When I think about why comic book shows like Arrow and The Flash work so well, one of the main reasons is because even if the show falls into a rough patch, the pacing of the plot is so rapid that odds are you just have to wait an episode or two before the rough patch passes. Part of that is just built into the CW model, their shows characteristically unafraid of chewing through plot at a swift clip. While Gotham has often boasted a variety of bad guys from week to week, there’s never been the same pacing. In fact, Gotham makes a habit of trudging through a single plot thread, and it’s made for some seriously laborious television this season and last.

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The most notable thread that Gotham just can’t get away from is a vague idea of whether or not Jim Gordon has crossed “the line,” that ever-present, but totally innocuous divide between being a good person (and cop) or a bad one. This entire season has been focused on creating a complex Gordon, but there’s never really been much tension or intrigue to the storyline because the show continues to flip-flop on who and what Gordon is. This week’s episode represents the obvious breaking point for Gordon, as he sees Galavan somehow influence former Mayor James into recanting his statement, therefore allowing Galavan to avoid his life sentence, or any jail time at all.

Gordon loses his cool and punches Galavan while in court, all while his colleagues and reporters look on. It’s clear that this is meant to be the big moment where Gordon crosses the line; he spends most of the episode blaming himself for the death of Parks and drinking to try to soften the guilt. The problem is that Gordon has arguably crossed the line in the past, as it’s a beat that the show has hit again and again. The writers have explored this storyline before, and that robs tonight’s climactic moment of its potential power. Gotham continues to undercut any character work it’s done in the past, making it hard to craft a consistent and engaging narrative each and every week.

Outside of that repetitious storyline though, “Son Of Gotham” manages to chew through a ton of plot before its fall finale next week, and that’s a good thing. As I mentioned above, Gotham has a tendency to slow its plot down to a crawl, extending tedious storylines across weeks worth of episodes. Considering that the show struggles to find a consistent tone and compelling plots, that’s a huge problem. “Son Of Gotham” shows that the pacing really is the biggest issue. Despite the lackluster characters and bad dialogue, a fast-paced Gotham is ultimately much more entertaining.

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Consider just how much information Gotham flies through tonight. We learn more about the purpose and history of the Order of St. Dumas; we see Galavan get away, kidnap Gordon and then go after Bruce; Bruce potentially gets the name of the man who murdered his parents after constructing an elaborate ruse with Selina; Alfred and Tabitha go toe-to-toe; Gordon and Galavan go toe-to-toe; and Penguin saves Gordon’s life. There’s so much going on in this episode, but for once it doesn’t feel scattered. There’s an urgency to everything happening, with Gotham just barreling forward, never stopping too long to consider consequences or indulge pointless side stories.

Admittedly, that’s a model of storytelling that isn’t sustainable—just ask The Vampire Diaries—but it does tend to mask a show’s worst tendencies. By embracing a more brutal pace, Gotham has found some life in all of its stagnant plots. Are you sick of the love triangle between Bruce, Selina, and Silver? That’s done with as Bruce hires a criminal friend of Selina’s to kidnap Silver and himself so that he can get information from Silver about his parents’ murder. It’s a convoluted, ridiculous plan, but Gotham could stand to be a little more reckless. And what about Nygma, Penguin, and the relative nowhere their characters have been going all season? Now they’re odd couple roommates, with Nygma ridiculing Penguin for clogging the toilet and Penguin calling Nygma at work and asking him where he put the spicy mustard. It’s low-key hilarious, and a tone that suits their respective characters.

And if burning through those narrative beats isn’t enough, Gotham finally shows some promise with its overarching story of Galavan, his takeover of Gotham, and his blood feud with the Waynes. When Galavan is released and all charges against him are dropped, he kidnaps Gordon and beats the hell out of him. Galavan is a seriously dangerous fighter, and his ability to get out of jail, snatch up Gordon, lay him out, and then get to Wayne Manor, deepens his menace and really restores the vigor the character had in the season’s first few episodes.

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With any luck, Gotham will use the momentum gained in “Son of Gotham” to deliver a blistering fall finale next week. “Son Of Gotham” shows that if there’s a fix in place for the often belabored show, it’s an increase in pace and how much plot each episode chews through.

Stray observations

  • Never Mind The Bullocks: “Just when you think Gotham’s shown her last jewel, she reveals herself like a flower.” Gordon was not impressed with this mixed metaphor.
  • Malone is the name Silver gives to Bruce, and says his first name starts with M. Oh Gotham, you’re so subtle.
  • I’ll take an Alfred vs. Tabitha fight every week for the rest of the season please.
  • “I was just glad to see the two-faced bitch get served.” You and me both, Selina.
  • Bullock praying for the sewer’s ceiling to stay intact was good for a laugh.
  • “We have to find a monk and get him to talk” is a line that Gordon delivered with a straight face. I laughed hysterically.

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