Martin Carr reviews the first episode of Gotham season 4…
Unionisation is on the cards in episode one of this new season where they cranked up their scare factor, branched out into Roman allegory and teased an intriguing villain. There is a sass and sultry vibe to Gotham with its focus on hand to hand fist fights, bull whips and human ice sculpture.
Robin Lord Taylor stands front and centre as the latest Kingpin of Gotham, looking wealthy, omnipotent with just a touch of delusion. Kept in check by virtually no one his performance is still underpinned by a certain vulnerability, whether during dialogue scenes or in fearful flashbacks towards the end. In this new era we find Tabitha Galavan mentoring Kat, Ivy hanging off the coattails of our latest crime boss and Nygma on ice.
Elsewhere and not before time there is our pint-sized Bruce Wayne, who lays the smack down on Gotham criminals, shares scenes with Gordon on an equal footing and broadens his performance opposite Alfred. Mazouz has thankfully had the opportunity to grow into this interpretation of Wayne and possesses a steely quality, backed up by dramatic chops and action kudos. Slowly but surely he is moving out of the shadows and carving a niche for himself amongst those other actors. More than anything this Bruce Wayne fulfils a dramatic need within the structure finally having space and something to do unaided by a would-be babysitter. As we move further away from conventional law enforcement there will be time for his form of justice borne of necessity rather than self-interest.
Beyond the broader themes there are still hints of formula amongst the more grandiose window dressing and classical themes, which keep Gotham from drifting beyond its television origins. Single voices rise up against the controlling hand of our crime lord, night club scenes have sheen and production value but feel confined within this format, while minor conflict resolution sub-plots keep everything neatly under forty minutes.
This episode has flashes of Nolan’s reboot with a similar level of effects work and intimidation factor, while the hints at our new Scarecrow reward series knowledge. Character moments offer opportunities to grandstand yet stay the right side of scenery chewing giving everyone their moment to shine. It feels like Gotham is limbering up at the start line, settling into those blocks and just waiting for that steward’s gun. This is a warm up to the main event as Season four acknowledges its crowd, eyes the track ahead and considers coming events. A sure sign of confidence, charisma and brand identity which has been established, embraced and expanded on.