Gotham finally came out and gave us the straight-up origin of a supervillain in last night's "The Scarecrow" — I'll, uh, give you three guesses which Bat-villain it's referring to — but managed to squander most of what it did right in last week's episode.
Last week, as you may recall, Gordon and Bullock were alerted to one Dr. Crane, who was kidnapping members from a phobia support group, exposing them to their worst fears, murdering them, and then cutting out their adrenal glands. The partners managed to save the redheaded woman from Strangers with Candy, but Crane got away.
In "The Scarecrow," we finally learn what Crane's deal is — he's haunted by the death of his wife in a housefire, a fire in which he was too scared to head back inside to try to save his sleeping spouse. He's trying to find a cure for fear, which mainly involves dosing himself with as much fear as possible, via a recipe of adrenal glands and 11 herbs and spices, while standing in the burned-out remains of his old house while being berated by a burning hallucination of his wife. What's more, he wants to cure his 15-year-old son Jonathan of the same fear. This is very much a mad scientist plot, but well-suited to the comic book-y world of Gotham, and it's still neat that Crane the elder has a noble, albeit twisted motive beyond just being evil for evil's sake.
The procedural aspect of this episode is a real snooze, but it really falls apart at the end when Gordon and Bullock arrives at the former Crane home, and Crane Sr. goes from mad scientist to dumbass. Immediately abandoning his common sense and his concern for his child, he decides he has to "complete the procedure" while on the run from the cops, and gives young Jonathan an extra-large dose of the serum as they escape into a nearby field, which just happens to have a scarecrow in it. When Gordon and Bullock approach, Crane yells how he isn't afraid of a shoot-out and begins firing on the cops. Unfortunately, being unafraid has also made him too dumb to realize he's outnumbered or even that he should shoot from cover, and so he dies stupidly, needlessly, and having injected his son with an obviously untenable amount of fear juice. The result, as a doctor tells Jim later, is that Jonathan will be in terror for the rest of his life (and, unknown to anyone else, suffering from constant visions of the farm's scarecrow, natch). Thanks a ton, dad.
There are three other threads in this episode: 1) The first is of course the most interesting, because it's about the Penguin. Falcone bequeaths him Fish's nightclub and announces that his days of secretly serving others is over; Falcone even manages to convince Maroni to not kill Cobblepot, thanks to a present of a kidnapped judge. The Penguin renames the place Oswald's and gives it an umbrella theme, but no one shows up to the big opening night — well, except Maroni, who stops by and promises to kill Penguin the moment Falcone dies.
2) On the anniversary of his annual hike with his dad, Bruce decides to go it alone. We learn that Bruce and his dad made little piles of round rocks; Bruce has a temper tantrum and kicks the piles of rocks over; and then he falls down a hill and sprains his leg. Our future Batman, everyone! Anyways, Alfred, for no apparent reason, lets Bruce climb up a hill on his busted leg for several hours before revealing he's been in the forest too and could have helped him at any time.
3) But nothing is stranger than Fish Mooney's storyline, because I have no idea what the fuck is going on or what it has to do with anything. If you'll recall, Fish ended the last episode running top-speed at a pirate; she wakes up in a prison where the person who wields the one knife in the joint gets to be in charge, like a bizarro Excalibur or something. It's no time at all before Fish has the knife and control, and she's about to organize her many, many fellow prisoners when the pirates bring a prisoner back minus her eyes. What. The hell.
I appreciate Fish's storyline for how damned weird it is, and I thought the Bruce hiking arc was okay because it was pretty short (and because Alfred being a dick to Bruce is hilarious to me), even if it seems completely unrelated to whatever journey will lead to him eventually becoming Batman. And I appreciate the fact that Gotham really tried to give us a clear origin for one of the major Bat-villains, even if it failed to stick the landing. But why the hell is Gotham concentrating on Bruce's Hiking Misadventure and Ms. Fish Visits the Pirate Prison when it could be giving us an ongoing investigation of the Wayne Murder? What if the other villains got to slowly develop with a rich story like Oswald Cobblepot has? What if we got to see Bruce actually on his way to becoming an insane, obsessed vigilante, as opposed to just spitefully kicking a pile of rocks?
There's no need to discuss the show's potential for awesomeness versus what it delivers yet again. But I will say this: In the promo for next week's episode, it teases the Joker. I assume I should be excited by this major development, but instead I'm just apprehensive about what Gotham has in store for the proto-villain (assuming it's really him, and not just a big fake-out). I sincerely hope Gotham gets to a point where it make us eager to see what's next instead of anxious.
• Leslie Thompkins become GCPD's new medical examiner, and wants to kiss ol' Gordon all over the station. Gordon is afraid that his co-workers — who, it should be remembered, are almost solely corrupt cops who want him dead — will make fun of him if they see him kissing a girl. It's dumb.
• I'm kinda disappointed Copplepot didn't rename the club the Iceberg Lounge, but I suppose there's always next season.
• The teased scene between Riddler and Penguin was… pretty fun, actually, even though they didn't really do anything. Hopefully Gotham will find a reasonable way to get their characters to spend some more time together.
• Your "Things Characters on Gotham Say That No Real Human Being Has Ever Said Ever" update: "Son of a mother bitch!"
• Your "Things Alfred Calls Bruce Instead of Master" update: Mate, cheeky monkey, "Master B." I seriously think Alfred is trolling Bruce at this point. Also, I hope Bruce starts an ill-fated rap career under the name "Masta B."
• Leslie has circus tickets for next week's episode! Get ready for a special guest appearance by the young Robin, who will be a single sperm cell floating in his dad's nutsack.
• No, seriously, I'm dreading the Joker next week. Whether it's real or not, given Gotham's track record, I just can't imagine they'll do anything compelling with the character. What do you think the over/under is for characters literally calling him a joker? I'm guessing five.