Welcome back to Gotham everyone! The show returned from it’s winter break with one of the strongest episodes to date, and hopefully continues this momentum into the second half of the season. There were still plenty of bumps in the narrative (*Cough* Barbara *Cough*) but there was a lot to like tonight.
Jim Gordon has been reassigned to Arkham Asylum, and I still think it’s weird for the Mayor of Gotham to dish out this punishment, but I like the results. Jim is a little more humble now, less angry, and not so one dimensional. Plus, we get to start to explore Arkham – a key location in the Batman universe.
The episode gives us a quick montage to remind us of each character’s standing. Fish is still plotting, Penguin is testing the limits of his power, Bullock misses his partner, Barbara is a complete waste of a character, Selina Kyle is still roaming the streets and hanging out with Ivy. (Selina isn’t bad, but I REALLY dislike what the show runners are doing with Ivy, and the actress just isn’t working for me)
Jim is working at the Asylum, and during a thunderstorm the patients are acting out “The Tempest” by Shakespeare. The script does a pretty good job in playing with some of the themes of “The Tempest” – a power struggle, a dangerous storm, backstabbing, sleight of hand, and misdirection. After a mini riot breaks out, it is revealed that someone is doing electroshock therapy on some of the patients. This introduces the new character Dr. Leslie Thompkins, played by Morena Baccarin, and the two have more chemistry together in their short scenes that Gordon and Barbara had all season.
Gordon is tasked by Dr. Lang to track down the inmate who has an affinity for electricity, and not involve the Gotham Police Department. Arkham is desperately understaffed and underfunded – Dr. Lang laments this as “the nature of municipal operations,” and as a result the sprawling and old building has only six guards on the payroll. Gordon interviews both patients and staff, and learns that a guard’s keys were stolen when the fight broke out during the play. The staff member tells Gordon that he withheld the information for fear of being docked a week’s pay. It’s a subtle moment that gives insight into the corruption and rotting infrastructure of Gotham, and is a respite from the heavy handed storytelling to often used in the first half of the season.
The investigation too easily gives away that Nurse Dorothy Duncan is involved with the electro-shock therapy, but it was a nice curveball that she is a fellow inmate and a victim of Gruber – the real culprit. Gruber ultimately escapes and it is hinted he may become “The Electrocutioner,” a minor Batman villain.
Meanwhile, Oswald continues to test the limits of his power, and tries to take a bigger cut from the local fishermen and dock workers. He even tells them that he is “THE Penguin,” and though I am glad he is accepting the title, I wish there had been more of his pivot point shown. Earlier in the season he killed someone who called him that name, and now he has adopted it. There needed to be more build up to that moment to give it some real weight.
Fish is plotting the moment to make her move and consolidate power in Gotham after taking out Falcone, while fending off a power grab from Maroni. Her right hand man Butch is torn between his loyalty to fish, and to a childhood friend that is challenging Fish for power. This led to a scene where Butch apologizes for cutting his friend out of a heist when they were younger, and then shoots him in a car on the edge of the docks. It’s obviously inspired by films like Goodfellas, and while it’s generally a cliche, it works here.
“Rogues’ Gallery” was relatively streamlined as far as “Gotham” episodes go, as we focused on only a handful of characters, and others like Bruce, Alfred, Nygma, and Falcone were left on the sidelines. Unfortunately, Barbara Kean wasn’t one of those that didn’t make the cut. She continues to have no real place in the story, and Erin Richards is a terrible actress. The Barbara/Gordon/Renee Montoya love triangle is a mess. Barbara is a on again/off again lesbian, and apparently a former drug addict. She calls Gordon’s apartment where Selina has taken Ivy to live, and can’t tell the difference between a mistress and a child on the phone. Please just let one of the assorted villains in the city kill Barbara, and just let this plot line die with it.
Harvey Bullock however, gave a much appreciated dose of humor, and Donal Logue continues to shine in the role. His happiness at seeing Gordon after being called in to help investigate the assaults at Arkham was a high point, as was his discussion with one of the victims of the electric therapy. “Inmate: “In a cowslip’s bell I lie. There I couch when owls do cry.” Bullock: “Alright, I can dig that.” Later back at the GCPD, he tells an incarcerated Penguin “See, I like having you here. I can sit at my desk and look at you. It’s soothing, like a bonsai tree.” The script could have easily cut the Barbara scenes and expanded Bullocks and really made the episode one that could challenge “The Penguin’s Umbrella” as the best episode so far.
Though not perfect, the episode made great strides, and was a strong start to the back half of the season. The short glimpse inside Arkham was intriguing, and the coming gang war between Fish, Maroni, and Falcone will be brutal, and it will be fun to see how “THE” Penguin plots his climb to the top. I mean penguins do eat fish you know…