Following an action-packed mid-season finale last month, “Rogue’s Gallery” picks up Gotham after Detective Gordon has been assigned the city’s infamous insane asylum, Arkham. Oh, and some story points you probably don’t care about happen too.
“Rogue’s Gallery” marks the first time we’ve seen Arkham Asylum from the inside on Gotham, and the show does a pretty great job of representing it. Whenever a scene takes place within the asylum the camera is always at just enough of a dutch angle to make you feel uneasy, but not enough to make it unawatchable. It’s a level of subtly in the camerawork that rarely shows up in TV shows, let alone full length movies. Instead of generic “crazy music” or yelling in the background, the show gets across the point that the place is an insane asylum by actually utilizing the art of film to its fullest extent. Just really well done overall and one of the reasons I like Gotham so much when it is at its best.
Right off the bat it’s clear that Gordon is not getting along well with his new job. A fight breaks out during a play being put on by the inmates, and being the guard on duty, he gets blamed for the brawl – which apparently is a common occurrence since he started the job. The confrontation sets up a lot of the character dynamics for the episode. Dr. Lang, the warden of the asylum, is at Gordon’s throat throughout the episode’s duration blaming him for everything wrong with Arkham, and Dr. Leslie Thompson is constantly on his side.
When the main threads of the episode’s story begin to unwind, these dynamics come in to play even more. Random prisoners are being attacked in their own cells with the same type of electrical device that a doctor would use, but no one seems to know why, or how the attacker got keys to all the cells. Lang’s constant badgering of Gordon leads to him unintentionally hampering with the investigation – until Gordon calls in his old pal Harvey Bullock to haul him off to GCPD headquarters for questioning, that is.
There’s an odd little montage with a humorous tone where Gordon is interviewing the asylum prisoners that worked surprisingly well. It’s one a few moments in this episode where it points to Gotham potentially toning down its attempt at gritty realism and leaning towards a more light-hearted superhero story, which by all means it should.
The best type of twists are the ones that make you rethink an entire episode or film when you re-watch them, and the one at the end of “Rogue’s Gallery” certainly does. Especially that montage interview session, which completely changes when you know who the real killer is. Throughout the episode there are breadcrumbs set up that could lead to several characters, and you are nicely yanked in different directions until you finally learn the real answer. It’s entirely possible to know the twist before it comes, I’m sure, but as someone who didn’t see it coming, it worked really well. One major factor is the way that it hinted so heavily to so many characters being the potential true killer, that none of them seem legitimate in the end until the killer was revealed and eventually escapes.
One of Gotham’s biggest problems has been its incessant need to shove its iconic characters in your face, and this mid-season premiere luckily avoided doing that. While Leslie Thompkins is a real character in the Batman mythos, she’s kept to a reasonable level, and not a walking cliche like the Riddler, for instance.
As always, Gordon’s side of the story was well done, well paced, and intriguing. Unfortunately, it was only about half the episode. The rest of the screen time was dedicated to a few side stories that, once again, don’t feel like they have any impact on the show. Some arbitrary reminders that Selina Kyle and Ivy still exist, some needless pondering between gang members, and a useless character with no build up who dies. Barbara’s story and reason for existing continues to baffle, and her character goes absolutely no where. With no build up whatsoever, she has an out-of-place fight with her love interest during a sequence crammed between two Detective Gordon scenes.
Overall, Gotham’s mid-season premiere was more of the same from last year in terms of the good parts being great, and the bad parts being boring and convoluted. At this point there is almost no curveball that the writers can possible throw into the gang war’s story to make it worth any second of time away from Detective Gordon’s story, or even the story of Bruce Wayne and Alfred (who were both sadly absent from this episode). The sooner it resolves itself and gets out of the way, the better.
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