Gotham: 1.11 Rogues' Gallery/1.12 What the Little Bird Told Him
When Gotham left UK screens in December, Jim Gordon wasn’t in a good way. Shamed and stripped of his badge for ‘overzealous police work’, Gotham’s only good cop was packed off to the lovely Arkham Asylum to work security. So, as Gotham returned for a double bill, how was Jim holding up?
Monday’s first episode, Rogues’ Gallery, introduced us to Arkham – a decrepit hovel with skeleton staff and packed with insane inmates. The new setting could have rejuvenated the series entirely, providing a fresh new background for events to take place – but frustratingly, the potential of Arkham as a new home base for the series was never really capitalized on. The episode confined Jim to one room for a great deal of the runtime, and eventually gave up entirely on the setting – with Jim back at the police station setting that we’d left just an episode ago. It’s a frustrating example of wasted potential – and it wasn’t the only irritating element of the episode.
Penguin’s subplot was frankly a little strange, as the show’s most interesting character found himself arrested and bailed later on with a stern warning from Maroni. It’s an utterly pointless subplot that feels a token way to crowbar in a popular character, and adds nothing to either the character’s development or the episode’s plot. Thankfully, it wasn’t all bad – Jim and Bullock’s scenes together were a sparky joy to watch; the two actors bouncing off each other nicely with a fun dynamic that did a lot to liven up a often leaden episode. New villain Jack Gruber was also an intriguingly menacing threat – Gruber could have been in a couple more scenes before the episode’s final few moments to lend the twist that the villain was Gruber a little more impact, but the character had an air of menace around him that elevates him above the standard villain-of-the-week type.
The concluding half of the double bill, What the Little Bird Told Him, fared a little better, with much of the setup and extraneous plots cast away for a slightly leaner and pacier episode. However, the reveal of Fish Mooney’s plans to take over Falcone’s position fell a little flat – we’ve had twelve episodes’ build-up, so the plan of simply telling Falcone to leave Gotham with Fish’s inside woman was a little disappointing for a moment with this much set-up.
Jack Gruber, or Jack Buchinsky aka the Electrocutioner occupied the villain of the week role – and while the creepy menace of the character is still there and the attempt to link the Electrocutioner in to the ongoing mob plot works rather nicely, the Electrocutioner doesn’t get nearly enough screen-time here to register. The character spends half of the episode off-stage and his final assault on the GCPD ends in an admittedly funny but bitterly anti-climatic moment, so the character’s potential to be a creepy and threatening villain displayed in the previous episode didn’t really pay off here.
However, the episode’s real climax was a great deal better. It was clearly established that Falcone was tired of the bloody mob wars and unsure of his position – so the surprise twist where Falcone, after being tipped off about inside woman Liza by Cobblepot in a vintage ‘Penguin ruins everything’ (it’s what Penguin does best!) moment, chokes out Liza in front of Fish, was an impressive and surprising twist. Liza was a cipher at best, but her death is a genuine shock, and the changes to the status quo that the collapse of Fish’s plan promises to bring about are very welcome, especially considering the disappointing disposal of the Arkham setting after two episodes.
The returning two-parter had its merits and provided a great concluding moment, but for every good moment there’s a couple of leaden scenes, a few instances of bad writing or a completely extraneous subplot. It’s still at its core enjoyably dumb fun, but Gotham continues to lag behind its vastly superior superhero cousins on TV.