gotham 1.13 welcome back, jim gordon aka the series low point

By Caleb Gillombardo on

 

I’ll just cut to the chase here guys. This episode was a huge step backwards for Gotham. Not only was there little to no plot development, but the style and content of the show returned to what we saw in those first few rough episodes.

The main plot of this episode was dedicated to Gordon, once again on the warpath, going after a crooked cop in the GCPD. Second to that, we saw Fish get tortured (just a little bit), escape, then leave Gotham. And down on the third-string plots, we saw Penguin continue to be awkward,  Nygma continue to be awkward, and Bruce and Selina return and continue to be awkward.

Really, I just didn’t care about anything that happened this week. The characters seemed stagnant. The story elements were boring. The few small developments we were given were so inconsequential that they could’ve been condensed to a recap and we’d be in the same place. And are you ready for the real punch to the guts? I didn’t even like Bullock’s role in this episode.

I know, right? Wow.
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I’ll start with Gordon. He continues to dive into the deep end that he was swimming in last week. I get why this is happening. This is Gordon’s rebound, his reaction to the punishment. He tried to do the right thing, suffered, and now has a second chance. Due to the success of his ballsy move last episode, he’s now determined to do things his way, no-matter the cost. If the show was truly focused on Gordon, this development would be fine. We would’ve been involved with Gordon’s rise and fall, and truly understood his swing from one extreme to another. But with the chaos of all the stories Gotham is attempting (and failing) to balance, we lose the impact of Gordon’s experiences.

We did get a few great speeches from Gordon. His willingness to stand up to every opposing factor is impressive, especially when paired with his monologue about respecting the police badge and what it represents. Gordon really does have a sense of honor and responsibility, and he does want to do the right thing. His intentions are pure. But Gotham is dragging him down. And I guess that’s the point of all of this. I just don’t like how it’s being carried out.

This episode also gave us a renewed view of the darkness that saturates every inch of the city. The vice cop that was introduced last week was revealed to be part of a huge drug ring with connections that go straight to the police commissioner. These are the elements I enjoy about the show. I  would’ve loved to see a slow reveal of the corruption that surrounds Gordon and his desperate struggle against it. I though the scene where Gordon finds the crooked cop scrubbing the stash house with a legitimate warrant was beautifully done. That would’ve been such a powerful scene to end an episode with if we had an episode dedicated to Gordon slaving over the case and working himself ragged to find that location.

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But instead, we are given a Gordon that is pounding his fists against the establishment and getting lucky. It’s not bad. It’s certainly not the worst part of the show. But it’s not as good as it could be.

And then there’s Fish, who was as horrible and awkward as she ever was in this episode. We saw her suffer a little bit of torture and react with such an exaggerated bravado that I couldn’t repress my laughter. Then Butch miraculously escaped and rescued her. After that, she starts to exact vengeance on Penguin, but runs when Zsasz tracks her down. From her first second on screen, Fish returned to the old, cartoony, overacting that she demonstrated in the pilot. It occurred to me while watching this episode that this is a persona that Fish wears to protect herself and survive. Again, if we were given a drama that allowed such facts to be revealed and developed over time, and we were given a chance to understand the character’s motives and background, this would be a powerful element of the show. It would also help if it wasn’t so over the top and ridiculous.

Take that first scene when the torturer is making small talk and trying to be clever. Beyond the stupidity of his character (which I know was done in comic book style, but it was still dumb, given the show’s context), Fish’s defiance of his threats was just silly. But imagine if we knew her story and could’ve seen her weakness leading up to that moment. If she then put on a performance of bravery and defiance, we would’ve learned more about her as a character.

Her scenes with Penguin? I don’t even care. It was just her rambling and returning that dynamic to what it was at the start of the series.

Her final scene with Bullock showed some promise. It just made me want to know about their back story so we could understand their current dynamic. But that was wasted. Instead, we just saw her walk off onto a CG dock. And maybe I missed something, but where was she going? I didn’t see a boat there. I’d hope that we will be free of Fish for some time, but I know that isn’t the case. She’ll probably show up next week.

The rest of the show was quick, but painful. Penguin hasn’t changed at all, and he continues to grasp for power but cower before anyone more powerful than he ha. His scene of drunkenly wandering through the club was just silly. Nygma hasn’t changed either. He exists to simply be the butt of a joke that has been repeated to an annoying extreme. We saw Bruce and Selina again momentarily for absolutely no reason beyond reminding viewers that the characters existed.

I’m sorry to be so harsh. I try to be objective and find the good in every episode.

There are 2 things that I did like about this episode. First was the quick montage we had during Gordon’s investigation. Every montage we’ve been given have been entertaining and well-made. They make a good connection to the comic book roots of the show. We need more of that and less of the villains the writers are trying to shoehorn into the script. Secondly, I  really liked that Gordon turned to Penguin for help, then was shocked at the violence he had initiated. It shows that underneath his righteous rage, Gordon still remains the boyscout that he was in the pilot.

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The only way to conclude this rant is to point out what the poor janitor said before he was murdered. He said to Gordon “if you don’t step forward, you move back”. The writers need to take their own advice.

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