GOTHAM Recap: “Welcome Back, Jim Gordon”

     January 26, 2015


Gotham’s latest episode welcomes Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) back to Detective’s Row after the briefest of stints as a night guard at Arkham Asylum.  It also welcomes back the same old storytelling tropes and dramatic feedback loops that have plagued the series so far.  Perhaps this is due in part to Fox ordering an additional six episodes after the showrunners had already planned out the initial 16-episode run.  Gotham hasn’t been nearly good enough to justify the extended order, let alone stretching the plot to cover the bonus episodes.  If tonight’s hour was any indication, then the next few weeks are going to be a slog.

gotham-ben-mckenzie-donal-logue-imageBullock’s Path to Redemption

While most of this portion of the recap doesn’t concern Bullock himself, he does make a redemptive end-around of sorts by episode’s close, so just hang with me.  This hour opens directly after the events of the previous episode in which Falcone iced all of Mooney’s crew except for Fish and Butch.  Fish, whose real name is apparently Marine Mercedes Mooney, is transported to a torture chamber of sorts, run by a sadist named Bob.  She soon insults his daughters and receives a smash to the face for her attitude. Even on the torturer’s table, she’s confident; Bob’s techniques aren’t having much of an effect on Fish.  Meanwhile, Butch has managed to break free from his captors and he shows up just before Bob takes out Fish’s knees with a hammer.  Butch and Fish recuperate, and Fish plans to cut Penguin’s throat before fleeing the city.  While the details of that plan of attack play out in Penguin’s story, the important plot point to Bullock’s character arc is that he eventually helps Fish to escape from Gotham’s port, and he warns her not to come back. She tells him he’ll see her again, and to try and find Butch and help him.  They kiss before going their separate ways.  It’s a scene that shows a softer side of Bullock for no apparent reason.  The relationship between Butch and Fish is ever so slightly more interesting, especially considering Butch’s fate at episode’s end…

Gordon’s Quest

gotham-ben-mckenzie-imageMeanwhile, Gordon’s fully back in the swing of things as a full-fledged detective, and he and Bullock meet up early in the morning; Bullock’s clearly worried about Fish after the shootout at her bar.  They’re working a homicide along with familiar face (from the comics, at least) Detective Arnold Flass (Dash Mihok).  Gordon finds something hidden in the heel of a dead man’s shoe: pouches of a designer drug.  The cops soon bring a night janitor in as a witness; they want him to come down to the precinct and talk to a sketch artist.  Special care is taken to show audiences that he calls his wife from an interrogation room, just before he’s brutally stabbed to death.  Nygma links his death with that of the earlier victim via a unique mark left by an ice pick. Gordon’s expecting an inside job, but Bullock and Captain Essen warn him off from making any big moves that would upset the department.  Gordon doesn’t seem to listen as he interviews the cops – much like he did in Arkham, and with similar results.  (If you told me that Gordon was actually an escaped mental patient who was playing at being a Gotham Detective, I’d totally believe you.)

Gordon and Bullock team up to pressure the cops into giving up their own by blackmailing them.  They get a hit on a cop named Delaware who almost runs over Gordon with his car, and then strangely decides to get out to fight Gordon hand to hand, and ends up cuffed by him instead.  Okay…  Gordon finds more of the drugs in Delaware’s spare tire, causing Gordon to throw the cop in the precinct’s cage, drawing the ire of the other cops.

gotham-ben-mckenzie-gang-imageTurns out that the drugs he found on Delaware were part of a Narco operation, at least according to Flass.  Essen turns the case over to Internal Affairs, and Delaware goes free.  Bullock reveals to Gordon that some of the Narco unit cops took over drug dealing operations, and that Flass is protected by some high rollers. Gordon wants to bust up the stash houses in the hopes of finding evidence to link Flass to the murders, and after trying to talk Gordon out of it, Bullock calls in a favor. He and Gordon try to take down a stash house guarded by a half dozen cops, but Delaware shows Gordon a legitimate search warrant that allows him to search and seize any drugs found in the warehouse … even if they’re all his own.  The Commissioner is quickly racking up some darkside points, first by giving Delaware the “get out of jail free” card and second by declaring the night janitor’s death a suicide.

Running out of options, Gordon pays a visit to Penguin to call in a favor of his own.  Penguin’s goons, acting on Gordon’s request, get the much-needed dirt on Flass through Delaware. After threatening the dirty cop’s family, the big goon literally drops the murder weapon and a taped confession implicating Flass on Gordon’s desk, right in front of the other police officers.  Gordon reveals the evidence in front of the rest of the department; Flass stands behind the protection of his cronies. Gordon tries to rally the decent cops against Flass. Essen herself arrests him despite him protesting about how he’s “protected.”  Things are finally starting to look up for the morally upstanding young Detective Gordon, right?


Later, Delaware approaches Gordon after Flass’ arrest, begging him to call of the threat to his wife and kids. Gordon, having no idea that a ruthless gangster thug threatened innocent lives to get what he wanted (right), might have gotten in over his head on this one.  Is Gordon becoming more like the cops he’s trying to put a stop to?  Does anyone care?

Bruce Wayne’s Coming of Age

Bruce Wayne finally shows up in the second half of the season, being driven around by Alfred while looking for Selina.  He finds Ivy instead, who agrees to pass on a message to Selina (for $20).  Bruce finally explains, by way of expository dialogue with Selina, that he and Alfred had been in Switzerland since the break-in at Wayne Manor.  Bruce gifts Selina a snow globe from his trip, and he invites her to stay at the manor again. She wants none of his affections, and says she never saw anything having to do with the Waynes murder, ruining his best chance of finding his parents’ murderer. Wayne smashes the snow globe and has a good cry in front of the fireplace until Alfred coaxes him back to his investigation.  Healthy motivation, that.

gotham-image-penguinPenguin’s Rise to Power

Penguin reveals his new club (Fish’s old place place) to his mother.  As mentioned above, Gordon soon crashes the incredibly lame party to call in a favor of his own from Penguin.  Soon, Penguin gets drunk on champagne by himself.  Fish and Butch arrive to force Penguin back into servitude.  As soon as Fish calls him a nobody, he snaps.  Just in time, Zsasz and his team arrive to exchange gunfire with the others. Butch helps Fish escape and then stays behind to buy her some time; he gets a shot in the knee for his trouble.  The last we see of him is Zsasz and his henchwomen standing over him.

Gotham is really struggling at this point, and I can’t help but feel disappointed each and every week.  There was so much untapped potential in the series’ initial idea, but it’s fallen far short of reaching that.  Is anyone out there still watching?  If so, please let me know, and also let me know why.

Rating: ★★ Fair — Only for the dedicated

(An explanation of our ratings system follows here.)


  • “Bob will be taking care of you.”
  • Well hello Detective Flass!  I didn’t realize that Flass showed up last week briefly, but he’s a much bigger part of the plot in this episodes and possibly those to come.
  • If you couldn’t tell that Flass is a jerk, it becomes a little clearer when he’s seen reading Nygma’s poetry to the other cops.  Nygma’s been getting a lot of screentime lately. How are we feeling about him?
  • gotham-image-butch-fishNygma: “What’s strong enough to smash ships but still fears the sun?” Gordon: “Ice.” Nygma: “Correct!”
  • Alfred: “Steady, Master Bruce, it looks like she’s got mange.”
  • Bullock: “Jim! You couldn’t bring him in here quietly, put him in some back room? You makin’ some kind of statement?” Gordon: “Damn right I am!”
  • Selina: “What kind of weirdo plays chess with himself?”
  • Kringle: “Am I interrupting?” Nygma: “I’m surgically removing the onions from my take-out, so … yes.”
  • Zsasz: “What do you think, girls? Should we kill him? Or should we take him home to play with?”
  • Alfred: “Shall I get a broom then, or would you rather continue crying over the fragments of your young dreams?”