At one point during "Red Hood," right around the time that Fish spooned out her own eye and STOMPED ON IT, I asked my husband between fits of hysterics, "When did this show get so good?" It wasn't actually a trick question; putting aside a few less-than-great spots, the Fox drama has been pretty consistently strong since "What the Little Bird Told Him," and even displayed flashes of awesome before its winter hiatus. Still, the turnaround is a bit startling. I didn't have much faith in Gotham in the beginning, and honestly, I didn't really enjoy the show all that much for the first few weeks. Even now, I'm not really into the vast conspiracy over at Wayne Enterprises.
BUT YOU GUYS, FISH MOONEY GOUGED HER OWN EYE OUT AND STOMPED ON IT TO SPITE THE DOLLMAKER'S LACKEY. I'm giggling as I type that. It was the sort of gory WTF moment that would make American Horror Story or Hannibal proud, and it was the sort of no-holds-barred act of utter desperation/insanity/ballsiness that says a lot about a character. Did it squish? Please let me know if it squished. I was screaming into a pillow as soon as she raised her foot was raised, so I didn't quite see the deed through.
Dropping Fish to the bottom of Gotham's power hierarchy has done wonders for my ability to not hate on the character and her storyline. When she was screwing with Falcone and making questionable fashion decisions, she was simply another mafia underling trying to bump off the boss and take his place. It wasn't that interesting.
However, the Fish Mooney we've been following in recent weeks has proved that she's more than just another power-hungry player in the Gotham underground. Her ruthlessness isn't merely a tactic for inciting fear among her detractors, it's a powerful tool to help ensure her survival—and she clearly isn't opposed to using against herself in desperate situations. Her horrified response to Dr. Dulmacher's operation was certainly born out of concern for her own safety, but it also shows that she has her limits, and that in her own way, she can be protective. Selfless, even.
I can't believe I'm saying this, but I'm actually (finally) interested in where Fish's story is headed and how Gotham will handle her inevitable return, especially considering the juxtaposition of her traumatizing experiences this week with the sentiments shared by Penguin and Butch: a weird hybrid of reluctant fondness and a "f*ck her" that may or may not have been sincere (Butch is, after all, supposed to be "reprogrammed" now).
You know who else is undergoing a very welcome revamp at the moment? Barbara! Still on a bender after her break-up with Jim (I'm loving that she has a drink in her hand in almost every scene these days), Babs has opted to channel her angst and alcoholism into making the most of the homeless girl halfway house that's currently occupying her swanky loft. This week: makeovers! Except not really, because Selina was totally offended (maybe "princess" wasn't the best word to use?) and pointed out that Barbara using her looks as a weapon has worked out sooooo well for her so far.
While nothing ultimately came of Barbara's efforts, her time with Selina in "Red Hood" served as a poignant hint toward those things we all know are coming. Selina might mock and reject Barbara's philosophy now, but the Poison Ivy and Catwoman of the comics (and movies—especially the movies) are two of the most sexualized figures in Batman's history. Poison Ivy in particular has the whole using-her-beauty-as-a-weapon thing down.
For being named after such a huge figure(s) in Batman mythology, the titular Red Hood himself/itself didn't seem to have as much OOMPH as the action surrounding everyone else. The character's eponymous episode touched on one of the more recent Joker origin stories without actually rehashing the tale of the poor schmuck who was forced into working as a stooge for a red-hood-rockin' gang and fell into a vat of crazy juice that transformed him into the clown prince of crime. I think Ian-from-Shameless is still a stronger candidate to take up the Joker mantle than random-kid-on-a-bike. However, random-kid-on-a-bike feeds into my most favorite of Batman themes: the anonymity of tragedy, violence, and crime, a theme that Gotham may be losing sight of due to its ongoing Wayne conspiracy arc.
I just feel like the philosophy behind Bruce donning the cape and cowl will be diminished if there's an actual concrete reason for the death of his parents, if their murderer has a face and a motive. Time and again, in various media outlets, the idea has been posited that Bruce Wayne couldn't stop being Batman even if he wanted to, and it's one that I personally hold true in my own interpretation of the character (it's also why the end of the Nolanverse bothered me SO FREAKING MUCH). Giving Bruce an actual target to focus on, whether it's a specific person or organization to fight, offers him an out. "Defeat this person. Stop this organization. Then you, too, can stop."
But if Bruce's parents were killed for some political, financial, or professional gain by, apparently, their own board of directors, the unending vastness that causes someone like smart, sensitive, sensible Bruce Wayne to snap and dress up like a bat for his night job is lost. The "bigness" of the Batman figure disappears, reducing him to just another guy on TV who's trying to exact revenge for a wrong that was done to him, instead of a larger-than-life persona who's fighting the good fight that's larger than himself. The beauty of Batman is that for all of his victories, he never really wins.
Which is really nihilistic, I know, but if I wanted sunshine, I'd go geek out over Superman. Oedipus Rex is depressing as hell, but it's still a great tragedy.
So, it seems that Wayne Enterprises is currently full of nefarious evildoers, but I gotta say, I didn't see Alfred's old war buddy being on their payroll. At least he seemed tortured over it. Someone on this show has to be.
NOTES FROM THE BATCAVE
– Seriously though, where is Fish getting all her makeup while in captivity?
– That was the most Poison-Ivy-esque thing that Baby Poison Ivy could have grabbed. Awesome.
– Ooooh, cliffhanger. But not really. I mean, Alfie's gonna live, obvs.
– Gotham's first season is actually almost over. Thoughts on the crazy so far? What are you hoping to see before the finale?