A Recap, by definition, WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS! Proceed at your own risk!
If tonight was the first time watching Fox’s freshman drama Gotham, it would certainly not be your last. After returning from the standard winter break, the series returned with extra gusto and excitement that brings to mind the stellar second half of the first season for Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. The new series, based on characters appearing in DC Comics, has walked a seemingly transparent tightrope with episodes ranging from rabid anticipation for the following week to a more tepid response. Tonight’s episode was certainly not a lackluster episode and proved not only a real highlight of the series but quite possibly the most entertaining episode yet.
We return to Gotham City and find officer Gordon, “[the]brave detective brought low by fighting City Hall”, as a security guard stationed at the recently opened Arkham Asylum. While watching the inmates perform a musical one particularly disturbed inmate incites a brawl by attacking one of the performers on stage. Gordon intervenes and stops the attack only to be reprimanded later by Arkham director Jerry Lang. Lang calls for one of the few skilled doctors to take a look at the patient while he warns Gordon that there will not be any G.C.P.D. interference. It is here that we are introduced to Dr. Leslie Thompkins (Morena Baccarin) of Batman lore. She’s pretty, youthful, caring, and skilled and works in the female ward at Arkham. Naturally, she makes fast friends with Gordon as he is quick to judge her character as a good person.
Elsewhere on a really rain-soaked night in Gotham, in a highly stylized New York City alley way, we meet up with Selina Kyle. Kyle, while forever prowling like a cat she is nicknamed after, comes across Ivy Pepper (yes, she will grow up to be Poison Ivy). Ivy is coughing and living in a very harsh and unforgiving way on the streets. Selina offers to help her by bringing Ivy to a place they can stay at. We see that Selina brings Ivy to Gordon’s apartment loft and that his home is seemingly vacated.
Back at Arkham, Gordon finds an inmate unresponsive in his cell. The inmate named “Frogman” Jones (maybe Killer Croc?) appears to be dead as he falls off his chair once Gordon enters his cell. He is brought to Dr. Thompkins and is found clinically brain-dead due to an inhumane amount of electroshock. Gordon exchanges words with Lang, once again, over the skeleton staff and poor resources. Lang threatens to demote Gordon even lower if he is to continue his trifling. Yet he is ordered to investigate the attack on Jones. He begins his investigation into the guards and inmates. He talks with Aaron, a seemingly innocent and peaceful man as seen by one of the nurses. Gordon begs to differ with Nurse Duncan as he reveals that Aaron killed his family. He meets another inmate named Gruber, a sociopathic man incarcerated for rape and murder.
While Gordon conducts his series of investigations at Arkham Asylum, the power struggle between mob families continues. The Penguin goes to the waterfront to raise the fishermen’s taxes. They refuse, call the cops and have Cobblepot arrested. Fish Mooney continues to plot against Don Falcone and believes that once he is removed the families will need someone with “fresh thinking” and with roots not set in the old ways. Saviano, the next in line, feels otherwise so Fish asks her right hand man, Butch, to go speak with him. Before he leaves she questions his loyalty and it remains uncertain if he is on her side or not.
After a long day of work, Gordon is sleeping on a couch inside the asylum only to be awoken by screams and a rattling noise. He finds the inmate attacked in the beginning to have been subjected to extremely high electroshock. Gordon then warns Dr. Thompkins that he feels she is no longer safe in the ward with him as he believes that it may actually be a staff member harming the inmates. He calls for Bullock and the two are temporarily reunited at Arkham. Bullock arrives despite Lang’s objection to his presence, yet is escorted to the G.C.P.D. for questioning thus allowing Gordon to investigate.
Butch eventually meets up with his friend, Jimmy Saviano, and speaks about Fish and where their allegiances lie. Saviano offers Butch an “out” and asks his friend to think it over as he promises that Fish’s future is dead (to no surprise to the fans; she’s not in the comic books.) Back at the G.C.P.D., Bullock returns with Lang only to find The Penguin incarcerated. Penquin asks for a phone call to sort matters out but Bullock declines saying that looking at him behind bars is “soothing like a bonsai tree.” While Bullock questions Lang as to the possibilities of who may be administering the electroshock to the inmates, he realizes that Dorothy Duncan is not a nurse and really an inmate. (That’s not terribly surprising as she was questionable from the start! Before they can warn Gordon, Duncan releases all the inmates from their cells to evade Gordon and Dr. Thompkins as they have started to place her as the suspect. After the inmates are released, she is trampled as nearly all of Arkham converges upon Gordon and the Dr. Rest assured, they escape and live to fight another day.
Maroni bails Penguin out of jail. Before having him released he tells Penguin that the reason he was left in prison was because he wanted him there to learn an important lesson in hubris. Maroni was unhappy with Penguin deciding to muscle in on hardworking fishermen and choosing to raise their taxes. It was done without his consent, consent that he would never have given, and for that he decides to remind Penguin that he is merely a “monkey.” While Penguin is released, Gordon, Bullock, and Captain Essen conclude that Dorothy Duncan was just another unfortunate inmate and not the one harming the other patients with electroshock. They head back to Arkham only to find that Director Lang is dying. Before he dies, Lang tells Gordon that the inmates Gruber and Aaron (the sociopathic rapist and murderer and the inmate that killed his family) that attacked him and escaped. Gordon then finds a note left by Gruber that mocks the detective and teases him in an almost Moriarity-ish way.
During the closing moments, Butch meets up with Saviano once more. While they sit in Saviano’s car, Butch recounts a time when they were kids and stole beef steak. He apologizes several times for cheating Saviano and keeping more of the beef steaks for himself. Saviano dismisses it as they were just children. Butch then asks him why he thinks he did it and before Saviano can respond he plugs him in the head. Classical mob music plays as Butch walks out of the car and back into his. The “Gotham” title card appears. And fin.
Overall, the return of Gotham was a strong episode filled with the kind of excitement and tension you’d want from a show like this. However, that’s not to say that tonight’s episode wasn’t without its flaws. There was a small sprinkling of weak moments that seemingly go nowhere and prove to be the consistent splinters in otherwise well written program. The story line for Selina Kyle, Ivy, Detective Renee Montoya, and Barbara Kane prove unnecessary to the flow of the series and their scenes unfortunately add a sense of disjoint. While Camren Bicondova is an excellent Selina Kyle, her scenes feel as if they could have been deleted. There happens to actually be one moment of her sitting on a roof to only cut to another scene that comes across as an annoying oversight in the editing department. Don’t misunderstand my commentary, as I very much enjoy Selina, it just happens to feel that the series would fare better by losing the aspect of fleshing out the youth aspect of the series. A perfect example happens to be that Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) does not appear in this episode, nor is his presence missed. Gotham as a series works. It works in ways that set it apart from Smallville. And at many times it feels like a good crime show that desperately needs to be a great one. Tonight proved that Gotham is a fun show that should not be missed; a show that reminds fans why they love the world of Batman so much.
Gotham returns Monday, January 19th at 8 pm on FOX. Check your local listings.