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It's a Good Time to Start Watching Gotham

Mike Hoffman | 7 Jan 2015 03:55
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"Rogues' Gallery" introduces new characters, Arkham Asylum, and better writing. It's time to start watching Gotham.

Gotham has returned after a brief break with "Rogues' Gallery", the first episode set in scenic Arkham Asylum. The episode introduces some new characters and highlights someone from the background of earlier episodes, but most importantly we are treated to great writing by newcomer Sue Chung.

The previous ten episodes of Gotham haven't all been winners. The series, in case you forgot, is a prequel spin-off of the Batman universe, focusing on James Gordon before he earned that "Commissioner" title and creates new origin stories for Batman's villains. Oh, and kid Bruce Wayne wanders around. Most of the time, the series has been hindered by clich├ęd dialogue, inconsistent characters, and plot holes.

"Rogues' Gallery" isn't perfect, and there are still better comic book shows out there right now (Arrow, Flash, Agents of SHIELD) but it is an improvement for the series. Notably, this episode is slimmed down on the global narrative (Bruce never shows up) and focuses on Gordon's case: someone is performing crude experiments on Arkham's inmates. There are still moments dedicated to building the seasonal arc, but they don't impose heavily on the episode's main story.

In fact, this might be the episode to get on board with Gotham. The story isn't wrapped up in the machinations of feuding criminal and political factions and the episode makes good use of the (somewhat) fresh start offered by the midseason finale, "LoveCraft". There are enough details in this episode to let you know what's going on in Gotham City, but not too much to confuse new viewers. Since this is one of the better episodes as well, it might be the best point to start the series if you want to skip the weaker earlier episodes.

Those that have stuck around are treated to the first look inside the oft discussed Arkham Asylum, where Jim Gordon is now working as a security guard. It's a crappy job in a crappy place with a crappy boss (played by The Wire's Isiah Whitlock, Jr. though!). One downside of the episode is the decision to jump headfirst into the "crazy people are creepy and weird" trope. It's not a surprise given the style of the show and the setting, but it's an unfortunate decision if you care about representation of people with mental health issues (something Batman has done both really well and really poorly).

Not all is bad in Arkham Asylum, though. Gordon is joined by Doctor Leslie Thompkins, another personal fave from the comics. And lucky for fans of sci-fi, Firefly's Morena Baccarin is portraying Thompkins for the recurring role in the series. She's great as another morally-driven character for Gordon to work with, and their flirting is actually adorable.

Most surprisingly, though, is the focus on Butch (Drew Powell) for the episode's scenes outside Arkham. Butch is the right hand of the manipulative and dangerous Fish Mooney, a gangster looking to usurp her boss, Carmine Falcone. In the past Butch has had great lines and Powell brought a lot of humanity to the mob enforcer in his brief screen time. The showrunners apparently realized the potential of the actor and the character, giving him the best scenes in "Rogues' Gallery".

Gotham airs on Monday nights at 8/7c on Fox, but you can also catch episodes on Fox's website. Check out our review of the last episode, "LoveCraft", or all of our Gotham reviews.

Spoilers ahead.

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