Season 2, Episode 5 - "Scarification"
Ben McKenzie, Donal Logue, David Mazouz, Robin Lord Taylor, Erin Richards, Zabryna Guevara, Sean Pertwee, Camren Bicondova, Cory Michael Smith, James Frain, Victoria Cartagena, Andrew Stewart-Jones, John Doman, Morena Baccarin, Nicholas D'Agosto
Regular airtime: Mondays, 8pm
US: 19 Oct 2015
The fifth episode of Gotham’s second season still fails to live up to the thrilling prospects of the first three. There isn’t much to say about “Scarification” that I haven’t already said about last week’s episode other than that it’s a seemingly random hodgepodge of scenes without much to do with one another, and the title doesn’t give much of a hint at a unifying theme (perhaps they meant “Scare-ification”?). While the idea of Merc, a criminal shopping center complete with calming elevator music and price checks on brass knuckles, is certainly fun in the dark, twisted way unique to Gotham City, the remainder of the episode is rather bland and unremarkable, filled with tiresome double dates and puffed-up speeches by Galavan (James Frain) and Captain Barnes (Michael Chiklis).
This week’s episode seems to have primarily been intended to introduce the origin story of Firefly who, in this version of the story, is a girl named Bridgit Pike (Michelle Veintimilla), an abused younger sister of Gotham’s foremost arsonists who reluctantly gets sucked into the family business and finds herself actually enjoying it, creating a fire-proof costume to protect her when on assignment. The introduction of this character, like so many others in Gotham, is rather contrived and rushed, and despite the emotional nature of her situation, viewers will likely struggle to feel much for her.
Similarly, while the other characters appear to be intensely moved by the death of one of the members of the new captain’s Strike Force (introduced one episode ago), audiences have not had enough time to build up any kind of connection to this character or even remember his name. His death is used as yet another clichéd attempt to give the characters motivation, especially Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie), who is frustratingly becoming simpler and more predictable after the promising complexity added to his character at the beginning of the season. Seriously, though, how does this supposed detective really not sense that there’s something suspiciously off about Galavan?
The history of the Galavan (formerly Dumas) family is finally revealed using the tired convention of a flashback to olden times, and we learn that Theo Galavan’s vendetta is rooted in a forbidden affair between a beloved daughter of the historic Wayne family and one of his ancestors, who was accused of forcing himself on the girl, resulting in his execution and the exile of the rest of the Dumas family. It’s a rather unexciting and uncreative motive, and its explanation is drawn out in an unnecessary sequence of sepia-toned flashback scenes, but at least it provides useful insights into the otherwise inscrutable Galavan. The introduction of the cloaked Father Creal (Ron Rifkin), who heralds the downfall of the Wayne family and Galavan’s revenge, does provide a rather chilling conclusion to the episode, but it still feels somewhat unoriginal.
Perhaps the most exciting part of “Scarification” is the brief mention of the possibility of Fish’s (Jada Pinckett Smith) return. Apparently Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova) and some of the other remaining Fish-loyalists are still holding out hope, despite Butch’s (Drew Powell) avowal of the futility of such hope. The insertion of this reference to Fish is somewhat obvious and clumsy, so even though the writers could have left more subtle and creative clues, the indication that the beguilingly manipulative Fish Mooney could make a comeback is encouraging.
Robin Lord Taylor as the Penguin is yet again the shining star, cracking still further as the threat to his mother’s safety continues. He takes out some of his frustration, for example, by literally killing—or at least bringing to the brink of death—the messenger informing him of a Gotham City Police Department raid on his count house. Penguin’s sniveling deference to Galavan finally starts to decline, though, and his power to manipulate his foe increases due to these revelations about his motives.
Penguin is positioned to make a power play against Galavan, and his ruthless use of the increasingly endearing Butch to do so could return Gotham to an exploration of the kind of mental instability and questionable morality it takes to thrive in the underworld of Gotham City. Yet again, though, this week’s episode feels more like background information, mere exposition that’s still scattered at the same time, slowly setting up for something rather than telling a compelling story all along the way. Let’s hope that the story starts to pick up pace a bit in episode six.