(Warning: The following review contains spoilers for the Gotham episode "Prisoners.")
Previously on Gotham ... Jim Gordon's going to jail! Well, he's a murderer, so yeah. Sounds right. Also, Penguin's got a cool dad in the form of Paul Reubens, but the rest of his inherited family is probably out to kill him. Whoops!
Now on Gotham ... Jim Gordon's in jail! Hooray! For 40 years, right? Well ... don't I wish. But, no. And Penguin's hanging out with his cool dad! Hooray! That's got a happy ending, right? Well ... don't I wish ... ? No, not really. But it's still Bummersville, population Penguin.
So we're looking at two plots this week, Gordon's and Oswald's, with a minor Bullock subplot attached to Jim's like a weird growth. Is it benign? Malignant? Only one way to find out!
- James Gordon being in jail is not great for James Gordon. He's been in a relatively safe wing, but he's being transferred into F Wing, which is the general block of the prison aka where everyone he ever locked up lives. And to add insult to injury, Warden Carlson Grey has a bit of a vendetta against Jim and plans to bump him off. Good thing Puck Davies is around to save the day! Who's that, you ask? Just a sweet kid who got locked up for some petty crimes. He sees Gordon as a hero for some reason and so he allies himself to Jim. Good for Jim, not ideal for Puck, who winds up beaten to the brink of death. Meanwhile, Bullock has sought out the help of Don Falcone (holy season one, Batman!) and together they rescue Jim from lockup by staging a fake stabbing and dragging Jim out in a body bag. Jim wants to pull Puck out, too, but Puck dies shortly after the escape. Bullock and Falcone tell Jim to consider running, but Jim wants to clear his name and get back to helping Gotham. Sure.
- Penguin is in daddy love. That sounds creepier than I meant it. His new found father, Elijah, is a genuinely good dude. And rich! Unfortunately, the woman he married had been a poor, abused waitress and she and her two kids aren't interested in sharing the wealth they found through Elijah with Oswald. Did I mention Elijah has a literal hole in his heart? He does. And that would be treatable if his wife wasn't subbing out his pills for Altoids. You know, typical stuff. Anyhoozle, waitress fam tells Elijah that Oswald is an infamous gangster, but he already found out from Penguin directly. In fact, it turns out violence runs in the family. Elijah's father was mentally ill and so he has a great deal of sympathy for his son. And he's gonna change his will to leave everything to Oswald! Oops, Elijah's wife accidentally killed him when she meant to posion Penguin. Oh, well.
Not, uh... not a great one, folks. But after a few consecutive weeks of quality TV, Gotham was bound to stumble. Let's break it down.
- I hope this won't seem like I'm just looking for anything to like in this episode, but the costumes this week are so weird and great. Elijah comes from a family that built their own wealth on their skills as tailors. Translation: let's go wild with the suits this week. And they do! Huge props to the wardrobe department for finding/making some really neat stuff. The father/son connection of both seeing thevalue in a well-fitted garment is a nice touch.
- And now to gush about Paul Reubens. Last week I said Gotham was lucky to have him and on this, his second and final week, he exceeded my every expectation. The Gotham writing team clearly wants to send Oswald totally off the cliff into Penguiny madness. Oswald's got that momma love (still not meant to be creepy, sorry) which made him do the wacky. How do you sell that again with a father he barely knows? The answer is, you hire Paul Reubens. Reubens exudes such an odd charm, perfectly suited for Oswald. Elijah's not quite right, but his love is genuine and, in two episodes, Reubens explores every inch of who Elijah can be in such a limited time. Carol Kane made Oswald sympathetic as his mother, and Reubens does it brilliantly again as his father. And when Penguin goes ballistic next week (he will, of that I'm certain), you'll be able to feel a genuine sympathy for him -- and that's largely thanks to Reubens's pitch perfect performance.
- And now to throw a little shade. I'm really glad they've at least temporarily writtenLee out of the story, terminating her pregnancy at the same time. It's clear no one onthe creative team knows what to do with Lee. She's easily the biggest waste of a good actor the show's seen and, if they won't use her right, I'd rather they not use her at all. Smell ya later, Lee! Hopefully, if you ever return, you'll be written as a person and not as a pair of wringing hands covered in tears.
- Anything and everything about Jim's jail plot is... not great, but let's start with the shifting goal posts of why Jim's there at all. Remember when there was an investigation as to who really murdered Theo Galavan? And remember who that was? Jim Gordon, hypocrite supreme. And yet! And yet... all of the sudden Jim's sole reason for being in prison is because he was wrongfully accused of murdering a fellow police officer. I get the need for some sleight of hand here, focusing on where Jim is innocent rather than owning up to all the ways that he's guilty, but Gordon's still a murderer and trying to trick the audience into thinking different is a lousy magic trick. I know where you're hiding the coin, Uncle Gotham. You ain't foolin' anyone.
- In all the ways Elijah's sudden introduction into Penguin's life worked, the introduction of Jim's cell buddy, Puck, failed. From the word go, Puck is so saccharine that he doesn't seem real. In fact, I assumed that, when he repeatedly helped Jim, he was secretly helping the warden trick Gordon into thinking he's safe. But, no. Puck is just a one-dimensional yutz introduced solely so that Jim can try and fail to save him. Puck exists solely for the audience to see that Gordon can still be a hero and feel bad for Jim at the same time, but the entire affair is played in so melodramatic a way that it's impossible to feel anything but bored.
- Elijah is killed when he drinks some poison sherry. In order to cover up the form of death, his step-son tips the remaining liquid onto the ground. The poison is so poisonous, that it begins to smoke and eat through the carpet. I'm not an expert in murdering people, but I'm pretty sure that's not how poison works. Oh, Gotham...
- At one point, Elijah's wife thinks she can trick Penguin into helping them slowly kill Elijah, so she sends her daughter off to sexnipulate him. As you do. And when that doesn't work, her son is like, "Maybe I should try?" Bless your little heart, show, for acknowledging in your own strange way that maybe, just maybe, Oswald isn't into women. Oh, Gotham...
- Did you recognize Gordon's warden? That's Ned Bellamy, whose a real "that guy". One of the bigger movies he was in though was, surprise, surprise, The Shawshank Redemption, where he played a prison guard. I imagine someone at Gotham's casting must've seen that movie and thought, "hey, that guard needs a promotion," but only because there's nothing demonstrably more insane about that than anything else on this show. Oh, Gotham...
- And to finish off on the costuming stuff from earlier, just look at this night dress Reubens is wearing. Look at it! Someone was paid to make this ridiculous thing because someone else thought it would capture the essence of Elijah's character. I'm not saying they're wrong, but I am saying that if someone cosplays this, someone else will be very happy about it -- and that someone will be me.
That's all for this week! Next time, Penguin goes crazy, Barbara stops being so lazy, and Jim's... I dunno. Who cares, that guy's a jerk! And don't forget to join me for ye olde live tweets which happen at 8pm EST as the show goes out.