Gotham: Rogues' Gallery

Maroni: “You're a smart monkey. But you're a monkey. And I'm the Zookeeper.”

In this episode of Gotham, where the constant slanting cinematography is frustratingly reminiscent of Battlefield Earth, Jim Gordon has begun the graveyard shifts at Arkham Asylum for the Criminally Insane and investigates a series of attacks that have been inflicted upon the inmates via electroshock therapy.

In the second half of Season 1, it’s the first of a few things for this series. First, we are introduced to Dr. Leslie Thompkins (Morena Baccarin), known in DC Comics as a clinician and parental figure to Bruce Wayne, though in Gotham, she is shown first to be a medical practitioner of Arkham’s female ward who’s also got a thing for Jim Gordon. It’s always a wee awkward to have to watch any guy trip over his words or get flustered when the cute girl he’s just met starts getting flirtatious, but here in Jim’s case, it’s clear why he’s disturbed around Lee’s encouragement of him and him alone; up until this point of the season, everyone else around Jim has been very obvious in their wish for Jim to stop fighting the system. But now here at Arkham, he’s being practically commended for being the guy who would rather stand up for what he himself believes is right, and it’s totally understandable why encouragement like that might throw him for a loop.

And while we’re on that subject, this episode also marks the first official introduction of Arkham Asylum, “freaky as advertised” as Bullock puts it. We’ve heard mentions of it in the past but this episode gives us our first look into much of the ward’s mayhem and madness. One thing nice about Gotham is that the show doesn’t feel obligated to shoehorn each lead role into every episode of the season and as a result, more screentime can be set aside for the characters and story presently at hand. Much of this episode’s run is spent diving straight into the atmosphere of Arkham and gives both Jim, and the audience too, lots of one-on-one time with the variety of inmates as he investigates the ward’s killer.

And hey, what would a featuring of Arkham Asylum, first appearance or not, be without its weekly prison riot? It’s getting hard for me to recollect a time in Batman media where Arkham was used as part of its narrative but the inmates just sat tight in their cells. I'm just a little disappointed that we may have already seen the last of Arkham for this season now that the prison riot climax has already been executed. It’s kind of like being a kid and getting bored with the Rock-Em-Sock-Em robots after five minutes because you’ve exhausted the game’s one and only move. Or an episode of Family Guy that’s already made its celebrity gag and now has to find other ways to be entertaining for eighteen minutes.

Jim’s investigation here is no easier as a result of Arkham’s Director Dr. Lang (Isiah Whitlock Jr.) taking the opportunity to berate Jim every step of the way for some reason. This episode plays against Scooby-Doo rules and goes every step of the way to make it seem like this Director is somehow involved in the recent string of attacks due to the distaste he immediately has for Jim Gordon, but no, at the end, constant crankiness just seems to be the Director’s default mood.

As Jim combs through the inmates’ files, he is led to believe that one of the female inmates in the guise of a nurse is the assailant, only to later discover that she is also one of the victims, having suffered similar wounds indicating electroshock therapy. It is only after calming the ensuing prison riot that Jim comes to the conclusion that the actual assailant is inmate Jack Gruber (Christopher Heyerdahl). Little late to the game here Jim, those round How-To-Be-A-Villain 101 glasses he was sporting didn’t make you a little suspicious?

The other sideplots in this episode are really only meant to continue advancing bit by bit both Oswald’s and Fish’s ambitions for the underworld. The difference in their quests though is that on the one hand, you have Oswald; even when he’s got the mindset of a spoiled, pampered rich kid that has to get taken down a few notches via a stern lecture from Maroni, he’s an absolute treat to watch performance-wise. His last scene in the episode – him exiting a prison cell, courtesy of Maroni no less – wearing a silent scowl on his face that can only mean grave things in the future for Maroni tells us everything we need to know immediately about where Oswald stands in this moment, no lines needed. And on the other hand, you have Fish’s subplot which only spouts villainous banter that sounds a bit like movie trailer dialogue recorded specifically for the trailer because it would sound too hokey anywhere else. (“A new dawn is coming,” “don’t think too long about my offer,” “Fish is history,” the list goes on.)

One last note I noticed upon my rewatch that pleased the inner fanboy in me: the giant clock mounted on one of the walls in Barbara’s apartment. Nice touch, showrunners.

Jim’s hunt for the Arkham escapee continues on “What The Little Bird Told Him”!

Aaron Studer loves spending his time reading, writing and defending the existence of cryptids because they can’t do it themselves.

3 comments:

Billie Doux said...

OMG, Battlefield Earth. :)

You made me look up "cryptids." I actually didn't know what they are.

Aaron Studer said...

Nice to hear that there’s someone else out there that’s sat through that...peculiar piece of film.

Billie Doux said...

Actually, no -- I've never seen Battlefield Earth. But back when it was released, I read Roger Ebert's review, and it was literally the funniest review I'd ever read in my life. I can only aspire to the greatness of Roger Ebert's talent for reviewing.

It is still on the internet. God bless the internet. And God bless Roger Ebert, for that matter, wherever in time and space he is.

https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/battlefield-earth-2000