Gotham City’s future commissioner takes on corruption in his own department in “Welcome Back, Jim Gordon.”

“Welcome Back, Jim Gordon” is a definite drop in quality for Gotham since its return from the midseason break, but the episode’s stories are exciting enough that you may be able to forgive it. At the very least, like the last two episodes, you can enjoy this one without having seen the ten disappointing episodes that started the series.

Gordon’s been fully reinstated as detective after his hilarious apprehension of The Electrocutioner. It seems like Gordon and Bullock are back to handling boring old homicides, starting with an apparent drug deal gone wrong.

Things start to spin out of control quickly though as Gordon turns his investigation on the police department itself. One major highlight is watching Gordon continue to grow after his exile to Arkham Asylum. He’s increasingly more assertive and angry, with Bullock and Captain Essen both struggling to keep him from causing too much damage.

Outside the department’s squabbles, Fish Mooney and her enforcer, Butch, are on their way to their respective executions (and torture, in Mooney’s case). When things don’t go as expected, Mr Zsasz is sent in to resolve the matter – with Penguin caught in the middle.

Both of the stories are exciting, but a disappointing trend from the early episodes returns: the characters make a lot of terrible choices and the show occasionally sacrifices logic for momentum and mood. As with most shows, this is forgivable to an extent, but with Gotham it happens too much to ignore. Another strike against the fairly entertaining episode is a failed attempted at emotional impact in the conclusion.

Gotham continues to improve balancing its pacing and stories told in each episode. Bruce and Selina make their first appearance since the winter break (don’t worry, it’s brief) and Mooney has more screen time than most episodes. As such, Barbara Kean, Leslie Thompkins, and Falcone are absent. Hopefully the rest of the season will maintain this conservation of characters and stories.

“Welcome Back, Jim Gordon” is one of Gotham’s weaker episodes, but the most important elements of the show’s improvement are still there: less convoluted plotting, more character depth, and a focus on the characters we enjoy.

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, “What the Little Bird Told Me”, or all of our Gotham reviews.

Spoilers ahead!

“No one gets hurt.” Yeah, Sure.

With the criminal underworld dealing with the fallout of Fish Mooney’s failed coup, Gordon and Bullock are free to handle normal, boring cases. What looks like a simple drug deal gone wrong takes a turn when the only witness is killed in the middle of the GCPD. Gordon, more frustrated than ever with the corruption of the city, takes on the task of investigating the officers in his department.

Noticing that the detective is a bit overzealous and might get himself in trouble, Bullock and Captain Essen encourage Gordon to take it easy. Their concerns prove valid, as Gordon himself violates procedure in his hunt, making the evidence he finds useless.

Looking for assistance, he turns to Cobblepot (or Penguin) who has set up shop in Mooney’s nightclub. Cobblepot has always been odd – Robin Lord Taylor definitely brings “creepy” to the character – and the slow music and awkward members of his ensemble definitely bring that into the nightclub. Gordon is clearly uncomfortable, but he still asks Cobblepot to help in the investigation a fellow officer, with the stipulation that no one gets hurt.

So of course someone gets hurt. It isn’t surprising to see Penguin’s enforcer get a little rough with a suspect. The revelation that he is holding the suspect’s wife underwater during the interrogation is quite a shock, though.

In the end, Gordon gets his man, and rallies the department behind him. As the episode closes, Gordon is confronted by the suspect, who begs Gordon to not hurt his family. What is meant as an emotional moment fails, falling flat thanks to poor delivery and odd pacing. The situation is tragic, seeing Gordon deal with the repercussions of working with criminals, but none of that emotion lands in the scene itself.

Zsasz Goes Fishing

In transit to his execution, Butch (somehow) gets loose and promptly rescues his boss, Mooney, from an awkward and flirty torture sequence. While Butch wants to get out of town while they can, Mooney is determined to see Penguin dead first. With Zsasz in pursuit, things don’t really work out, though. It’s odd, though, that Zsasz and his three henchwomen fail to land a shot on Mooney and Butch from a couple dozen feet away – aren’t these killers supposed to be the best?

In the end, Butch stays behind to give Mooney time to get away; hopefully he won’t get axed anytime soon. Meanwhile, Mooney, putting her revenge on hold, gets out of town after an appropriately poignant scene between her and Bullock. It will be interesting to see what she brings back to Gotham in her inevitable attempts at taking the city and exacting vengeance on Penguin.

Coming Up: “The Fearsome Dr. Crane” and “The Scarecrow” are the next two episodes. Sounds like things are about to get scary.

Bottom line: With a pair of decent stories and fun characterization moments, “Welcome Back, Jim Gordon” can be forgiven for its logic issues.

Recommendation: Worth watching for Gordon’s character development alone, but only if you’ve seen the previous two episodes.

[rating=3]

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