SPOILER ALERT: This recap contains storyline and character details for this week's episode of Gotham.
Following the template set with the introduction of the Electrocutioner, Gotham is using a two-part episode to bring on its next major villain, the Scarecrow. We're actually introduced to his father in this episode — the episode is titled "The Fearsome Dr. Crane" — but he's a lunatic who scares people to death, so why quibble?
The first time we see Gerald Crane (Julian Sands), he's tied a man to a chair and hung him off a building, intent on frightening the man as much as possible so that he can — as we learn later — harvest the man's adrenal glands for a superconcentrated dose of cortisol.
Bullock (Donal Logue) displays much more than the usual amount of interest, since the chair-bound man belonged to a phobia support group with the gorgeous Scottie Mullen (Maria Thayer). His wooing of her doesn't start well; he displays all the charm and grace of Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) with lines like "Are you Irish? You look like you could be Irish."
But he does promise her that he'll catch the killer, and on his and Gordon's first trip out, they do indeed find another victim. Crane has used a man's fear of pigs — beginning with an adorable little piglet and graduating to an enormous, knife-wielding bruiser in a butcher's smock and pig mask — against him. Bullock and Gordon (Ben McKenzie) burst in and kill the butcher/pig, but he turns out to be just a flunkie, not the mastermind.
So Bullock's off to the support group, both to catch the killer and to take Mullen out to dinner. He fails at both when Crane kidnaps Mullen and drags her to the setting of her phobia: a public swimming pool. There, his son, Jonathan Crane (the eventual Scarecrow, played by Charlie Tahan), walks in on his father torturing the woman. It's for the common good, Crane tells his son, and then makes him go outside and feed the parking meter — which must rank as the single worst parental distraction attempt of all time.
Gordon and Bullock burst in; they save Mullen, but Crane gets away (they should have just put a boot on his van, parked by the expired meter). This two-part villain format is fantastic because the characters have plenty of time to establish their particular brand of crazy. Crane's three set pieces — the hanging chair, the pig's-head butcher, the swimming pool — are creepy, but Crane himself still seems at least partly grounded, earning him the right to go over the top in part two without seeming forced.
Gordon, meanwhile, calls Dr. Thompkins (Morena Baccarin), ostensibly to consult on the Crane case but in reality to take her to dinner. He is called away to work, but the aborted date does end with a kiss, and when she returns later with information about the case, there;s a second kiss in the precinct station with all the cops watching with rapt attention as if it's a Broadway musical.
Does this, combined with his dropping off his keys to Barbara's place, mean that Gordon's old flame is being written off the show? Probably not, but her character and storyline have consistently been the weakest part of the show. If the writers are responding to feedback from viewers, this is a good way to do it.
It also feels as though Selina, Bruce, and Alfred are being marginalized. Gordon catches Selina (Camren Bicondova) squatting in Barbara's apartment and chases her out. Bruce (David Mazouz) decides to "release" Gordon from his promise to find out who killed the Waynes. "I'll pursue the matter on my own," he says. All three of them might better serve the show in smaller doses. The first half of the season exists under the shadow of a pint-sized Batman; it may be time to let the show be about Gordon.
One character the show unquestionably handles well is Oswald Cobblepot/Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor). Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith), who has escaped his clutches, retaliates by calling Maroni (David Zayas) to let him know that Penguin's a traitor. Maroni's suspicious, and those suspicions are confirmed when Penguin falls for the old "blanks in the gun" trick, exposing his duplicity. Penguin is put in a car crusher but convinces the operator that he's Don Falcone's right-hand man and escapes. He ends the episode bathed in irony, as he is rescued by a gospel choir that serenades him with songs about salvation.
Nygma, too, gets his due. His self-directed autopsies infuriate the real GCPD medical examiner — an incompetent, but "protected" man — who gets him fired. Nygma turns the tables by cramming the examiner's locker with stolen body parts; his dismissal paves the way for Nygma's reinstatement. Not only that, but Miss Kringle (Chelsea Spack) appears to be thawing to his exasperating yet boyish charms. Causing a little chaos seems to be working for him.
The episode ends, sadly, with Fish's getaway boat being boarded by pirates; this could only have looked sillier if the pirate who bursts into her room were Jack Sparrow himself. The show gets so many things right, but moments like this — the episode's ending with Fish and a pirate running at each other as if they were Superman and Doomsday in the pages of a comic book slugfest, and the Gordon/Thompkins police station kiss that felt like a scene from When Harry Met Sally... — do not do the show any favors.
Bullock Line of the Week: "I'm a cop. The only thing I'm scared of is decaf coffee."
What did you think? Are the roles of Barbara, Selina, Bruce, and Alfred being reduced, or will they be back to fulltime status soon? Do you want to see more of Bullock in love, or is he better off alone? The next episode is called The Scarecrow — are you looking forward to seeing more of Crane's son? Let us know in the comments below.
Gotham airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on Fox.