Gotham "S1E17 Red Hood" - Review

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Gotham "S1E17 Red Hood" - Review

WARNING! – This episode contains the biggest WTF moment not just of this show but one of the biggest you’ll experience this year! In the interests of avoiding collateral living room damage and carpet staining Team Epicstream would like to issue the following important safety information. Please fix all glasses and drinks containers to fixed surfaces (duct tape or Krazy Glue if desperate) to avoid dropping and toppling spillages; drink only throw straws in small slow amounts to avoid shock mouth spewing. Move all coffee tables and mid-room fixtures at least 1 1/3 leg lengths (measure using tallest person unless they really angry) from all chairs and sofas to avoid kicking and tipping up damages. Unless they’re ugly hatred past Christmas gifts you wish to destroy, please move all breakable objects at least 2 arm lengths (again measure the freaky lanky guy) away from all viewers les they feel your wrath. Further recommended practices including sitting on hands to avoid accidentally punching loved ones unless deserving, prior earthquake testing of the TV stand or wall mountings and warning all immediate neighbours that you’re about to watch Gotham. You have been warned, now enjoy the episode..... and please, if you actually do all that please send us a picture, cause that would be awesome!

Red Hood – A new gang of bank robbers finds unexpected fame when one of their members red homemade head gear inspires a new theatrical persona. Meanwhile and old army friend of Alfred’s drops by and introduces Bruce to more of his butler’s past than he’d like. Penguin struggles with involuntary prohibition and Fish Mooney meets with “The Manager” of her underground prison facility.

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It would appear that writer (and series exec producer) Danny Cannon did the math and realised this episode would be airing the night after the Oscars as he’s clearly on a mission to jam as many film quotes and references into proceedings as he can get away with (particularly Tarantino works). A lot of which are incredibly fun as he makes respective nods to Reservoir Dogs, Django Unchained, Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill, The Usual Suspects, Public Enemies, Heat and even Fight Club; most of which are in the main Red Hood gang story. The episode makes a nice comical interpretation of New 52 incorporation of said bank robbers. From the hood’s surprise arrival at their first job “It’s a hood, thought it would, you know, spice things up” to the hilariously ways the gang believe the hood bestows superhuman powers of invincibility. Yet underneath the daftness there are some nice undertones of psychological symbolism as in the same way we commonly identify with heroes we see these villains finding the confidence to be more daring and empowered than their normal selves with their face and identity concealed. Then there’s the groups unplanned Robin Hood side agenda and how the people of Gotham react to it both positively and negatively. Just as Harvey remarks on the madness of people rooting for the robbers “call me old fashioned but when crooks become more popular than cops, that’s anarchy” you have the irony the key witness coming forward against them in sheer annoyance because for not getting any free money (even if he’s a mildly annoying racial stereotype). It’s nice to see that in the same way that heroes get grief so do the charitable villains; only in Gotham. This main story also makes good on Gotham’s biggest recurring gripe by letting Jim and Harvey do a decent amount of actual detective work this week as they trace down the gang; even finding time for a good old fashioned line up. Then of course in keeping with the prequel origins theme the ending is the ideal little wink to the future of hooded menaces.

While the main story is going all Hollywood on us it’s the several supporting arcs that deliver the business in this show including the pre-warned WTF (we won’t say which one... you’ll know). The best of these is Alfred’s blast from the British past as it gives both rewarding information on his character history and emotional present. Although from his impressive “I’m a butler, mate” fighting in the mid-season finale, we suspected some form of prior armed forces service we know he served in the British SAS (UK best of the best regiment). It seems he wasn’t lacking in skills or killer instincts either as his old pal Reggie Payne (named after the Thomas the Tank Engine illustrator) describes him as ”a cold blooded lethal war dog”. When the subjects raised, though he dodges in front of Bruce, to Reggie he’s fully open about suffering PTSD from their time together but it’s quite fascinating how he advocates Bruce as his own form rehabilitation therapy. In that raising and baring responsibility for his care gives him a new feeling of purpose outside being haunted by the people he killed. Sean Pertwee does some brilliant work in these scenes as his loyalties between friend and new family unwillingly conflict; ultimately playing to an incredibly dramatic result. We also get a good pre-Batman moment with Bruce as when sparing with Reggie, despite being a  little unhinged, the old soldier introduces the ideas of smart and unorthodox fight styles; turning limitations of size into your advantage, using improvised weapons and surrounding environments. Though Alfred may disapprove it does create an interesting point of Dark Knight influence.

The more minor plot arcs are less impressive though not without their moments. The best of the rest is Fish Mooney’s encounter with the facilities “Manager” which tells us a hell of a lot. Firstly there are the more pristine settings of the above ground complex levels and normal looking urban environment out the window implying they’re nowhere remote. Although we know it’s not Gotham as The Manager confirms he just runs the facility on behalf of a Dr Dolmacher, aka The Dollmaker, who is “away on a consolation in Gotham”. The idea of the Dollmaker being behind it all implies some previous unthought-of continuity to the series as this villain was a big name referenced entity way back in episode 2. We further confirm the organ harvesting nature of the business with some delectably gruesome visuals of disfigured and amputee patients in cells on the walk to the office. Showing even Fish mildly freaked out by it all to begin with really emphasises the creepiness. Despite the info given there’s actually a disappointing lack of content and progression in these scenes (we learn much but do little with it); though you certainly can’t give Fish Mooney the wooden spoon for negotiating tactics. Penguin’s booze supplier bothers feel rather disposable and the way Butch has apparently switched from being Reek to Theon again does rather confuse matters. The point appears to establishing Butch with genuine motivation for helping Penguin with the club. The pair partially redeem themselves with a surprisingly thoughtful and poignant reflection on their departed friend/foe “Do you miss her? I do, even after everything she did to me. Perhaps it’s not our friends but our enemies that define us”. You can’t help but think back to Heath Ledger’s “You complete me” speech in The Dark Knight”. Finally Barbara and her gal pals feel largely pointless. Although her speech to Selina about embracing femininity and wiles, like Bruce’s fighting styles, is actually quite a cool character influence moment; “You’re a true beauty, something you can use to your advantage. Your appearance can be a weapon as powerful as any knife or gun”. Gotham goes Gone Girl.

Red hood is a good episode with main stories that balance single week enjoyment with longer term plot progression nicely. Though as with several other recent episodes it just can’t quite extend that out to its full character base. Director Nathan Hope deserves a lot of credit for really capturing the shock, drama and emotion out of many scenes, utilising his vast cinematography experience and this episode would be a much worse without him. On top of it all Gotham does give the feel of a show in the business end of its season run. Major developments are taking place and consequence being witnessed in the build up to finale conclusions. A red hood may not get you a promotion or a better girlfriend but it will deliver an enjoyable hour of television.