Gotham – Recap: It’s Electric
Recap and review of Gotham – Episode 11 – Rogues’ Gallery:
Gotham is back, and while “Rogues’ Gallery” is by no means its best episode, I still think the show is working out the kinks from the first half of the season. In short, the show is as cluttered and busy as it’s ever been, but there’s still the sense that it’s building towards something momentous.
Case in point, the show’s best storyline saw incremental progress this week, as the Maroni/Falcone crime war is heating up. Here, a childhood friend who is next in line for Falcone’s seat tries to lure Butch (Drew Powell) away from Fish (Jada Pinkett Smith), arguing that her entire operation is a sinking ship with no future for him. And one could see how he has a point, although I’d have been utterly stunned if we ended up getting any other result than the one we got, which was Butch turning on his childhood friend, and putting a bullet in his head to remain loyal to Fish. Still, while the story probably could have used some more screentime, it was a very effective subplot thanks to the increased role for Powell, who does a great job portraying Butch as someone initially torn in his loyalties. Sure, it’s mostly a front, but he does seem genuinely sorry that he has to kill someone he’s thought of like a big brother since childhood. But it’s business, in much the same way it is for Maroni, who gives Oswald (Robin Lord Taylor) a lesson in hubris. When Oswald starts throwing his weight around and institutes a tax increase among the fishermen in his district, Maroni has his dirty cops lay a beating on the Penguin (who now seems to relish the nickname) and throw him in the slammer to teach him a lesson. Fair point, as Oswald seems to understand the error of his ways, recognizing how he might have overplayed his hand. I like this touch, since Maroni is unwittingly training and honing the scheming instincts of the man who very likely will take him down one day soon. Maroni overlooking Oswald suggests a certain hubris of his own, and if that ends up being his downfall, it’ll have a certain poetry to it.
Of course, these were just two small facets of the episode. The majority of the hour centered on Jim (Ben McKenzie), who has been roughing it as a guard in Arkham Asylum, under the thumb of the irascible Dr. Gerry Lang (Isaiah Whitlock Jr.). Guarding crazy people has been a monument to stress for Jim, since he’s getting blamed by Lang for every impromptu prison brawl, despite appearing to be the only guard on any kind of regular watch. Luckily, there are some sympathetic hands in the Asylum, such as the demure Nurse Dorothy Duncan (Allyce Beasley) and Dr. Leslie Thompkins (Morena Baccarin). Of these developments, the friendship with Leslie is the best thing to come out of Jim’s story this week, since they show more chemistry in their brief time together than he’s shown in 10 episodes with Barbara (Erin Richards). Baccarin is a terrific talent who’s been sorely missed since leaving Homeland, and her levity is a welcome addition to the grim business of this week’s case, as someone inside the Asylum is abducting patients and performing electroshock therapy experiments on them. Once again, it’s a case that seems more interesting in theory than it actually is in execution, but it’s not without its exciting moments. When it’s revealed that Nurse Dorothy isn’t staff but actually a patient, it leads to her releasing the prisoners from their cells, creating a stampede headed straight towards Jim and Leslie (ironically, it’s a stampede that bowls over Nurse Dorothy, killing her in the process). Jim gets his Big Hero moment, standing up to the crowd and ordering them back to their cells, before relying on his fists to hold them off long enough for Leslie to find the key that will allow them to escape the hall. But the matter isn’t exactly resolved, as it’s revealed that the person behind the electroshock treatments was Jack Gruber (Christopher Heyerdahl), an inmate who twisted the Asylum patients into becoming his henchmen, most notably the otherwise meek Aaron Helzinger (Kevin McCormick). Ultimately, Gruber escapes, and that’s a plot thread we’ll have to pick up in two weeks when Gotham returns.
However, I won’t be there for it, unfortunately. This is going to be my last Gotham review for a while, due to other TV priorities coming up. But I will be checking in towards the end of the season to offer thoughts on how the series has progressed since then, and whether the show actually cashed in on the promise of its early episodes. I almost wish the show had gone on its one week hiatus on a stronger episode, since so much of it seemed superfluous to what should have been an interesting story arc with the Electrocutioner. I’m not quite sure there was much point in having Selina (Camren Bicondova) save Ivy from the streets by stashing her in Jim’s apartment, other than to facilitate a groan-inducing misunderstanding with Barbara when she calls and hears a woman’s voice on the line (with Ivy going as far as to play grown-up and tease Barbara about it). I also couldn’t care less about the disintegration of Barbara’s relationship with Montoya (Victoria Cartagena), but that seems to be something the show thinks is far more interesting than it is. This show is badly in need of pruning, perhaps by getting rid of some of the ancillary characters who don’t contribute all that much (or, if characters like Allen, Montoya and Barbara must remain on the show, at least given them something relevant and purposeful to do). I like Gotham far more than I’ve ever disliked it, and I think the show has far more to offer than “Rogues’ Gallery” had the chance to show, so I’m hopeful that by May, the series will have become a more complete, well-rounded show. Until then, I’m out.