After a rocky first half to its debut season, Gotham is back, continuing the steady tone and pace it found when we last saw it in October. Jim Gordon is still banished to Arkham in the wake of his investigation into the mayor’s criminal activities. Demoted to security at the institute and threatened with remedial duty roster if he doesn’t play by the rules. But since Arkham is brimming over with insanity, from both its patients and staff, those rules don’t stay in place very long.
In the midst of Arkham’s production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, a player is attacked by another inmate, the latest in a series of violent attacks for which Director Lang blames Gordon. Jim receives some support from one of the institute’s doctors, longtime Batman character Leslie Thompkins, introduced here as the world’s most glamorous and short-skirted physician, played by Morena Baccarin. The actress demonstrates a bit more gravitas and screen presence than she did in her Firefly days. And there’s a chemistry between Leslie and Gordon that’s a million times more palpable than his dynamic with Barbara, who’s still off popping pills with Montoya.
Meanwhile, Cat finds Tim Burton castoff kid Ivy Pepper (who wears a green-and-black striped sweater in case we forget her name) sick in an alley in a rainstorm, and takes her to Gordon’s empty apartment.
Elsewhere, Cobblepot — now proudly insisting on being called The Penguin — tries to grow his resources on the waterfront, but his aim still exceeds his reach and he gets a punch in the face by the cops for his efforts.
Gordon learns the inmate who disrupted the play was given electroshock therapy (he’s fittingly called Frog Man) and that his brain is fried. The former police detective blames Lang for rushing the opening of the asylum. But the directors insists on handling the problem in-house, and refuses to alert GCPD.
Back at Fish Mooney’s, the crime lord wannabe, still keen on replacing Falcone as leader of the city’s underworld, learns Jimmy Saviano, Falcone’s next in line, is also eyeing his job. It turns out he’s an old friend of Butch, Mooney’s right-hand man.
At Arkham, patient Jack Gruber — who’d played The Tempest‘s Prospero — is under suspicion, along with all the other inmates — who prove near impossible to interrogate. And another player is also shocked into mindlessness, reciting Shakespeare’s lines ad nauseum.
Elsewhere, Barbara tells Renee she’s over Jim, but Renee says she’s having second thoughts about their relationship, that their drinking and drug-taking is destroying her. It’s worth noting that we only hear about this all this debauchery, but don’t see much of it. Of course Barbara is yet again shown in a state of undress.
Bullock, happy to see Jim again, arrives at Arkham, and takes the director away for questioning so that Gordon can continue investigation unimpeded.
Butch meets with Saviano, who offers his old friend a position with him.
Upon returning to police headquarters, Bullock finds the Penguin imprisoned there, but refuses to allow him a call to his boss and benefactor Sal Maroni. Bullock interrogates Lang about electroshock therapy, and they suspect who may be behind the attacks, albeit too late for Gordon who concludes its Nurse Dorothy Duncan (played by Moonlighting‘s Allyce Beasley), a one-time patient who disappeared into Arkham and somehow reemerged as an employee. She attacks Leslie and releases Arkham’s patients, who quickly trample her to death.
But the scene that follows is much more disturbing — Barbara phones Jim and her call is answered by Ivy, who, to her horror, pretends to be Gordon’s new squeeze.
Don Maroni visits Penguin and says he put him in there for his hubris, and for raising taxes on the city’s fishermen without telling him.
Gordon and Bullock learn Duncan was also electrocuted and that Jack Gruber was behind it, conducting a series of mind control experiments on patients. Lang discovers Gruber’s secret and is killed, and Gordon arrives to find a farewell note from the escapee.
Fish’s flunky meets once more with his old buddy and shoots him in the head, to the tune of the doo-wop classics “Still of the Night” and “It’s All in the Game”. Someone needs to inform Gotham‘s producers that there are gangsters in this world other than Martin Scorsese’s period films…
“Rogues’ Gallery” does its job of reintroducing Gotham’s heroes and villains while giving us just enough betrayal and suspense to distract us from the fact the show’s ongoing conceit — that Gordon and Bullock shouldn’t have been shot dead long ago by Falcone. But the episode’s name invites criticism. Batman has the best rogues in comics, yet the only distinct baddie here is newcomer Gruber, unless one counts Granny Harely Quinn, a.k.a. Duncan. I’m also unsure that the latest gangster element is necessary, since Butch begins the episode exactly as he began it, loyal to Fish. It’s a sign of growth, however, that Gotham wants even its minor characters to have some sort of history.
— Gruber is played by Christopher Heyerdahl, whose previous foray into DC TV was as Zor-El, brother of Jor-El and father of Supergirl, in Smallville. He also appeared in the 2004 Halle Berry Catwoman movie.
— As in the best-known version of Arkham to date, the Batman: Arkham Asylum video game, we’re treated to a scene where the patients escape. If only there was more of this. I’d be happy to sit through a full hour of Ben McKenzie beating up bad guys.
— Is this the first episode in which Bruce hasn’t appeared? If so, we have proof, for those who require it, that Gotham can work just fine without a trace of young master Wayne.
— “Remember — I’m a vegan. No butter!”
In two weeks: Gotham returns with “What the Little Bird Told Him”, in which Gordon pursues Gruber, who targets police headquarters, and Mooney plans her move to take down Falcone.
What did you think of this week’s episode? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter (@JMaCabre).