Saturday, October 29, 2016

Gotham: New Day Rising Review


For some reason, Mojo Rising plays in my head when I think of New Day Rising, Episode Four of Season Three of GothamNew Day Rising is a bit of a misnomer in that I don't remember that ever really coming up.  We get a new day with Gotham's election, and we still have some intense moments of violence that still continue to trouble me.  However, so much goes right that a lot can be forgiven.

A lot, not everything.

Jarvis Tetch (Benedict Samuel), the man who is not officially known as The Mad Hatter, is determined to get at his sister, Alice (Naian Gonzalez Norvind).  She is at the Gotham City Police Department Headquarters, so obviously that place is the least-safe in all Gotham.  As can be expected by now, Jarvis uses wrestlers to lead a raid on the GCPD HQ and take Alice.

I would like to point out that this is at least the fourth time the GCPD HQ has been hit in an attack: there was the Maniax, the Electrocutioner, and former Mayor Theo Galavan's attack as deranged Azrael.  Seriously, there should be a moratorium on attacking the GCPD HQ...or at least for goodness sake hire some actual security there.  We can't keep going on like this!

Be that as it may, bounty hunter Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) is determined to get her back to safety.  Easier said than done given that Gordon is still struggling against the hypnotic suggestion that Jarvis placed in his head: any ticking sound will get him to try and commit suicide.  He also has to deal with his lost relationship with Dr. Leslie "Lee" Thompkins (Morena Baccarin), who gives him some words of wisdom: "There's a difference between moving on and letting go".

For his part, with a little help from his (surprisingly honest) former GCPD partner Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue) and his former supervisor Captain Barnes (Michael Chiklis), Gordon does manage to find where Jarvis is holding his sister.  The Mad Hatter, however, will not be denied: setting off a giant metronome to inspire another suicide attempt.  Gordon manages to break the hold and try to go after Jarvis.  In the melee, Jarvis attempts to hold on to Alice, but she falls and is impaled.  He manages to escape.

In our other subplots, Number 5, the doppelganger to Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz in a dual role) is going through the streets of Gotham with Bruce's frenemy, Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova).  Selina is a bit puzzled by his behavior, but she has more important things to think of.  First, there's her search for Ivy, and second, there's the matter of the gambling den.  She went there knowing there'd be money on the Mayoral election, but she didn't expect to get caught.  The goons come close to breaking her fingers when "Bruce" shows up, and in a shocking display he manages to beat them both and help her escape.  It's after they take flight that Selina sees "Bruce's" scars and realizes it's not the real Bruce.  Eventually, he says he will leave, but not before giving her a farewell kiss.

This news visibly irritates the real Bruce Wayne when he and Alfred (Sean Pertwee) find him.  While Number 5 opts to make a life for himself somewhere, the mysterious group behind a lot of the machinations in Gotham find Number 5 and take him.

In all of this is the Mayoral campaign.  Oswald Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor) wants an unfair fight: he is determined to win, and he gets help from his right-hand man, Butch (Drew Powell).  In the other corner is Pengy's bestie, Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith).  He is up to something himself, something that troubles Butch.  What Nygma is up to is taking back the bribes Penguin has been giving the officials.  An angry Butch and shocked Penguin have no problem threatening to waste Nygma, until the election results come in...and Oswald Cobblepot wins in a landslide!  Nygma's gamble paid off big-time, for Mayor Cobblepot has chosen Edward Nygma to be his Chief of Staff.

Butch can only watch in dismay as his boss has found someone else.

I am surprised that the election storyline ended so quickly.   It would have been fun to see Oswald and former Mayor Aubrey James duel it out in a debate, or see him campaigning more.  However, my sense is that Gotham wanted to get Mayor Cobblepot into office as soon as possible in order to move into more important business. 

I also was surprised that we didn't get much indication as to how Nygma read the public's response better than Pengy or Butch and his group.  It was a bold gamble by Nygma, for if he had been proven wrong and Penguin had lost the election, Penguin would not have shrunk from having Edward killed right then and there.

Interestingly, some storylines were ended, or at least put in the backburner (and that's not mentioning how Fish Mooney is still running around somewhere, with her mad scientist Hugo Strange, and both have yet to make a comeback).  The Number 5 story wasn't extended either, but he is not completely out of the picture just yet. 

Alice was also ended, and here is where I'm taking New Day Rising and Gotham to task.  Right from the beginning, when Jarvis takes the carnival from the hypnotized owner, we get some surprisingly gruesome bits of violence that trouble me.  Granted, we don't see Jarvis bashing the owner's head with a mallet in one of those strength games, but it gives us just enough to make it a bit horrid.

It was in Alice's death that I was again reminded how Gotham sometimes goes past what I think is acceptable network television fare.  We dwelt, almost lovingly, on her impaled figure, and for me, this is too much celebration of death.  That is already bad enough, but there is more than a strong suggestion of incest between Jarvis and Alice in the dialogue (though it's clear that Alice was an unwilling partner in what perhaps was a more intimate relationship between brother and sister).

All that combined would cause me to banish Gotham from the eyes of children, certainly anyone under 16.

I certainly would hope Gotham pulled the stops on some of their visuals, but I feel they aren't going to, so I will continue to be at times horrified. 

Still, when I look at New Day Rising in terms of aspects outside the violence, I find a very strong episode.  Mazouz is now proving any doubters as to his ability to be a young Bruce Wayne wrong.  He has to be both Wayne and Number 5, and whenever an actor plays a dual role (usually that of a twin or lookalike) actors can either be convincing or ridiculous.  Mazouz, with his voice and manner, does a great job convincing us that they are not one and the same. 

He is matched by Bicondova, who has become one of the best versions of Selina Kyle we have seen, certainly in the younger division.  I would have thought her cat-sense would have alerted her to the idea that the guy she was with was something else, but when she has to face the goons or when she realizes that he isn't Bruce, she gives a solid performance.

McKenzie, who sometimes I don't praise, does a fantastic job because he is given a deeper conflict as the man struggling with the loss of his love, which in turns make him vulnerable to thoughts of suicide through hypnosis.  RLT similarly continues to show the insecure child within his murderous Penguin, and this is the first time I can see the suggestion of what fans call "Nygmobblepot", the idea that Ed and Ozzie are meant to be 'friends with benefits'.

Exactly how far this scenario will go down the road I do not know, but I hope there's more thought to it than just to out Penguin as a gay mob boss.

For me, the best part of New Day Rising was in The Mad Hatter storyline.  This is the first time I sense that we get a Batman-type villain, down to their outlandish manner and trappings, while still grounding it in reality.  Jarvis goes to the wrestlers known as "The Terrible Tweeds" (an obvious tie-in with Alice in Wonderland's Tweedledee and Tweedledum), and the large metronome seems something a bit too large, even outlandish, to be believable, yet Gotham managed to balance the camp with the horror.

In many respects, New Day Rising is a strong step forward in Gotham, bringing the traditions of the larger-than-life Batman villain without being flat-out ridiculous.  We get strong performances from the cast (particularly Samuels as the Mad Hatter and Mazouz as Bruce Wayne/Number 5) and a good story.  Minus how quickly the election went, I think New Day Rising does a great job pushing Gotham into yet another strong season.  


Next Episode: Anything For You

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