For those who are not aware, Gotham originally had its first season set to consist of 16 episodes, only to be extended to 22. This could seem like a great thing for those that have really been enjoying the series, but I see it a little differently. Given the current age of television that we live in, I am much happier to enjoy the 13-episode structure, were I to average out the length of various TV seasons, as it feels like a proper way to keep a level of momentum going. For example, Fox’s other Monday night show, Sleepy Hollow, upped its episode count from 13 to 18 for its second season and has felt like it’s been slacking because of it, losing the excitement that came from the show’s first season. Getting to this week’s Gotham, in another reality, “Welcome Back, Jim Gordon” could have served as the series finale. It even features one plotline that feels like a finale took place, but because of the 22 episode order, we instead have an episode that dials down the speed built up last week to settle us back into an average groove in a series that needs more push.
To discuss the supposed ‘finale’ plotline first, the episode opens with Fish Mooney being strapped in and prepared for torture, following the turn in last week’s episode, which allowed Falcone to get the upper hand in Fish’s plan to take down her mob boss superior. Given that I would never expect Jada Pinkett-Smith to get killed, while strapped to a chair, on a TV show, the threat level seemed fairly low, but at the same time it amounts to us getting to watch how much fun Jada Pinkett-Smith is having in this role. Fish, filled with rage at Penguin, is merely biding her time as she waits for her moment to escape, dealing with suffocation, threatened limb removal, and more. The escape fortunately comes quickly enough, as her main man Butch is more than capable of escaping from his own captivity and frees Fish by way of beating up her torturer. From there, Fish almost gets her chance to get back at Penguin, who has taken up residence at her nightclub, only to be stopped by Victor Zsasz. This leads to a small chase, ultimately resulting in Fish escaping while Butch sacrifices himself.
Butch does not die however; he is merely shot in the leg and will presumably be held captive until Fish makes her dramatic return. She exits the episode with the help of Bullock, with the two of them sharing a scene that makes me pine for a flashback or something that could develop some characters that could use more development. With all of this in mind, the scene works, given how committed these performers have been (which includes Butch, whom I was happy to write about a couple weeks ago). We get a level of closure in the form of a pause, which ideally means we can do less juggling of characters and see some sort of significant turn in the plotline at a later time. Keeping our memories in check though, Penguin did come back to Gotham a mere two weeks later, so we will see.
Moving on, the main story in this week’s episode basically goes out of its way to ditch what concluded last week’s episode in order to introduce a completely new story about a dead informant/drug dealer and the corrupt cop involved. Nothing much separates this corrupt cop, Flass (played by Dash Mihok), from the majority of the other cops in the GCPD, except for the fact that he is a character from the comics and played by a more recognizable actor (he has lots of credits, but let’s go with this one). What it amounts to is an innocent man getting killed while inside of the police station, and Gordon, once again, making a big scene to show that he is not going to stand for anyone’s BS.
In terms of getting across a point, of course I can root for Gordon, and Ben McKenzie has been working well enough with the material he is given to not be embarrassed by the lack of further depth his character could really use at this point (there is more to what this ultimately leads to, which I will address soon). Still, we get that Gordon is the good guy. We get that pretty much everyone in Gotham is corrupt. Seeing a slow turn of some towards Gordon’s side is all well and good, but it will continually feel repetitive if we do not see more done, beyond Gordon just yelling at how the badge matters every so often, with eventual support to his very justified cause.
The saving grace of an episode like this, which feels like padding masked with righteousness when it comes to showing off Gordon the Hero (again), is that it comes at a cost. Gordon does have his hands tied at a certain point, which leads to him going to ask a favor from the Penguin, a man he knows is dangerous and should not be trusted. The result is a man’s life and family being threatened, resulting in the arrest Gordon wants to make, but that same man then pleads to a horrified Gordon to be assured of his family’s safety. It is an ending that actually makes for a powerful way to cap the episode, nearly negating my gripes, even though the basic premise of this episode slows things down considerably. Putting Gordon in the position of basically having to do some evil to do some good is an interesting road I hope the show is smart enough to explore further.
So what am I supposed to do? Well, given that I am not in charge of Gotham, I can only continue to watch this series and see where things go. Unfortunately, the pattern has been amounting to a few mediocre episodes building to a strong one, only to back down from that momentum. The show has made some effort to build more confidence in its characters to an extent, and even the tone is getting to be a little more even, but it still needs to figure out how to meander less when it comes to storytelling. Given all the stuff I am saving for the notes section, there is a good show in here; it just comes at a cost trying to do so much when focus is the best solution.
From Det. Jim Gordon’s Police Files:
- Lil’ Bruce is back this week and looking for his girlfriend. Unfortunately, Cat is not one for new friends.
- Question: Will Ivy be anything more than a sickly child wandering the streets, before the season ends?
- Let’s stop with the montage scenes set to 90s guitar riff tones, shall we?
- Victor Zsasz and his Zsaszettes are consistently fun to watch.
- This week with Nygma: Ms. Kringle accepts that Edward is weird but sweet, not enough riddles for my liking though…
- I really hope something more happens with Carol Kane as Penguin’s mother, aside from her just acting all quirky and Eastern European.
- The show has managed to do a good job with making me genuinely want to see more of Butch, something I never thought I’d say.
- No Barbara this week!
- This week’s Classic Gordon Clip.