Episode 4: “Arkham”
by Dan Tomasik
A plan to reopen Arkham Asylum brings Gotham’s crime lords to the brink of war.
Arkham. The name alone brings up bad memories from hundreds of Batman stories. The most deranged of Gotham’s criminals have been prisoners/patients in the asylum. Best case scenario, they are robbed of their reason, sanity, and ability to do anything besides drool at the wall. Worst case scenario, they come and go as they please, treating the institute like a vacation home. Even when abandoned, many a rogue has set up shop in its deserted hallways (it’s a favorite haunt of the Joker).
Much like Saint Ninian’s Church or Camp Crystal Lake, it has been witness to bloodshed and misfortune time & time again. No matter what purpose people have attempted to refit or renovate it to serve, it will only ever be a place of evil. In some ways Arkham Asylum is Gotham’s local haunted house. Few places, fictional or otherwise, have been as cursed. That is Arkham.
Gotham has received a full order for a 22-episode season, meaning it no longer has to worry about cancellation if an episode misses its mark. Don’t misunderstand, the episode isn’t bad by any means. However, with the exception of Arkham’s introduction, there is little that sticks in the mind. Even the brief appearance of Edward Nygma fails to be memorable.
Fish Mooney continues to have questionable relevance to anything going on. Unlike Falcone and Maroni, who constantly have gears turning and players making moves, Mooney’s interests are far more local. Like hiring a singer who can seduce men and women for her club. She has her priorities in very confusing places. She really needs to get out of her club and make a move. Sadly, Jada Pinkett Smith does not have the on-screen charisma to keep the character interesting at all times.
This week showcased a giant leap for Oswald’s personal enterprises. The future Penguin continues to pleasantly surprise each week. His reasoning for returning to Gotham is understandable. His reasoning for why no one will recognize him is far more sketchy. As far as low-level criminals go, Oswald Cobblepot is one of the most easily recognizable you’ll ever find. Distinct way of talking, funny walk, discolored teeth, weird hair, and a bad tendency to stick his nose into the matters of very dangerous people. Whether people are looking for him or not, it’s only a matter of time before someone recognizes someone like him.
Falcone and Maroni are both competing for control of the asylum, leading both to hire an independent killer to tip the decision in their favor. In truth, their individual goals are meaningless, Arkham’s future is set in stone older than Gotham itself. The real draw is the hitman playing both sides. Lacking a real name or DC counterpart, he shall be referred to by the identity he stole, Richard Gladwell. Gladwell is probably the most grounded villain thus far. Lacking any camp or motif, his most distinguishing factor is his murder weapon of choice. A mechanical rod with a retractable spike, it’s both believable and unnerving. The victim doesn’t see the spike until the moment it strikes, usually resulting in death. Gladwell is a basic hitman, but he leaves a good impression. More like him, please.
The one thing that can be said for the episode is that it opens doors for future stories. Not every episode needs to be a gem, it’s fine for a few to fall below the mark. If the episode has nothing but the introduction of Arkham and a great one-off villain to show for itself, it’s still done well.
Episode Score: 7.6