The best thing that can be said about "The Fearsome Dr. Crane" is that it feels like the first part of a two-part story. It's hard to judge this type of episode because so much of it feels like setup for a forthcoming event. That wait-and-see approach shouldn't be that much of a problem, though, since this week's leisurely pace gave the show's various subplots time enough to feel like more than just time-killing tangents. I loved watching Jim Gordon heedlessly flirt with Dr. Leslie Thompkins, and Don Maroni batting around Oswald Cobblepot was even better.
Sadly, it's telling that "The Fearsome Dr. Crane" ends with Fish Mooney preparing to fight a random gun-toting pirate. (No, seriously.) Mooney's subplot has nothing to do with the rest of the episode, but presumably (hopefully, anyway), that will change next week. Waiting for her story to improve wouldn't be such a bad thing, if it didn't feel like a random distraction from this week's compelling investigation-of-the-week plot. Instead, Tod (Julian Sands) gets away, Thompkins gets kissed, and then suddenly, boom, Mooney-pirate fight! It wouldn't be Gotham if everything made sense, I guess.
"The Fearsome Dr. Crane" isn't as bad as it could be, but it isn't as good either, since most of its stories seem so haphazardly arranged. The most refreshing is probably the Scarecrow investigation-of-the-week subplot, since it dovetails with Gordon and Thompkins's romance, and Harvey Bullock's tentative flirting with Scottie Mullen (Maria Thayer), a sassy redhead who also happens to be deathly afraid of swimming pools. This last detail is and isn't really important. Mullen is part of a phobia support group whose members are being traumatized and then murdered. Mullen's swimming-pool fear is absurd, however, because, well, it can be.
There's seemingly no substantial logic behind tonight's sudden fixation with romance and partnerships, beyond the fact that the show has the leeway to sometimes be a little lighter, and therefore should be. That lighter tone pays off when Tod and his accomplice confront their second victim with ... a baby piglet. Yes, it is odd to see jokes made on a show that seems to be lit with naked halogen bulbs and shot through the David Fincher Instagram Mood Filter. But still, it's great to see a return to the comic-book-y, Batman: The Animated Series–esque style of humor that made "The Balloonman" such a promising mess. Mullen's piscinophobia is cute for its own sake, and that's just fine.
Humor also pays off big time in the Maroni-Cobble-plot whenever Robin Lord Taylor and David Zayas are allowed to ham it up. Zayas's playfully theatrical delivery is especially charming when Maroni gives a short list of his favorite things about visiting the country: "Fresh air, oatmeal, good friends." That line is meaningless, but Zayas makes it hilarious, just as Thayer's defensive delivery can sell a line as goofy as "I am strong. I just happen to be terrified of swimming pools." Likewise, while it's absurd to see Maroni pick up the phone and take Cobblepot's call as a garbage compactor threatens to crush the latter, it's also great to see Zayas roll his eyes and grouse to himself, "Oh, you gotta be kidding me."
In a typical episode, Gotham's cast members look rushed, and their performances are rarely treated with the respect they deserve. That isn't the case this week. You can see it in the way Logue tosses off anti-one-liners like, "It's my name, don't wear it out," and "I'm a cop; the only thing I'm scared of is decaf coffee." Bullock's lines are fine unto themselves, but Logue really nails them. Likewise, it's great seeing Logue exchange banter with Thayer, a charming guest star who gets just the right amount of screen time and attention. Thayer and Logue don't have the same kind of chemistry that Ben McKenzie and Morena Baccarin do, but they do make an irrepressibly charming couple.
Then again, good acting can only do so much to fix the show's macro-level problems. Gotham's still the kind of show where characters come and go seemingly at random, like when Selina Kyle visits Gordon, and then Gordon visits Bruce Wayne, and then Bruce Wayne does absolutely nothing. Wayne's story is especially disappointing since Kyle's return was a welcome attempt at picking up last week's dangling Kyle-Wayne thread. But Kyle showing up just for the sake of showing up is a frustrating reminder that Gotham's creators don't always know how to juggle their myriad characters and interrelated stories.
Which brings us to Edward Nygma. Nygma's story is entertaining this week, whenever it gravitates around Cory Michael Smith's slapstick-y, dumbshow routine. Nygma getting caught with a hand inside a corpse is odd, but it works thanks to Smith's reaction to Zabryna Guevara's expert line delivery: "Get your hand out of that corpse!" But do we really need another episode where Nygma gets the wrong impression/strung along by Kristen Kringle? Nothing happens to advance Nygma's abortive romance that didn't already happen last week, when corrupt cop Arnold Flass intercepts and mocks Nygma's poem for Kringle. So while Nygma's rivalry with medical examiner Dr. Guerra is fun, it ultimately leads us back to his dead-end affair with Kringle. Gotham's status quo may be actively changing, but for now, "The Fearsome Dr. Crane" just feels like a skittish step back.
- Can we please refer to Dr. Thompkins as Dr. Caliente from now on? Thanks.
- Who else plotzed when they saw the box of Fruit Brute cereal in Jim Gordon's apartment? Nobody? Somebody?
- Time for Fanboy Speculation! So Julian Sands is playing Scarecrow's dad? That makes a lot of sense, actually. Then again: Wait, Scarecrow's got daddy issues? Woof.
- I know I often complain about the show's stock-music score, but the wacky music that accompanies Nygma as he breaks into Dr. Guerra's locker is exceptionally grating.
- Why does Gordon like Nygma, exactly? As a friend reminded me, Nygma's the guy that asked Gordon if he should check a severed finger found in a victim's mouth for prints. He's not that great at his job ... but maybe he is? Not the hero we deserve, etc.
- Nygma to Kringle: "But I can see tears — on your face." Okay, that delivery was Shatner-worthy, bud.
- Anyone else laugh when Gordon offers Dr. Caliente a job as the GCPD's medical examiner? Why would Caliente think that Gordon has the authority to hire her?? She must seriously love him if she's not laughing in his face at a line like that.