Netflix UK TV review: Gotham Episode 4 (Arkham)
The Penguin Rises8
Villain of the week6.5
Amon Warmann | On 03, Nov 2014
Even though we’re yet to be wowed by Gotham, Arkham is generally one of the stronger episodes the series has produced so far.
While last week we ventured into camp territory with a vigilante who sent people to their deaths by attaching them to weather balloons, this week’s baddie is a hitman with a penchant for offing his victims with a metal spike. Having the episodes play back-to-back only reinforces the notion that Gotham is still struggling with its tone – this episode features a particularly gruesome death involving a man burning in a barrel – but this darker ambience is generally in harmony with the series’ grittier elements.
TV veteran Hakeem Kae-Kazim turns in a strong performance as said hitman, Richard Gladwell. With that said, Gladwell’s weapon almost seems gimmicky for the sake of being gimmicky, in that it’s only truly effective during one of his three encounters and he switches weapons at the earliest opportunity. Additionally, being able to be tracked down so easily undercuts the character’s otherwise menacing qualities.
As simplistic as the police procedural element is, though, Gotham does well to move along the gang war subplot this week, with Maroni going up against Falcone for a piece of Arkham. Caught in the middle of the two warring bosses is Oswald Cobblepot, and Arkham sees the future Penguin at his most cunning. Robin Lord Taylor continues to be the series’ MVP, and watching Ozzie scheme his way to the top of the criminal ladder continues to be a fun exercise.
Part of the reason is that Cobblepot is arguably the show’s most fully formed character, and Gotham desperately needs to develop its wealth of people. Take Barbara Kean, for instance; as effective as the interactions between Barbara and Gordon are, the majority of her screen time so far has seen her argue with (and keep secrets from) her significant other. The Mayor is also more present here than in any previous episode, but we don’t learn anything that we didn’t already know when the series began. That basic truth also applies to Detective Essen. If the necessary depth isn’t added, we can’t care too deeply about the various dynamics at play.
To that end, Gotham needs to figure out a better way to utilise its vast ensemble. Renee Montoya and Selina Kyle are no-shows this week and, although the scenes between young Bruce and Gordon are well acted, they feel forced. It is weird that a police detective would be imparting information about a gang war to a teenage boy, right?
Four episodes in and Gotham’s strengths and weaknesses are abundantly clear. Thankfully, Arkham has more of a focus on the former. We can only hope the latter is rectified sooner rather than later. The individual pieces are there, but it has yet to gel into exciting, must-see television.
Gotham is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.