Oh, how I hoped feminism would be a subject I would never have to broach with Gotham! But, let’s face it, this has been a long time coming.
Season 3 Episode 6 “Follow the White Rabbit” actually makes me ashamed to be a female comic book fan, mostly because of the way it treats women. After finishing the episode, I want to shake my head and ask exactly how far comic books have come in the last 20 years.
“Follow the White Rabbit” follows Jervis Tetch as he lays out a twisted game for Jim Gordon, which ultimately means that he has to decide between Lee and Vale.
The choices Jim must make to get to the end are adrenaline-fueled at first, requiring a quick decision with no time to think, then other more calculated tests that test Jim’s morality, and require him to make a calculated choice.
This all leads up to “The Tea Party” where Jim has to decide whether Vale or Lee should die.
First, the mechanics of these scenes don’t work.
Jervis Tetch’s ability is a form of hypnosis. In the previous episodes, there is nothing to suggest that any party present wouldn’t have been susceptible to his mind control.
So, why the chains? (Clearly, this is because the writer’s wanted Lee and Vale in a room together. Talk about convenience.) Why the elaborate hoax? And why in a show who’s characters can be so sadistic, doesn’t he use his abilities to torture Gordon further by making either Lee or Vale pull the trigger themselves?
Tetch has the potential to be terrifying, and for a psychopath, he really doesn’t use his abilities to his potential.
In these last few episodes, Tetch hasn’t scared me. He’s a half-cocked reboot of a villain we’ve seen many times before. In Gotham, he could be ruling the town with his ability. He could be controlling Oswald Cobblepot and running the town if he was a little more calculated, and yet he’s playing mind games.
Giving a character metahuman abilities is only useful when your writers remember the character has them!
Now, even if Tetch had been pulling everyone’s strings in this final “Who do you love?” scenario, it still wouldn’t have been satisfying.
I can’t be the only one who’s noticed how little screen time the women of Gotham are getting this season. Selina, Ivy, Fish, Lee, and Barbara are all very capable women who could be doing much more.
Yet, The Tea Party scene reduces their characters to damsels in distress. During The Tea Party, Lee and Vale are pawns–they are there to look pretty and tug at Jim Gordon’s heartstrings while he makes an impossible choice.
Right now Gotham is toeing a line. The cast is largely male and many of the female characters have been killed, pushed into the corners, or marginalized, and we haven’t seen a lot of movement with the female characters that are still present.
The best way to describe what’s going on currently is a trope that dates back to 1994. Yes, you read that right, this is a trope that is 22-years-old, that may highlight just how much Gotham is failing its female cast members.
There is a trope called Women in Refrigerators, coined in 1994 by Gail Simone after Green Lantern found his girlfriend had been killed by Major Force and stuffed into a refrigerator.
After realizing that it is not healthy to be a female character in comics, Simone, and her colleagues, developed a list of female characters that were killed, maimed, or depowered in a way that allowed a male character’s story arc to move forward rather than fully develop the character in their own right.
We can debate if Lee and Vale belong in this list but consider the dynamics of the scene. We have two strong capable women are sitting at a tea party with a madman. They are props in a plot that will propel both Tetch’s and Jim’s story forward.
What does that do for Lee and Vale? Not much, except strengthen their ties to Jim.
I’ve been really hoping for a spectacular return of the strong characters this show started with.
I have been hoping for Selena to come back into the game, for Ivy to come around and start playing in Gotham’s seedy underworld, I even wanted Barbara to get back into the game.
Right now, the women of Gotham, who are very smart and capable, are objects and I want them to be much more than that before one of them ends up in a refrigerator.
What did you think of this episode of Gotham? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Gotham airs Mondays at 8/7c on Fox.