Gotham "S1E11 Rogues Gallery" - Review

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Gotham "S1E11 Rogues Gallery" - Review

“We’re all mad here” once proclaimed a titular Wonderland hatter. I wonder what he would have said if he was a resident of Arkham Asylum? “We’re all criminally insane here” perhaps? Or maybe just simply “Let me out! Let me out! They’re gonna kill me!”. Either way, despite its rich historical heritage, Arkham remains the last place any sane minded non-psychopathic resident of Gotham City would want to be but unfortunately for one Jim Gordon; it’s now main residence and the place he has to actively/unsuccessful maintain some kind of order in. Still, at least he wasn’t in Metropolis during the Man of Steel climax.

Rogues Gallery – Following his Arkham security guard re-assignment, courtesy of Mayor James, Gordon investigates some shocking attacks on inmates using electrodes to the brain. Meanwhile Fish Mooney enjoys the growing discontent for Falcone’s leadership but must navigate the line of succession; and Penguin learns his chain of command the hard way.

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So the main focus here is both on introducing the new interiors of Arkham and embracing the fun and the craziness that comes with the territory. The later in particular is utterly brilliant. The episode opens a prison community theatre rendition of Shakespeare’s Tempest to set this tone as hardened killers get their thespian on. Throughout Jim’s investigations on the attacks we meet all manner of weird and wonderfully felons brandishing their own style on lunacy or emotional instability that rarely contributes to Jim’s objectives. The patient interactions also provide some wonderful Easter Egg teasers at potential well known characters in waiting. Like a long blade/needle fingered man in the opening play (Scarecrow?) or a large muscular fellow very partial to his little teddy bear (Bane?) and of course some clown like background laughter in a group scene for the latest “was that the Joker?” moment. Gotham is clearly enjoying embracing the locations potential for fan indulgence. The nut house re-opening also cracks a few new faces. The most prominent being..... <full body geekgasm>.... Morena Baccarin (Firefly, Homeland) as Dr Leslie Tompkins. Tompkins and Gordon get an almost immediate rapport of good chemistry going as Jim’s “I fought the Mayor but the Mayor won” reputation precedes him. At the least she’s been positioned nicely as his friend and ally within the cuckoo’s nest. However, with Barbara out of the picture (and no longer driving stick), she could well become a short term romantic interest for the GCPDs former finest. Less rewarding is Isiah Whitlock, Jr. (The Wire) and the facilities director Dr Gerry Lang. While he gets a few good moments in is Gordon’s a-hole boss “Think you can’t fall any further, think again” he just lacks the presence you’d expect from a man in such a position (this Lang won’t be introducing you to his friend, pain).

As for the familiar faces within the streets of Gotham this week yields more mixed results. The big winner is the ever lovable Harvey Bullock. There were fears we’d see less of him when stories focused more on Jim within Arkham. Yet here he still gets significant screen time and a few scene steeling moments in. His arrival at Arkham is just hilarious as he roles with the local crazy vibes before a childlike burst of joy as he’s reunited with Gordon. Yet it’s the subsequent instant double team verbal steam roller attack the pair lays down on Dr Lang that really reminds us how much we want to see them together again. This episode is a nice promise that this dynamic duo is remains an on screen option. Top that off with a cherry bombed best line of the episode of in a while bantering with a caged Penguin “see I like having you here, cause I can sit at my desk and look at you, it’s soothing, like a bonsai tree”. Donal Lougue, please don’t ever leave us. Fairing the worst is by far Barbara Gordon. She’s easily been the most heavily criticised character of the series to date as nobody seems sure what to do with her. As she walked out on Jim and took an L-turn into the old lover arms of Montoya it finally looked like she be become a significant piece in the puzzle..... only to see that ended after half an episode for utterly insignificant reasons and dashing all our hopes of ever really caring for her as a character. To the credit of Erin Richards she is trying her best and it’s the plotlines that are the major crime rather than her performance. Selina Kyle gets some decent holding pattern scenes as she re-teams with a wilting Ivy Pepper. The mob wars are less satisfying on all sides. Penguin’s attempt to put his flipper down on some turf will never be unlikable for Robin Lord Taylor but it’s not one of his better episodes. Fish’s gang boss politicking takes up far to bigger chunk of the episode for limited payoffs it delivers. Suggesting that Butch might jump ship on her is intriguing but could have been handled better.

In terms of speculation, the big question now becomes what’s really happening at Arkham because in the words of Captain Tightpants; something sure the hell ‘aint right. From early on, Dr Lang shows a strong desire to keep all investigations in house and avoid the snooping of external parties. He even gives Bullock an almost confession, confirming that there are some untoward things going on there that he can’t reveal out of fear. The nurse’s mention of unsafe chemicals in the basement could have been a covering lie or a very convenient truth. Then throw that all back to earlier in the season when many were confused and unsure why the facility was re-opened. One thing that feels fairly sure is that Dr Hugo Strange will figure into things somehow (as either a tool or mastermind). His presence this series has been confirmed and though yet to feature on screen this week’s events leave a very plausible window open for him in the next episode (in 2 weeks). The finally thought to consider is just where Dr Tompkins will fit into all this. While initially presenting as a protagonist, her conveniently timed arrival on the cusp of Gordon’s basement expedition implies she may in fact be already connected to said wrong doings. Maybe it’s some of research/experimentation and she’s on an “in it for the good of all mankind” character angle?

So Gotham’s return is a case of shifting strengths. It impresses heavily with its new expansion pack but let’s itself down by miss-playing its original set. The potential and promise is unmistakably though. That if Gotham can bring police crime drama of the GCPD and the Arkham craziness into the same crescendo the result will be a symphony of viewing delights. The resolution of the electrocutions mystery puts one brilliant new player into the game that could make a delectable returning menace. For now, like the knackered halls of Arkham, it’s still a fixer-upper but definitely worth the effort.