Monday, March 12, 2018
Gotham: A Beautiful Darkness Review
GOTHAM: A BEAUTIFUL DARKNESS
In what looks to be a case of 'last week was your turn, this week is mine', A Beautiful Darkness focused mostly on characters missing from last week's Pieces of a Broken Mirror. This time, it is a more Bruce Wayne and Oswald Cobblepot-focused story, but with a lot of Ivy the Third. A Beautiful Darkness is probably way too intense for small children, but then I know parents who think Bates Motel is family watching, so what do I know?
Ivy Pepper (Peyton List) is obsessed with Wayne Enterprise's 'Project M', which she thinks is dangerous for the environment. She is not above killing WE employees in front of their families after hypnotizing them with her chemicals. Her frenemy Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova) is horrified at her acts, thinking she was drugging people merely to rob them.
Ivy uses her toxins on Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz), but leaves him to die slowly. Bad decision: not only does he not die, but he has a very psychotic dream/vision. In his vision, Captain Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) has a mustache, and he is one of many guests at Wayne Manor for a fete. Oddly, among the other guests are Oswald Cobblepot aka The Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor), who is chummy with both Dr. Leslie 'Lee' Thompkins (Morena Baccarin) and Barbara Kean (Erin Richards). Bruce's visions are freakish, as earlier in it he had his face literally removed from his head by Ra's al Ghoul (Alexander Siddig), and his bandaged self confronts his false self.
It is in his vision that he is taken eventually to a cave, where he sees a strange figure in a cloak and a flurry of bats.
Meanwhile, the real Penguin is still in Arkham, where he finds an unexpected fan in Jerome Valeska (Cameron Monaghan). Our potential Joker taunts Pengy, trying to get him out of his stupor, but Pengy is simply too upset at how his life is to play along. Even when Jerome forces him to wear a clown costume, Pengy won't budge. Leave it to Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) to unleash Pengy's fury.
Nygma comes to gloat over Pengy, and Penguin does his best to let him know he won't be at Arkham for long. It isn't until he accidentally finds the riddle Nygma had unconsciously been working on that Pengy realizes Nygma is still struggling with his alter ego. This gives him the motivation to keep going, even going so far as to play along with Jerome's mad visions.
In Jerome's wacky worldview, Pengy now is out of his stupor, which means he can be of use to him. However, Penguin rebuffs Jerome's offer of collaboration, at least for now, biding his time to see how Jerome's plans for Gotham will be of service to him.
Ivy meanwhile, has put a spell on Lucius Fox (Chris Chalk) to get him to take her to Wayne Enterprise's secret lab. There, she finds that 'Project M' is not for herbicide, but the Lazarus Water, the liquid that helps grow plants. She manages to escape from Fox and Gordon by giving the latter a vial to save Bruce, which he does.
Ivy now has created a flower that can kill, and she appears to have plans.
Most of A Beautiful Darkness is really about Bruce's vision, and while things aren't spelled out we get the gist of what is going on: he sees himself as Batman. Granted, we get this more by allegory than by overt stating, but we can roll with that.
As such, a lot of other things get pushed if not to the side at least downplayed, but with just enough hinting to show where things are going. Mazouz brings all the elements of this complicated figure: Bruce's descent into self-indulgence coupled with his fears and future redemption as the hero Gotham needs.
It is good to see Robin Lord Taylor again, as he has become to my mind the best Penguin. The poor guy has been locked up more than once at Arkham, and he's experienced the heights of power only to come down again and again, but if there is one thing about Pengy, is that he continues to rise. His skills at mime are surprising.
Monaghan, like all future Jokers and Jokers-to-be, is forever under the shadow of Heath Ledger's take on the character from The Dark Knight. It's not a slam on Monaghan, for his Jerome is rather menacing in his madness. It's just that, apart from him tossing a Joker playing card at Penguin, we have yet to hear him referred to officially as 'The Joker'. Anyone who has seen The Dark Knight, however, knows that version of The Joker, and it simply impossible to escape from it.
As much as may not be big on Ivy the Third, I have to give credit to List for making her a most crazed and evil being.
I add, however, that some of the visuals are simply far too gruesome. Bruce's face being surgically removed, leaving a black hole that still carries his voice, the actual killing of the Wayne Enterprise employee, and the disintegration of the couple where Ivy has been crashing were all rather grisly. In my view, images like those are far too intense for children, and while I have long cautioned adults not to let them watch Gotham until they are at minimum 16, I would have said that maybe here they could have reined themselves in.
There were bits of unintended humor. "I speak for the plants," Ivy says to the Ph.D. she killed in the opening. I was expecting her to hook up with The Lorax at this point. Penguin calling Jerome "Ginger Sap" was also amusing.
We got tidbits of other stories, such as how Crystal Reed's Sofia Falcone will try to use Dr. Thompkins for her own nefarious scheme. For the most part, however, A Beautiful Darkness is more about Bruce's dark night of the soul. A bit too gruesome for my tastes, it is well-acted and well-written, with story threads being placed carefully in what hopefully will be a strong season finale.
Next Episode: Reunion