Gotham: Prisoners

... or a well-acted, well-paced and well-directed uninspired mess.

It always pains me when I have to write bad things about my favorite show, but in my opinion, this was by far the weakest episode of the second season and one of the weakest of the entire show. However, unlike some reviewers who seem to take a perverse joy in bashing it, I will refrain from trying to find new and creative ways to insult it and keep things short and sweet.

This episode set out to do two things - to get Jim out of prison and to kill Penguin's father - and it managed to do both in the most unimaginative way possible.

Some people talk about Gotham and its plot contrivances, but really, there were no contrivances to speak of in this outing. It was just the by-the-numbers game. The show telegraphed its plot developments to such an extent they might as well have used smoke signals. As soon as Puck said, "I'm not going to die in here", you knew he wouldn't survive the episode. Portraying Elijah as a kind, loving and forgiving father in tandem with his cartoon villain wife and step-children marked him, too, as a dead man walking.

Given the fact that Jim might have had a legal shot but it would have made no narrative sense for the conviction to be overturned, and the fact that the prison is immediately designed as a place where he couldn't survive, we know he has to break out.

Reubens is absolutely spectacular in the role as Oswald's father and the two share the perfect father-and-son chemistry, quite obviously strengthened by the actors knowing each other well in real life. For that alone, I'm sad to see him gone so soon, but of course, this isn't the story about Rehabilitated Oswald sharing a happy life with his family. The Penguin must return, and the episode sets up the obvious backdrop for those circumstances, which will quite naturally play out as him finding out his step-family's role in the murder, giving him the incitement to break through his conditioning and kill every last one of them.

Leslie losing her and Jim's baby only further cements the death of that relationship. Jim may long to get back with her, but it will never happen. This is part of the penance he must pay for his actions earlier this season. In fact, if the show tried to sell them reconciling, at this stage it would feel like cheating.

The visual qualities of this episode were to die for and it was expertly directed, methodical and confident in its narrative, which makes it even more of a shame that the narrative was so weak. It cut out any unnecessary characters, anything not vital to the story. Bruce, Alfred, Selina, Ivy, Barbara, Lee, Tabitha, Butch and Barnes were nowhere to be seen, and Edward made just one short and needed appearance, which the actor nailed perfectly.

If there is one thing that I must fault this installment for, it's its absolute failure to surprise me. The titular subplot lacked all emotional punch despite all of the characters trying their damndest. When Jim was stabbed by the "wrong" inmate I barely batted an eyelash, instantly deducing that the knife was as fake as the blood. Falcone was used as a literal get-out-of-jail card and it's hard to see how he'd have anything more to do on the show, as he is simply no longer organic to the story it is telling.

At least, it looks like Gotham is returning to form with its next episode, due to air in two weeks' time, with Jim turning to Edward for help, Barbara likely getting released and Bruce throwing away money from the roof-tops. As a side note, I'm calling it now - Selina will start calling Bruce "Robin" to joke about his Robin-Hood antics.

Let's hope for a stronger performance when we return!

1 comment:

Marianna said...

While extremely predictable, I will say the step family was funny at least. =)