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Gotham‘s 4th episode is a good example of something viewers like me need to keep in mind: This ain’t your daddy’s Batman.

Not that that’s a bad thing, indeed the whole purpose of the series is to show a side of the Batman universe fans haven’t seen yet–and in that sense, “Arkham” is a strong episode. Just don’t make my mistake of letting the title fool you into getting ahead of where we are in the timeline. There are no imprisoned supervillains to be enjoyed here (and I doubt if Harley Quinn is even a gleam in Mr. Quinzel’s eye yet).

Instead, what we have here is a power play between the syndicates controlled by Mob Bosses Carmine Falcone (John Doman) and Sal Maroni (David Zayas).

Btw, am I the only one who thinks their respective outfits should be referred to colloquially as the ‘Conies and the ‘Ronies? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

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The battle is over Arkham City: The district that houses the currently defunct asylum–i t’s an undeveloped district, a no man’s land of shanties and empty buildings. Before their murder, the Wayne’s were sponsoring a plan to build low-cost housing on that land, and tear down and rebuild the old asylum. After their death, the plan was usurped by Falcone. Seeing an opportunity to one-up his rival, Maroni presented the city with a competing plan to build a waste disposal facility on the land. Which is where the above gentleman enters the picture: He’s known as Gladwell (Hakeem Kae-Kazim), an assassin for hire notorious throughout Gotham’s underworld for his signature weapon–a tube that fires metal spikes.

Gladwell and his little toy are the most comic bookish things in “Arkham”–the rest is pretty much by-the-numbers crime drama. Gladwell has been retained by both Falcone and Maroni to eliminate city councilmen who are sympathetic to each of their plans in an attempt to sway the vote. But don’t get too attached to him, if you know what I mean.

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As expected, the Gladwell case is assigned to Jim Gordon (Ben MacKenzie) and Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue). Bullock couldn’t care less about the plans for Arkham–he just wants the case closed and the chief off his ass: Hunting down a killer of city councilmen cuts into his usual schedule of laziness and misanthropy.

Gordon is predictably more thorough (though still not as much fun). He learns the details of the plans from Alfred Pennyworth (Sean Pertwee), and figures out why the councilmen are being killed.

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Oh, and forensics expert Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) is back–he’s the one who figures out that both dead politicians were murdered by the same person. I like how they’re handling Nygma: The show makes it clear how the GCPD regards him–he’s brilliant and useful, but creepier than a lapdance from your grandmother. I don’t think it’s gonna blow any minds when he goes crackers.

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Tracking down and taking out Gladwell proves relatively easy, but not before he nearly kills Mayor Aubrey James (Richard Kind), this puts the fear of God in him, and forces him to choose a plan for Arkham that’s a compromise between Falcone and Maroni. City-wide gang war is averted, but the seeds are planted that will one day make Arkham the breeding ground for Scarecrows and Jokers.

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Meanwhile, Gordon’s personal life is a mess: First Oswald Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor) pays him a visit–while he’s with Barbara (Erin Richards). This feeds the suspicions planted by her ex-girlfriend, Detective Montoya of the MCU. Oh, and apparently Jimmy didn’t know that his squeeze played for the other team before they met. To his credit, the nature of Barbara’s past dalliances don’t seem to faze Gordon, he’s only upset that she never told him. But then, there’s an awful lot Gordon hasn’t told Barbara, either.

While it’s clear his intention is to protect her from the dangerous aspects of his work, Barbara gives him an ultimatum–either keep her in the loop or she walks….of course, WE know things will eventually get patched up–they’ve got a Batgirl to make–but “Arkham” ends with the two of them ostensibly broken up.

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After visiting Gordon, Oswald returns to his new job as Sal Maroni’s dishwasher–a position that turns into restaurant manager when he “heroically” saves a bag of money from armed robbers by hiding in a freezer with it during the heist.

Oswald sets a new record for people killed in this episode–but as his body count rises, his methods grow more sophisticated: Gone is the Proto-Penguin who knifed a fisherman for a sandwich, now Oswald does his killing with hired thugs and poisoned Italian desserts. The fact that he’s this effective a criminal mastermind so early in the series is scary: Give him a season or two, and he’ll be running the city.

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And we haven’t forgotten about dear Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett-Smith): For most of the episode she’s busy trying to hire a new singer for her nightclub–one that’s gonna require more than a good set of pipes to get the job. She has both women she interviews attempt to seduce her (who knew Gotham would be prime-time’s new go-to series for girl-on-girl action?). Honestly, with Fish, I don’t think it’s a sex thing–I think she just gets her rocks off exerting her power over people, but I digress.

In the end, she’s unable to choose, and has the candidates fight to the death for the position. The implication seems to be that this girl will be trained to seduce, then kill Falcone–but there could be more to it than that, we’ll just have to see.

Oh, on an interesting note: The second singer Fish auditions sings a torch song version of “Spellbound” by Siouxsie and the Banshees, which made me all warm and fuzzy. She’s also the one who wins the fight–as it should be.

All in all, “Arkham” is an enjoyable, if rather different episode. Not as good as last week’s “The Balloonman”, but the flow of the episode, and its reliance on original characters and plotlines shows that Gotham is headed in the right direction.

Category: Comics, Featured, reviews, TV

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