Gotham: Scarecrow Episodes Review- Spoilers Ahead…

See reviews of Gotham’s previous episodes:
Episode One
Episode Two
Episode Three
Episode Four
Episode Five
Episode Six
Episode Seven
Episode Eight
Episode Nine
Episode Ten
Episode Eleven
Episode Twelve
Episode Thirteen

I came into last week’s Gotham with a bit of trepidation, mostly due to the title “The Fearsome Doctor Crane” foreshadowing another villain in an already crowded rogue’s gallery. Despite it only being the first season, this Batman “prequel” has already given us the likes of Penguin, Zsasz, The Riddler, Black Mask, and, of course, Balloon Man. Isn’t introducing an adult Scarecrow robbing us of the joy in seeing a young Scarecrow’s descent into madness over the course of a few seasons? Not to mention that the age difference between Wayne and his iconic villains is so great that he’ll have to change the name of Arkham Asylum to Arkham Nursing Home.

Nothing says terror like inflated rubber.

Thankfully, the title in question refers not to Scarecrow but to his father, who has a nasty little hobby. It involves kidnapping people, exposing them to their deepest fears, sucking the excess adrenaline from their body and then shuffling off their mortal coil. Think of him as Jigsaw with a business plan. Bullock and Gordon are called in to catch this maniac and, if possible, nab a little red headed love interest for Bullock. The redhead they find is an aquaphobe named Scotty Mullens who, surprise surprise, attends the same self-help group as Dr. Crane. Pretty soon Scotty is kidnapped by Crane, but the detectives are able to track them down thanks to Crane taking a detour to pick up his son, Jonathan. An obligatory shootout occurs, leading to Scotty’s rescue and Crane and son escaping, capping off one of the most twisted “Bring your child to work” days in recent memory.

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Meanwhile, Penguin is called upstate to join Don Maroni, who has grown rather suspicious of the two-timing henchman. What follows is a surprisingly suspenseful afternoon where Penguin is constantly on edge under the inquisitive eye of Maroni. This is the highlight of the episode, due in no small part to some wonderful chemistry between Taylor and Zayas. Although I knew Penguin would get out of this one unscathed, this episode kept me guessing as to how.

And then there’s the final scene where a camo clad mercenary attacks Fish Mooney’s getaway boat. Talk about unexpected! My guess is that evil looking dude has a huge part to play in Fish’s inevitable return to Gotham. Each stands in a similar way when attacking, so it’s plausible that the two have an affinity for the same martial art. It’s plausible that they share a past as well. One thing is for certain: this man is not fond of Fish and is sure to give her a lot of trouble in upcoming episodes.

Just when you thought she was finally gone…

There’s a lot crammed into “The Fearsome Doctor Crane” and, although it’s all good, I can’t help but feel that this episode would have been better served if some of it would have been saved for next week. For instance, there’s a wonderful scene between Gordon and Wayne that involves the young Batman releasing Gordon from the detective’s hasty vow to find his parent’s killer. It’s a powerful moment, but the excessive subplots give it little time to make an impact. Adding on to it, this episode focuses more on Bullock’s love life than ever before, and also makes room to give Gordon a few more pleasant moments with Leslie Thompkins. Both romances are believable enough on their own, but together they crowd this episode and come close to spoiling an inventive villain and the tense Penguin-Maroni confrontation.

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This ended up being another solid episode of Gotham, but left me wishing this season would give us at least one more gem on the level of “Penguin’s Umbrella”. I was happy to see that Fish is going to be gone from things for a while. Then I watched this week’s episode.

Fish Mooney needs to die. There’s just no if, ands, or buts about it. Her character should have perished episodes ago after her defeat at the hands of Penguin. Instead, she’s clung on to the series, setting up pointless subplots and taking away from the more interesting villains. Every single “master stroke” she has made has been a flaccid excuse for a plan. We’ve seen how ineffective her plan to bring down Falcone was, and her chance to have vengeance against Penguin resulted in her henchmen being captured and Fish being set out to sea. Now, in tonight’s “Scarecrow”, she takes up almost a quarter’s worth of the episode moving up the ladder of a prison. Her brilliant plan to take control? Bragging to the leader about her vague skills and then stabbing him in the neck when she gets close enough. If the villain’s success has to rely on her opponent being too stupid to use his bodyguards, you know the villain is crap. Please, Gotham writing staff- kill Fish Mooney before she truly ruins your show.

Pictured: How Fish Mooney makes me feel.

It may seem I’m being hard on the character, but that’s only because she’s the main thing bringing down a pretty stellar episode. The events of the previous “Fearsome Doctor Crane” flow quite nicely into “Scarecrow”, with the nefarious Dr. Crane and Son moving onto phase two of their plan to conquer fear from within. The second part of the tale kicks off with some poignant character building as he experiments with his proto-fear toxin. Turns out that Dr. Crane began his murderous quest after his fear of fire prevented him from saving his wife’s life. Watching Dr. Crane cry helplessly at the hallucination of his dead wife covered in flames is visually haunting and ranks among the finest moments of this series.

Back at the GCPD, things between Gordon and Leslie Thompkins are getting serious, while the Bullock-Scotty thread appears to have been a one and done deal (guess ol’ Harvey just can’t hold onto ‘em). As always, Gordon and Bullock track down the bad guys, but not before Dr. Crane gives both himself and his son powerful doses. The results for the doctor are an immunity of fear, but unfortunately for him that doesn’t translate into an immunity to bullets. Jonathan, the future Scarecrow, is left with unknown brain damage as a side effect. It’s worth noting that seeing Jonathan’s fear is one of the coolest things that has happened on Gotham so far.

On the crime family front, Penguin has escaped the furious clutches of Maroni and hid into the protective embrace of Falcone. After a bit of mob boss haggling, Maroni agrees to let Penguin live, though only for as long as Falcone is breathing. Penguin comes off pretty high and dry from the ordeal, officially gaining ownership of Fish Mooney’s place. The restaurant business isn’t quite his forte, however, as a measly five people come out to attend his grand re-opening. Penguin has been the eternal whipping boy this season, and to see him continue to be so even after gaining power is really taking a toll on his psyche. It’s interesting to see him in a place where, although he’s the boss, he’s still tortured by his failures.

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I’d be remiss not to mention two moments from the episode: 1) The touching scene between Bruce and Alfred watching the sunrise and 2) The wonderfully awkward first meeting between Riddler and Penguin. The former strengthens the bond between the young and veteran actor, while the latter gives us a funny reminder of why we started watching this show to begin with. 

Next week is Gotham’s biggest challenge yet, as it plans to unveil its version of an adolescent Joker. Personally, I see this as a bad move so early in the series. Honestly, after the Joker, who’s next that could impress us? There’s also the irreparable harm that screwing the Joker up could take on the series. Simply put, next episode is going to be THE make or break moment for the series. My heart is with them making it work, but I’m having a tough time picturing a child actor with the chops to make the clown prince of crime work.

I’m predicting a more intriguing thread involving Penguin clashing with his workers. A frustrated Penguin has no other recourse than to take it out on those who work for him (remember that poor guy in the alley in episode one?) Sadly, I see it being dragged down by more Fish Mooney and the risky Joker introduction. The trailer features an interrogation of the young Joker by Gordon, which brings up memories of the same scene from The Dark Knight. If they can copy even a fraction of that powerful scene, I’ll be happy.

Overall: 8/10

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