Title: Gotham “Into The Woods”
Air Date: April 11th, 2016
Genre: Crime, Drama, Action
I think the secret to Gotham‘s best episodes is that they always seem to follow a break. This week both of our main narrative arcs come to a close in bloody and spectacular ways. While the show could have easily dragged them out for ages, it was a smart choice to wrap up both the Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) and Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor) arcs as they were beginning to go stale. Sadly not every single aspect got out unscarred, as the moments with returning character Barbara (Erin Richards) felt excessively rushed for the sake of setting up the next episode. However, “Into The Woods” may have officially produced the most insane thing Penguin has ever done.
Let’s get the glaring issue out of the way first, before we dive into the better aspects of this week’s Gotham. Barbara. Listen, this character has gone through some serious changes over these two seasons and I worry she may revert to her old state. In season one, she was unbearable and served literally no purpose to the story aside from being Jim’s moral center. Shifting to this season, her crazy side was far more tolerable as it seemed to flush out both her personality and motivations in new and interesting ways. The issue with her this week is that the show decided to not spend more time with her during rehabilitation. We get minimal interaction with the character and just expediting her out of Arkham seemed far less organic than I’m sure was intended. Yes, I love having any excuse to see B.D. Wong play Hugo Strange, but the entire process felt forced. She is an important character to the overall story now and just brushing her waking up (after being gone for about four episodes now) wasn’t treated as that big of a deal. It’s disappointing and they should have taken more time to elaborate on her progress in Arkham.
Thankfully, the rest of this week was quite entertaining and tied up some big character arcs. I’ve expressed my opinion in the past on how I hate when shows drag out the idea of us knowing a massive plot point before the character does, and thankfully Gotham doesn’t do this. I was worried, as this series has had a bad habit of taking way too long to finish up certain sections, (Dollmaker anyone?) so seeing Nygma get captured was a fitting end. Speaking of Nygma, his entire story arc was quite a fun ride to watch. I rather enjoy that he has stayed true to the alter ego of The Riddler, always outthinking and planning ahead. I mean yes, it was completely circumstantial that Gordon (Ben McKenzie) just happened to sit in the electrified chair, but one has to suspend their disbelief a bit for Gotham. Cory Michael Smith delivered an amazing performance this episode that is arguably his best in the series to date. He has always done a fantastic job portraying the more manic side of his character, but this episode really showcased his ability to channel into that OCD-esc insanity Riddler is known for. One of the best moments is by far when Nygma was called a psychopath, which forced him to break the facade he had been putting on for Gordon. Nygma has always been about being the best and letting you know he is the best. It was a great showcase of the character’s psychological state and just how highly he thinks of himself. Now that he is off to Arkham, I can only wonder what his interactions with Hugo Strange are going to produce.
Looking at the other end of the Nygma arc, Gordon also had some great character moments this week. Despite almost getting caught, because god forbid he can walk past a mugging without getting involved. Yes, I understand that his character needs to be the righteous hand of justice, but I’d like to think that Gordon would be more focused on trying to not get thrown in jail. Though some of his choices might be questionable, “Into The Woods” did a great job showcasing the growing relationship between Gordon and Harvey (Donal Logue.) Harvey has always been the comedic relief for Jim through most of Gotham, but recently it seems the focused has shifted into deepening the dynamic between these two characters. As much as I love some of Harvey’s jokes, seeing the lengths he is willing to go just to protect Jim is important to establishing just how close these two are. They’re brothers, willing to do anything just to protect the other from harm. Though Gotham has had a habit of relegating
Bruce (David Mazouz) had a smaller role this week, but certainly one of the most interesting to watch. This mainly stems from the fact that he and Alfred are clearly at odds to a certain degree. As frustrating as Bruce can be as a character sometimes, the choices that he makes really do feel as if they would be of a young Bruce Wayne. His argument with Alfred on returning home or going back on the streets really didn’t have me guessing which he’d pick. The kid has had a fairly traumatizing past, so seeing him effectively have to choose between two of the only family he has was a bit heart wrenching. It makes you feel bad for a kid, who for the most part, has everything we’d ever want as a child. Minus parents.
Meanwhile at the Dahl family home, Penguin finally snapped free of his conditioning. Personally, I am glad we are done with “nice guy” Cobblepot, because at a certain point it reached the level of no longer being interesting and just became obnoxious. This is a very violent character and while his relationship with father did offer some great emotional depth to him, it just didn’t feel natural to the character we have grown to love. Seeing him finally snap felt like a weight was lifted off of the collective shoulders of the series. You could tell at a certain point that the show realized this act had gone on too long, as his entire interactions with the Dahl family just felt off. It doesn’t help that the family in question are so unbelievably wooden in their performances that they essentially became caricatures of themselves. Having him not only force the mother to eat her children, disguised conveniently as a roast, was a bit darker than I expected the show to go. I am happy it did, as the Batman world has never been anything but subtle and toned down. This, above all else, felt like an action that the Penguin from the comics would actually do.
Gotham delivered a fairly solid episode this week, that only had some minor hiccups with both the treatment of Barbara’s return and some questionable choices made by Jim. Though Nygma and Penguin stole the show, it was the smart choice to not drag out their storylines that made this episode. It was a fast and brutal set of stories that closed the book on some slightly frustrating character arcs for both of these villains. I’m curious to see where Nygma goes after being arrested and thrown in jail, as his character has arguably the most room to grow out of the current staff. Hopefully, Gotham capitalizes on this because he is certainly one of the most fascinating villains in the show.
- Characters: Both Nygma and Penguin had some fantastic moments this week, with the former standing out among the rest of the cast this week.
- Cinematography: Sadly nothing stood out this week in terms of lighting, camera work, etc.
- Story: Gotham’s choice to not draw out certain narrative arcs, helped keep give this episode a good sense of pace and speed. Sadly the same cannot be said for Barbara’s. whose time at Arkham felt completely like an afterthought.
- Acting: While everyone gave great performances this week, it was Cory Michael Smith’s nuanced performance that stole the show. It’s clear he understands what makes the Riddler and seeing him fully embrace the darker side of the character was great to see.
- Story Arcs Concluded
- Penguin's "Feast"
- Gordon/Harvey Relationship
- Barbara's Story Rushed
A recent graduate of Arcadia University, Collin MacGregor is a freelance video editor and writer. He covers video games, television, and film for The Nerd Stash. Collin currently is the head film/television reviewer for the site.