Greetings, Salutations, and Happy New Year to all my fellow Geeklys! It is time again for me to put pen to paper (figuratively) and lovingly share the random chaos that is the thoughts in my brain.
Gotham has returned, to thrust its mediocrity upon us all, and it is my duty, nay, my responsibility and pleasure, to watch the events unfold and share them with you all.
All joking aside, this wasn’t a bad episode. But my first thought is that for an episode titled Rogues’s Gallery, there wasn’t much in the plot about the rogues.
Episode 11 returned focus to Jim Gordon’s unfortunate circumstance of being busted down to a guard at Arkham Asylum. I see this as, hopefully, a solid foundation for the second half of season one. Gotham was pitched to us originally as a story about Gordon’s early experiences in the city. While the first 10 episodes certainly featured that, I felt that the story wasn’t as focused on Gordon as it could have been. This episode delivered solid Gordon action, even if there wasn’t much development in his story. Maybe that will catch up as we move forward.
The central facts of this episode surrounded the abysmal conditions in Arkham, and the actions of a certain inmate who developed a form of mind control via electroshock therapy and then escaped. For side plots, we saw Gordon make a new friend at Arkham; Barb going through a rough time; Selina and Ivy pairing up; Penguin being put in his place by Maroni and getting very glary about it; Fish making plans on her eventual move against Falcone; and Butch acting somewhat suspiciously.
I am quite happy to report that the side plots this week were handled properly. They were short interjections into the main story and didn’t get carried away with themselves. Personally, I don’t care much about these extra plot lines. But from an objective standpoint, they served the show well by mixing up the action, which allowed the primary story to be delivered at a great pace.
Let’s talk about Arkham. Our first scene of the life within those massive walls is of the inmates putting on a play (The Tempest, I think) which soon devolves into a riot. I really can’t figure out why we started out this way. It’s a funny scene of the crazies trying and failing to do something that would typically be considered “refined” or “normal”. It also serves to show us the first glimpse of Jack Gruber and establish his character. And it sort of demonstrates the twisted environment of Arkham. But it felt very strange to see that scene as the first scene of the episode. Maybe it’s just me. Or maybe it’s because I watched the episode at 5AM.
I also had a huge problem with Director Doctor Lang. As a character, he was so static and one-note that it was painful to watch. Yes, we get the point that he’s a hard-ass and is there to make Gordon’s life miserable, and that he has some huge secret about the workings of Arkham. But then he kept talking. Every line this guy had was pretty much the same. He blamed Gordon for things that weren’t his fault, reminded Gordon of his punishment, and threatened further punishment. I am glad that he was killed off, because his constant repetition would’ve been a headache of grand proportion. And that is unfortunate, because I think he could have proved to be a good foil to Gordon, if his character was handled properly.
I enjoyed the fact that this episode introduced a character that was not a villain of the week. I did enjoy those villains from previous episodes, simply for the flavor they introduced. Seeing Gruber as a recurring villain (even if it might only be a few episodes) shows good promise for those episodes. Hey, we might even get a bit of character development. Wait, what am I thinking? Gruber was the obvious villain from the second he showed up on screen. If you weren’t sure, that montage of interrogating inmates proved it. He’s clearly going to be running around the city trying to control people, which could be a possible opening to getting Gordon out of Arkham. I wouldn’t think they would move him out so quickly, though, but I don’t ever trust my predictions of Gotham. Gruber has some potential as a villain. His character seems to be a nod to the Mad Hatter, so let’s keep an eye on that development.
To be honest, I did not see the twist with Nurse Duncan coming. Maybe that was because I was half awake when I watched the show, but I’d like to think that this was more in part to playing up her oddity as part of Arkham’s problems. That was a little spark of entertainment in an otherwise predictable show. This demonstrates what the show is capable of, if only they could stay consistent.
But in direct opposition to this thought is Doctor Tompkins. I think she’ll be an interesting character, but her portrayal is exactly in line with every other over-played character on the show. Her dialogue is full of exposition and she seems to be portraying a caricature of a snappy female doctor. In that sense, she’s a perfect fit with the cast of Gotham.
On a final note about Arkham, I really enjoyed when Gordon almost stopped the second riot just by yelling at the inmates. It was a brief moment, but I think it speaks to the character that Gordon will become. Plus, did anyone catch that cackle that erupted in the final moments of the scene? I would wager that we just got a quick tease of a certain major character.
As to the rest of the show, not much of it matters. Selina and Ivy broke into Barb’s old apartment and set up camp and Ivy pretended to be Gordon’s new girlfriend. Was this supposed to be a tease towards the character she will become or was she just being weird? She hasn’t had enough screen time for us to figure it out.
Penguin’s scene did nothing to advance his story. It just showed that he’s still working to undermine Maroni and that he has embraced his nickname. And the scenes with Fish and Butch didn’t really move their plot forward at all. There was a moment when it seemed that Butch might be a traitor, but then he apparently solidified his loyalty to Fish. There’s a possibility that there is more to that story, but I don’t think we’ll get into that development. Luckily, Fish had very little screen time.
But the high point of the episode was, of course, the scene with Bullock. He exploded into Arkham, talked circles around Lang, demonstrated that he still has the same partner dynamic with Gordon, and was absolutely entertaining. I loved every moment of screen time that Bullock had.
Like I said at the start of this ramble, I liked this episode. It was entertaining and did its job of bringing us back from the break successfully.
To wrap up today’s article, I read some quotes from executive producer Bruno Heller. This is from an interview he did with The Hollywood Reporter, but I found them via Blastr. Among other things, he said that “it’s important to follow the familiar mythic narrative, but also to find ways to subvert, or take detours from, that narrative to surprise people with different takes on the thing”. That’s something I would believe if it wasn’t obvious in the show that every major character is just developing into established characters. We don’t have a “new take” on these people. We are simply seeing the events that are railroading them into the comic book characters we already know. He also specifically said that they stayed true to core elements like the Wayne murder, when it clearly is not the case. There was a really drastic change to their death and the story surrounding it. He also talked about big developments with all the side characters. It was very typical producer-speak.
I really wish that we were truly getting a fresh take on the established Batman myth. But as I’ve said before, the show is just trying to do far too much. As much as I hate to say this, it really looks like a beast as huge as the Batman myth cannot be tamed in this manner. Gotham is certainly giving it a valiant effort. If the series was based on a story that wasn’t so rich in content and so firmly established in fans’ hearts, I think it would have a better chance. But as it stands now, Gotham is entertaining, but it’s missing the mark.