Media · Story & Characters

“Gotham” – Episode Fifteen (S1) Review

The Scarecrow

Aww! You mean this awesome guy?
Oh, you wish. That would be far too pleasant.

Nope, this breed of Scarecrow is more scare than crow. To recap from episode fourteen, Dr. Gerald Crane sees it as his life’s mission to rid the world of fear-infected people (plus harvest their adrenal glands). Turns out, he’s unknowingly training his son to become the future, much-feared Batman villain, the Scarecrow. I actually didn’t know anything about this Batman nemesis, so I had to look him up. In brief, the Scarecrow is Dr. Jonathan Crane, a psychologist, who uses fear as a weapon. Ironically, he becomes addicted to fear after his antics make him immune to it so the only person he genuinely fears is Batman, thus he seeks Batman out just to confront the Caped Crusader and feel afraid.

Scarecrow Jr.
For now, young Scarecrow-to-be is a tortured, teenage soul, but I thought his set up here was well done. I might not be as familiar with his character as I am some of the other more notorious denizens of Gotham, but I hope we see more of his tragic story unfold later on, perhaps in the second season.

But the real focus here is on Jonathan’s father. Turns out Dr. Crane’s wife died in a house fire and he failed to save her (hence his horrific flashbacks). Thus his greatest fear is shame (which, true to his earlier admission, relates to failure in a way). His solution, as it were, is to eradicate the world of fear, which he sees as an unnecessary evil. But this raises a good question – is fear essentially a bad thing?

Aristotle would say that fear can actually be good in moderation. Think of the virtue of courage (what we’d like to think is the absence of fear but more on that in a moment) as a straight line and the line’s ends are its extremes, which Aristotle would call vices. One on end would be brashness, which is no fear at all. In a sense, this is what Dr. Crane is advocating. But when you live utterly fearless, you end up doing stupid stuff. Case in point: remember how in New Moon, Bella kept doing dangerous things just to hear Edward’s voice in her head? That’s the epitome of foolhardiness and Aristotle would have some choice (Greek) words to say to her. So living with no fear isn’t good because it puts you and others at risk.

On the other end of the spectrum is timidity, which is where phobias reside. It’s fear when fear is given free reign and takes over. Granted, Dr. Crane tries to do the right thing by overcoming his shame because living in the past gets you nowhere in the present, but his solution to move from being paralyzed by fear to eliminating the fear drive altogether is unwise. At least that’s what Aristotle would say. So how can we put fear into a proper perspective? By keeping it in check, and that’s where courage comes in. On our spectrum, courage resides in the middle so it’s neither a state of fearlessness nor is it a state of fearfulness. Contrary to popular belief, courage isn’t the absence of fear but fear under control. As Jim Gordon once said, “Fear tells you where the edge is,” so it’s actually a good thing when it’s kept in check.

Okay, enough philosophy. Let’s get to what was probably the most Tweeted-about moment, at least between Penguin and Riddler fans. While fangirls of both characters probably did this…
minion fangirl
(I’ll admit I did, too…but in moderation), I couldn’t help but notice the interesting visual parallel this on-screen coupling made. Character-wise, Ed and Oswald are outcasts within their respective social circles. They are held to some degree of respect, but the majority of the people they come into contact with brush them aside as either weird or weak. Neither summation is entirely correct, but that’s what happens when fictional characters try to put other fictional characters into boxes.

In terms of these character’s natures, both become iconic Batman villains, which means they possess more darkness than light at their cores, but their backgrounds are different. Ed, to his credit, gets his start dealing with crime from the law enforcement angle as a forensics tech; whereas, Oswald’s immersion has been in the criminal underworld from the start. Hence, Ed’s moral compass is a little more grounded in terms of right and wrong. Oswald’s compass on the other hand…well…I think he lost his.

Lastly, while both characters possess a high level of intelligence and insight, Ed’s mind leans towards the abstract, combining an expansive mental data bank with a love for solving puzzles. In contrast, Oswald is concrete and doesn’t care to deal in the theoretical though he’s more street-wise than Ed. So to put it into perspective, Ed would fare well at a trivia contest while Oswald would oversee beating up the nerds out in back.

I was immediately reminded of an iconic scene from the movie Heat (side bar – awesome movie, go watch it!) where Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro were first seen on screen together. (Fun factoid: the first time these two Hollywood heavy-hitters were billed together was in The Godfather, Part II but they never actually shared any screen time. Okay, end of fun factoid – I’m starting to sound like Ed now!) Oddly enough, in the case of Pacino and DeNiro’s characters (Vincent Hannah and Neil McCauley), the former was an L.A.P.D. detective and the latter was a criminal mastermind. Nothing makes a more intriguing match-up than law and lawlessness, which is what we get in both of these pairings.

Oswald and Ed 3
Notice how these four characters are visually contrasted. In the diner scene from Heat, we see Pacino’s character (Vincent) seated to the viewer’s left and DeNiro’s character (Neil) seated to the viewer’s right. Similarly, when Ed and Oswald are paired side-by-side, Ed (representing the law) is on the viewer’s left and Oswald (representing the criminal underworld) is on the viewer’s right. Both of these pairings mess with Plato’s, Aristotle’s, and most folks’ fundamental understanding of left-right symbolism: traditionally, right is viewed as “good” and left is viewed as “bad.” But these pairings blur that assumption. Hence, by messing with this left-right pairing, what we’re shown is that Ed is just as capable of doing wrong as Oswald is of doing right. In a sense, these aren’t stark good-bad characters, which makes them relatable as well as realistic, at least morally-speaking.

Oswald and Ed 2
Furthermore, as far as the scene in “Gotham” is concerned, consider how Oswald and Ed are initially paired up. As (I hope) you can see from the above screenshot, Oswald starts out on the viewer’s left and Ed arrives on the viewer’s right. Talk about switching things up! This shot utilizes the traditional left-right mold: Oswald is the villain, so he’s on the left, and Ed is still on the side of the law, so he’s on the right. But they don’t stay that way and eventually switch sides directionally-speaking. Thus, even on screen, we witness how both characters are not all one thing: Ed isn’t destined to remain a good guy and Oswald isn’t 100% evil. Overall, it was a pretty cool cinematic, and directorial, trick!

Though I don’t suspect Oswald and Ed will be hanging out anytime soon. Ed, two things you need to learn are (1). don’t stare at people – people tend to dislike being stared at, and (2). Penguin doesn’t like actually being compared to penguins. (“Did you know that male Emperor Penguins keep their eggs warm by balancing them on their feet?” I know that and you know that, but that doesn’t mean Penguin wants to know that. Nor does he care to.) Now give him a tuna sandwich as tribute.

In the end, this moment ends with Oswald giving Ed a stern warning and delivering the best don’t-tick-me-off stare all season…
Oswald and Ed 4
(Final fun factoid: actors Cory Michael Smith and Robin Lord Taylor are pals in real life, so this was all part of the show, folks. No hard feelin’s!)

It’s interesting to see the flux of power here, especially between the haves, the have-nots, and the almost-haves. The haves would be the mob bosses who think they have it all on lock. The have-nots, like Ed, don’t have the drive or means to want to be in charge (though some respect on the job would be nice). Oswald is an almost-have as he possesses an intimidation factor around the right people (chiefly the have-nots) yet knows it would be foolhardy to make any overly brash moves into becoming a have. (He has, to be fair, but so far that’s not worked out so well.) Though I think Falcone’s remark that Oswald is “clever enough to know that a freakish little man like him is never going to be the boss” might turn around and bite him.

Now if I can close out by going back to the topic of fear, we see that Bruce Wayne conquers some fears when he ventures out on his hike. Two fears manifest themselves here, one that’s been brewing all season and the other confined to this episode. The over-arching fear is that his parents may never get justice, and the immediate fear is that he will not be able to save himself when he takes a tumble and sprains his ankle. Even though the former isn’t resolved here, the short-term fear is alleviated as Bruce makes it back to the top, only to discover Alfred waiting on him.

Camp Wayne
His reunion with wise Alfred was a touching image of how “perfect love casts out all fear.” Was Alfred being cold and mean by not coming to Bruce’s rescue? Not at all! He was trying to teach Bruce how to be brave, to overcome adversity, thus molding him into the courageous hero we all know he comes to be. Alfred displays “perfect love” in that there are no strings attached when it comes to him and Bruce. He cares for Bruce and protects him as he would his own flesh and blood, and I sense nothing Bruce could do would dislodge that. Hence, Alfred’s love is unconditional. How does this put fear to rest? Because Bruce doesn’t have to earn Alfred’s favor. He loves Bruce just because, not because he has to.

In the end, Bruce’s nighttime ordeal ends by getting to witness the sunrise. So, no matter how dark and scary the world can be, to quote Jim Gordon, “There will be light.”
There will be light
And that light can dispel any over-powering fear.

Overall, this was a great episode! During the past few episodes, I found my attention wavering slightly but this one had me glued. It’s fascinating to watch the future villains and heroes endure various triumphs, trials, and tribulations that mold them into the characters they eventually become. Good stuff all the way around!

Oh – and before I forget, consider this a postscript of possible awesomeness for next week…
See this kid? Let’s play multiple choice and see if you can guess who he might be?

a). Isn’t that Scut Farkus from A Christmas Story? Does he have yellow eyes? So help me, yellow eyes!

b). A poster child for gingervitis awareness, proving that gingers really don’t have souls. (I jest – I wish I had red hair!)

c). The Wendy’s Girl’s demon-possessed brother who, no, doesn’t want fries with that. Stop asking.

d). An iconic Batman villain – probably considered to be the most iconic Batman villain. Sans makeup.

e). Someone you think is an iconic Batman villain but really isn’t an iconic Batman villain. Made you look!

f). I’m just messin’ with you. This dude isn’t from “Gotham” at all – but have fun making a meme out of it.

You can guess but, come on, the answer is fairly plain…

it’s obviously the Wendy’s Girl’s devil spawn brother!
Laugh and no

Oh, well. We’ll find out soon enough.


3 thoughts on ““Gotham” – Episode Fifteen (S1) Review

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