Fox‘s Gotham Rogues’ Gallery TV Show Review. Gotham: Season 1, Episode 11: Rogues’ Gallery puts some good feet forward, but is ultimately underwhelming. As segued back in November, Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) has been kicked off of the regular police force and reassigned to
security at the infamous Arkham Asylum. Aesthetically, Rogues’ Gallery does the storied locale tremendous justice; often depicting it in the impressionist style with long, dark shots–perfectly suited to the Frankenstein-style electroshock experiments going on covertly there–and when the lights come on, they illuminate a decrepit, brutally utilitarian structure.
From a plot perspective, though, the episode doesn’t provide the change of pace it could have, and arguably should have. Much as before, Gordon is an incorruptible, tenacious cop who alienates his lazier, more cynical supervisors–this time it’s Arkham Director Gerry Lang (Isiah Whitlock Jr)–and because Arkham is understaffed, Gordon soon calls his old partner Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue) to help investigate strange goings on, so despite the introduction of some new characters, like Dr. Leslie Thompkins (Morena Baccarin), Nurse Dorothy Duncan (Allyce Beasley) and a certain theatrical inmate (Christopher Heyerdahl), it’s largely the old cast driving the story forward. Someone is brainwashing (or maybe sometimes just brain-damaging) patients via electrical jolts to their brains, and Gordon doesn’t trust Director Lang. While Harvey Bullock takes Lang in for interrogation, Gordon continues investigating Arkham itself.
The latter scenes essentially play out like a “haunted house” movie, and they’re well-done enough in themselves, but because there isn’t enough time devoted to characterizing the actual people of the asylum, it all feels rather directionless; a mystery neither the audience nor the police can solve until it finally jumps onto them. The Arkham part of the episode is also marred by two scenes that seem like they might have been trying for humor; a play performed by questionable actors (they’re mental patients, after all) and horrible costumes, and an interrogation montage, but as these scenes are essentially devoid of actual jokes, they just feel awkward.
Meanwhile, the ongoing plot continues to inch forward in the way viewers have come to know and not exactly love; interjecting exposition scenes that are somewhat important from a continuity standpoint but have little-to-no entertainment value of their own. Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith) and The Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) both get extremely short scenes that do little but tie past episodes to future ones; a disappointment in light of 2014’s later episodes, wherein their feud finally seemed close to boiling over. The single biggest problem with Gotham, as a whole, is that it teases people with the idea that something big is coming, but it’s never clear when it will actually arrive; instead, new elements are added that may or may not wrap up by the end of the episode, taking center-stage while Penguin and Fish give you a wave to reaffirm that the writers haven’t forgotten you.
It is also notable that in this episode, regular extras Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) and Alfred Pennyworth (Sean Pertwee) do not appear; instead, a subplot is introduced about Barbara Kean (Erin Richards) and Renee Montoya (Victoria Cartagena) having begun a lesbian affair since Kean fled Gotham. It is not a welcome replacement; both because what it’s replacing is an essential part of Gotham mythology, and because it feels like little more than cheap exploitation. Homosexual characters can be rather annoying when written by people who seem unaware that someone can be gay as a simple matter of fact; as opposed to being an inherent novelty. Instead of Gordon merely having a lesbian coworker, he has a lesbian coworker who serves as a scandalous foil to his straight love life. Instead of Gordon’s wife merely going away, she is in a lesbian affair. Instead of merely letting on that the two have a relationship, they have to show it in angsty, drugged-up detail. This reeks of the 1990s’ strange, subtly bigoted notion that if someone is sexually attracted to something abnormal, that necessarily makes him or her less sexually inhibited and less mentally stable than the straights; these days, media should be past that. It doesn’t help at all that when Barbara is a bad combination of shell-shocked, aroused and drugged, she acts in such an illogical way that she can no longer be empathized with, and is, in fact, annoying.
The episode does yield some interesting surprises with its bit cast, though. Ivy Pepper (Clare Foley) who seemed like a cheap mythology nod during her cameo in the first episode, continues to come into her own in this episode, functioning mostly as the adopted little sister of Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova), but she’s getting more development, and nods to whom she will become later are much more poignant here. She both gets a nonviolent, but vicious revenge on Gordon for killing her father, and expresses a lifestyle choice that is comically ironic given what her values will be later in life. The other surprising character, it seems wrong to spoil, but fans will likely be thrilled.
The problem, once again, is all of these fun things feel alienated by their own series; they’re what the writers have chosen to tell the story of pre-Batman Gotham, while bit parts can occasionally be fun themselves–as the Balloonman and Victor Szasz were–but don’t seem to connect to anything enough for people to care. The hope going forward is that development goes to those that deserve it…which unfortunately has been the hope going forward for a long time now.
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