Superheroes and villains are all about their masks. Rarely does an individual risk their alter ego without a mask or some some of disguise. Sometimes the mask can be so central to the character that they actually BECOME the character. Bruce Wayne has his cowl, Roman Sionis becomes Black Mask, and yes, even the the man in the Red Hood. It’s this bad guy that is the focus of Gotham’s 17th episode, and somehow tops “The Blind Fortune Teller” as the worst episode of the season.
The main problem is that this version Red Hood isn’t that compelling. Batman has such a rich mythology to choose from, and includes several different Red Hood storylines the show runners could have selected to create. I would loved to have seen The Killing Joke’s character origin, but instead they opted for a generic rob from the rich to give to the poor storyline. The bank robbing gang is made up of characters we have never met, were not interesting, and were robbing banks and began intentionally killing each other to have the right to wear the Red Hood.
Before we dive into the Red Hood gang’s bank robbing storyline, I want to tackle a few other issues.
I cannot stand Barbara Gordon. Her character doesn’t make sense and it is just getting worse. Last week she took fashion advice from homeless kids staying in her apartment and this week she gave Cat, who is an underage kid the “your sex is your weapon” speech. It highlights how much Gotham has squandered this season when it comes to character development. The only characters that are interesting and Penguin, Bullock, Fish Mooney, and sometimes Jim Gordon. The fact that Fish Mooney can be held up as a positive example of a well written character is alarming.
Fish is still hanging out in the basement of some creepy hospital that collects body parts illegally. She meets with a man that represents the manager of the facility, Doctor Dullmacher. Yep, Gotham writers gave the Dollmaker an alias of Dullmacher. If that name rings a bell, it should, because he was mentioned back in episode two, Selina Kyle. His gang was kidnapping strays off the street for fresh body parts for experiments and black market sales. Dullmacher’s representative tells Fish that her eyes would fetch a pretty penny, insinuating that he will take them. Fish then makes the unbelievable move, grabs a teaspoon and gouges her own eye out, and then steps on it. Let me say that again: FISH MOONEY GOUGED HER OWN EYE OUT AND STOMPED ON IT!!!! I haven’t yelled that loudly at my television in a long time. Where is the logic in that? The one thing that this man wanted is now destroyed, so now she has no bargaining chip. A show and especially a hero is only as good as the villain, and when someone does something this dumb, it pulls the whole show down.
Mooney’s story isn’t the only one that has gone off the rails. Penguin’s storyline has completely dissolved from mob greatness with Penguin intelligently cutting through the competition, to Cobblepot, the disgruntled and failed club owner. In this episode, Oswald has to literally steal liquor for his club, because Maroni supplies all the alcohol on this side of town, and he hates Penguin. It’s hard to believe that in a city this size, only one person handles the distribution of alcohol.
Butch, who last episode was basically a brain dead puppet, is now back to being normal. Penguins wants to into Maroni’s territory with guns blazing and steal it, but Butch calls the cops who come and bust up the liquor shipment, and solidifies his partnership with Penguin.
Out of nowhere, one of Alfred’s buddies, Reginald, arrives at Wayne Manor looking for help. He soaking wet, disheveled, and when Alfred and Bruce offer to let him stay until he gets back on his feet, he reluctantly accepts. Reggie stays a few days, boxes with Bruce, swaps war stories with Alfred over a bottle of wine, but the jovial feelings don’t last long. One night, Alfred finds Reggie rummaging through the study, and it appears he is robbing from Bruce Wayne. Reggie stabs Alfred with a knife and takes off, and Bruce calls for an ambulance after finding Alfred bleeding on the floor. In a rare moment of subtlety for Gotham, Bruce tells the 911 operator that his “friend” and not his butler has been stabbed. In one of the final scenes, Reggie meets with the evil Wayne Enterprise’s board of directors, and the conspiracy comes full circle. It turns out that Reggie is really a hired mercenary, who was spying on Bruce Wayne, and figure out what the boy has on the corrupt board members. Reggie redeems himself slightly by telling the board that Bruce is a good kid, but they seem intent on killing him anyway.
We now circle back to Red Hood. The hood and those that wear it are the main story arc for the week, but the problem is the show doesn’t have the villain figured out. The story veers between comic bank robbers, to serious murderers, to Robin Hood type heroes, to pathetic victims. That’s a whole lot of emotional states for one group to experience in one episode. The worst moment is when Gordon and Bullock trail a gang member back to his apartment, and he is shot by a fellow crook who steals the hood and leaves him bleeding on the floor. We learn that the guy was targeting banks that denied him a loan to open up a bakery. That detail MAY have created sympathy for him, but he was killing other gang members just the day before, so it’s hard to feel bad for him.
Gordon and Bullock discover the final bank heist location, and catch the gang red handed in the middle of a heist. Instead of surrendering, the gang decides to go out in a blaze of glory. The show suggests that the hood is not just a piece of cloth, but somehow gives the user a sense of bravery, false security, and aggressiveness. A young man eventually wanders into the crime scene, picks up a key piece of evidence, and makes a finger shooting gesture towards the cops.
“Red Hood” is 45 minutes of nothing. Outside of the Alfred and Bruce arc, everything seems inconsequential and bloated. This show is full of characters that have no real development, and it’s getting more and more difficult to care what happens to any of them. Take away the Batman references, and treat Gotham like police procedural drama, you’d be totally disappointed. Gotham has already been picked up for a second season, but the only way this show will survive, is to jump ahead in time next season, get to Bruce as a young man beginning to become the Batman, and basically reboot itself.