‘Gotham’ sure doesn’t like to let its story arcs to play out for very long. Jim Gordon’s 40-year prison sentence barely lasted as long as his stint working as a guard at Arkham Asylum last season. (Remember that blip on the narrative radar?)
Episode ‘Prisoners’ (not a very creative title, there) opens with a montage of Jim serving his time, trudging through the same monotonous routine day after day for an undetermined period of time that may be weeks or possibly months. Eventually, the corrupt prison warden (character actor Ned Bellamy, whose face you may have seen in ‘Under the Dome’, ‘Justified’ or dozens of other shows) announces that Jim is being moved out of protective custody and will be dropped in the middle of Gen Pop. This is bad news because a whole lot of criminals that Jim himself put behind bars are waiting for him there.
Working from the outside, Harvey has had no luck proving that Jim didn’t murder Officer Pinkney. The fact that he asks Ed Nygma for help shows just how far off the trail he is. Harvey visits Jim in prison and has to deliver the bad news that Lee lost their baby and has moved away from Gotham. She cut off all communication with Jim.
Jim is attacked in the cafeteria by a crazed inmate named Weaver. A younger convict tries to break up the fight and gets beaten as well until a sympathetic guard finally sends Weaver to Solitary Confinement and brings Jim and the kid to the infirmary.
The kid introduces himself as Puck. He’s serving a six-year sentence for stealing a car but has a generally positive disposition for a prison inmate. He considers Jim Gordon a hero for saving his sister years earlier and offers to do anything to help him. Jim tells him to stay away from him. He knows that anyone who gets too close to him will just get a target on his back, and he doesn’t want to be responsible for the kid getting hurt.
After they get out of the infirmary, the friendly guard warns Jim that the evil warden has already released Weaver from Solitary. As Jim feared, a group of Weaver’s friends beat Puck to within an inch of his life.
Desperate and out of other options, Harvey turns to an unexpected ally to ask for help: Don Falcone.
It’s movie night at the prison, and the guard once again tips Jim off that Weaver plans to make a move on him. He tells Jim to be ready. For what, exactly? “Just be ready.”
Jim takes a seat in the auditorium, the lights dim, and the projector fires up an old movie musical. Weaver sneaks up behind Jim with a shiv in his hand, but before he can strike, another inmate rushes in first and stabs Jim repeatedly in the stomach. Jim looks confused as blood soaks his shirt, then catches on to what’s happening and collapses with his eyes closed.
It’s a ruse, of course. The attacker had a retractable blade and fake blood. Jim is hauled out to an ambulance in a body bag, where he finds Harvey and the friendly guard waiting for him. However, he insists on going back to get Puck as well. At the infirmary, the evil warden confronts Jim, but the guard sneaks up behind and knocks him out. He then has Jim give him a good punch in the face to look like he’d been attacked as well. Jim hauls Puck to the ambulance.
Harvey drives the ambulance to a bridge well outside of town, where they meet Falcone, who offers to either help Jim get out of the country or to set him up in a safe house in Gotham. Jim decides that he wants to clear his name, and the only way to do that is to go back to the city. Sadly, when he walks back to the ambulance to get Puck, he discovers that the boy has died from his injuries.
The Penguin’s Nest
While Jim Gordon deals with his prison blues, Penguin is having a wonderful time getting to know his new family. During a family dinner, his father Elijah (Paul Reubens) reveals that Oswald is in fact his only true blood relative. The other two adult children living in the house are his wife’s kids from a prior marriage. Said wife, Grace (Melinda Clarke, former co-star with Ben McKenzie on ‘The O.C.’), can barely suppress her disgust for Oswald as she secretly swaps out Elijah’s heart medication for simple breath mints.
Penguin is troubled by nightmares of all the bad things he did in his life. He breaks down and confesses to his father that he’s a criminal and a killer. Elijah is not upset by this. He says he can see into Oswald’s heart and knows that he’s a good boy. He tells his son that he forgives him.
Grace and the children attempt to turn Elijah against Oswald by dramatically revealing a newspaper story about his criminal past. (They claim to have been so sheltered living in the house that they’d never heard the news about him until now.) Grace frets about how they could have been raped and murdered in their own house, to which Penguin earnestly (and hilariously) replies, “In my defense, I never raped anyone.” Elijah responds that he already knows all about Oswald’s past. When he realizes how famous his son is, he’s actually proud of him.
Grace’s next strategy is to send her hottie daughter Sasha in to seduce Oswald. That doesn’t work, because Penguin’s programming causes him to be repulsed by his own sister coming on to him. (Son Charles asks if he should try next.)
Eventually, Elijah collapses from his untreated heart condition. His doctor informs Oswald and the family that he doesn’t have much longer and should get his affairs in order. Elijah tells Oswald that he intends to call his lawyer the next morning and amend his Will.
Having failed to drive Oswald from the house, Grace elects for a more direct approach of straight-up poisoning his drink. Unfortunately, Elijah drinks from the glass first and falls over dead, before he could change his Will.
As I said last week, I enjoy Paul Reubens’ casting as Penguin’s father. I’m sad to see him go so soon. What’s interesting about this episode is how strong a Tim Burton vibe all of his scenes have, even though (to my knowledge) Burton doesn’t have any involvement with this show. The gloomy lighting in Elijah’s mansion is particularly exquisite.
That said, both storylines in this episode are disappointingly predictable. Every plot twist is clear from a mile away. I would have liked to see Jim deal with prison for a while longer, and the entire Penguin storyline feels like a pointless distraction.
I also find it strange that, amid all the talk about Harvey needing to prove Jim’s innocence and Jim wanting to clear his name, the episode completely ignores the fact that Jim actually did murder Theo Galavan. He may not have committed the crime he was convicted for, but his hands are plenty dirty. Last week’s episode did a much better job of addressing that, while this one forgets all about it.