Arkham Asylum is a place Gotham has only spoken about in whispers. In comics and films, Arkham serves as a home away from home for all of Gotham City’s most bloodthirsty criminals. But in an era where Batman isn’t around to keep the padded cells at full occupancy, the derelict facility lies in disuse. But two crime bosses are ready to rip the city apart just to get a piece of it.
So far, this show has only mentioned Arkham in passing by making allusions that its fate was now undecided because of the Waynes’ untimely death. But the truly terrifying stakes—the threat of a citywide gang war—were reserved for the series’ fourth installment, aptly named “Arkham.”
The asylum, and its surrounding land, is the driving force behind this entire episode. It’s one of the first words from Cobblepot’s mouth as he babbles to Jim Gordon in the episode’s opening minutes and one of the last words as Gordon details the facility’s fate to Bruce Wayne before end credits. But what happens in between those moments are 45 minutes of fast-paced action that serves as Gotham’s best episode so far.
For one, Gotham is really starting to embrace its crime noir sensibility. Gordon and Cobblepot’s opening exchange in a rain-soaked back alley, with camera angles all askew, sets the breakneck pace for the rest of the episode. After Cobblepot blubbers out a cryptic and nonsensical warning involving Arkham, elsewhere a council member is cut down by a metal spike-wielding assassin in a secluded parking lot.
Once Gordon and Bullock begin investigating the homicide, Gotham slips into its familiar formula. Murder. Case Assignment. Murder Solved. Repeat. For what Gotham is, which is essentially a surface-level crime drama, this is a time-tested formula that clearly works well. Hopefully the screenwriters will work in at least a few curve balls throughout the season just to keep things from getting stale. Regardless, as Bullock and Gordon visit familiar criminal haunts searching for their political-minded criminal quarry, Mayor James details in a brief press conference why Arkham is so important.
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