episodes, this is the Gotham that I wanted to see and now I'm actually getting what I wish for.