Scarecrow's Dad Leads A Frighteningly Non-Terrible Episode Of Gotham

Illustration for article titled Scarecrows Dad Leads A Frighteningly Non-Terrible Episode Of iGotham/i

It's true! "The Fearsome Dr. Crane" is Gotham's best episode in several weeks, thanks to a solid villain, the Penguin (as usual), and just a smidge of total insanity. Sure, it was plagued by a lot of terrible writing, but who knows when we'll get an episode this good again? Let's focus on the positive.

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The titular Dr. Crane is of course the father of Jonathan Crane, the future Bat-villain known as the Scarecrow. He's creating a solid legacy of villainy for his son by secretly attending a phobia support group, kidnapping their members, and then forcing them to them to confront their worst fears while murdering them. It begins when he takes a man scared of heights, ties him to a chair, wraps a noose around his neck, and tosses him off a building. As we find out later, he's cutting out his victims' adrenal glands immediately after their deaths — perhaps doing some early research on what becomes the Scarecrow's eventual fear toxin?

Gordon and Bullock's investigation isn't bad, but it isn't particularly notable either; suffice it to say Bullock meets and falls immediately for a support group member played by Maria Thayer, who I will always know as the redhead from Strangers with Candy. She's how they figure out the support group is being targeted after the second, pig-phobic victim is taken — herded by a baby pig-carrying Dr. Crane, and then trapped in a disgusting slaughterhouse room with several adult sows and a man with a giant disgusting pig mask on in what is easily Gotham's most delightfully creepy scene to date (also, this is where we got that shot of what everybody assumed was going to be Professor Pyg).

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Illustration for article titled Scarecrows Dad Leads A Frighteningly Non-Terrible Episode Of iGotham/i

Of course, Maria is the third target; she's scared of swimming pools after nearly drowning in one as a kid, which is of course where Crane takes her. There, we discover that young Jonathan is a semi-willing accomplice in his father's nefarious deeds; he runs in to get more change for the meter (don't ask) and looks at his father, clearly about to drown a struggling, tied-up woman. He's perplexed, but not so much he doesn't leave to feed the meter anyways. Of course, Gordon and Bullock show up after Maria's has been thrown in the pool, where Bullock saves her, while Crane gets away from Gordon to torment the citizens of Gotham next episode. I'm happy about this: Crane is the first Gotham villain that seems to have an agenda beyond just being evil, and the fact that young Jonathan is an accomplice here means that this is shit that has direct bearing on the future Scarecrow and, as a result, Batman himself. It "matters" in a way that most other Gotham episodes have not, and the episode is vastly improved because of it.

But that's not all! We get Penguin at the top of his game tonight. Now, that's not to say the Penguin is completely in control, as he very much isn't. Fish calls Maroni from her bizarrely lavish room in her fishing trawler to rat out Oswald, and Maroni takes the future Penguin upstate for 1) oatmeal and 2) a game of Truth or Dare sans Dare. It's weird and about as subtle as a knife-wielding maniac in a pig mask; Maroni all but screams "I KNOW YOU'RE A TRAITOR" while Oswald responds "I KNOW YOU KNOW!" Oswald tries to get the upper hand by secretly stealing one of Maroni's guns, but of course he's filled it with blanks for this exact scenario.

That's the bad bit. After a day at the murder n' breakfast, Maroni just up and puts Cobblepot in a car in a car crusher and sits and watches. I was honestly baffled as to how the Penguin would get out of this, especially when he calls Maroni from the car while it's being crushed, and Maroni hangs up on him. But then Oswald sees the sign for the scrapyard he's in and its phone number, calls it, and convinces the guy controlling the crusher he'd be better off running from Don Maroni who's right freaking there than incurring Don Falcone's wrath. This requires so much nonsense to work. Why doesn't Maroni have any minions with him? How does the scrapyard's company phone connect to the crusher operator's cellphone? But it's so damn fun to see Cobblepot somehow survive an absurdly impossible situation that the cheating seems worth it, especially when this storyline ends with Oswald found sleeping under a pile of leaves by a church bus group of black women from the 1950s, who take him back to Gotham on their church bus while singing hymns. It's ridiculous.

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Illustration for article titled Scarecrows Dad Leads A Frighteningly Non-Terrible Episode Of iGotham/i

Even Nygma gets a delightfully surreal subplot this week, one that doesn't have to do with him stalking a woman! Yay! When the Medical Examiner catches him examining another corpse — which is not Nygma's job, apparently? — the M.E. forces the Chief, who is back to being terrified of rocking the incredibly corrupt boat of the GCPD, into suspending Nygma. Nygma very calmly sneaks into HQ and fills the ME's locker with severed limbs (from cadavers, not fresh ones) and of course the dude is immediately suspended and the Riddler brought back. It's silly, but still, watching a pile of severed limbs fall onto a dude is the sort of striking moment Gotham could always use more of.

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And that's not to mention the craziest moment in the episode, which literally has nothing to do with anything else. At the very end of the ep, Fish Mooney is on her boat. She hears gunfire, and then some kind of armed pirate-terrorist bursts into her cabin. He and Fish stare at each other for half a second, then scream, then run towards each other at full force — then credits. WHAT THE FUCK. Is this a pirate? An old enemy of Fish's? Is it a terrible fake-out and it'll be some former lover or something and she'll collapse into his bullet-adorned arms? I have no idea whatsoever, but by god if I don't really, really want to know what the hell happened.

So all this is pleasantly ridiculous! Again, there's a lot of so-so plotting — why would Crane steal a victim from the phobia support group when Bullock is right there, and has already announced himself as a cop? — but it's really nice to have some genuinely creepy, funny and just plain crazy moments to balance the scales. I doubt Gotham is ever going to be the smart crime procedural we want it to be (and know it can be, thanks to the Gotham Central comic) but if it can continue providing a few memorable moments like "The Fearsome Dr. Crane" did, then, well, at least I won't develop a phobia about recapping it every week.

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Illustration for article titled Scarecrows Dad Leads A Frighteningly Non-Terrible Episode Of iGotham/i

Assorted Musings:

• Bruce makes an appearance this week to tell Gordon he's gotten nowhere on his parents' murder, and he can basically go fuck off. Bruce has a point.

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• Gordon stops by Barbara's apartment this week to drop off his keys, discovers Cat's been crashing there, and she tells him she lied about seeing the Waynes' killers' faces. So… thanks for wasting our time with that for several weeks, Gotham.

• Barbara is a no-show this week. Narratively, this is a fundamentally good idea — to not include characters when you have nothing interesting for them to do — but the masochist in me misses her delightfully awful, meaningless scenes.

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• I like that Dr. Crane's first murder is to dangle a dude off a roof to terrify him, just as Batman will do pretty much ceaselessly 20 years later. Of course Crane kills his victim, but it's a nice, subtle reminder that like all of Batman's best villains, the Scarecrow is yet another mirror of Batman.

• Oh, Dr. Crane is played by Julian Sands, best known as the Warlock of Warlock. He does some solid work with Crane with very little — you really get the sense that he's more of a scientist than a psychopath, which is far more interesting than most of Gotham's bad guys.

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• That said, is the Scarecrow's dad's first name really "Tod"? That… that is not a particularly menacing name.

• Next week, it appears Oswald and Nygma finally get their first scene together! Maybe it's because I thought this episode had some high points, or maybe I'm just an unrepentant nerd, but I'm actually pretty excited by this.

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DISCUSSION

Cool_Breeze
Cool_Breeze

Edward. What the hell, man.

This was another strong episode, I thought.

Obviously with the Crane's involved, this episode was about fear. Bullock (said) he was afraid of dying alone. Chief was afraid of her cops. Penguin was afraid of his secrets getting out (what a fun game, by the way), Cat is afraid of people caring about her, and Gordon was afraid of moving on and falling for someone. The only one who WASN'T afraid this week? Bruce. Ice Cold Bruce. He might be a kid, but as I said before, he's showing some flashes of the Bruce we all know and love.

1. So Fish is kind of petty, doncha think? She was always against Maroni, and now that she's on her on, there are no holds barred. She will do anything and everything to get back at Penguin (Oh he earned it) and it was fun seeing Penguin squirm while trying to convince Maroni he took the club on his behalf. It was also nice to finally see the light bulb go off over Maroni's head, and realize that PENGUIN DOESN'T WORK FOR YOU, REALLY, DUDE. All it took was a phone call where Fish lays it all out for him. How did he get on top again?

2. Speaking of Fish, she had that captain falling for her HARD, right? I wonder if there was history, or if she just persuades very well. Also: WHO WAS THAT AT THE END OF THE EPISODE? Pirates? THAT CLOSE TO GOTHAM? What is happening??? Maybe it's a long lost relative, and they were going in for a really intense bear hug. The way Fish reacted, She HAS to know him. Maybe he's cover so it looks like she died, so she can take her time and be ready to come back to Gotham.

3. Cat is a lying liar who lies. SHE SAW IT ALL. I thought this last week, but now I know for sure: She's never had anyone care about her really, and when Bruce tried to give her a snow globe (SHUT UP I'VE BEEN THERE) she completely freaked out. Now, when she ran into Gordon, she kept up this new lie, because Gordon actually cares about her safety. She's not used to it, and doesn't like it. Gordon was right when he confronted Bruce – she saw, and is just scared.

4. Speaking of Bruce….DAMN. He's turning into BRUCE a LOT faster now. I wonder if Gordon and Bruce each come up with an integral part of his parents' murder, but need each other's information to put it all together, and only Alfred sees this. It'll show that Gordon is true to his word, Bruce still needs training, and that Alfred is a badass. Maybe Bruce figures out who pulled the trigger, and Gordon figures out who made the call, but no one can be charged until Gordon and Bruce exchange info, connecting the dots.

5. This was an interesting take on the development of Dr. Crane. We thought we were following Dr. Jonathan Crane, when in fact we were seeing his DAD, who exposes Jonathan to his fearsome ways as a teenager. By the time Bruce comes back from his existential crisis trip, Jonathan Crane will be a doctor, and following in daddy's footsteps. Who, if we believe him at the meeting, was following in HIS dad's footsteps. Crazy Cranes.

6. Bullock. DON'T BE AN ASS. Finally someone told him what we've all been thinking.

7. Speaking of Bullock, I don't think he really is afraid of dying alone. I think he spun that line to impress his new lady friend. With this episode being all about fears and all, I think his TRUE fear is Gordon and the change he brings, and the danger that comes with it all. At the beginning on the roof top, when he noticed all the cops giving him the stink eye, he said "To hell with them" because even though he's scared, he knows what Gordon is doing is necessary.

8. Sometimes this show likes to telegraph things. I KNOW I JUST NOTICED. But when Gordon asked for Nygma to examine the body, and said the Medical Examiner was "kind of a clown" I thought there was NO WAY this guy is turning into the Joker. A little TOO MUCH telegraphing, if you ask me. (Unless, just like the Cranes, he has a kid who really wanted dad to be a medical examiner (?) or something, and HE becomes Joker…) Anyway, I digress…

9. DUDE NYGMA WHAT THE FUCK MAN. Where did you get those body parts??? Not cool, man. NOT. COOL.

10. I liked Maroni's truth or truth game. That was fun! However, knowing the mythos and the fact that Penguin is going to become the Danny Devito we all know and love, as soon as Maroni asked him to go up state with him, I KNEW it wouldn't end well for Maroni. Now Penguin is on the loose, and doesn't have to hide his allegiances any more.

11. Detective Bullock. If someone is under water and isn't responding, you don't try to cut the ropes holding their hands together until AFTER you get them above water. Chick was in a 6 foot deep pool. STAND UP. If she would have died, that totes would have been on you, man.

12. DAMMIT GORDON. He totally should have not kissed Dr. Thompkins, because now there are 50 cops who are pissed that you are gunning for them and their side action, who JUST GOT A NEW TARGET. I don't care how awesome she was on Firefly and V, PUT IT AWAY IN FRONT OF THE BOYS. When (not if, WHEN) she gets abducted / shot at / robbed / horse-head-in-the-bed'd, you only have you to blame.

Next week looks like it's going to be good.