(THE FOLLOWING REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE GOTHAM EPISODE "INTO THE WOODS.")
Previously on Gotham ... Jim Gordon breaks out of prison and he's gonna prove he's innocent of murder! The murder he is innocent of, I mean. He's totally guilty of that other murder, but not the one he's actually in jail for. Anyway!
Now on Gotham ... Jim and Bruce are on the streets, Barbara's coming up from under the sheets, and Penguin's serving up some questionable meats! And speaking of questionable quality, this episode, am I right? It's jam-packed and some of the stories even intersect, but it's also one of those "how dumb are these people" affairs, too. Let's not get ahead of ourselves, though. First things first!
- Bruce and Selina are stealing money from other criminals. That makes it less bad, right? Bruce sure seems to think so as he hurls the twice-stolen cash down onto the streets of Gotham. He's a real Robin Hood, except Selina isn't exactly a willing Maid Marian. They abscond with what remains of the cash back to their secret hideout. It musn't be too secret, though, since Jim Gordon finds them in his hour of need. But we're not ready for that yet.
- Barbara Kean is awake! And, to hear her tell it, that long sleep (it's called a coma, dear) has done her good. You see, she feels really bad about kiling her parents, tormenting Jim and Lee, and joining a league of psychotic villains! Honest! And Dr. Strange is game to believe her. Well, I say "believe her," but it's more like he wants to see what she'll do next. So, with that in mind, Strange sets Barbara loose upon Gotham. Sidebar: Do you ever get the feeling that the entire population of Gotham is just people Strange released from Arkham because he wanted to see what would happen? Anyway, guess where Barbara winds up? Hold that thought.
- Jim enlists the help of Bullock to try and prove his innocence. Assuming the deceased Officer Pinkney did not, in fact, make an anonymous call to frame him for the death of Theo Galavan (except for the part where Jim totally killed Galavan), Gordon seeks out the recording of the anonymous call to figure out who did. The voice on the tape is distorted, though, so Jim employs the aide of exactly who you'd expect -- Edward Nygma. Long story short, Nygma basically leads Jim into figuring out that Nygma was the one who framed him (framed, ha!) before electrocuting Jim's chair and him with it. Scuffle scuffle, Nygma monologues about how he had to get Jim arrested before he figured out that Edward killed Miss Kringle, before Jim gets away and finds himself with, and I hope you're ready, Bruce and Selina.
- Barnes has put out a reward of $10,000 for anyone who can place the escaped Jim Gordon and Selina is collecting. She reveals to the entirety of the GCPD (including Nygma) that Jim's going to see Penguin because Penguin "knows where the bodies are buried". Yes, it's a set-up for Nygma so he'll go to where he buried Kringle to move her body. Yes, he falls for it. Yes, Gordon and the entire GCPD are there. Yes, Barnes forgives Gordon and somehow that now means it doesn't matter Gordon escaped from prison. But, no, Jim isn't going back to the GCPD just yet. Oh, and also, he calls Lee but doesn't speak to her. And also Barbara shows up to Jim's door because she wants to help him or something.
- Meanwhile, on what may as well be a completely different show, Oswald mourns the loss of his dead father and agrees to become the servant for Grace Van Dahl and her two awful children, Sasha and Charles. It literally becomes the plot of Cinderella for a while until instead of discovering a fairy godmother, Oswald finds the decanter full of poisoned sherry. He gives some to the dog to check and yes, the dog dies. Gotham -- a show about dog killing. Anyway, the story then shifts and becomes the South Park episode "Scott Tenorman Must Die" when, finally slipping back into his own ways, Penguin tricks Grace into eating her own children before stabbing her to death. Good times.
- Did I mention that Bruce is done running around Gotham and is back at stately Wayne Manor? Guess it only takes two episodes to learn everything there is to know about the ol' mean streets, huh?
Golly! That was a lot of sandwich, Dagwood! But how much of it was meat, how much was gristle, and what about that Gotham brand secret sauce. Let's dig in, shall we?
- It's nice that not all the stories are completely disconnected from each other. Barbara linking Jim to the Arkham plot and Bruce and Jim also linking back up are both good plot points that give Gotham a more cohesive overall narrative.
- Unrelated to anything remotely intellectual, Harvey helps Jim get that anonymous recording by sleeping with the woman who watches over records. It made me think of that old SNL sketch where Dan Aykroyd plays Fred Garvin: Male Prostitute. Also, I just totally accept that everyone wants a piece of Bullock, puckish rogue. He's a twist on the adorable bad boy that you don't see much on television. I know Donal Logue can get it and I'm glad Gotham knows it, too.
- Against all odds, I think Gotham planned and succeeded at making Penguin into this reprehensible villain that you kind of root for anyway. This weird temporary redemption arc shouldn't have worked, and yet it... kind of did? I believed that he wanted to be a good son, I think he was willing to connect with the Van Dahl's and I totally thought they had it coming when he killed them all in the most gruesome way possible. I sort of can't wait for Penguin to return back to the main plot now and wreak havoc. Props to Robin Lord Taylor, because that wasn't an easy story to sell and he really nailed it.
- I know some of you hate my stance on this, but Jim Gordon is not an innocent man. Just because he didn't kill Officer Pinkney doesn't erase the fact that he did kill Theo Galavan in cold blood. And that he killed someone else at the beginning of Season 2, as well! The only bone Gotham throws the audience is that, even though he's on the run, Jim still comes to the rescue of someone who is being mugged. And that's swell, but it's still cold comfort when you consider his double homicide.
- Innocent or not, Gordon still broke out of prison. I know we're watching a TV show but it's a pretty big pill to swallow that he didn't get locked back up behind bars. He's still an escaped convict no matter how you slice it.
- I was really excited to see Bruce fending for himself and away from Wayne Manor, so it feels like a real cop-out that he's already done with that after two episodes. We've had all of Season 1 and most of Season 2 with Bruce mostly holed away at home. Putting him on the streets with Selina bore out a whole new dimension for Bruce to explore and a new dynamic for him with the city of Gotham. It feels like the show writers don't know how to let Bruce's character breathe.
I'm going to talk about the Gordon/Nygma thing mostly, but first:
- You know Penguin is Penguin again because he goes back to having that ridiculous, pointy up-do. He literally has evil hair. Oh, Gotham...
And now a competition to see who is the dumbest dummy of the week!
- Even though Nygma repeatedly and purporsefully "slips" into confessing, it takes Gordon forever to realize Nygma is the one who framed him.
- In order for Nygma to incapacitate Gordon, he needs Jim to sit on an electrified chair, which is an overly elaborate plan that doesn't have a great shot of success
- But Gordon does fall for the electronic whoopee cushion. He literally sits in the chair after he's figured out Ed's guilt because Ed told him to sit. Gordon followed the instructions of someone he knows framed him.
- Then Nygma lets Gordon get away but not before monologuing like he's in The Incredibles about how he killed Miss Kringle.
- Gordon comes up with an equally over-elaborate plan to lure Nygma into leading the GCPD to Kristen's body that shouldn't ever work since the GCPD isn't even on Jim's side.
- It totally works, Nygma leads everyone to a body no one would have ever found otherwise.
So? Who is the biggest idiot this week? Hold that thought. Say... do you remember that episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, "Homecoming," where Buffy and Cordelia go through this insane ordeal that starts over them both wanting to be Homecoming Queen? And then some other girls win instead? Why do I bring that up? Oh, no reason.
Anyway, the biggest idiot of the week is Grace Van Dahl for hiring a known serial killer to work for her after she both killed said serial killer's father and then left the evidence in a place he could easily discover. Also she repeatedly called Penguin's mother a whore to his face. She might as well have written a letter saying "Dear Penguin, please killl my children, feed them to me, and then stab me to death". Say it with me -- Oh, Gotham...
Nice try, Jim and Edward. You were incredibly, unbelievably stupid, but you can't win 'em all. There's always next week.
And speaking of next episode, it looks like it's the return of both Galavan and Mr. Freeze! And Barbara's smack in the middle of it all! Who else is coming back? Guess we'll find out together. Remember to follow me on Twitter where I'll be live-tweeting the whole thing.