Although the mid-season episode left a bit to be desired in the way of punch, Gotham is still one of the best (sort of) super hero shows on television right now. The writing is complex enough to keep us intrigued, the characters (or at least most of them) are interesting and played by some talented actors (and one talented actress) and it’s a nice, fresh spin on the world of Batman that doesn’t rely so much on the source material that it becomes a carbon copy of the stories that have already been told. Thus did the first half of the season come to impress audiences everywhere. And now, after a not-too-long break, Gotham is back. But did they live up to the name they made for themselves thus far? Unfortunately, ‘Rogues’ Gallery’ was one of the weakest installments of Gotham’s 11-episode run.
The majority of the story revolves around Jim Gordon’s new job in Arkham Asylum. The inmates have been acting up and Gordon’s new boss, Doctor Lang (Isiah Whitlock Jr.), is blaming the former GCPD officer for the problems, claiming that he’s not doing his job properly. When one of the patients at Arkham ends up with his brain fried due to a direct electrical shock, things get serious. And so it’s up to Gordon to figure out who the villain-of-the-week is while dodging his unwieldy supervisor.
In the process of hunting down the electro-brain-enemy, Gordon runs into a new pretty face – Dr. Leslie Thompkins (Morena Baccarin). And when Dr. Lang refuses to let Gordon pursue the electric attacks to the fullest extent, Gordon calls in Harvey Bullock to throw a little GCPD weight around. Eventually, the plans of the evil-bad-guy come to fruition and we discover that inmate Jack Gruber is the man with the plan. Unfortunately, Gordon is too slow and Gruber escapes Arkham (an event that seems to happen all-too-often in every Batman universe).
In the meanwhile, we get a little taste of some of the other characters’ stories. Baby Catwoman runs into Baby Ivy and, seeing that the future mistress of plants is quite sick, drags her off to Gordon’s place. Since Barbara and Gordon are having a bit of a spat, the place is empty. So the Baby Villainettes have a nice, cushy apartment to relax in for a while.
We also see Penguin (because Gotham just isn’t Gotham without a little Robin Lord Taylor), this time getting himself into a bit of trouble. When he tries to extort a few extra bucks from some fishermen and uses Maroni’s name to do it, things go bad. Penguin (sorry, THE Penguin) lands himself in jail and only gets out of his barred cell once Maroni comes in to rescue him. Unfortunately for The Penguin, their meeting isn’t pleasant. Maroni is none-too-happy about his lackey trying to make some extra bucks at the expense of some hard-working fishermen.
In other gangster-related news, Fish Mooney’s right-hand-man, Butch, tries to convince another gangster that it’s time for Falcone to step down (the hard way) and that Mooney is the right girl to take the throne. Unfortunately for Mooney, that other gangster (Jimmy something-or-other) wants to take the throne for himself. So Butch has to make a decision about what side he’s going to work for.
And finally, there’s some stuff with Barbara and her new/old sort-of girlfriend, Renee Montoya. After spending 10 episodes convincing Barbara that she’s better off without Gordon, Montoya suddenly does a 360 and tells Barbara that it’s not going to work out. While this subplot is annoying at best, you have to admit that Montoya is quite the player, running Barbara in circles like that. I almost believed that she cared (sarcasm intended).
So what did Gotham do that was good this time around? Not much, unfortunately. The writers stuck to the typical villain-of-the-week format, which is pretty standard for any season 1 of any television show that revolves around cops vs. criminals. The really annoying part is that the villain-of-the-week plotline was interspersed with tiny, bite-sized chunks of the long-term story arc. Not enough to give us any sort of real transition, but just enough to remind us that those other characters still exist. This might have been fine for a filler episode occurring between major story arc resolutions, but as a mid-season opener it was the absolute worst choice. I was left feeling like ‘Rogues’ Gallery’ should have been at least 20 minutes longer, as if they had stripped the meat off the episode and left only the bare bones.
On the plus side, the introduction of Baccarin as Dr. Thompkins was a relief. After 10 episodes of being forced to watch Erin Richards play the most soulless, hateable version of Barbara Kean ever written into any Batman story in existence, I was happy to know that the writers (or perhaps the casting department) weren’t completely inept at creating female characters. It took me less than 2 minutes to feel like Baccarin was a more developed and interesting character than Barbara, despite the fact that the latter character has been around for 10 episodes.
On the flip side of that, the very fact that we had to see Barbara at all was a huge minus to the enjoyability of the episode. Add to that the ridiculous interaction between her and Montoya (I want you! Oh wait, nevermind!) and I (and many others agree with me) am sitting around begging for the Joker to show up out of nowhere and kill Gordon’s wife-to-be in a painful, gruesome way just so I’ll be put out of my misery.
As far as the rest of the episode went, it felt like little bits and pieces of other episodes had been rolled up into a ball and used to fill the gaps in time that weren’t covered by the Gordon vs. Gruber arc. Again, this works for a series when the audience is worn out from a particularly intense episode and needs a break before the series kicks into another intense story arc, but as a mid-season opener it just failed and failed hard.
Will I continue to watch Gotham? Of course. It’s been brilliant so far and one little hiccup isn’t going to destroy everything for me. After all, if I could sit through more than a dozen episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. with my fingers crossed, praying for it to get better, I can certainly endure one mediocre installment of what is one of the best shows on television right now. And besides – The Penguin. ‘Nuf Said (copyright Stan Lee).
Speculation Time – Did The Penguin really screw up that bad just to make a few bucks? Unless the writers are idiots, we can be sure that he was smart enough to realize the consequences of his actions well before they occurred. So why is The Penguin trying to give off the appearance of being stupid to Maroni (and the rest of the gangster families)? Is he trying to throw Maroni off? Or is this his chance to have a “falling out” with his old boss so that he can jump camps?
There’s yet another break to Gotham’s programming for next week, but January 19th brings episode 12, ‘What the Little Bird Told Him’. It’s round 2 of Gordon vs. Gruber and it’s taking place in the streets of the city instead of within the nice, “secure” walls of Arkham. Check out the trailer for that episode below: