NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Gotham” are present in this review
Gotham has finally returned for at least a few weeks in January, beginning FOX’s odd midseason strategy for its Monday night genre show bloc. This midseason premiere begins a trio of episodes that serve as the apparent proper conclusion to the show’s ‘Mad City’ arc, before Gotham once again goes off the air, this time for quite a while, with FOX recently confirming that the proper back portion of Season Three won’t start airing until late April. That’s quite a while to wait for Gotham’s regular return, and what’s not helping is that, “Ghosts” is a bit of a disappointing midseason premiere overall.
There are some good ideas in this episode, with the Penguin arc and the proper introduction to Selina Kyle’s mother, Maria serving as the episode’s better elements. The main Gordon arc falls pretty flat in the end though, severely deflating the big cliffhanger ending of the show’s midseason finale from this past November. In the end, the high-profile death of Mario Falcone is barely acknowledged by the GCPD, and while this is possibly to avoid re-treading the whole murder of Theo Galavan arc from Season Two, it nonetheless makes Gordon feel like he got off pretty easy for gunning down Mario, at least legally. Did the investigation seriously find any evidence that definitively proved it was a righteous kill?
Even when Carmine Falcone predictably sends Victor Zsasz and several of his colourful goons to take out Gordon as revenge for his son’s murder, it never carries the proper drama or impact that it should. Zsasz and his cronies end up being little more than a minor nuisance that occasionally pop up to disturb Gordon’s and Bullock’s present investigation, contributing a few admittedly decent action moments, but not any real story weight. Hurting matters further is that Falcone just calls Zsasz off at the end of the episode, pretty much erasing any trace of fallout from Gordon shooting Mario dead.
The show tries for some stakes here in the beginning of the episode, in fairness, namely by having a distraught Leslie declare that she hates Gordon, and demand that Bullock arrest him in front of the entire precinct. Leslie being grief-stricken is certainly understandable, but her hatred for Gordon feels clumsily-executed, especially when the autopsy quickly confirms that Mario did indeed have the Alice Tetch virus. Maybe that’s why Gordon didn’t get charged with murder for killing Mario, since the incident with Barnes might have had the precinct giving Gordon the benefit of the doubt, but if that’s the case, why is Leslie so eager to see Zsasz actually kill Gordon? Clearly, Gordon was right about Mario having the virus! Leslie even visits Barnes at Arkham Asylum, and sees that he’s clearly insane beyond reason, further proving that Gordon was in the right for shooting Mario. This bloodlust from Leslie is really not consistent with her character, and even Falcone points that out. It also makes Falcone saying at the end of the episode that Leslie still loves Gordon especially ring hollow. Where did he get that from? Why would he even entertain that idea so nonchalantly after Gordon supposedly murdered his own son?
Buried in this messy Gordon/Falcone family arc is foreshadowing for January’s next two episodes as well, namely with Gordon and Bullock investigating the mysterious case of a dead woman that was wandering around some train tracks after seemingly being both stabbed and electrocuted. Turns out, the woman was part of an experiment by a creepy coroner (who is actually played by David Dastmalchian, an actor that fittingly played one of The Joker’s goons in 2008 Batman movie, The Dark Knight), who is part of that Jerome-inspired cult that was glimpsed last season. This could have been interesting, but the episode tries to dogpile the Falcone vendetta on top of the investigation, and that has the seemingly more pressing Jerome storyline get lost in the shuffle. Even before that, this subplot immediately tips its hand in being a means to resurrect Jerome, which is pretty much spelled out at the very end of the episode. Sadly, Jerome’s face in cryogenic storage doesn’t make for very compelling final seconds, when viewers can obviously put together where this story is going right from the very start.
Despite some of the mis-steps in the storytelling though, the beginning of the end for Penguin did end up being creative, if initially pretty weird. Penguin begins to hallucinate visions of his ghostly father, creating a welcome opportunity for Paul Reubens to guest star as Elijah Van Dahl once again, and this comes right as a hard-hitting reporter is determined to expose Penguin as the criminal he truly is. Penguin’s torment eventually leads to him re-discovering his father’s dug-up remains in his new chief-of-staff’s office, a man that he murders as a result of the discovery, and this has him coming apart on public television and declaring that he doesn’t care about the people. That’s definitely not good, especially when it happens right as Penguin’s approval ratings are at their highest.
Fortunately, the reveal that Nygma, Barbara and Tabitha were behind this incident, and were intentionally trying to drive Penguin mad with visions of his father, was a pretty solid twist, especially when the show wisely avoided following Nygma and his new posse at any point in the episode beforehand. The twist that Clayface was the one posing as Elijah was also pretty unexpected and clever, even if it begs the question as to how these three got Clayface to help them, considering that Barbara ratted out Clayface as the fake Gordon during the Season Two finale. Nonetheless, it’s cool that the show found a better use for Clayface this time, especially when he actually gives a credible performance as Elijah in this case, rather than the joke of a portrayal he gave to Gordon last season.
The developing relationship between Selina and her mother, Maria is also not bad in this episode, especially since Ivana Milicevic is proving to be a pretty charming addition to the cast. The flirtation of a potential romance between Maria and Alfred was pretty promising as well, especially considering how skittish Alfred has been around Selina in the past. The scene of the mother and daughter lifting Alfred’s stuff at dinner between hugs and punches was genuinely cute, I must admit. This new bond between the four seems like it’s going to be threatened very quickly though, naturally, since Selina saves her mother from a beating at the hands of a thug by saying she’s got a friend with a lot of money. Perhaps Alfred getting the inevitable chance to lay the smackdown on Maria’s tormentor will lead to a pretty good relationship opportunity with Selina’s mother however, even if it’s bound to be pretty short-lived.
“Ghosts” wasn’t a particularly great episode of Gotham, since it fumbles its core plot with Gordon pretty badly, and doesn’t ultimately create that much excitement around the return of Jerome yet, though at least some of the better subplots managed to salvage it a bit. Hopefully Gotham can benefit from shedding Mario’s death and the Falcone family’s revenge to focus more on Jerome’s revival and a fresh crime wave for Gordon and the GCPD over the next two episodes, so Gotham can at least begin its extended Winter/Spring hiatus on a high note. It does look like next week’s episode is going to be appropriately Jerome-heavy though, so here’s hoping that the proto-Joker at least shows us a bloody good time over the next two weeks.
- Clever, unexpected scheme against Penguin
- Selina's mother is a charming new character
- Promising teases for Jerome's return
- Jerome return is quickly overshadowed
- Falcone's vendetta against Gordon is too hastily resolved
- Leslie actively wanting Gordon dead is excessive and out-of-character