Gotham Season 1, Episode 11: “Rogues’ Gallery”
Written by Sue Chung
Directed by Oz Scott
Airs Mondays at 8pm ET on FOX
Gotham returns from its break with a solid episode that continues the shifting status quo, with many darker turns and just a few flashes of hope. “Rogues’ Gallery” gives us our first real look into how Arkham Asylum is run and it’s just as criminally understaffed and underdeveloped as one would imagine. Gordon gets no sympathy from his managing director Gerry Lang, as he is constantly berated by Lang for having inmates break into fights under his watch. The only promising turn of events during Gordon’s time at Arkham Asylum is his alliance with Dr. Leslie Thompkins. She is a beacon of hope that will be an essential asset in Gordon’s war against the corruption of Gotham City.
While Gordon is at Arkham, the mob bosses are having squabbles of their own, as Fish Mooney tries to assert herself in the role of new mob boss of Gotham City. Falcone’s shakedown from the last couple of episodes to raise up the tariff prices have all the mob bosses gunning for him now, including Saviano, the mob boss with most seniority. This plot development could easily have been just another way to unnecessarily drag out Fish’s plan a little longer, but it works well enough, as it is made clear that Mooney needs to take out this mook before she can go after Falcone. This subplot also gives Butch a little more depth as well.
On the other end, The Penguin tries to implement his tariff inflation on the fishermen, but that blows up in his face. This plot point is a bit off, as Falcone and Maroni both have different crime families, and even though the Penguin is a spy for Falcone, he shouldn’t have to comply with the tariff hike, because it clearly puts him on Maroni’s radar. This is exactly what happens too, except Maroni doesn’t see that Penguin is working for Falcone, but instead chalks it up to hubris. The thread works well enough, but not entirely.
Fish Mooney has been planning to take out Falcone since the pilot, and every episode since has nudged her plan just a little bit further along. In this week’s episode, we finally see where she gets most of her pull, which comes from her reliance on her minions. Butch Gilzean has been her trusted underling throughout and the role has been impressively performed by Drew Powell, who appears a simpleton goon, albeit a really bright one. Butch believes that Mooney is the right person to take over after Falcone, maybe because he knows it’s really him and his crew that gives Fish her power or maybe it’s just as simple as Fish promising him a bigger piece of the Gotham City pie than anyone else. Either way, his loyalty remains with Fish. Powell as Butch has been an enjoyable presence during the first half of the season and in this episode, he really does shine, as he is treated to a subplot all of his own that, despite ending predictably, Powell performs extremely well, along with John Enos III as Salviano.
The failure of the system has been harder on some of the Gotham kids than others and Ivy Pepper continues her downward spiral into poverty in this episode after becoming sickly. Clare Foley gives a good performance, portraying Ivy’s sickness and despair, which is only made more depressing by her clothing. Ivy has the appearance of a melancholy character from a Tim Burton children’s book, with her dark circled eyes and striped green sweater. Her crying out against being taken to doctors also implies some ill treatment, which will perhaps lead to her having a poisonous nature later in life. Somehow Cat has been able to stay afloat in the corrupt system by becoming in some way a part of it; she appears to have become a creature of the city, yet in a more positive role than someone like the Penguin. Whereas the Penguin revels in the awfulness that is the city, Cat merely sustains herself by her own instincts. But in this episode she helps Ivy, so maybe a bit of Bruce is rubbing off on her. There are many great scenes of Cat stealthily creeping into places, which are always perfectly executed by Camren Bicondova, and the scene where Cat gazes out the night sky exemplifies how well she exists in the dark of the city. If anyone is waiting to see Catwoman in Gotham, they need look no further- she is already here.
As well established and implemented as some characters have been in the series, among the weakest are Barbara Kean and Renee Montoya. Gotham really doesn’t know what to do with Barbara; she was never really that drawn out in the comic books and perhaps that’s why they’ve been struggling with her. They have given her a subplot revolving around her bisexuality, but that hasn’t really helped develop her character much. In this episode, Montoya exclaims that they “are toxic together” and she could easily have been talking about their status on the show, because their relationship has been among the show’s lowest points. It’s not entirely the fault of actresses Erin Richards and Victoria Cartagena. Although they have no chemistry together, they do the best with what they are given, which is a lot of inconsistency with their stated positions.
One of the more interesting aspects of the Montoya, Barbara, and Gordon dynamic is how it flips a key aspect of Gordon’s marriage in the comic books. Those familiar with Batman: Year One will recall that Gordon was the one to have an affair during the marriage and although they are not currently married in Gotham, this might be the series addressing that fact…or not. There may still be some development with Gordon and another tryst somewhere down the line, as there does seem to be some chemistry between Gordon and Captain Sarah Essen. Zabrina Guevara has portrayed Capt. Essen very well since the beginning and her particular arc of warming up to Gordon has been subtly, yet effectively done. Consider her complimenting Gordon on how “spiffy” he looks in his guard’s uniform.
Speaking of good chemistry between characters, new addition Dr. Leslie Thompkins has it in spades with Gordon, and just on the show in general. It’s always good to see a new ally on the series, as there are so few of them that are purely good, and Thompkins is very much on the same page as Gordon. Morena Baccarin gives the character a very likable presence and really pulls off the character’s “takes no crap” attitude. It’s a really good introduction to the character and more of her can only be good for Gotham.
The Case File: Who fried Frogman Jones?
This week’s case begins with the lobotomizing of an inmate named Frogman Jones, who we learn became brain damaged by someone trying to mind control him using shock therapy. Mind control isn’t an absolute science in the real world, at least not to the extreme that it is presented in Gotham, but it has been established earlier this season in “Spirit of the Goat” as a functional tool for villains. This episode utilizes the same concept, without seeming like it’s retreading old ideas, by changing the method of how one becomes mind controlled. What is clever about this episode is how it plays with the idea of misdirection. After Gordon is distracted by inmates and then staff as potential leads, the episode tries to make it seem as if Dr. Leslie Thompkins may be the culprit, which perceptive Batman fans would know couldn’t be the case. So in a scene where Gordon and Dr. Leslie Thompkins are alone with Nurse Dorothy Duncan, it is pretty clear that the Nurse is the guilty party. Although this twist is not that impressive, the scene still works, as we learn that the Nurse is not part of the staff at all, but an inmate. The turn that she was not the one behind it all is also an interesting development, as the true villain turns out to be inmate Jack Gruber, who then escapes from Arkham, which takes us right into the next episode, where Gordon must now go out and look for him.
Gotham returns to the grittiness of the series in this episode with very disturbing outcomes to its peripheral characters. The fate of Dorothy Duncan is deeply grim, not to mention that of the guard who loses his keys. Gerry Lang is possibly the most tragic of the three, since as director of the asylum, his inability to see the failings of the system allows him to become another victim of it. These are weak-willed citizens who are just toeing the line of what Gotham City is and since they aren’t ruthless enough or steadfast against it, they get trampled on by those much more willing to either rage against it or meet it head on as the dawn of this darker Gotham City begins to rise.
“Rogues’ Gallery” marks the first writing credit for Sue Chung on the series and she does excellent job writing within its tone. There is some clever foreshadowing during the inmates’ rendition of Shakespeare’s play The Tempest, with Jack Gruber playing Prospero and Aaron playing Caliban, whose mind Gruber controls in order to escape. The casting on Gotham must be commended, as they always find standout character actors to play citizens of the city. The episode is well directed by Oz Scott, who makes Arkham Asylum as dark and creepy as it should be and paces the episode with fair momentum. The entire sequence where Butch takes down Saviano is particularly well executed and it beautifully utilizes the song “Still of the Night” by Fred Paris and the Satins. Whenever Gotham has a closing shot of the city all smog filled and gloomy, it almost always makes for an unsettling image.
- “Why the frowns?” – Penguin to the GCPD; sounds like a different version of Joker’s catch phrase in Dark Knight “Why so serious?”
- “Yeah, if spiffy means dorky.” –Bullock
- Ivy is Vegan. No Butter!
- “There I couch when owls do cry. On the bat’s back I do fly.” –Shakespeare’s full line from The Tempest. Although this quote teases Batman with the “bat’s back” line, the line about the owls may also be foreshadowing something. Perhaps a whole court of something.
- So these Gotham episode titles really don’t mean anything, do they? This episode hardly features anything remotely resembling a Rogues’ Gallery.
- Interesting tidbit about Morena Baccarin: She has also appeared on CW’s The Flash, as the voice of Dr. Wells’ computer Gideon in the episode “Power Outage.”
- According to FutonCritic, next week is a repeat airing of “Spirit of the Goat”, so the next all new Gotham episode will air on January 19th, 2015