Credit: Jessica Miglio/FOX
S1 E17
Show MoreAbout Gotham
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Superheroes and villains are all about masks. Very rarely does a super-powered individual risk his or her alter ego without some kind of material between them and the world… except Superman, but seriously buddy those glasses aren’t fooling anyone.

In fact, masks can be so central to certain characters, that they actually become the characters. Batman, of course, has his famous cowl, and other villains in Gotham are completely named after their head gear, such as Black Mask, and yes, Red Hood. It’s this latter bad guy that becomes the main focus of Gotham’s 17th episode, one of the dullest 45 minutes yet.

The main problem with the Red Hood is, unlike the Joker’s debut episode last week (which, let’s be honest, also had some problems), the Red Hood isn’t nearly as compelling. Gotham could have chosen one of several Red Hood storylines to work with—excluding Jason Todd, Batman’s second boy wonder, because he’d probably be a newborn or something. They opted out of Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke Red Hood origin and went with a rob the rich give to the poor gang, who internally begin killing one another over wearing the Red Hood.

From the audience’s point of view, these are just random people we’ve never met, who aren’t particularly interesting and are just robbing banks one after another. Not exactly edge-of-your-seat excitement.

Before breaking down the Red Hood gang’s money-grubbing storyline, Gotham weaves in a few other plot points worth discussing, but let’s start with the worst one, shall we?

Barbara Gordon doesn’t make sense. It’s been a common problem throughout this entire show, and it’s just getting worse. Last episode she got some fashion advice from Cat and Ivy, went to go beg for Gordon’s forgiveness, only to find him smooching Dr. Thompkins in Gotham Central’s locker room. Okay, awkward but also what did she expect?

Backtracking even further. Remember when Barbara went to her parents’ house and everything was super strange and very un-familial? That was actually a somewhat exciting change of pace for Barbara. Finally, Gotham was giving her some backstory, so viewers can sympathize or at the very east understand her insecurities. Instead, we got absolutely nothing. It’s like that whole thing just didn’t happen and a couple episodes later she’s back.

But this is all in the past, let’s talk about “Red Hood.” Once again, Cat and Ivy are lounging around Barbara’s apartment. Cat thanks Barbara for letting them crash, and even asks if she’s doing okay because she’s very clearly a neurotic mess. Then, Barbara, for whatever reason, decides to give Cat the good ole “sex is a weapon” speech while ominously standing behind her in a mirror? Like… what? Where is that coming from? What prompted this conversation? How much more embarrassment needs to be heaped on Barbara Kean?

It’s moments like these where you realize that Gotham has really squandered these last 17 episodes when it comes to character development. In fact, the only characters that are even possibly relatable are The Penguin, maybe Jim Gordon (though he can lean toward being an emotionless statue sometimes), and Fish Mooney. The fact that Fish Mooney is a positive example of a character in this show should be alarming.

Speaking of Fish Mooney, she’s still around and hanging out in her basement murder dungeon, only now she’s finally got the attention of her torturous boss. Mooney is escorted through a nightmare hallway of maimed victims before meeting a bespectacled managerial type guy. He says he represents a man named… Dr. Dullmacher? Wait, is that really the best pseudonym you could come up with for the Dollmaker? Was that supposed to be a joke or is that really his name?

Anyway, Dr. Dullmacher, the Dollmaker, should sound familiar because this bad guy was mentioned waaaaaaaaaay back in episode 2, “Selina Kyle.” Then, two of Dollmaker’s underlyings were kidnapping strays off the street to physically fund the fresh body part portion of the macabre experiments. Now, Dollmaker seems to have upgraded to the classic “keep people in a dungeon” shtick.

So Mooney, separated from her gang of basement dwellers, is completely vulnerable and at the Dollmaker lackey’s mercy, which (surprise) he tries to maim her as well. He says that her eyes would fetch quite a pretty penny, insinuating that he’s about to take them. Mooney chooses another option and gouges out one of her own eyes with a teaspoon and then steps on it. This sort of makes sense? At least in this transaction, Mooney gets to keep one eye, but why keep her alive at all now? You have the rebellious leader, in your office, and the one thing she was good for is now gone. So… kill her? Villains don’t always make the right decisions, which in turn is why the heroes always win, but when bad guys are this dumb, any subsequent victory feels hollow.

Mooney’s subplot isn’t the only one that runs into a rash of stupidity. Penguin’s storyline has completely dissolved from high-action mob greatness, with Penguin cutting through all the competition, to Cobblepot the disgruntled club owner. This week Oswald needs to steal booze from Maroni because he supplies this side of town with liquor. Okay, what is this… prohibition? It’s hard to believe that in a modern city, booze would run through one man, but we needed the confrontation so Butch and Penguin work together to solve the problem. Seems like there’s probably a more logical problem that could have happened but whatever.

Butch, Mooney’s old right hand, isn’t nearly as brain fried as Gotham suggested. Really the only difference is he doesn’t want to choke Penguin to death and has some kind of animosity toward Fish. Other than that, he’s just Butch being Butch. After Penguin finds out that Maroni does control all the booze, he goes with the guns blazing approach in an attempt to steal it. Butch, instead, calls the cops who come and bust up the liquor shipment party, thus solidifying their partnership.

NEXT: A false brotherhood

But not all partnerships make it through “Red Hood” unscathed. Out of nowhere, one of Alfred’s old war buddies, Reginald, comes to Wayne Manor looking for help. He’s soaking wet and disheveled and looking generally down on his luck. Alfred and Bruce offer that he stay for a few nights, and Reggie reluctantly accepts.

This is honestly the only subplot worth watching. It answers a lot of lingering questions, especially one’s like “Alfred, how did you take out all those armed gunmen by yourself,” and the like. Gotham also shows a few genuine moments where Alfred explains how much Bruce Wayne really means to him, which builds on the most nuanced relationship this show has to offer.

So Reggie stays a few days, scraps with Bruce in a somewhat confusing scene, and swaps war stories over very expensive bottles of wine. To sum up—it’s a bunch of bro moments, but a nice change of pace for Bruce’s story line, which can honestly feel a little too doom and gloom.

Of course, the jovial spirit doesn’t last long. Alfred soon finds Reggie rummaging through Bruce Wayne’s study, basically robbing the kid blind. Except, that’s not his true intention. Reggie sticks Alfred with a knife and makes off. Bruce finds Alfred, calls an ambulance, and—it would at least seem—that Alfred is going to pull through.

But in one of the episode’s final scenes, Reggie meets with the Wayne’s sinister board of directors, and the conspiracy comes full circle. Reggie, now a for-hire mercenary, was sent to spy on Wayne and figure out exactly what the kid had on the corrupt board members. This… was actually really smart. It completely elevates Bruce’s suspicions and is also completely shocking. Reggie gives a short little “thief with a heart of gold” moment where he tells the shadowy business people that Bruce is a good kid, but they seem intent on killing him anyway.

It’s uncertain if this is the end for Reggie, or if we’ll see him pop up as the confrontation escalates between Wayne and his own company. Maybe Reggie’s guilt gets the better or maybe he just takes the money and runs. Whatever the case, I’m at least excited to see how this plot thread plays out next week, and that’s saying something.

Now we finally circle back to Red Hood, which was one of the more lackluster villain stories on Gotham yet. This arc’s main problem is that it doesn’t have its villain figured out. The episode weaves among them being funny, serious, murders, Robin Hoods, pitiable, and victims. That’s a lot of disparate emotional states to heap on one group of bandits. The most ludicrous moment of this whole thing is when Gordon and Bullock tail a suspected Red Hood gang member back to his apartment where he’s shot by a fellow crook and left bleeding out on the floor. Gotham injects this moment where, for whatever reason, we need to learn that this guy is targeting banks that initially denied him a loan to open his own bakery. How quaint! How sad! How wholesome! Except for the whole fact that he just murdered somebody like a day ago because he was wearing a red hood and being mildly annoying. All of this trampled upon lower class stuff ultimately falls on deaf ears when your sympathetic anti-hero kills people without a thought.

So Gordon and Bullock find the Red Hood’s final bank heist location and catch the gang mid-heist. Instead of accepting defeat, the clan goes out in a blaze of glory. You get the sense that the hood imbues some sense of bravery or false security, and that is actually very much more than a simple piece of cloth. A passerby eventually picks up the red hood, which is ludicrously not considered evidence in an investigation, and makes a finger shooting gesture toward cops…To be continued, it would seem.

“Red Hood” is a solid 45 minutes of just… nothing. Aside from Bruce and Alfred’s mini arc, everything seems kind of inconsequential and bloated. Even after sacrificing what should’ve been some of the more interesting characters (remember Montoya and Allen?), we’re still left with people without any real development, and it’s difficult to care what happens to any of them.

If you took a step back, stripped away all the nudge-nudge Batman references, and treated Gotham as a procedural cop drama, you’d be disappointed.

I know I am.

Episode Recaps

Ben McKenzie and David Mazouz star in a dramatic look at what Gotham City looked like before Bruce Wayne became Batman.
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