‘Gotham’ Feels More Focused Than Ever in Chaotic Season 4 Premiere

After three seasons on TV, it’s still unclear what kind of show Fox’s “Gotham” wants to be. In one aspect, it’s very much a sci-fi thriller, with all manner of monsters and mutants running amuck. On the other hand, the show often settles into an all-too-comfortable cop procedural pattern, with Detective Gordon (Ben McKenzie) and co. Scrambling to crack the case and land the baddies behind bars before someone gets seriously hurt. They’re not usually in time.

Although the show hasn’t managed to completely find itself yet, “Gotham’s” fourth season feels a lot more focused than seasons past. How could it not? With Bruce (David Mazouz) and Selina (Camren Bicondova) both finally channelling their inner-vigilantes and Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) running roughshod over the city, the show’s fourth season has a lot going for it before even hitting the air. The premiere itself does nothing to diminish this optimism, setting the scene for a chaotic season haunted by perhaps the show’s most sinister villain yet.

A city under Penguin’s control is a city at peace, or at least it might appear that way. Penguin’s new system of licensing criminals has most crucial parties on board, except for Gordon, who of course stands firm in the face of evildoing, proper paperwork or no. It’s just another in a long line of examples of why Gordon is everyone’s least favorite coworker over at the GCPD.

Another party not quite on board with Penguin’s scheme is Merton (Michael Buscemi), a hoodlum reprimanded for trying to stick up a wedding. Outraged, he vows to wipe out Penguin along with his entire crew, a promise he aims to make good on by using a skittish Jonathan Crane (Charlie Tahan) to replicate the fear juice his father perfected. Crane’s imprisoned with only a scarecrow and his delusions for company.

Merton’s belligerence pushes him to crash opening night for Penguin’s club The Iceberg Lounge (formerly Sirens), where he has a frozen Nygma on display for all to gawk at and look upon. It looks like Penguin plans on making a public example out of a bested Merton, only for Ivy (Maggie Geha) to flip off the lights at the worst possible moment and send everything spiraling out of control, culminating with Penguin getting a face full of fear juice.

It’s all the stuff that happens in between the action that makes this season premiere so delectable, like Bruce getting talked out of donning his primitive superhero garb because “there is a time for masks, and a time for Bruce Wayne. And this is the latter.” Oh, Alfred Pennyworth, your wisdom has no bounds. Interested in the licenses, Bruce does eventually don the costume to accost the licenses’ point-man, but his inexperience is still too overwhelming for the hopeful crusader. Meanwhile, one of Merton’s grunts goes to free Crane in order to make more fear juice to get the boss out of jail, but he finds that Crane has undergone a full transformation. Out comes Scarecrow, terrifying and dousing the henchman in fear juice, and in doing so letting the world know that he’s on a path to terrorizing all of Gotham. So much for a city of peace.

The focus this season of “Gotham” seems to have feels encouraging, and the seeds the premiere planted look to blossom in a radical, explosive way before all is said and done. Everything’s bound to get a whole lot crazier before they calm down, and that’s just how they like it over in good old Gotham City.

Gotham” premiered Sept. 21 and airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET on Fox.