Synopsis of 2×20: The manhunt for Azrael is on as the GCPD, Cobblepot and Gordon are following his trail. Bruce recruits Selina to break into Arkham to bring down Strange. Nygma tries to break out of Arkham.
“Unleashed,” this week’s episode of Gotham, feels like a comedy and I genuinely don’t know if it’s meant to be purposeful. It’s an episode where any given scene with Azrael in it seems to be designed to push the season towards a finale, where all of the forces determined to bring down Galavan face off.
However, every plot other than that feels haphazard and goofy. There’s an extended aside about Nygma and Selina both traveling around in the Arkham vents, there’s a series of jokes about Bullock being an unwilling and unwitting leader of the GCPD. And then, there’s that ending. I guffawed. I could not stop laughing.
The biggest problem here is that half of “Unleashed” feels like a season finale. It feels like since the entirety of the season has been about characters dealing with Galavan, the hunt for him would have to be the way the season ends but then, apropos of nothing but a dick-swinging bass riff, he’s killed with a goddamn rocket launcher because Butch is sad and Penguin is mad.
I mean, honestly, what the fuck? Why? I mean, how, why, what the fuck? I could accept the silliness of Theo’s killing if the show had treated it as the incredibly silly thing that it is but everything from the bass riff to the one-liners to Penguin’s arrival makes it seem like we’re supposed to view that moment as something badass but, oh god is it not. Instead, it’s hysterical. It feels like watching someone desperately try to be cool by putting on sunglasses and a jean jacket.
The real meat of the episode is the hunt for Galavan but it’s all undercut by that ending. He puts his sister in the hospital and killed his way through cops last episode but all it’s there for is so he can get shot with a rocket launcher, I guess to show Butch and Penguin are teamed up again. Why?
Butch’s story has always felt mostly incidental to the story and his romantic relationship always seemed superfluous, not essential to his character. It ends up being a story that only works in a very mechanical way, where bad things happen to people and they react to it.
That leaves little but the Strange plot and that’s basically the same as it’s been all season. He does nasty things and taunts Gordon while training up other supervillains. I’ve mostly been exhausted by Strange at this point and this is no better. It feels like going over the same beats over and over and over again and while it seems like B.D. Wong’s having fun playing the scenery-chewing character, it’s not fun to watch him go over the same stories repeated ad nauseum.
Is a show better because it’s accidentally entertaining? I thought about this a lot in an episode that feels like it’s operating more on incompetence than purpose. It’s the question that’s plagued camp classics like The Room or Plan 9 From Outer Space and “Unleashed” makes a real case for Gotham being added to the list.