In the comics, the Red Hood gang introduced Batman's greatest, craziest villain, the Joker. In "Red Hood," the titular gang also introduced Gotham's greatest, craziest villain, and it turns out it's Fish Mooney. Yes, I know how insane this sounds, but… well, let's just say Fish gave us an eyeful of how entertaining Gotham can be.
Now, what Gotham can be, mainly, is crazy as hell. Notice I didn't say Gotham is suddenly "good," because "Red Hood" still has more than a few characters acting inexplicably for no reason. But unlike so many other episodes, this one used its insanity to stay pretty entertaining from start to finish. Let's break down the craziness of all the plots in "Red Hood", using a complex ranking algorithm of my own invention:
A group of bank robbers are about to begin a heist when one of them pulls on a red hood he had made for the occasion. Although his fellow robbers are annoyed, the hood somehow gives the robber the confidence to not only become the gang's de facto leader, but, when he's forced to toss money into the street to cause a riot to keep a bunch of cops from chasing them, helps give the gang a snazzy new name and a partial identity as Robin Hoods.
At the beginning, Gotham teases a fascinating look at the allure and power of masks, how they conceal identity while simultaneously emboldening its wearers, and how villains (and heroes [and even the people of Gotham]) could be drawn to these totems. Then Gotham completely abandons this for goofy-ass story about a magic red ski mask.
Okay, Gotham doesn't outright say the poorly made hood is magic, but it does start empowering its wearers in increasingly ridiculous ways. The various thieves who wear the mask suddenly find themselves taking charge, receiving cheers from the public (thanks to their new habit of throwing money around at their robberies), and managed to survive unscathed when being repeatedly shot at. Hell, one guy puts on the hood and loses his debilitating stutter. And there's the fact the thieves without the hood keep murdering the thieves with the hood in order to get the hood, because they are instantly convinced the hood will solve all their problems.
The hood doesn't, and Gordon and Bullock end up gunning down all the remaining gang members. Case closed, but still, MAGIC RED SKI MASK.
Alfred's old war buddy Reggie stops by Wayne Manor, having fallen on hard times. Normally, you'd expect Reggie to bring up old war stories and hint at Alfred's darker, more badass previous life, and that definitely happens. But Reggie also has the distinction of teaching young Bruce Wayne a lesson that he genuinely can use on his journey to becoming Batman: Fights aren't fair, so take every advantage you can get. This is actually one of my favorite Bruce Wayne moments of Gotham's first season, and one that truly feels like we're on a journey to seeing little David Mazouz become an obsessed vigilante.
I'm not sure why Gotham decides to have Reggie start demanding for Bruce to punch him in the face, over and over again, like it's some sort of tortuous absolution for him, but the show certainly does. And then, after Gotham makes abundantly clear that Reggie is an alcoholic, a clueless Bruce brings up a bottle of wine for dinner with Alfred's buddy and Alfred just says "enh, why not." Yes, Gotham introduced an alcoholic character and then had him drink again, with neither the characters nor the writers apparently seeing any problem with this.
Oh, and in the end Reggie stabs Alfred in the gut because he's actually a spy for the Wayne Foundation board members! This is almost as bizarre as Gotham expecting us to be genuinely worried Alfred might die in a prequel TV series.
Verdict: Crazy as hell
We briefly check in with Penguin and his club, which is still failing miserably despite the fact Zsasz dropped off Butch last week and announced the goon would be helping. Butch's "help" is to let the club run out of booze, allow Penguin to get ready to literally stage an assault to steal some booze from Maroni, have some friends dress as cops and confiscate the liquor at the last minute, and then just sit there and drink. You'd think Butch would either be super-helpful because of Zsasz's ministrations, or would be dragging his feet because he hates Penguin and wants to sabotage him, but since both of those are reasonable decisions a rational human being would make, of course Gotham doesn't do that. Butch is just… lazy, I guess.
Verdict: Mildly crazy in that special Gotham "why isn't this character actually like a normal human being" way
The campaign for Barbara Kean as Saddest Character on Television continues hard this week, enough to get its own mention here. So Barbara, as you'll recall, is so desperate for the approval of any other human being that she allows two homeless, underage girls to stay in her apartment, even asking them for fashion advice to win back her ex even though they are penniless children who don't know the players, adult relationships, or fashion. And also, Barbara just saw Detective Gordon investigating the back of Dr. Leslie Thompkins' throat with his tongue.
Obviously, Barbara is standing stunned on her balcony, disheveled, basically unable to function until she has a brilliant idea — make-up party with her friends/squatters! She pulls out all her old clothes and tells Selina and Ivy to take whatever they want. She then pulls Selina into the other room to do a full makeover… when she's suddenly struck by the idea that she has wisdom to impart to these girls. She's wrong, of course, and given that Barbara starts talking about how Selina can use her beauty as a weapon, I think she thinks she's in Game of Thrones or something. But it doesn't really matter, because as soon as Barbara is done uttering her Words of Wisdom about the power of Beauty, Selina shuts her down hard: "Yeah? What good's it done you?"
Take a moment to really examine this scene. A sad sack character is trying to emotionally connect with a young girl that broke into her apartment. This is pathetic on its own, but Barbara's decision to try to give the underage Selina a pep talk about the benefits of being sexy would be pretty inappropriate if they had some kind of a relationship, which they don't. So Barbara is trying to mentor this girl, and trying to teach her a valuable if very strange life lesson, and in response Selina goes out of her way to remind Barbara she sucks.
Why? Why do this? I don't know, but goddamn is it fascinating to see how much misery Gotham heaps on Barbara. I'm sure there are all sorts of horrible ramifications here I'm not thinking of, but still, it's like Gotham is trying to make its own character commit suicide. At this point, I expect young Bruce Wayne to buy her apartment building solely to evict her, and then spit on her as she exits.
Verdict: Crazier than shit
And now we get to Fish Mooney, whose actions in "Red Hood" almost singlehandedly turn the show into must-watch viewing. Fish is brought upstairs from the prison to meet a middle manager, played with perfect creepiness by Jeffrey Combs. Although Combs isn't the boss — that would be Dr. Dulmacher, who will eventually be the Bat-villain known as the Dollmaker, which you probably couldn't have guessed as there are no subtle clues that would lead you to the association — he hears Fish's offer and allows her to clean up in his personal bathroom. Yes, this is creepy, but a shower is a shower.
When she returns, Combs makes her a counter-offer: Fish can choose a) letting the prison's goons kill her and save themselves the trouble of dealing her, or b) Fish can let Combs take out her eyes. Fish chooses option C.
GRABBING A SPOON AND SCOOPING OUT HER OWN GODDAMN EYEBALL. OH, AND THEN STEPPING ON IT.
Yes, Fish — because she is legitimately crazy — is willing to perform a self-eyeball-ectomy just to deny her captors what they want. This moment comes out of nowhere, but Gotham stages it with all the visceral violence allowed at 8:00 pm primetime, and the shot of Fish's foot squishing her own eye flat would give The Walking Dead a run for its money in the gross SFX department.
I don't even know what to tell you. Even beyond the shock of seeing a character shove a spoon into her eyesocket, I'm shocked that Gotham had the ability to create a scene this shocking. If we can admit to ourselves that Gotham is never going to be the Batman prequel series we want, or the Gotham Central-type police procedural we hoped for, well, then being completely, massively crazy is a pretty decent back-up plan. Even if the characters continue to not make any sense, at least the show won't be boring, and for that, I am grateful.
• The opening scene of the bank robbery draws an obvious comparison to the beginning of The Dark Knight. If you want a mission statement from what the show wants to be, I'd say comparing the two is a good as you're going to get. It's much, much goofier than The Dark Knight, obviously — not that there's anything wrong with that,
• The pre-Red Hood leader of the gang is named Destro. This made me giggle pretty much every single time it was mentioned.
• More Chang, please. That guy was awesome. So weird, so unique, so completely unlike anyone you would ever meet in real life.
• Bullock, immediately after shooting a man to death on the street: "I need a Danish." Best of all, he says it angrily to Gordon, as if killing the bank robber is forcing him to buy a Danish he doesn't actually want.
• Bonus Craziness: At the very end of the episode, a random dude picks up the red hood from the street, where it has been lying since the shoot out. There are still cops all around, but he puts it on, and then mimes firing a gun at a cop… because apparently the hood isn't just magic, it's cursed. Also, what the fuck were the dozens of Gotham City cops doing? Do you mean to tell me none of them picked up the ski mask as evidence? None of them noticed a random dude picking up this shockingly important evidence, or putting it on? Did they not care that he mimed shooting them while wearing the hood worn by a dude who was trying to murder cops 15 minutes ago? Because I feel like real police officers might have been a bit perturbed about this. Again, I have to wonder if the GCPD isn't corrupt so much as it is terrifyingly incompetent.