Review: Gotham: “Rogue’s Gallery”

Gotham TV Show Logo. FOX Batman, DC Comics. 2014.


Season 1, episode 11: “Rogue’s Gallery”
Written by Sue Chang
Directed by Oz Scott

Gotham returns from winter hiatus, and appropriately enough for the first episode set in Arkham, the inmates are running the asylum.

gotham1x11When we last left Jim Gordon, he was demoted to guard duty at the newly re-opened Arkham Asylum, and the episode opens with him watching inmates perform a sad, ramshackle production of The Tempest on a fittingly stormy nightThe asylum is soon stricken with horrific assaults on inmates using electroshock therapy, and Gordon, along with old ally Harvey Bullock and new ally Dr. Leslie Thompkins, must find the culprit before all hell breaks loose. Leslie is a welcome addition to the cast, and played with panache by Baccarin. It’s too early to see if their friendship will blossom into something more, but their partnership is already far more interesting than the empty void that is Gordon’s relationship with Barbara.

Morena Baccarin’s Leslie Thompkins is the one bright spot in Arkham Asylum. Arkham is the archetypal horrible, run-down, nightmarish asylum in popular culture, so I wasn’t exactly expecting something progressive in how this episode portrays mental illness. The decaying building looks appropriately enough like a relic from another century, or at least a location in a really creepy video game. All of the inmates are played for laughs or scares, whether it’s the brute known as “Frogman” or the “Hannibal Lecter plays Prospero” creepo Jack Gruber. Of course, these are criminals and murderers, but their illnesses are played so cartoonishly over the top that it’s disconcerting. (In retrospect, the fact that Nurse Dorothy showed any sympathy for her patients is a big clue that something isn’t right with her, but more on her later.) By the end of the episode, when the inmates are released from their cells to wreak havoc and chase down the staff, they’re indistinguishable from a zombie horde. It’s a suspenseful sequence, but completely dehumanizes the mentally ill.

“Rogue’s Gallery” also gives us a groan-worthy return to Barbara Keane’s romantic woes. Barbara’s character arc has so far taken her from sitting around her apartment all day doing nothing, to sitting around a swanky hotel room all day doing nothing. She remains a blank slate, a frustratingly empty character who has no interior life outside of clinging to whomever she’s romantically linked. (Doesn’t she have a job at an art gallery? What ever happened to that?) Renee Montoya finally realizes this after a half-season pining for Barbara, and she finally pulls the plug on their self-destructive romance. Barbara gains self-awareness and declares herself “toxic,” but it’s not enough to redeem this character. Distancing herself from Barbara will hopefully give Renee’s character room to grow, as she’s a fantastic character in the comics and has been under-served in Gotham so far.

gotham1x11-2In another B-plot, Selina Kyle discovers a sick Ivy Pepper sleeping in a box and breaks into Gordon’s seemingly abandoned apartment to give her shelter. This is some slight character development for Selina, who was put off by Ivy’s scary behavior when they met last episode. Possibly remembering Bruce Wayne saying she wasn’t a “nice person,” Selina is much more sympathetic to Ivy here. (I’d like to see Selina take a young Holly Robinson under her wing, but Holly’s probably too minor a DC Comics character to appear just yet.) Ivy’s characterization, and whatever larger plans the showrunners have for her, are still perplexing. Since Gordon was one of the cops caught up in the larger conspiracy that framed and killed her father, I wondered if Ivy in Gordon’s home would lead to plans of revenge–“My name is Ivy Pepper, you killed my father, prepare to die.” But as the show quickly reminded me, she’s still a kid, not a supervillain. Well, maybe she gets a little revenge. In the episode’s most bizarre scene (and this is an episode with Arkham Asylum’s version of The Tempest), Ivy picks up when Barbara calls, and as a prank impersonates an adult “friend” of Jim’s. Just when you think Barbara can’t get any worse, she tells a sick, homeless orphan to go to hell.

So if Gordon is trapped in an episode of American Horror Story: Asylum, and Selina and Ivy are both the anti-Annie,  then the Penguin and Fish Mooney are trapped in a lesser Martin Scorsese flick (GoodFishes?) Oswald Cobblepot finally embraces the name “Penguin,” but lest the viewer think his rise from almost-whacked snitch to twitchy crime lord was too fast, he’s knocked out and thrown in jail for his hubris. Penguin being constantly punched, stabbed, or beaten with a chair leg is my favorite running joke in this series, and it leads to a fantastic scene with Harvey Bullock at the GCPD. (“What’s a bonsai tree?”) Robin Lord Taylor hasn’t has a bad scene as Penguin yet, and he plays the character with fantastic, sniveling cunning. Don Maroni thinks he’s taught Penguin a lesson by making him spend a night in the clink, but Penguin’s steely stare shows that this is an affront the Penguin won’t forget.

Electrocutioner_IIJim Gordon’s first big mystery at Arkham is full of red herrings including, amusingly enough, Leslie Thompkins–but he thinks the case is solved when Nurse Dorothy is revealed to have been a former Arkham inmate pretending to be a nurse on staff. (She just happened to have a crisp white nurse’s uniform ready, I guess.) The fact that Arkham’s staff is horribly incompetent is hardly news, but things quickly get worse with Arkham’s first escaped inmate. Gotham City’s most colorful villains escaping Arkham is a well-worn tradition in DC Comics, but here it all begins with Jack Gruber, the electricity-abusing Dr. Lecter wannabe dubbed the “Electrocutioner.” Electrocutioner is a name used by a few different vigilantes in the comics, though none with Jack Gruber’s name and backstory. This gives Gotham freedom to develop his character in unexpected directions, and Gruber’s escape at the end of the episode is an interesting break from the show’s “Villain of the Week” formula. However the Electrocutioner arc ends, I hope it doesn’t mean the end of Jim Gordon’s career at Arkham just yet–it’s an interesting new status quo set in in one of DC’s most iconic locations.

“Rogue’s Gallery” is a another enjoyably batty (yes, I said “batty”) episode of Gotham. Its tonal shifts don’t always work (what on earth was that Barbara and Ivy scene), but it’s a creepy new direction for the season.

Kayleigh Hearn

Kayleigh Hearn

Still waiting for her Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters acceptance letter. Bylines also at Deadshirt, Ms-En-Scene, The MNT, PanelxPanel, and Talk Film Society.

One thought on “Review: Gotham: “Rogue’s Gallery”

  1. So far only the first tens episodes are out and I’m enjoying this series, however I find that there are a few aspects that I dislike. However I will talk about what I like and leave that stuff until later. Firstly, I like the idea that this show presents, which is Gordon’s fight against the seemingly overabundant corruption in Gotham. It’s great and shows another slice of Gotham’s history that doesn’t include Batman.

    The characters are also another great aspect of the show, the protagonist James Gordon and his partner Harvey Bullock work well together in a sort of good cop, bad cop routine. The villains are also great, Oswald Cobblepot (The Penguin) has a great portrayal of an underdog whom is trying to survive in a city full of big players, such as Falcone or Maroni. Another main villain is Fish Mooney, whom I believe to be the weakest of the villains in this show and I really don’t like the character. Finally Selina Kyle or Cat is also great in this show, although she is more of an anti-hero than a villain. Alfred is also fun to watch and is portrayed very differently than he was in the Nolan trilogy, opting for a much harsher Alfred to keep Bruce Wayne in line.

    Apart from characters, the atmosphere is great as it really makes Gotham seem like a place that needs the corruption cleansed from its streets. Which is good because that is exactly what Gordon is trying to do. Now to my dislikes about this show. I find that many of the minor characters in this show don’t have well written dialogue and aren’t well acted, which is probably due to the dialogue. I also don’t like the fact that so many villain references are being crammed into the show, seeing as many of them came about due to Batman himself. The show also feels a bit too rushed. However my biggest grief with this show is Bruce Wayne who eventually becomes Batman. They are giving him way too much attention than needed. This is a story about Gordon fighting Gotham’s corruption, not about Bruce Wayne becoming Batman. We’ve already seen that plenty of times and don’t need to know how it happened again. I don’t mind having the Wayne murders and their aftermath tie in with Gordon’s story, it’s just the constant hints placed on Bruce Wayne becoming Batman. Everyone knows he is going to be Batman and you don’t need to hint it, it’s not as if you’re leading to some epic reveal that no one saw coming. This makes the show seem as though it doesn’t know what direction its going in. My final dislike about Gotham is the villains that Gordon fights, because to be honest they are lacklustre and boring.

    So overall I think the show itself is good, but isn’t great. However I’m sure it will improve as it’s only three episodes in with plenty of time to improve.

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