‘Gotham’ – ‘Welcome Back, Jim Gordon’ Review

Last night’s Gotham was particularly jam-packed with significant developments. Our villain of the week was actually a sleazy corrupt GCPD cop, Flass, who gets taken down by Gordon after he coordinates the murder of an innocent witness within the precinct’s walls. Bullock, of course, warns Jim not to try to go after the well-connected detective, who was running an underground drug trade on the auspices of an ongoing narcotics “investigation,” but Gordon is predictably overruled by his own idealism and does it despite Bullock’s advice.

When he can’t get the leverage he needs the old fashioned way, our white-knight rather stupidly goes to the Penguin for help. Cobblepot agrees to the favor, and asks nothing in return, which Gordon clearly find suspicious but he does not push the issue. Eventually he gets what he needs and in the episode’s climactic scene, our hero gives a rousing speech to his fellow officers as he attempts to arrest the guilty man. At first the detective sneers at him, imagining he is untouchable because of his reputation and powerful contacts. But ultimately Jim rallies the troops, if only for a moment, and his commanding officer, the normally risk-adverse Essen, is the one to formally arrest the man and take him into custody. It is a rare victory for Gordon…except that it turns out not to be the clean get-away he originally envisioned.

He discovers later on the evidence to indict Flass was garnered on the torture of another involved officer’s family, despite his instruction to the Penguin that he wanted no one hurt over it. On the one hand, you cannot help feeling Gordon should have known better. But on the other hand, if he were not naïve, his crusade against the GCPD would not make a whole lot of sense, either. What is frustrating about a moment like this is that it would be a lot more compelling had it been knowingly entered into, versus the result of Jim’s own stupidity. Watching him make calculated deals with the devil is ultimately much better drama than watching him do it out of cluelessness.

Anyway, on the heels of her unsuccessful coup, Fish Mooney is taken to be tortured on Falcone’s orders, but after the opening salvo, she is rescued by her loyal #2, Butch. He sensibly wants to leave town immediately, but with her ego still in shambles, Fish wants immediate revenge on the Penguin for betraying her so thoroughly. She tracks him down at her old night club, which he has taken over and at first she strong-arms some repentance from him. Soon enough, however, Falcone’s henchman Victor Zsaz shows up, and she and Butch must flee again. He ultimately sacrifices himself to enable her escape and she is driven to the docks by none other than Bullock, who it turns out has some romantic history with Mooney. He clearly cares for her and she clearly trusts him. It’s an interesting reveal and one I would not mind seeing elaborated on in the future. Mooney promises to return, someday, when the time is right and I hope when she does resurface, it is in the kind of impeccable, flamboyant style only she could carry off.

Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne returns from Switzerland where he and Alfred have been hiding out after the assassination attempt. Upon re-entering Gotham, Master Wayne begins a search for Selina Kyle, and he eventually gets a message to her through Ivy Pepper, who charges $20 for the service. Selina drops in not too long after, and at first it seems like they are going to rekindle their friendship/adolescent crush. But she swiftly turns cold on him and tells him to stop bothering her. It is clear this is a strategic brush-off and not earnestly felt, but Bruce takes it at face-value anyway and is heartbroken. And rather than being sympathetic, Alfred mocks his sadness to try to goad him out of it.

Alfred’s characterization on Gotham has felt perpetually off to me since the beginning of this series and last night was probably the new low point. It is frankly enough of a retcon to make him unabashedly pugilistic and in favor of Bruce using violence to resolve problems. But having him sneer at the emotional pain of the child in his care is just utterly distasteful, not to mention very out of character with reference to the larger Batman universe. Ostensibly it is about making Bruce tougher, getting him to pick himself up after he’s been knocked down. But it just makes Alfred seem cold and completely unlikeable, which is frustrating.

Finally, Ed Nygma actually manages to make headway with Kristen, the co-worker upon whom he has an ill-concealed crush. He gives her a love note, which ends up in the hands of some mean-spirited officers who use it to unabashedly mock him. However, at the episode’s end, Kristen reveals that she did not show it to the other men and that she felt bad over what happened with the letter. She confesses to appreciating the sentiments expressed and although she is still wary of Nygma, she seems to believe he is well-intentioned. Which he still seems to be, at this point in time.

I know I sound like a broken record over the issue of Ed Nygma, but I really, really would like for them to actually give him a serious plot of some kind. He’s an interesting character but he needs something meatier to play upon than what he’s been given thus far. I cannot yet tell whether his dynamic with Kristen exists mainly as character exposition or if it will actually become narratively significant at some point, but I genuinely hope the latter, if only because he is worth giving a real storyline to. Riddles alone do not a valuable character make.