This Gotham review contains spoilers.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to report that I was actually satisfied with an episode of Gotham. It’s been awhile, to be honest. “Welcome Back, Jim Gordon” is probably the closest that Gotham has come to being the show I feel we were promised when it was first announced. This one is very much a cop show, but with just enough Gotham City weirdness to make it recognizable as the loopy world that Batman lives in. I could very much do with more episodes like this.
For one thing, I believe that Bullock uttered my favorite line of dialogue in the show’s history so far when referring to the murder investigation that opens the episode. “Public service homicide. Dick’s a douche.” Thank you, Donal Logue. While I freeze to death in NYC tonight, these chuckles will keep me warm.
As one of my most sharp-eyed readers pointed out last week, we can welcome Arnold Flass (guest star Dash Mihok) to the world of the GCPD. I think Mihok did a fine job with the greasy Flass, although he’s saddled with some really awful/standard “I’m protected” dialogue later in the episode, which is unfortunate. I’m a little bummed that they burned this character so quickly. I think he could have worked quite well as another supporting character on the force. So far, the only cops who stick around for more than two episodes at a time tend to be the ones we know are going to be on Gordon’s side eventually. Everyone else is cartoonishly crooked. Flass could have been a cool in-betweener. Maybe they’ll find a way to bring him back.
So, while this episode’s plot, a fairly standard “follow the drug dealer murder to the crooked cops who would want to see this guy rubbed out” procedural template, isn’t anything to light a bat-signal over, its success comes more from how well they balanced the different elements of the show. A few things suffered. Despite the big bang-up with Zsasz at the end, I feel like Falcone and Mooney’s gang war should be more in full swing by now, and the total absence of Falcone himself (not to mention Maroni) was a little puzzling.
But I can excuse that. Lots of little things worked together to make this episode feel right. After the big reset button of the last couple of episodes, “Welcome Back, Jim Gordon” almost felt like a new pilot for the show. Now that all the main players are so firmly established, there was no more need for them to constantly explain their motivations to each other (well, less than usual, at least). Instead, Gotham just cruised along with some well orchestrated scenes and even some terrific musical cues.
It also looked great. More than ever, they nailed that “timeless” look to the show, although it leaned a little more heavily towards the 1970s than previous episodes. Gordon’s little brawl in the parking garage was full of cars that could have been driven off the Serpico lot, and I feel like there were more mustaches and sideburns on the background cops than we’ve seen before. Hell, even when Alfred hands Ivy a crumpled $20 bill, it looked like one of the older twenties. These are little details, but they helped.
Even my oft-maligned Edward Nygma scenes were pretty good. Other than his intro this week, where Bullock promptly told him to “can it with the riddles,” (thanks, Harv…now, for real, can it with the riddles, show), I feel like they gave Cory Michael Smith a little more to work with. This is a character that should function quite well in his role on the show and in the GCPD, even when you amp up his weirdness. The bit where he’s “surgically removing” the onions from his lunch was fun, too. I’m still not sure I’m buying this whole Miss Kringle thing, but it was all less irritating than it’s been in the past, although I don’t necessarily know how much this is moving the show’s story along. As a character, though, I feel there’s hope for Nygma yet.
Gordon’s acceptance of a “favor” from Penguin was something we haven’t seen in awhile. It’s the first time in ages where I feel the show has really gone for it with the “how dirty can Gordon get before he can’t get clean” idea, and I think it’s something they should push as hard as they should. The final scene with the dirty cop who was the victim of Gordon’s favor was on the nose, but effective.
I still have some issues. I don’t care how corrupt the GCPD is, Internal Affairs simply can’t rule an icepick to the back of the neck a suicide in any universe that doesn’t have Benedict Arnold on its currency. For that matter, when Captain Essen warns Gordon that the other cops will turn on him if he pursues his investigation too far, well…it just seems like we’ve seen and heard all that before. Had we not already had Gordon busted down to Arkham janitor and whatever else, this might be a plot thread worth pulling for a season’s worth of stories. Instead, these rather operatic gestures end up ringing hollow, and it doesn’t help when you need a character to explain “it means the commissioner was involved.”
Also, in the name of Bill Finger, can we please go more than an episode or two without a musical interrogation montage? This is Gotham’s 13th episode, and I swear they’ve done this in eight of them.
Life With the Waynes
We’ve spent almost no time with Bruce and Alfred recently. Their few scenes this week reminded me why I enjoy Mazouz and Pertwee so much, but also served as a reminder of the limitations of that storyline. It does look like the Bruce/Selina story is finished now, which should also mean we’ll be spared more awkward interactions with Ivy. All of this stuff can be shipped off to Bludhaven for all I care, or they can all move in with Barbara’s parents, because I think this is time that can be better spent elsewhere.
– Arnold Flass was a crooked cop created by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli in the immortal Batman: Year One story. In the comics, Flass is just as much of a dick, but he was Gordon’s partner, showing him the ropes in his early days, not Bullock. For much of Gotham‘s earliest episodes, I felt Bullock had more in common with Flass. Still, nice to see this character show up.
– I was really hoping that Penguin would, in fact, take over Fish’s club for good. In recent years, that’s been Penguin’s primary cover for his illegal operations, and I must confess, Robin Lord Taylor looked right at home in that role. This could turn out to be the most well-rounded version of the character ever realized on screen. Always nice to see Carol Kane, too.
All in all, a solid effort. If I knew nothing at all about this show other than the most basic premise and all you showed me was a clip of the parking garage fight, I would be sold. I’d love to see Gotham build on this going forward!