Monday, March 2, 2015

Gotham: Red Hood Review


Gotham has pretty much kept a good balance between being a precursor to the Batman story and a police procedural.  Sometimes it has gone a bit overboard with one or the other, but on the whole it has done well maintaining that delicate balance.  Red Hood keeps that balance again pretty well, especially with two real stories going on: the investigation of the string of robberies as well as the Fish Mooney storyline, which has a hum-dinger of a shock.  Actually,  I think Red Hood has some of the most shocking moments in Gotham's run with two big moments that leave the viewer a bit stunned.

Detectives Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) and Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue) are now looking into a series of armed robberies committed by a gang that has one member wear a red hood.  The first Red Hood has a jolly, joke-filled manner, but this doesn't sit well with Clyde Destro (Johnny Coyne), the de facto leader.  He shoots Red Hood One, Gus Floyd (Michael Goldsmith) and decides to take on the mask.

Bad move, as the gang soon starts seeing the red hood as some sort of talisman, and just as Gordon and Bullock come to Destro, they find him dying, and Red Hood Three, a nervous fellow, takes it.  Gordon finds enough clues to lead them to the third crime, and the Red Hood Gang is taken down in a firefight.  Unseen by the police, a child finds the actual red hood and slips it on, awaiting his own turn in crime.

Alfred (Sean Pertwee) is visited by an old friend, Reggie (David O'Hara).  Reggie's fallen on hard times, and Alfred and Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) welcome him to stay at Wayne Manor for a few days.  Bad move, as Reggie not only starts undermining Bruce's training but also has a hidden agenda of his own, one that puts both of them in danger (and causes Alfred to get stabbed). 

Finally, Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith) is still determined to get at the mysterious head of the prison she finds herself in.  She is informed by the director (the legendary Jeffrey Combs) that the head of the operation, a Dr. Dulmacher, is not in.  She at first refuses to speak to the director and insists on speaking to the Doctor only.  She is persuaded to have the luxury of a bath and some new clothes, but then is told she has two options: lose her eyes or lose her life.  She goes for Option Three: gouge her eye herself and stomp on it.

In two minor plots, Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova) gets some tutoring in the art of seduction by Barbara (Erin Richards), still slightly bombed out of her mind, and Oswald Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor) is struggling to keep the club going after Maroni cut off his booze supply.  He is helped by an unlikely source: Butch Gilzean (Drew Powell) who uses his connections to get the alcohol, but whom Oswald is still wary of.

I don't think Gotham has had such jaw-dropping moments in the series as much as Fish's desperate play for survival.  I had heard about it through the grapevine, but nothing really prepares you for the visceral shock of the scene.  Being network television one can show only so much, but what we did see and what was left to the imagination is still stunning.  I was absolutely shocked and stunned at what I was watching, and think Gotham pushed the envelope as far as it could.

This moment really is perhaps the most shocking of two twists that were handled on the whole well.  One doesn't have to be the sharpest tool in the shed to know that Reggie is bad news, but to its credit I didn't make the connection between Reggie and certain higher-ups until the end.  In this instance we see how well Gotham handles things visually.  Alfred's stabbing and Bruce's discovery is amazingly shot and edited. The entire final scene with Reggie and his employers is equally beautifully shot, a collection of shadows and light that tells us how nefarious they are.

The main story of the Red Hood Gang I think works very well.  The dynamics of the group are established quickly and we see glimpses into what kind of people they are. 

The performances all-around were especially good. I was hoping that Floyd would have stuck around longer, as Goldsmith did a fantastic job with his more jocular thief.  Coyne too did a wonderful job as Destro, even bringing a bit of pathos to his downtrodden criminal.  O'Hara also did well as Reggie, even if you knew that he was going to be a villain. 

I met Jeffrey Combs at a convention (on the whole a nice man, though yes, a bit scary) and it took a while to recognize him.  It's too bad he didn't turn out to be the legendary Dr. Dulmacher because you have the Re-Animator himself here.  However, he too made his Director into a calm but dangerous figure. 

The main cast is still really good in their roles.   McKenzie and Logue have formed a wonderful double-act: McKenzie's square-jawed hero to Logue's more cynical partner.  When McKenzie swipes Bullock's glasses to examine video tape, he asks Bullock if he can see the important clue.  "No, because you took my glasses," he retorts, and seeing Gordon not getting the comment and Bullock's sarcastic but accurate reply is both humorous and realistic.

Pertwee I think is the main character in Red Hood, and the struggle he has between what he is and used to be is handled so well by both script and actor.  The rapport he and Mazouz have is another highlight of Red Hood.  I'm glad Gotham is adding this storyline here, though the payoff better be worth it.

JPS gives us new insight into Mooney.  She's always been a bit camp in her take on the role, which I know bothers people.  However, here at least she is able to drop the mask somewhat to show that even she, a woman who holds herself to be gritty and tough, is herself creeped out by the dismembering of living people.  For once the bravado she puts forth meets something that leaves even her momentarily disoriented.

It is unfortunate that both RLT and Richard's Barbara (as much as she is disliked) are given smaller roles to play this week.  They did it well (though again I question Barbara's sanity in letting Selina and Ivy Pepper crash at her place no questions asked) but one hopes that they were there to throw us a few tidbits about future storylines.  I also wonder how clumsy the GCPD is to allow an important piece of evidence like the actual red hood to be picked up by some random kid (though I figure it had to be done for foreshadowing).

The overall crime investigation worked very well (though I wish we could keep crimes going beyond one a week) and proved interesting to follow between the criminals and the detectives.  We even get a few moments of comedy in the beginning, as the gang puzzles over Floyd's new costume.  "Should we all have gotten red hoods?" one asks.

On the whole, this was a particularly strong Gotham episode, with really jaw-dropping moments and a strong case to investigate.  Red Hood gives new meaning to the title Masque of the Red Death...


Next Episode: Everyone Has A Cobblepot

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