Jim Gordon enters the cuckoo’s nest in “Rogues’ Gallery,” Gotham‘s enjoyable (though still messy) eleventh episode and mid-season premiere. The last episode, “Lovecraft,” left a bad taste in our mouths thanks largely to its unbalanced narrative and inconsequential asides, and though “Rogues’ Gallery” makes some similar missteps, its benefits outweigh its problems.
One of Gotham‘s major problems is that, eleven episodes in, it still has yet to decide what kind of series it wants to be. We’ve seen it flutter from gritty procedural, quirky comedy, superhero origin story, and mob drama at will (sometimes all in the same episode), with mixed results. Add in the fact that it’s constantly trying to balance fanservice with a fresh take on familiar and iconic source material, and what we’ve largely witnessed so far is an uneven and unfocused look at what happens when a series expands beyond its initial scope. As such, more and more characters, locations, and side stories continue to come into play, while the core group of characters suffer from a lack of development.
“Rogues’ Gallery” functions well as a glimpse inside the iconic and twisted Arkham Asylum, and could have easily been a fun bottle episode that injected something new and vibrant into the series. Instead, half of the episode is that, while the other frantically attempts to service its large supporting cast of characters. Penguin, Bullock, Fish Mooney, Barbara Gordon, and even Poison Ivy get their moments in the limelight, but offer little to the episode as a whole, thematically or emotionally.
It wasn’t even until episode’s end that I remembered that Wayne Manor had been left out of the fray; I’m thankful for this, but never found myself interested in what may be going on in Bruce’s little corner of Gotham City. That’s not a good thing, considering the fact that a) the show is ultimately going to be about his rise to heroism and b) the last episode focused largely on his attempted kidnapping. Some follow-up for that story would have been nice, but instead we get Selina Kyle and Ivy Pepper spending the night in Jim Gordon’s seemingly abandoned apartment. Because, you know, we care so much about them.
Gotham, for all of its serialized intentions, acts more as a procedural than anything else. Sure, we get some recurring plot threads and character beats here and there, but each new character, setting, or situation simply serves the plot at hand, is all but eradicated by episode’s end, and the series moves on. Arkham Asylum is a place that deserves quite a bit of exploration, and could even be the focus of an entire series all its own. In its debut episode, we learn that there’s one doctor on staff, that there are six guards, that there’s a female ward somewhere, and that there may be some hinky stuff happening in the basement. All of those things serviced the episode itself, but told us virtually nothing about the Asylum or what these things may mean for its future. Thankfully, Jim Gordon still works there and wasn’t transferred back to the GCPD by hour’s end, so we may yet learn all of the interesting history surrounding Gotham’s trademark nuthouse.