‘Gotham’ Review: “The Scarecrow”
FOX’s ‘Gotham’ detects its 15th installment in “The Scarecrow,” as the GCPD races to track down Dr. Gerald Crane and his son, while Penguin frets reprisal from Maroni, and Bruce undertakes a fearful hike. Yes, a hike.
Last week’s ‘Gotham’ installment, “The Fearsome Dr. Crane,” saw Gordon and Bullock investigating a mysterious killer preying on phobics, while Maroni discovered the secret of Penguin’s alliance with Falcone, so how does the latest episode of FOX’s Bat-prequel drama shine a light on the city’s villainous beginnings?
Read on for your in-depth review of everything you need to know about ‘Gotham’ episode 15, “The Scarecrow”!
‘Gotham’ is at its best in trying to build more serialized stories, and performing the actual character work necessary to function as a sustainable drama. The “Electrocutioner” arc felt like the show’s first real stab at drafting an active villain, even if its conclusion literally fizzled out, and last week’s “The Fearsome Dr. Crane” continued along the same idea. The fleeting cameo of an actual Jonathan Crane felt mostly like fanservice without payoff, but thankfully tonight’s “The Scarecrow” seemed to have a much stronger handle on its intentions for either character, shortsighted or no.
In particular, “The Scarecrow” works for ‘Gotham’’s particular brand of long-form origin story and visual flare moreso than any Li’l Poison Ivy ever might, and however cribbed from ‘Batman Begins,’ tonight’s hour made a strong visual impression in realizing the fears of Gerald Crane and his son. You’d think the ubiquity of “fear” as a concept in Batman mythology would lend itself to prior villainous attempts, but here the sad history of Gerald Crane’s fearful failures dovetailed well with his twisted vision for Jonathan, and the shaky-cam, burning apparitions and CG Scarecrow all coalesced in a way ‘Gotham’ has rarely been able to achieve.
The only real problem in introducing “The Scarecrow” this early on lies in ‘Gotham’’s usual difficulty with the long game. Jonathan Crane remains belted to a hospital bed, writhing from visions of an eternal Scarecrow tormentor, though we’ve no sense of whether ‘Gotham’ ever intends to pick up the thread, or highlight the character overcoming his demons and rising through academia to become an actual costumed villain. It’s bang without the buck, and ‘Gotham’ seems to have floundered any opportunity to meaningfully incorporate either Gerald or Jonathan’s fearfulness into an overarching point on characters we’ll actually spend time with in the future. Jim’s greatest fear, it seems, lies in avoiding workplace cooties from Dr. Thompson.
After all, “The Scarecrow” also finds space for Bruce to venture into the woods on a hike traditionally undertaken with his father, allowing any number of opportunities to circle back on a larger exploration of fear. I would have thought the expedition assuredly provided our first look at Bruce embracing a Bat motif, but rather the trip turns out a more middle-of-the-road invitation for Bruce to shed some lingering anger over his parents’ fate. Even when Bruce stumbles down a hill and seemingly comes to rely on his own wits for survival, the character only gets so far before Alfred picks him up, and steps in as a surrogate father figure, ground the series has well-tread already. Especially considering one of Bruce’s earliest goals of “conquering fear” after his parents’ death, this felt like a missed opportunity for more organic connections to the main story.
Elsewhere, last week’s Penguin tale seemed a bit stunted, to have him fall back under Maroni’s thumb so quickly, and “The Scarecrow” gave the character much more interesting material to develop under. The much-colder Falcone seemingly offers little regard for his protégé’s mortal danger from Maroni, forcing Penguin to grow a bit more self-sufficient against the wolves at the door. Gordon too rejects Penguin’s offers of collaboration, and the camaraderie glimpsed between Falcone and Maroni tonight suggests a spurned Penguin could become a much greater threat to others in the future.
Lastly, it’s understandable that ‘Gotham’ writers would keep Fish Mooney in the limelight, given the character’s status as one the few originals among the ensemble, as well as Jada Pinkett’s star pedigree, but nothing about the character’s latest endeavor held any real place among the hour. Last seen charging at a pirate, this time around sees Fish waking up in some kind of underground prison camp, taking it over, as Fish Mooney is wont to do, and then…someone lost their eyes to the pirate captors. Okay? Maybe it all ties into Barbara’s grand return scheme! Dare to dream, guys.
In truth, “The Scarecrow” was probably the closest ‘Gotham’ has come to a worthy exploration of Batman origin stories, at least ones beyond throwing out some recognizable monikers. Julian Sands put in a memorably tragic take on a man struggling to alleviate the guilt brought on by a fearful failure to save his wife, strongly aided by some unsettling visuals. The rest of the pieces from the hour—Bruce and Alfred’s woodland adventures, Jim and Leslie’s office romance, or Fish Mooney the pirate king—work fine enough on their own, but would greatly have benefitted from more uniform themes and character explorations like those of “The Scarecrow” himself.
AND ANOTHER THING…
- So, no “Iceberg Lounge” yet? Is that not necessarily canon?
- Not to mention, what an awfully “influential” and money-making nightclub that never seems to have anyone inside.
- Yeah, okay, two piles of rocks in the woods remain apparently undisturbed and recognizable on a yearly basis.
- Guys, Penguin and Riddler meeting for the first time is not a dramatic event worthy of a minute’s screentime. There is nothing monumental about a relationship that might prove relevant decades from now.
- Falcone and Maroni’s dominatrix plot against the Chief Judge was unexpected, but suitably creepy to share between the two.
- Very much enjoyed the shot of Maroni spilling Penguin’s champagne, subtly framed between the legs to look as if Oswald had wet himself over the conversation.
- Were we supposed to recognize the woman who’d been blinded by the pirates? Why do pirates have an underground prison camp, anyway?
Well, did ‘Gotham’’s 15th episode “The Scarecrow” help set the stage any further for Batman’s beginning? How did the prequel drama fared in its latest episode? Don't forget to check back next week for our review of ‘Gotham’’s latest installment, “The Blind Fortune-Teller” on FOX!