On the D/L – Gotham

Jan 6, 2015 | Posted by in TV

Season 1 Episode 11 – “Rogues Gallery”

All the TV shows are slowly returning now starting with Gotham. Jim Gordon -in his new position as an Arkham security guard- investigates a sadist experimenting with shock treatment as a form of mind control.

Despite the contrived circumstances to get Gordon into Arkham for the needs of whatever plot the writers have cooked up I really liked how Arkham Asylum was established. The idea that they rushed the place open and are operating with a skeleton staff is already biting them in the ass and it’s fairly clear that such a scenario is engineered to create a perfect breeding ground for the worst criminals imaginable. It all suggests that there’s some unseen hand pulling all the strings to achieve some kind of master plan. Is it Wayne Enterprises? Who knows.


Jim Gordon and Leslie Thompkins try to puzzle out the case

Arkham Asylum changes the show up a bit with a visually interesting setting and a sense that Gordon is out of his depth. He has the skills to solve the problem but doesn’t have the authority or resources. I do actually hope this continues for a few episode and doesn’t have him back where he started by the end of next week.

This episode introduces Batman character Doctor Leslie Thompkins (Morena Baccarin). This version of her is a doctor at Arkham Asylum who helps Jim with his investigation. Immediately we see the sparks of an attraction between these 2 character and the two actors play very well off each other. Baccarin does a great job as Thompkins who is actually really well written. It’s clear that she is someone who refuses to back down in the face of danger and keeps a cool head for the most part. It’s easy to see how she and Gordon will continue to be allies as things progress.

In terms of the story, the Arkham parts of the episode were a mixed bag. On one hand the character of Jack Gruber (Christopher Heyerdahl) was a great villainous addition. His coldly calculated way of speaking clearly implies that there’s lots of insanity just below the surface and the guy just comes across as really sinister. I’m glad that he got away at the end because his return should be worth seeing.

On the other the tone was absolutely all over the place. The seriousness of the investigation was largely undone by an investigation scene that was played for laughs. We see many examples of what “crazy” looks like on TV in a humourous light that actually manages to be a fairly offensive portrayal of people suffering from mental health issues. I understand that Arkham Asylum is supposed to be home to the criminally insane as well as people who are too far gone to be anywhere near articulate but the way it’s portrayed here is very clumsy. I wish this show would pick whether it wants to be a comedy or a drama as currently it really sucks at doing both.


Gordon stands up to an Arkham Asylum inmate riot

There are some flashes of brilliance here though. Isiah Whitlock, Jr.’s Doctor/Director Lang is nicely written as a man trying to make the best of what little he has. He clearly turns a blind eye to the high levels of corruption around him as well as only superficially dealing with all of the difficulties he faces running Arkham Asylum. His comment that the underfunding suffered here is just the way it is qualifies as a great subtle reference to how far gone Gotham City is. Backing that up is the refusal of a guard to own up to having his keys stolen as he doesn’t want to lose a week’s worth of pay. This sort of stuff gives Gotham a real sense of scope and makes the city feel like a living, breathing entity with problems that start at the top and make their way down. People cover up their mistakes because they’re scared of what their bosses might do and those mistakes lead to bigger issues. There’s an organism at work here and if more attention was paid to it then it might become something truly special.


Jack Gruber admires his handiwork

As a case of the week this episode is entirely forgettable as it doesn’t seem to feed into any larger issue beyond the escape of Jack Gruber. There are hints of the corruption in Gotham City but they could have been added to any plot. I was entertained by it for the most part but some broader relevance would have been better.

One of the major problems Gotham still suffers from is the seemingly infinite list of plates that are always spinning. The show has a nasty habit of trying to take baby steps with each of the stories most episodes which makes the 40 something minutes of running time feel bloated and rushed.

In this episode we seem to have a lot of emphasis placed on the Barbara/Montoya relationship that hasn’t had an awful lot of development before now. After seeing almost nothing of them being together Montoya calls it off because they are apparently “toxic” for one another. The audience is told through clumsy exposition that when they’re together they drink a lot and take drugs but we haven’t really seen much evidence of this up to this point. There’s no emotional connection to the story at all so I’m finding it hard to care about the fact that it’s over or that Barbara might be upset about it. There’s a continuation of the Selina Kyle subplot which features more of the young Ivy but it’s barely worth mentioning as it goes nowhere and accomplishes nothing.

Similarly there are small steps forward on the pending gang war. We see Penguin do something that doesn’t quite work out for him and leads to an admittedly well played scene where Maroni is forced to remind the ambitious underling that he has a place and he would do well to remember what that is. Clearly they’re going to come to some sort of conflict in the near future. So little happened with Fish Mooney’s contribution to the episode could have been left for another week as it accomplishes so little that it seems almost pointless.

Bullock is naturally still around and I found his scenes really entertaining but they were clearly a contrivance to make sure that Bullock and Gordon work together again despite the fact that they shouldn’t be. I’m actually more interested to see them apart. Maybe Bullock’s separate investigation starts to feed into something that Gordon is uncovering at Arkham and they compare notes at a later point? That’s just an idea but it’d be more interesting that forcing them together.

  • 6.5/10
    Rogues' Gallery - 6.5/10


The return of Gotham isn’t bad but also isn’t great. Too much of a reliance of the case of the week structure is really killing this show on a narrative level. It would help if these cases were starting to feed into an overall tapestry of some kind but instead it comes across as clumsily filling time.

Tonally the show falls apart almost weekly. There’s a serious investigation going on one minute and the next we get cartoonishly ridiculous scenes depicting people with serious mental health problems. I’m not sure whether this show is a drama or a comedy as it’s trying a little of both and failing miserably. It needs to settle on a tone soon before it becomes unwatchable.

Some of the scenes managed to subtly develop the overall scope of Gotham City as a self contained world that works organically. The idea of mistakes being covered up to avoid personal consequences is an interesting comment on the social structure of the city. Taking it a step further to show the problems that covering up mistakes create gives the city a life of its own. We’re starting to get a sense of how the corruption in Gotham City works but it’s being buried under the rest of the clumsy stuff.

Moreena Baccarin’s debut as Doctor Leslie Thompkins is really promising so far. Her interactions with Gordon are definitely the highlight of the episode and her character proves interesting enough for me to want to see more of her. The dynamic she has with Gordon should continue to be interesting.

The show still has major problems in the saturation of plots on a weekly basis. There seems to be an odd resolution to the Barbara/Montoya relationship without us seeing any prior evidence of the reason it’s supposed to have fallen apart. It more or less came from nowhere and ended nowhere. As always the growing crime war plot is moved forward incredibly slowly without anything seeming significant.

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