After a month off, Fox’s Batman prequel series ‘Gotham’ returned on Monday with a winter premiere that tries to shake things up a bit with a change of setting. If not quite as exciting as the fall finale, it’s a good episode that introduces a couple of interesting new characters.
After the fallout from the Lovecraft scandal, Jim Gordon has been demoted to security guard at Arkham Asylum, where his hardass boss, Director Lang, will cut him no slack and blames him for everything the prisoners do wrong, including a small riot that breaks out during the performance of an ear-splitting inmate play. When a convict is wounded in the scuffle, Jim brings him to the infirmary, where he meets the ultra-sexy Dr. Leslie Thompkins (Morena Baccarin), who takes a quick liking to him. I’m not sure if the plan is to add her to the permanent cast or not, but I’d support that decision.
Jim catches more grief when another inmate nicknamed “the Frogman” is found catatonic with burn marks on his temples from an unauthorized, makeshift electroshock treatment. Lang orders Jim to find out who did this, and to keep it quiet. He’s not allowed to bring in the GCPD.
Cue a montage of Gordon interviewing a bunch of nutjobs, only one of whom seems to have the mental capacity to pull off something like this – a sociopath named Jack Gruber (Christopher Heyerdahl from ‘Hell on Wheels’). Soon, a second victim gets zapped. Despite how obvious a suspect Gruber should be, Jim becomes convinced that the culprit is a staff member, not a prisoner. Against Lang’s orders, he calls in his old partner Harvey for assistance, which primarily amounts to Harvey bringing Lang down to the police station for questioning so as to keep him out of Gordon’s way.
Eventually, clues point to nurse Dorthy Duncan (Allyce Beasley from ‘Moonlighting’). She tries to run when Jim gets close, and unlocks all the cell doors to distract him. Unfortunately, she gets trampled to death in the chaos before Jim can question her.
After the riot is quelled, Jim discovers that Duncan had electroshock burns on her temples as well. Sure enough, it turns out that Gruber is responsible after all. He’s a mad genius who’s been working on a crude form of mind control using electricity. Having finally perfected the process enough to make a big oaf his henchman, he kills Lang and escapes, leaving a taunting note behind for Jim to find. We’re left with the impression that he’s a supervillain on the rise.
On the Sidelines
- Barbara and her girlfriend Montoya have a fight and break up when Montoya claims that they’re “toxic” together. Barbara seems headed for a breakdown.
- Selina comes across Ivy sick in an alley and brings her to stay in Gordon’s empty apartment for a while. This proves problematic when Barbara calls home looking for Jim and a female voice answers the line. (Doesn’t Jim have a cell phone?)
- A mob rival tries to make a move against Fish Mooney by wooing her consigliere, Butch, who’s a longtime friend of his since childhood, to side with him against her. Butch is conflicted, but declines the offer, by putting a bullet through his friend’s head.
- The Penguin gets rousted by cops and tossed in jail after he tries to extort some fishermen for higher “taxes.” He begs to be allowed to make a call to Maroni to bail him out, but is left to stew. After a couple days, Maroni shows up and announces that he’s responsible for having Penguin arrested, in order to teach him a lesson in humility and knowing his place. “You’re a smart monkey, but you’re a monkey,” Maroni tells him. Penguin begs his forgiveness, but I have my doubts that the lesson will take.
This isn’t a terribly crucial episode in terms of plot, but Heyerdahl could make a fun nemesis, and I wouldn’t mind seeing a lot more of Baccarin on the show. I also think that the asylum setting has a lot of potential for setting up dramatic new storylines, though I hope that the show doesn’t get bogged down there for too long.