Title: Gotham “Azrael”
Air Date: May 2nd, 2016
Genre: Crime, Drama, Action
Well damn, I didn’t expect Barnes (Michael Chiklis) to die so soon into the series… or maybe he didn’t. Gotham hasn’t always been the most forward when it comes to offing an important character. This week saw the return of Theo Galavan (James Frain) after his resurrection and honestly it worked better than I assumed it would. Bringing a character back from the dead is usually a recipe for disaster, as it almost never works and just comes off as an excuse for a show to have its cake and eat it too. Thankfully, Galavan’s come back was handled nicely and offered some interesting dynamics to a fairly worn out character. Couple with some fun Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) moments and Gotham returns with quite a strong episode.
Before we get to the big event of this week’s episode, let’s take a step back and look to some of the smaller moments. Nygma has finally entered Arkham Asylum and his stay there has been producing mixed results. I’ve always enjoyed Nygma has a character, especially since his full heel turn, but sometimes it feels like Gotham doesn’t exactly know what to do with him. He feels stuck, much like Penguin was in the first season as the writers desperately try to cram him into each episode. While Smith always delivers a stellar performance, his larger purpose tonight felt bland and uninteresting. I’m sure his discovery of Indian Hill will yield interesting results, but the build up to it was not terribly compelling. Thankfully, some of his interactions with the other patients was entertaining and saved the Nygma sections from being a complete drag to get through. Even if his ability to break out of his cell was completely nonsensical and ludicrous.
Bruce (David Mazouz) also showed up this week, mainly to just play sidekick for a few scenes as Gordon (Ben McKenzie) tried to pin the Wayne family murder on Strange. Though Bruce does always feel connected to many of Gotham’s intertwining stories, I feel his character doesn’t always need to be present when actually discussing his parent’s murder. Yes, they directly involve Bruce, but the kid doesn’t need to always be present for every detail to be unveiled. Why did Gordon think dragging Bruce to an active crime scene was even remotely a smart idea? Also Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor). Butch (Drew Powell), Tabitha (Jessica Lucas), and Barbara (Erin Richards) were on hand for a few seconds. While seeing their reactions to the return of Theo was amusing, even if Penguins didn’t feel at all natural to the character, it just felt like a cheap way to shoehorn them into the episode. Seriously, though, why would Penguin be laughing about the return of the man who murdered his mother? Penguin’s crazy sure, but his hatred for Galavan was legendary and made up 90% of his motives in this season’s first half.
Speaking of Galavan, I have to admit that him coming back as the DC character Azrael worked far better than I thought it would. Sure, Azrael has entered into the scene way before he ever does in the comics, but Gotham handled it quite nicely. For those who are unfamiliar or haven’t played the Arkham series games; Azrael is a person who wants to be like Batman. In the Knightfall story arc, he actually replaces Batman and then promptly goes around killing criminals. He is normally a character meant to be a mockery of what Batman could be like if he killed, but this does not appear to be the version we have in Gotham. It was cool to see some homages to this, especially when Bruce is watching Azrael escape. Also, the entire design of Galavan’s new armor was really interesting as it felt like a hybrid between the old comic book version and something you’d see in the Medieval era.
Though what saved Azrael from being a completely nonsensical character has to be James Fran fantastic performance. Bringing Galavan back from t he dead was a big risk and if Fran didn’t sell it as well as he did, the entire affair would have been ridiculous. Having his memory fractured and then rebuilt into something new adds a nice layer of depth that Galavan sorely lacked. He is not just bent on ruining the Wayne family and stuck as a cliche villain. Setting him up as a more tragic figure gives Galavan new life (get it?) and is allowing him more room to grow. This is a smart choice by the writers because we haven’t had a centralized villain in quite a long time for the others to rally against. I have to admit, though, his moment in the GCDP was a bit silly. This is a building full of cops and somehow Galavan is able to mow through them like nothing. I seriously think the GCPD is one of the worst, most ineffective police forces on television.
Sadly Hugo is still pretty much as vague and underdeveloped as always, which is becoming more of an increasing problem. Yes, B.D. Wong does a phenomenal job with the material he’s given, but the actual dialogue for Hugo just isn’t very good. He has had about six or seven episodes now to develop further than “mad doctor,” but just hasn’t. He lacks any real depth beyond being evil, which is a shame because the mad doctor archetype really does have a lot of room for exploration. It doesn’t help that his assistant is just wooden, offering basically nothing to plot other than to agree with Strange.
Overall, “Azrael” was a fairly strong episode, thanks to the return of Galavan and his new persona. Though Nygma is always fun to see, his interactions this week were really nothing special. Bruce and the other side character fell to the way as Hugo finally had a chance into the spotlight. Despite Hugo’s story taking center stage, he still has not progressed in any meaningful way as a character. With only a few episodes left int he season, I fear the good doctor will just be another one-dimensional villain that Gotham will cast aside.
- Characters: While Galavan had a great return, sadly not everyone fared as well this week. Barnes’ death (maybe?) seemed to come out of left field and Hugo is just as flat as ever.
- Cinematography: With he exception of Nygma’s final scene, nothing exceptionally special this week.
- Acting: James Frain delivered the best performance he has given in Gotham, that really highlighted something interesting depth and instability of Azrael.
- Story: Most of the narrative arcs were solid this week, even if Nygma’s felt like it was there solely for building up a big reveal next week
- James Frain's Performance
- Nygma and The Inmates
- Hugo Still Underdeveloped
- Worst. Police. Ever.
- Oh look, Bruce is here.