Robert Tiemstra ‘16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
“Friends don’t owe friends, silly. They just do favors because they want to. Because they’re friends” – Oswald Cobblepot
For those of you who have been waiting all season for Gotham to get its gangsters out of the holding pattern they’d been stuck in since circa episode 4, last week was the episode for you. Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith) finally made good on her plan to double cross Carmine Falcone (John Doman), and when it inevitably failed, there was a healthy dose of violence, followed by a delightful moment of gloating from Oswald Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor). While somewhat predictable and disappointingly bloodless, it was exciting to see the show finally do something with its most promising actors. After last week, however, we were left with the uncomfortable feeling that the show was about to slip back into its own comfort zone.
In a shocking twist, “Welcome Back, Jim Gordon” does almost the opposite. The plot lines here do not diverge to far from established rules, but last week’s mob shakedown was enough to throw the world of Gotham into a state of interesting flux around Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) as he tries to solve a sordid case of police corruption. And any episode that doesn’t have a single scene with Barbara Kean (Erin Richards) is pleasantly lean, given her arc is no more than filler whenever it’s on screen.
This episode relies rather heavily on parallels, including the fact that Gordon’s world and the world of the Gotham crime families have reversed. Only 2 episodes ago, he was facing down a life of working as an underpaid security guard at Arkham while the family sat high and mighty, and now he’s in his stride as the straightest arrow in the GCPD, while the mobsters are poaching each other like plump pheasants with odd accents and fetish outfits (in the case of Victor Zsasz’s gang, anyway). Maybe it would have been more satisfying to see Gordon have to work harder to get back into the Police Force, but for a series that seems unable to make a character hit rock bottom for more than an episode, this is an acceptable alternative.
And it isn’t as if Gordon is welcome back in the GCPD with open arms. This episode rather redundantly makes the point that he isn’t exactly the golden boy in the office (though if this were England, he would have been sent to the country to work alongside Nick Frost along time ago for making the rest of the force look bad), and the script hits us incessantly over the head with how bad it is to even think that a cop committed a series of brutal murders with an ice pick. In another show, this may have worked, but in a world as ruthlessly corrupt as Gotham’s it comes off as a bit disingenuous. We have seen cops ignore evidence, deal with gangsters, and even walk out of the precinct when five hit men threaten their colleagues life – its not like finding out one of them was a murderer would be an inconsistent development.
All this said, the simple structure of this episode is aware enough about its own simplicity to not try and overdo the mystery of the investigation – instead, writer Megan Mostyn-Brown and director Wendey Stanzler have their most fun with how Gordon obtains the evidence he needs to convict the guy who looks like a drug dealer wearing an ill-fitting police uniform. Recruiting the help of his “friend” Cobblepot places Gordon in a very interesting place morally, which is always a delight – whatever you may think of this series’ characterization of Jim Gordon, it certainly is creative in implicating him in the amoral side of his job without compromising his morally straight-laced characterization.
Lets talk about style for a moment. Toward the end of the episode, Penguin has a moment where he’s alone in Fish Mooney’s nightclub and finally allowed to enjoy the fruits of his campaign against her, by drinking and flouncing around her club with shameless glee, before Fish Mooney herself shows up to attempt her revenge. This is the most fun an episode of Gotham can offer, just allowing a character to hobble through a high energy montage that plays almost like a musical number, before pulling him back down to earth with a terrifying confrontation.
In terms of the parallels mentioned earlier, the filler void left by Barbara when she fled back to her parents is filled in this episode by the twin love lives of Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) and Edward Nigma (Cory Michael Smith). These scenes play out in a very cliché fashion, with Nigma writing a poem for a coworker, and Bruce giving Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova) a snowglobe, both of them being rejected for either coming on too strong or inadvertently offending the other party. Whether these scenes have any significance to the plot of the show going forward is anyone’s guess. By juxtaposing the unintentionally creepy Nigma with the innocent Bruce, perhaps the series is trying to make a point about how inherently similar Wayne is to his future enemies. Throw Oswald’s one-sided friendship with Jim Gordon into the mix, and you have a gang of future villains and heroes who give too much affection to people who don’t care about them. Kind of like this show’s relationship to its source material.
Overall Episode Grade: B