Top 5 Characters in “Gotham”

Image result for Gotham Final Season poster

       With “Gotham” now at an end, I was thinking at how I best wanted to explore my thoughts on the series. First, I think it is a solid show well worth your time if you are a Batman fan, though it’s flaws kept it from being great. One thing that kept it good, even with the flaws was how memorable so many of the characters were. I’m a huge fan of Batman and his rogues gallery and this series brought some amazing interpretations of his allies and rogues to the screen. “Gotham” is a show that tells the story of Commissioner Gordon and Bruce Wayne before Bruce Wayne becomes Batman. It is here we see one version of how his enemies came to be and what motivates Gordon and defines the city of Gotham. The series was created by Bruno Heller, and the fact that this list exists shows that at the end of the day, I did like this show.

The show wasn’t always the best, there were a few times I took a break during it’s run and to me the final was serviceable but nothing I’d praise. It just established what the show had been leading up to the entire time and didn’t do it in a unique way. I’m avoiding details for those who haven’t watched the finale yet. I want to avoid Final Season spoilers as this show makes it easy to talk about the broad strokes of what worked or didn’t.

For the weak characters, I wasn’t the biggest fan of Bruce and Selina for a long time. They eventually became okay. Ra’s al Ghul was wasted and given he is played by one of my favorite actors (Alexander Siddig) I held that against the show. The Al Ghul’s in general were wasted as was the League of Shadows. They were supposed to be this apocalyptic force but they never did much to the heroes of the story in big picture scheme of the show. For the few who did do something they almost always end up dead or useless by the end of their arcs. The gangsters like Carmine and Sofia Falcone stayed compelling during their runs but they also didn’t have the unique feel of the characters I’m going to give an honorary mentions too. Same goes for Theo / Azrael and his sister Tabitha / Tigress. They were interesting but weren’t fascinating enough for an honorary mention.

For my honorary mentions. Those go to Barbara and Jim Gordon, Harvey Bullock and Lee Thompkins to start. These were are complicated characters who often times fell on the side of the good. Also honorary mentions to Scarecrow and the Mad Hatter for being fascinating villains whose twisted mentality added to the show. None of these folks made the list but were a joy to watch and what kept the show interesting when my favorite characters weren’t getting exciting moments. Fish Mooney was also great and I enjoyed what they did with her over her run on the show. Zsasz also deserves a mention too. Whether he was working for a crime boss or on his own, he always had fun and was threatening in any situation they put him in.

How without further ado, here are my Top 5 Characters on “Gotham.”:

 

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5th Place – Alfred Pennyworth

Alfred is a character I wish we had gotten more time to know. I’m not the only one apparently since he is getting his own show in Fox called “Pennyworth.” This goes to show just how powerful Sean Pertwee’s performance was. Pertwee gave a hardness and empathy that I have rarely seen in how Alfred is written or potrayed on film. This was a man who was taking care of Bruce and fighting rogues throughout the entire season. Sometimes it would break him physically or emotionally, but he always came back. He had the compassion that Jim sometimes lost and he’d been through so much more with his time in the Special Forces of Great Britain. He also wasn’t a doormat for Bruce, when Bruce was a selfish teenager, he left. He left Bruce sort out himself but was always there to help, when Bruce was ready. The little scenes we get related to that past crystallize this Alfred as a wonderfully compelling badass. This Alfred understood the choice when Bruce was going vigilante, and even though he questioned he still supported him in the end. Some of the best scenes in this entire show came from Pertwee and I’m curious what “Pennyworth” is going to bring to the Lore of this show and the compelling character of Alfred Pennyworth.

 

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4th Place – Jerome and Jeremiah Valeska / The Jokers

“Gotham” took an approach to “The Joker” I haven’t seen before. For the character two brothers played by the same actor inhabited the role. We got Jerome Valeska’s origin in Season 1 with Jim Gordon and he was one of the main antagonists until he made his brother Jerome crazy later. Each them inhabits parts of the Joker lore. Jerome is more “New 52” (who had his face taken off and sewed back on) and is insanity who acted more on instinct and big events while his brother Jeremiah was more of the thinker. His brother Jeremiah thought big and is the one who we end up following until the end. This Joke has a a friendship with Bruce before Jerome drives him crazy and this gives depth to the craziness that comes later. As you can see I could not choose between the two and as they are both played by Cameron Monaghan. I feel that they deserve the tie. Each brings a different part of the lore to this character that is so essential to Batman’s lore. I also thought that the writer’s could have gone deeper, which is why neither of them are further up on the list. Cameron’s acting is great but at times they didn’t know what to do with this character and he rarely had season running arcs.

 

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3rd Place – Edward Nygma / The Riddler

Edward Nygma was a character I hated initially. He was all the aspects of the toxic creep and was presented as potentially redeemable for the longest time. It took him going full “Riddler” that really changed my perspective on him. It was in his role as the manipulator who wanted to make a name from it that made him compelling. “The Riddler” and Nygma contrast and them agreeing on being bad and devoting themselves to it is what made him a great villain. He had to go through Arkham to get there but when he came out it was his relationship with Penguin that added complexity, especially as his old toxic evil habits came back again. Cory Michael Smith brought so much nuance to this role and dual personalities that exist between Nygma and “The Riddler.” Even given this dichotomy though, he is always the villain and never does anything that doesn’t logically serve his own ends, but he will put his neck out for others and take risks for that core goal. We see this with Lee Thompkins and even Penguin a few brief times. His frenemy relationship with Penguin was one of my favorite things and whenever they found a working relationship, things were gold as “The Riddler” was the strategist while Penguin was willing to ruthlessly fight and kill for anything he desired. They were a dangerous duo and it was out of that relationship that “The Riddler” became one of my favorite characters.

 

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2nd Place – Doctor Hugo Strange

B.D. Wong’s version of Doctor Hugo Strange is the best version of this character I have seen thus far. The first time I appreciated Hugo Strange as a character was Gotham City as he was a manipulator pulling on the strings and winning through most of the story. He manages to trap Bruce Wayne in Arkham City in the game, which is a huge feat in and of itself. It was making him a minion in that story, which was the problem. Here is is often times serving people, but he always has a larger agenda at play or at least some level of survival to be himself beyond another’s aims. Throughout the entire series Strange was always one step ahead of foes and I can’t think of a time where he truly lost. Whomever was around would never kill him because he was far to useful and he’d use that to eventually outdo them or escape. This is the character who out of the 5 here has the least connection to Bruce Wayne, which makes me curious about what his relationship will be later to Batman, later in the lore post “Gotham.” “Regardless, “Gotham” is worth watching if only for the Doctor Hugo Strange episodes and B.D. Wong’s masterful performance. He brings in the insane mad scientist who has a familial bond with his creations and resurrections, as well as a ruthlessness of someone who in the end is doing everything to some greater unknown end.

 

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1st Place – Oswald Cobblepot / The Penguin

Robin Lord Taylor truly created the best version of “The Penguin” I have seen in any of the DC Lore. This is a Penguin who has been Mayor, been through Arkham, Blackgate and risen and fallen multiple times. Even with the rise and fall of this character, with those rises and falls over seasons came to define the best of “Gotham” for me. In this show we get to learn about Penguin’s father born of money who he ended up re-establishing a relationship with, only for his step-family to kill his father and further drive him to madness. This combined with betrayals throughout his many rises lead to Penguin becoming paranoid. This paranoia became one his defining traits along with his selfish petulant nature. How did this end up being appealing? Because those aspects of the character are always there but oftentimes he would choose courage or take a risk with an enemy and make them an ally. He does this with Ed after Ed tries to kill him and easily found compromises with the Mob and gangs when he wasn’t taking them over. For how obvious Cobblepot’s flaws are he knew how to use them. This is why he is my favorite character. Along with him being smart enough to know his foes, Robin Lord Taylor granted this character limited moments of empathy and sorrow that gave depth to the character that I have not seen in any show or movie for Penguin, nor read in any comic. This is why he is 1st Place on my Top 5 Character of “Gotham.”

For any fan of DC Comics this is a show worth checking out. I’d put it far above “Batman Forever” and “Batman and Robin.” There are better properties like Burton and Nolan, but this is an example of good adaptation. This series is better than “The New 52” animated Batman films that I reviewed years ago aren’t nearly as good at making their heroes as compelling or deep and their rogues are forgettable. This series is in no way perfect. Characters are brought back to life, plot lines are abandoned and sometimes there are arcs that only exist for the sake of love triangle dramas. Some of these choices worked and some didn’t, but at the end of the day I stuck around for the characters. These are the five characters who made the show worth watching in the end, and the reason I’d recommend this show to any Batman fan.

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“Gotham” Season 3 – Great Villain Arcs But Story is a Little Cluttered

  This was a cluttered season but also gave some of the best villain moments throughout this entire series. When I was watching it as it was coming out on Fox I eventually got a bit burned out during the first half of the Mad City arc but after it came to Netflix ended up marathoning it and got a much greater appreciation for what the writers were trying to do. This was a season where I think the writers must have thought they might be canceled after, because the ending gives enough of an end that it would have been a good ending to the show. There are character endings and also beginnings for some major events. I’ll save that for the spoilers though, for now this season is worth your time if you’ve been watching the show thus far.

The story involves the recovery of those who broke out of Indian Hill at the end of last season and a re-alignment of powers as Fish Mooney leaves town with Strange, leaving Penguin to fill the power vacuum as he decides to run for mayor, and a new threat arrives on the scene in the form of The Mad Hatter who wants to make the city mad with his sister’s blood. From here the story unfolds as the Court of Owls continues to manipulate events behind the scenes as Alfred, Bruce and Jim must deal with these threats.

SPOILERS ahead

The Madness Arc / Mad Hatter / Tetch Virus Arc  – The Mad Hatter is a creepy and wonderfully scary villain. He is all about mind games and the whole arc with his sister is tragic as his obsession is what destroys any sort of friendship or connection they might have had. This fuels his madness as it her blood that the Court of Owls wants and uses to infect the populace. By the end it is unknown where he is and his arc is eventually defeated by Hugo Strange and the GCPD, but together Jim Gordon gets infection, Commissioner Barnes gets infected (becoming The Executioner), Lee Thompkins and countless others. The Mad Hatter is the core driving threat through the season, even after he is in Arkham.

The Creation of The Riddler – This is the season where we finally see Edward Nygma become the Riddler. Before there was always hints of it and he had been a villain and murderer prior, but this was where he sought an identity that was unique after he shoots Penguin and leaves him to die. It is really cool seeing him at the top of the criminal underworld as his obsession is with quality art, science and the areas of higher learning. He kicks off his killing spree by killing a bunch of professors. This fit the character beautifully and Cory Michael Smith has really grown into this role.

Return of Jerome / The Joker – The weakest Joker in live action thus far is Jared Leto, his Joker is the only one where there isn’t a threat about him and his drive is so weak (money, Harley Quinn). Jerome is the Joker who inhabits the philosophical sociopathy of the character as when he is resurrected the first thing he does is a call for a “Purge” style event where people can do whatever they want, as he attempts to corrupt Bruce Wayne before killing him as they tour the circus. It has elements of “The Killing Joke” in it and when he is defeated by Bruce Wayne, you know he’s coming back. This is where the character truly comes into his own in “Gotham” and the fact that he has a Jokerz cult already gives him even more power than he has in a lot of the different versions of him.

The Rise, Fall and Rise Once More of Penguin – One of the main arcs this season and really of the show is that Penguin will rise fall and rise again. He’s like The Drowned God as each time he comes back he is powerful than before. In this we see his love for Nygma lead to his undoing as he kills Nygma’s love out of jealousy and soon realizes no one liked him, they only respected him out of fear. It is this realization after he is no longer Mayor and Fish forgives him that we see him come into his own. He grows as a person and puts Nygma behind ice as a reminder never to love again as he incorporates Fish’s gang into his own after her death by the hands of Jim Gordon. Robin Lord Taylor’s Penguin continues to be one of the best parts of this show.

The Arrival of Ra’s Al Ghul – Another major arc of this series is the reveal of the League of Shadows who are shown to be the ones pulling the strings behind the Court of Owls and that the past times Gotham has been destroyed is because of them. They are extremely powerful in this and brainwash Bruce to the point that he stabs Alfred and has to save his life. We also see that the Tetch Virus was never that big of a deal to them as Ra’s (played amazingly by Alexander Siddig) reveals that knowing Bruce will be his heir is enough and that he is nothing but patient. Whether he still is in Gotham or was ever in Gotham is unknown as his robes appear empty when Bruce tries to slash him. I really like this version of the character and I really hope the show doesn’t mess up. Siddig is perfect for this role.

Okay: Selena and Bruce’s Lovestory – This was really kind of lame. I’m not putting it as a con because it did develop their trust issues and why they’d never work as a couple, but it went nowhere and was pointless.

The Cons: Cluttered Storytelling – Hugo Strange and his creations, Penguin as Mayor, The Court of Owls, the Mad Hatter, the creation of the Riddler the rise of Barbara, The Executioner’s creation and the League of Shadows. There is so much this season and it clutters the overall execution.

The Bruce Wayne Clone – This arc didn’t go anywhere. He was there just to give time for Bruce to get brainwashed and was only a plot device. What a lame end to an idea that could have been done decently this season.

The Handling of Lee and Barbara – Lee is the damsel nearly the entire time and can’t be trusted with anything and Barbara is crazy and turns on anyone, even those who are her allies. I hate how women have been handled overall in this show and it is a major factor that kept this season from being great. In the end Barbara dies so that arc went nowhere and Lee once again leaves Gotham, which already happened before, so who knows if she’ll be back again.

Overall this was an extremely solid season, even with how cluttered it became with so many arcs going on. The weakest parts were really the heroes. Jim Gordon was okay and I liked his moral grey that he had early on and kept through the season, but Bruce really didn’t have a great moment until he knocked out Jerome / The Joker and showed that all the setup the past seasons was finally going somewhere. It had some things I really loved, like Alexander Siddig as Ra’s Al Ghul, Nygma coming into his own as the Riddler, Hugo Strange showing up a few times and of course everything with the Penguin and Joker. This was where the series shined and made it a solidly good experience I’d recommend.

Final Score: 8.5 / 10

Batman: Bad Blood (2016) – The Cast is Great but not the Execution

Batman Bad Blood

    “Batman: Bad Blood” shows both the strength and weaknesses in full degree of these Damian films (I don’t really consider them Batman films, he’s a support character like in the Justice League “New 52” films). The large cast manages to help this film over some of the others though as Nightwing and Batwoman are amazing characters who really help carry the film through the Damian and villain drag that occurs sometimes during the film.

   The film was directed by Jay Oliva and written by J. M. DeMatteis and produced by James Tucker.

   The films involves a group of villains capturing Batman leading to Batwoman and Batwing teaming up with Nightwing and Robin to figure out who did it and stopping their evil plan and figure out who the mysterious Heretic is who leads them.

The Pros: The Animation – WB and DC animation continues to be stellar but that is kind of a given at this point. The dark tone of the film is captured in the animation and it is great at flowing with the action.

The Soundtrack – Wiedmann once again creates a fantastic soundtrack. I can see why they chose him to make the music for these films. His Bear McCreary feel he brings to it all compliments the Universe.

The Action – The action is the one good thing I’ll say about the “New 52,” the fights have consequences that often in death (which even the Marvel Cinematic Universe seems unable to pull off) and I like that death is permanent, with a few exceptions like the character I’ll be going into next.

The Mad Hatter – This guy is a great villain! With Talia he manages to control Bruce Wayne and take control of the World Leaders in the process. He nearly wins too until Alfred explodes his head when he fighting another person in the same room. I wish he’d survived.

Heretic – Heretic is a Damian Clone and is awesome. He bests everyone he fights and only dies because Talia is stupid and would rather destroy a good weapon than use it for the final fight. I wanted more of this character. His attachment to Damian was cool and he showed what Batman would look and act like had he stayed with the League.

The Bat Famiy – The Bat Family is the best part of this film. Everyone has their moments and I like how expansive it is.

Lucius Fox – Lucius Fox gets shot but we see how he is in the adoptive family of Batman. He is there through it all and seeing him torn about his son going to war when there is war at home plus wanting to protect him is handled really well.

Alfred – Alfred shows that he shouldn’t be underestimated as he saves Bruce Wayne from the villains and shows how great he is in a fight as well his counseling of Nightwing when Nightwing becomes Batman.

Luke Fox / Batwing – This is a great idea. Lucius has always been an honorary member of the Bat Family (given Grayson isn’t a Wayne and is the first Robin) and this makes things official. He reminds me of Iron Man and Falcon and is the confident guy who embraces his role as the air support in any fight. He needed more exploration beyond a injured father. Seriously, this character has so much potential to be a favorite in the Bat Family!

Dick Grayson / Nightwing / Batman – Maher owns this role and now he finally gets to do something beyond babysit Damian! In this he’s Batman when Batman is kidnapped and does a great job in the role. This is probably my favorite version of Grayson, so there is that. Even in “Batman: The Animated Series,” I never really like Robin until he became Nightwing and developed an identity beyond sidekick.

Kate Cane / Batwoman – Thank you DC for not messing up the fact that she’s a lesbian! Kate is an amazing character who we never get to see really go over the edge in fighting villains like the traditional Kate Cane was, but she’s great as the answer of the character going rogue inspired by Batman but not in his shadow as much. Really liked what they did with her character. Her arc is one of healing.

Bruce Wayne / Batman – Bruce Wayne is mind controlled for most of this but you see how he hasn’t been good at dealing with trauma as he has traumatized others. Bruce Wayne is someone who is trying his best but is flawed in ways that really put him next to the League of Shadows, Jason Todd as Red Hood exists for a reason and this story explores why. He’s controlling but isn’t good at setting limitations. He goes to extremes and it alienates others and it makes him human.

Barbara Gordon / Batgirl Cameo – Barbara appears in the end it is amazing! She was one of the best parts of “Batman: The Animated Series” and “Batman Beyond.” Barbara is a character who is the character who knows vigilante and the law and seeing her get started in this universe is wonderful.

Okay: Damian Wayne / Robin – Less of a Mary Sue / Gary Stu but still that. Talia apparently had no influence on him as he’s not even tempted and and he again wins every fight that isn’t against his older self.

Talia Al Ghul – So we see Batman help after Ra’s dies and now she does this? More that this is in her nature and her whole plan all along would have helped strengthen this. She also maybe dies at the end but that doesn’t matter as much as we never knew her motivations fully at that well anyway…

The Cons: Disposable Villains – Killer Moth, Firefly, Electutioner, etc. Who cared about these folks? They are minions and even their design ins’t all that memorable. C-List and never rise beyond it. Someone needs to give these characters a “Guardians of the Galaxy” film to redeem this crap.

Lack of Talia Setup for Betrayal – I brought it up before but Talia deserves

   This was one of the better films out of the “New 52” Batman films but still suffers from those same problems. The Al Ghuls just can’t be written right, whether they are Damian or Talia they never rise above okay as with Talia the motivations are never fully explored prior…she exists to be Ra’s daughter and that’s it. Damian has the same problem in the other direction…he’s untouchable and a Gary Stu/Mary Sue…so at least in this one it took the Team to take the bad guys down and that is what helps it rise above the others to really good. Definitely worth checking out for Nightwing and Batwoman.

Final Score: 8.2 / 10

Batman: The Animated Series – Season 1, Episode 65 – The Worry Men – The Final Episode of Season 1

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“The Worry Men,” is the return of the Mad Hatter and the end of Season 1. This will be the last Batman: The Animated Series episode I review for a while since I plan on doing a Top 10 of Season 1 and Season 2 was also called “Batman and Robin,” so I plan on doing that separate for that reason as well.

The premise is Veronica Vreeland returns with “Worry Men” that were given to her by a mysterious man to take away peoples’ worries. It also convinces them to empty their wallets and are being used to mind control people through a chip. The story is Batman figuring this out and facing The Mad Hatter.

Here is the assessment of the episode:

Pros: Batman – Is once again great in this episode. We see how as Bruce Wayne he doesn’t fit in well with high society and that he is in his zone when he Batman figuring out what the Mad Hatter is up too. He takes them out by breaking the mental link that the Mad Hatter has with his thugs in order to control them.

Mad Hatter – The Mad Hatter is great in this episode. He is once again using others to be left alone. In this one he is using others’ wealth when he hears about Veronica Vreeland’s trip and decides it is his best bet to get the money he needs to buy an island and escape.

The Henchmen – He manages to convince a native to join his scheme as well as the usual Gotham thugs. There is more going on than usual in that sense.

Okay: The music – It is alright but doesn’t feel especially Mad Hattery.

In the end the season ended at slightly above average. The Mad Matter’s high society prejudices are used against him when his thugs turn on him and native does too. In a way I’d wished they’d ended it with the Ra’s al Ghul “The Demon’s Quest,” since that one feels epic and large and it also ties in Robin while this episode is only Batman.

Final score is 7 / 10.

Next up, the Top 10 of Batman: The Animated Series – Season 1.

 

Batman: The Animated Series – Season 1, Episode 30 – Perchance to Dream – Trapped in a Dream

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The premise of “Perchance to Dream,” is that Batman wakes up in a world in which his parents are alive, he’s marrying Selina Kyle and someone else is Batman. It is all his best dreams made real so of course he suspects something is up and investigates to find the truth.

Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: The Premise – Being trapped in a dream that is everything you want…this has been used before by Bruce Timm and DC Animated Universe, but it is especially powerful this time. It allows us to explore Batman’s psyche and to see that even the best dream is still only a dream and therefore a prison from the real.

Batman/Bruce Wayne – Are fantastic in this episode. We see that he is unable to accept good happening because of both his commitment to true truth and the reality of his trauma as a child. Batman has become so much a part of his identity that being forced to be Bruce Wayne is too much and allows him to see that it is an illusion.

The Mad Hatter – Hat’s off the Mad Hatter. This is one of the best schemes of any villain and his worlds at the end are awesome, “You, of all people, have the gall to ask me that? You ruined my life! I was willing to give you whatever life you wanted, just to keep you out of mine!” It is twisted that he was going to force Batman live a lie…and he is not a good guy, but for a villain that is the nicest punishment ever. I got to respect him as rogue after this episode.

The Dream World – Is very well done, it really didn’t need books to be empty or jumbled…in the end Batman was willing to die to come back to reality and that should have been enough. It is still well done. Selina Kyle not being Catwoman, Bruce’s parents, Alfred…all these illusions are close enough to the real that they are great temptations to stay.

Dream Mad Hatter – A great antagonist and like Harvey from “Farscape” in John Chriton’s head. He is limited in that he can’t let the Original Hatter know what is up and who Batman really is…but he uses all of Batman’s desires to craft the amazing illusion and fights for Batman to stay till the end.

This was a perfect “Batman: The Animated Series” episode. Batman stories are always great when they are exploring Batman and his rogues psyche since in that there is so much discovery and drama. You see the humanity behind the identities they’ve adopted and what drives them to do what they do.

The perfect episode 10 / 10.

Batman: The Animated Series – Season 1, Episode 27 – Mad as a Hatter – The Dangerous Stalker (The Mad Hatter)

Mad Hatter

“The Mad Hatter,” is a great episode in regards to introducing a creepy new villain and the importance of what love really is (which isn’t stalking). The premise is a scientist (Jarvis) creates a mind control device and begins to use it on his enemies and on Gotham to impress his assistant Alice he wants to own. From there the story unfolds.

Here is the assessment:

The Pros: The Mad Hatter – Is a really creepy villain. He mind controls those who disagree with him and sabotages the engagement between Alice and her fiance, and in the end even goes so far as to mind control her. All the while claiming love…it is sad that there are people like this in the world and he represents the worst of them so well. A worthy adversary and terrible human being.

The Message – The story reveals the importance of consent and respect for others (especially when romance is involved). These are all things the Mad Hatter misses because he believes he’s entitled to Alice and is in love with the idea of her (She is his Alice to his Mad Hatter (the name he takes for himself). In the end rather than friendship having the potential to become love naturally he sabotages himself and relationships leading into his end in Arkham.

Batman – Is great once again at discovering what is going on and protecting the people who are mind controlled by the Mad Hatter as they are used to fight him. His resourcefulness is great in this episode.

The music – Is fantastic and whimsical. They took the “Alice in Wonderland” theme and ran with it to create the great score for this episode.

Okay: Alice – She is basically a blank slate. She has a fiance and is a supportive friend but besides that she doesn’t get much characterization sadly.

Cons: The Fiance – We know nothing about him and he is important to this episode. I wish we could have had him better contrasted with The Mad Hatter.

This is a good episode and even has a theme I hope kids back in the day got. You don’t stalk people and you aren’t entitled to people. Relationships arise out of consent, if not you aren’t really loving a person…just an idea, like the Mad Hatter.

I give this episode a 9 / 10.