Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Gotham: To Our Deaths and Beyond Review

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To Our Deaths and Beyond is a surprising Gotham episode in that it does what few Gotham episodes manage to do: have an element of comedy in them.  There was a good amount of natural humor in the proceedings that had nothing to do with the pretty bonkers Barbara plotline, at least which was intentional.

Edward Nygma/The Riddler (Cory Michael Smith) is showing his stuff in more ways than one.  Hitting five banks in one night is just a start, and a way to impress Dr. Leslie 'Lee' Thompkins (Morena Baccarin).  One of the two personalities is in love with her, though I'm not sure which.  Knowing the loot they can have, Edward's frenemy Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) and Butch (Drew Powell) force their way onto Edward's really big score: the heist of one location where the Gotham Savings & Loan has put in all their money to protect themselves.

As it stands though, Penguin's original idea that The Riddler would betray Thompkins does not work out.  There is betrayal all right, but it's Riddler's betrayal of an enraged Pengy and Butch, who were planning to use their split to hire Dr. Hugo Strange to help Butch return to his old self.

What kind of game is Lee playing?  Whose side is she really on?  Is she finally embracing her dark side with Riddler, or is there still some moral to her that Captain Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) can use?

Gordon would probably be in fits if he knew what else was going on.  His ex, Bonkers Babs (Erin Richards) is still trying out her powers, but Tabitha (Juessica Lucas) has thrown her lot in with a renegade group of League of Shadows assassins who want to remove Barbara and restore Ra's al Ghul (Alexander Siddig) to power.

Only thing is, Ra's is dead.  For him to make a comeback, that requires the blood of the one who killed him: Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz). Bruce and Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova) are tricked into participating in these satanic rites, and Ra's isn't thrilled to be back.  However, he senses that Babs is not living up to her potential.

A war between the men and women of the League of Shadows commences, one that see Barbara finally give up her powers to save Tabitha.  Ra's, however, is not finished with Bruce, whom he insists can be a 'dark knight' for Gotham. For their part, the female assassins are not done with Barbara either, pledging their loyalty to her for being a worthy warrior.

Image result for gotham to our deaths and beyondTo Our Deaths and Beyond has a surprisingly wry sense of humor, as if they finally realized that it is all right to have a few quips outside Harvey Bullock. The humor comes all around from some unexpected sources.

Bonkers Babs, for example, is a perfect set-up for laughter: the small-time criminal convinced she's some kind of reincarnated goddess.  When Ra's al Ghul comes back in his condition, he asks for his powers back.

"Try it, Zombie Boy," she tells him before beginning a fight.

Selina manages a wisecrack at Bonkers Babs' expense too.  After hearing her plan to take on Ra's, involving a 'stabby-stab' with the dagger, our 'Kitty Cat' scoffs at it.  She'd have more confidence in Babs if she used her Demon's Head powers for "something other than a flashlight".

Even Ra's al Ghul gets in on the act.  After Barbara stabs him and she finds it has no effect on him (since it has to be Bruce to do the stabbing), Siddig's Ra's just looks at a stunned Barbara and quips, "Ouch", before flinging her out a glass window.

It's as if everyone agreed that what Gotham needed was a bit of levity without slipping into farce. Granted, they came close to farce when Alfred (Sean Pertwee) and Tabitha pretended to be man and wife as part of a plan to steal the dagger without killing anyone, but the entire scene was set up for laughs. At least it was set up for chuckles.

There were two standout performances, and they are Smith and Bicondova. The former has essentially a dual role, and while 'Ed' was the smaller one, it is nice to see CMS play it so cool as the nefarious Riddler.  Bicondova showcases the internal struggle between her 'affection' for Bruce and her loyalty to the Sirens.  This internal war allows Selina to be seen in a different light: not evil like Barbara but as one fighting between her ideal and actual self.

Gotham is an all-around well-acted show, allowing for the talented cast to display their skills, especially when they can have a little humor thrown in. Perhaps Barbara's ability to see the future played fast-and-loose with getting out of two deaths, but that is how things roll in this crazy town.

We even get nice bits, such as the prototype for the Batmobile.  The violence too was curtailed to where it doesn't seem insane and almost sadistic.

To Our Deaths and Beyond feels more free from what we've seen in the past, partially since we don't have Jerome and the Legion of Horribles to drag us down.  And they have at least some fun with things while keeping things real.

At least as real as Gotham can get.


Next Episode: That Old Corpse

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