Martin Carr reviews the sixteenth episode of Gotham…
Any time somebody brings circuses into the equation things turn sinister. Tempered by the needs of a mainstream audience and being firmly pre-watershed, this circus is not quite the denizen of freaks you would expect. There is a hint of lecherous behaviour, fist fights and family feuds while snake charmers and vague psychics ply their trade amongst the shadows of a big top. Such landmark films as Todd Browning’s Freaks or the Ray Bradbury adaptation of Something Wicked This Way Comes, are neither touchstone nor homage in this watered down introduction to a character which deserves more.
Cameron Monaghan plays Jerome in a role creators should have best left alone. ‘The Joker’ represents a precious commodity which many feel has no place in this Gotham universe, neither now or at any point further down the line. For more than a few the kitchen sink approach which have been seemingly adopted by Bruno Heller and to a lesser extent Mr Daniel Cannon, is a case of desire over necessity.
For starters this portrayal is more Nicholson than Ledger. Neither cartoonish enough to compete with the caricature that the former committed to screen, while lacking the psychological edge which made the latter so compelling. The sneak peak at this psychosis which lasts a total of five minutes at best is neither calculating enough, nor borderline bat shit crazy convincing leaving the audience left pondering the more understated Mark Margolis.
As the eponymous fortune teller much hinges on his ability to sell a sideshow veteran with nothing but smoke and mirrors. Unlike Felix Faust in ‘Constantine’ a few short weeks ago, Gotham gives Margolis precious little to work with beyond conventional stereotypes. Yet he is able to create a character which stands alongside McKenzie, Baccarin and Logue as three dimensional and convincing despite apparent limitations. Bringing me to an issue which threatened to upset the applecart, in an episode with altogether too much on its plate to begin with.
Tonally ‘The Blind Fortune Teller’ was all over the place. With the on-going romance between Gordon and Thompkins, Fish Mooney and her mysterious incarceration, combined with the tribulations experienced by Penguin on a weekly basis there is a sense that everyone is being appeased. My only concern with this tactic is that dramatic tension gets watered down. Either that or characters who make little or no impact to begin with are relegated to a footnote at best. There is a sense that trying to please the masses rather than focusing on one tonally approach may hamstring this ratings winner. An end result which many will doubtless welcome.
As a reviewer I sit down with an open mind. I watch these programmes repeatedly trying to gain a fair and balanced view. The intention is simply to be honest in any assessment that eventually hits paper. Neither rabid fan boy nor baiting network crony, this writer still likes Gotham in spite of popular opinions. It was never designed to take up the Gotham mantle, nor expand on a Batman universe as depicted through comic books for decades. This was always going to be a different animal. Gotham represents neither the worst of television nor a beacon of originality, yet it is entertaining and more importantly entertainment. In the mad scramble to protect our inviolate childhood memories this is something which has apparently been overlooked. A statement many would do well to ponder.