Gotham closed out its two part origin story with ep. 15 “The Scarecrow” this week. Last week Gerald Crane (Julian Sands) was introduced, as the father of the Scarecrow villain we are familiar with today. He began a violent killing spree, tracking down phobics and harvesting their adrenal glands after killing them in the way they most feared. This week’s episode provided us the reason WHY he was stealing endocrine system parts (sorta).
It turns out, Dr. Crane, a high school Biology teacher, was trying to overcome the greatest paralyzer of humanity – fear. His wife died in a house fire and paralyzed by fear, Gerald was unable to save her. That event, his failure, continued to haunt him. This lead him to believe one would have to face the darkest fears possible and overcome them. He proposed to do this by harvesting the adrenal glands during the most terrifying moment of an individual’s life and creating a serum from that to allow him to develop a tolerance for fear. Not only did he have this plan in mind for himself, but also for his son, Jonathan Crane (Charlie Tahan). The ordeal proved to be too much for Jonathan as he fled from his father and a second injection. His father was not to be thwarted in his efforts, however, and Jonathan was still injected with the fear serum. The close of the episode found him lying restrained in a hospital bed envisioning an evil scarecrow lurking over him. Reports to Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) from the doctor explain that Jonathan’s brain activity reflects him being in a perpetual state of intense fear. It is no wonder he turns out as he does when we see him later in his career as an antagonist to Batman.
This episode of Gotham also gave us a small treat, bringing Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) and Edward Nygma AKA The Riddler (Cory Michael Smith) together. Although it is clear the show runners were clearly appealing to the fan girls and boys by bringing the two together, and obviously creating a moment nearly breaking the fourth wall, it was an enjoyable scene nonetheless. Despite my perpetual complaints that Gotham has attempted to bring in too many characters at one time without creating a common thread to tie them together into a cohesive show, I can never complain about Oswald Cobblepot and Edward Nygma. They are the only two villains I have found to be creatively and consistently written with definite character arcs.
And now… the “love” story of Dr. Leslie Thompkins (Morena Baccarin – also the voice of Gideon on The Flash) and Jim Gordon. I didn’t like Barbara (Erin Richards). She was whiny, needy, and useless for the story. So I was glad to see her go. I tend to like Dr. Thompkins even less. Very little rapport was developed between the two characters before they were kissing in a men’s locker room in the precinct. Next thing we know they are going on dates and kissing in the station with all the officers and investigators pausing their work to watch the show. Jim Gordon has gotten her hired as the new M.E. and is trying to draw lines between his professional and personal life. One can only hope that the good doctor will end up being more than she seems. Wouldn’t it be a kicker if she ended up being the Joker in a crazy twist?
Meanwhile, Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith) is in some kind of purgatory prison and Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) is out climbing mountains and hills with wise Alfred (Sean Pertwee) following him from behind, unknown to the young Batman. Ivy (Clare Foley) and Selina (Camren Bicondova) are nowhere to be seen and the investigation of the death of the Wayne parents has clearly been put on the back burner, despite the vehement promises of Jim Gordon to Bruce at the start of the series. Thus, the crux of the error of Gotham; a single story line isn’t pursued to its full extent. Multiple seeds are planted, but all too close to one another for any of them to fully take root, soak up the sun, gather water, and grow into healthy and robust plots.
Overall, the episode was well made and showcased better writing than some past episodes. However, it still feels like the show is trying to find its stride. With a guaranteed second season, one can hope that it finds its stride before the end of the first. Or at least a gigantic payoff that ties all the individual characters stories together into a continuous and seamless plot.
Gotham is on Fox on Monday nights at 8/7c. Stay tuned next week for ep. 16 “The Blind Fortune Teller.”