After a month and a half off the air, Gotham returned last night with "Rogues Gallery," a winter premiere that was appropriately set in the literal gallery in which many of Batman's rogues reside: Arkham Asylum. Here's what happened:
So Jim's Working at Arkham Now
We open on the inmates of Arkham blowing through the asylum's apparently bloated arts budget by putting on a musical adaptation of The Tempest starring the criminally insane. Jim Gordon is head of security, having been demoted from detective to Arkham babysitter in last year's mid-season finale. His crime? Trying to arrest the mayor (again). Emotions run high in the theatre/mental institution and a sudden inmate kerfuffle demands the attention of a doctor played by the inimitable Morena Baccarin (Firefly, Homeland), who has stayed prettier than you since the late 1970s.
If you're not immediately familiar with Dr. Leslie Thompson (and the show helpfully doesn't care either way), the good doctor is the angelic physician to Gotham's discarded citizens and future mother figure — or grandmother, really — to Bruce Wayne, who collects elderly parental analogs the way most billionaires accrue supermodel girlfriends. If Alfred is the dad, and Gordon is the cool uncle, Leslie is the mom-grandma-hippie aunt.
Oh, and Jim stumbles upon a catatonic inmate who has been electrocuted directly to the brain.
Dr. Thompson and the criminally unhelpful Arkham director, Dr. Lang (The Wire's Sen. Clay Davis!) drop some exposition in the form of an order to Jim: Find out who is giving brutal electroshock pseudotherapy to patients.
Breaking and Entering With Selena and Ivy
Meanwhile in Gotham proper, Selena Kyle finds a very sick Ivy Pepper sleeping under a box on the streets and acts as concerned as a budding teen cat burglar can be. Seeing that the primary surplus of Gotham appears to be orphans and not real estate, Selena takes Ivy to one of the city's many large, well-appointed, and completely abandoned penthouse apartments: Barbara Kent's.
Barbara's Not Doing Great
After spending the better part of the season trying desperately never to leave her apartment, Barbara left the building (and Jim) for good after having a slightly overdramatic reaction to being kidnapped and nearly murdered by Victor Zsasz. She ran into the willing arms of her ex-girlfriend Renee Montoya, who in this episode catches up to her lagging conscience and realizes that sleeping with Barbara is a horrible way to start her newfound friendship with Jim.
When Renee tries to do the right thing and break it off, Barbara responds in classic Barbara fashion: flips out, and tries to call Jim. Seeing as Jim is working and she calls the house phone, it's Ivy Pepper who picks up in his stead. Ivy's girlish, 9-year-old voice is mistaken by Barbara for a full-grown woman's, presumably because Barbara herself never emotionally progressed past sucking her thumb. She does not respond well to hearing "another woman" in Jim's apartment.
Back at Arkham...
Obviously unfamiliar with the phrase, "The show must go on," Jim enlists the help of a bubbly nurse who isn't played by Ellen Greene to suspend Tempest rehearsals in lieu of open interrogations in the reused Arkham theater set. Here we are introduced to Jack Gruber, a distinguished man in round glasses — Gotham shorthand for brilliant and evil. In fact, he looks just like (and probably should be) Hugo Strange. But wait — there's a villainous consolation prize here after all! Wikipedia lets us know that Gruber is the Gothamverse interpretation of a little-known Batman villain with the tremendous moniker of "Electrocutioner." Could he be the one behind this rash of electricity-based near-executions?!
The Gruber interview sets off a hard-rockin' musical interrogation montage of offbeat-looking day players making googly eyes, foaming at the mouth, and generally acting "crazy." It's all very tasteful. The montage ends with the final interrogatee (another bald thuggish guy from central casting... who isn't Victor Zsasz). The music stops, so you know this guy must be important. Nurse Bubbly says, "He wouldn't hurt a fly." Gordon reminds her that he killed his family with an ax. Then the scene is over and everyone shrugs directly into the camera.
Oswald Cobblepot's Unlucky Day
Oswald, having recently embraced "The Penguin" as his moniker, materializes on the docks and tries to raise the mob-induced "taxes" on Gotham's hardworking fishermen. Some cops show up and punch him right in the face before arresting him for charges that amount to "being The Penguin." Do beat cops usually rough guys up and throw them in the drunk tank for being the loose thread in a citywide racketeering scheme? That's Gotham City for you.
Penguin loves — loves — hanging out with the cops. While in jail he banters with Harvey and tells him to call his mobster boss to come pick him up, which is pretty ballsy;
when Maroni does eventually show up, he says Penguin was getting too big for his britches so he let poor Oswald stew for a while... and then instructs the cops to let him go because Gotham's criminals can come into the police station at any time and dictate policy, and any investigations on the part of the GCPD are just for funsies. That is also Gotham City for you.
Fish and Butch 4ever
Fish Mooney is having trouble maintaining her status as a lady crime boss in a city run by corrupt, gross dudes, so she calls together a gathering of Falcone's remaining generals (remember that Nikolai the Russian was offed by Maroni's men in an earlier episode, leaving three Falcone "loyalists" still in the game). It's Fish's opinion that IF Falcone were to fall, she should take over the operation, which is a problem for Saviano, the current heir apparent.
Butch, who at this point in the series is a foil for double-turncoat Oswald, demonstrates his loyalty to Fish by offing Saviano despite the fact that they had been close childhood friends. There's something in there about a locker full of beef, and also some back-and-forthing where Fish doesn't know if Butch is on her side, but everything seems to be coming up rotten, fishy roses for Ms. Mooney by the end of the episode.
Arkham: The Thrilling Conclusion
Harvey shows up, FINALLY. Did he hear that there was crime happening and want to check in on his old buddy whom he also sometimes tries to kill? Harvey brings Director Doctor State Senator Lang in for questioning, helpfully throws out an extremely tenuous connection between shock therapy and mind control, and asks him to think of any staff member who could've possibly gone rogue. Lang realizes Nurse Bubbly is the only new and extremely suspicious face on his team ("Sheeeeeee-it").
Simultaneously at Arkham, Nurse Evil née Bubbly finally shows her hand, attacking Jim and slamming Arkham's master "Release All Inmates" button that is conveniently installed in every iteration of the Batman universe. Harvey calls to tell Jim that Nurse Evil is actually an inmate, but Jim has already figured it out by using his usual strategy of getting his ass kicked.
Worth mentioning that Gordon has been working on the premises of Arkham Asylum for our whole mid-season break with the evil nurse right under his nose, while Harvey cracked the case over his lunch hour.
Gruber the Electrocutioner and his bald, fried henchman use the riot to cover their escape, leaving Gordon a bee-yoo-tiful handwritten letter that is delightfully dictated as a super creepy voiceover. Despite only meeting him once, Gruber seems to have fixated on Gordon, which is just more proof that every villain in Gotham City has a massive man-crush on its newest detective. Which one will finally win his heart? Keep watching Gotham to find out!
Other Things That Happened:
•Let's all agree to take a drink every time Jim Gordon tries to arrest the mayor. He will never learn.
•Ivy Pepper is a vegan, which is cute until you remember that she's supposed to be all about loving plants. If anything, she should be on a Paleo diet to avoid hurting any of her precious plantbabies. There's always room for character development, I guess.
•Selena seems to have developed a taste for the fancy things in life while spending a few days at Wayne Manor. Wonder how that's going to affect her later on.
•Sorry, still on this. Did Barbara REALLY think that Jim had a woman in his apartment when a prepubescent child picked up the phone? REALLY? Jim regularly takes care of kids. That's his thing. He's the kindergarten cop of Gotham City!
•Maroni sent his best man to jail because he really just *clenches fist* loves... those Gotham City fishermen.
•Isn't Falcone going to notice that all of his head honchos are, you know, dying? At some point it's just going to be Fish left standing there and if that isn't suspicious, nothing is.
•Saviano is played by John Enos III, who looks a lot like Eric Roberts, who played Don Maroni in The Dark Knight. Huh.
•Harvey Bullock is better at his job than Jim Gordon in every way.
Missing From This Episode: Bruce, Alfred, Ed, Falcone, and Liza. Hopefully we'll get to see what they're up to next week.