‘Gotham’ Review: “Welcome Back, Jim Gordon”
FOX’s ‘Gotham’ detects its 13th installment in “Welcome Back, Jim Gordon,” as the murder of a witness turns Gordon’s suspicions on the GCPD itself, while a captive Fish seeks to reclaim her throne from Penguin, and Bruce looks to reconnect with Selina.
Last week’s ‘Gotham’ installment, “What the Little Bird Told Him,” saw Gordon reclaiming his old job to track down escaped Arkham inmate Jack Gruber, while Fish finally made her move on Carmine Falcone, and Penguin found himself in a compromising position, so how does FOX’s latest episode of the Bat-prequel drama shine a light on the city’s villainous beginnings?
Read on for your in-depth review of everything you need to know about ‘Gotham’ episode 13, “Welcome Back, Jim Gordon”!
Last week’s outing proved to be a big one for ‘Gotham,’ essentially demolishing the major mob rivalries by deposing Fish Mooney and bringing Gordon back to work at the GCPD. Of course, ‘Gotham’ being ‘Gotham,’ the execution of said climaxes felt rushed and more than a bit awkwardly staged (what revered medical professional wouldn’t follow their crush into the men’s locker room of an urban police station?), “What the Little Bird Told Him” had at least sown a few promising seeds for the latter half of the Bat-prequel drama’s first season.
The honest truth of the matter (one day, I promise to stop prefacing these reviews with disclaimers) is that ‘Gotham’ is by no means a “good” show. Any given episode will see a dozen plots competing for attention, sharing little to no relation with one another, with what seems to be a number of creative voices calling shots from behind the scenes. Jim’s tenure at Arkham lasted all of a single unwieldy episode, and it seems here too that writers couldn’t reconcile keeping Fish in captivity for long, or decide which ancillary characters to divide B-stories among. Don’t get me wrong, “Welcome Back, Jim Gordon” boasts some reasonably strong choices as well, but internal conflicts over lasting consequences for characters make it difficult to decipher voices in the noise.
In any case, Jim resuming the daily grind of Gotham police work seems to return the series’ focus to rooting out the city’s internal corruptions, which by the end of the hour at least opens up some interesting conflicts for our erstwhile lead. Last week Jim promised Harvey he’d try to go about his work more flexibly, and to the show’s credit, tonight’s installment made a reasonably clear through-line in showcasing how quickly a favor from the Penguin had compromised Gordon’s moral compass and image, to leave Detective Delaware (Hi, Rat!) begging for his colleague’s forgiveness in an alley. Ben McKenzie makes Gordon’s discomfort clear across multiple instances, and Flass’ comments about Gordon becoming him in only a few years resonated well.
Flass in particular marks an interesting choice for the series to utilize, as a character primarily originating from Frank Miller’s iconic ‘Batman: Year One’ comics (with a heavily re-imagined version popping up in ‘Batman Begins’). By his stature and presence alone, Flass makes a more memorable impression than most any of the corrupt GCPD cops we’ve seen to date, and it would seem a wasted to have the character carted off to prison so quickly, rather than delve deeper into the department’s corruption, which may well extend to Commisioner Loeb himself. As I’ve said, ‘Gotham’ isn’t exactly above overturning its character’s predicaments, and the idea of Flass as a dark reflection for Gordon bears more fruit than “Welcome Back” seemed to give it.
By the same token of avoiding consequence, it’s a shame that Butch and Fish managed to get out of their respective predicaments so very quickly, as Jada Pinkett Smith’s embellishment of Fish’s crazy quirks worked far better in a context of desperation. Instead, the pair immediately (and somewhat improbably) return to bullying Penguin*, seemingly without any protection or interference from Don Falcone or his men. Both mobsters at least ended up in interesting positions by the end, as I genuinely wondered if “Welcome Back” would go so far as to kill off Butch, while Fish’s apparently romantic relationship with Bullock marks the most intriguing turn either character has expressed in 13 episodes.
*The stylistic flare of ‘Gotham’’s interrogation montages puts in yet another appearance tonight, though the self-indulgent montage of Penguin drunkenly enjoying his empty club seemed exceptionally bizarre and time-consuming, even for this show.
And while we were mercifully spared any Barbara this week, “Welcome Back, Jim Gordon” again seemed uncertain of how to involve its more conceptually problematic characters, Nygma and the returning Bruce Wayne. In the former’s case, the hour seemed to hit upon the exact same beats as last week, making a show of Nygma’s awkward affections for Ms. Kringle, something Flass enjoys tormenting upon, while the woman herself seems slightly warmer to the future Riddler's advances. As to the latter, Bruce’s absence over the last few weeks made the return inevitable, and while David Mazouz and Camren Bicondova made a strong showing of the pair’s friendship dissolving over class differences, the storyline didn’t have much of a place within the hour overall.
Oh, and Li’l Poison Ivy was there. So, that’s still a thing.
In earnest, I’m willing to venture that ‘Gotham’ has begun to carve out a stronger voice for its good ideas, even if impatient plotting and showier stylistic flare occasionally overshadow them. Gordon needing to strike a balance of corruption and cleanup emerged as a strong theme to explore going forward, while Fish’s apparent exile from ‘Gotham’ comes across far more excitingly than Penguin’s, by virtue of only having spent a single hour with the character. I still hope beyond hope that the network recognizes the show’s creative messes and finds a means to trim the fat, but clear character arcs go a long way toward redeeming weaker elements.
AND ANOTHER THING…
- Staging-wise, how in the world did Butch get out of the van, incapacitate the driver and hide before the second thug even opened up the back?
- Were you wondering if Penguin’s uncomfortable excitement around Jim Gordon, or his mother’s inevitable hookup with another man got more subtle? Nope!
- It should be said, Anthony Carrigan’s Victor Zsasz seems to have the best handle on the show’s mixture of campy characterization and genuine terror.
Well, what say you? Did ‘Gotham’’s 13th episode “Welcome Back, Jim Gordon” help set the stage any further for Batman’s beginning? How do you think the prequel drama fared in its latest episode? Give us your thoughts in the comments, and check back next week for our review of ‘Gotham’’s latest installment, “The Fearsome Dr. Crane” on FOX!