Title: Gotham “Prisoners”
Air Date: March 28th, 2016
Genre: Crime, Drama, Action
Last week Gotham failed to hit the mark with a fairly disjointed episode in both tone and story. Though the second season has been largely successful, it was a bit disconcerting to see some of the issues its previous season had reappeared once more. Enter “Prisoners,” a more condensed episode that smartly juggles Gordon’s (Ben McKenzie) experience in Blackgate Penitentiary and Oswald’s (Robin Lord Taylor) growing relationship with his father/ the Dahl family. While I had a few issues this week, overall Gotham delivered another solid episode that gave a much-needed character some more development.
While I normally don’t praise Gotham for its editing, the opening scene illustrated beautifully the monotony of prison thanks to some smart editing choices. Gordon as a character actually hasn’t had a ton of inner development over the course of this season, the focus of the show shifted more towards side characters such as Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) and Leslie (Morena Baccarin.) By isolating him in prison, Gotham has allowed itself the ability to explore the emotional turmoil it can take on someone new to the system. It’s good that the show decided to slow down a bit from the crazed action and wild antics of colorful villains for once, as Gordon needed to have more time to properly develop. McKenzie has always done a good job with playing the famous detective, yet this week was his best performance by far. You could feel the loss of hope slowly drifting away from as each day his situation got worse.
This, of course, was due to Harvey (Donal Logue) telling Jim that Leslie lost their baby. Honestly, I didn’t expect the show to go in such a dark route so quickly and while it did feel completely out of left field, McKenzie’s performance sold the revelation. Logue’s own acting certainly helped, as the chemistry between these two actors is not just based around the simple witty banter. There is a brotherhood between Gordon and Harvey that runs deeper than either may want to truly admit and making Harvey the one to tell Gordon his unborn child has passed was gut wrenching. Acting as one of the defining scenes for Gordon, it showed him a sense of vulnerability he may not have ever experienced. Also, giving Harvey a bit more screentime to try and figure out how to get him out of Blackgate was sorely needed.
Speaking of the prison break, it felt way too soon for Gordon to be breaking out of prison. Yes, there are a finite amount of episodes left and obviously, the season is going to end with them figuring out that Nygma did it, but Gotham should have taken its time with this new setting. Putting Gordon in an entirely new environment really helped flush the character out further and by just removing him it just seems like a wasted opportunity. Gotham has always had a very bad habit of rushing through story points before they could be properly developed, so it’s sad that after almost two seasons this show still hasn’t learned its okay to stop and smell the roses… Or shanks. I’m not sure exactly what’s worth smelling in Blackgate. Even giving Gordon one more episode in the prison wouldn’t undermine the idea that someone is out to kill him, in fact, it could probably enhance the experience.
It also didn’t help that Harvey’s plan to get Jim out of prison was hilarious and absolutely ridiculous. I mean, sure I don’t expect a bunch of inmates to believe Gordon’s stabbing was staged, but no one on the staff could tell? The man was in a body bag, so obviously other officers had to, at least, have seen him up close. I do believe that Falcone has the resources to get Gordon out, but the fact that no one questioned it was bothersome. Am I really to believe the cruel warden isn’t going to instantly suspect the one guard who clearly liked Jim? Also, I guess we should talk about Puck (guest star Peter Mark Kendall) who was destined to be killed this episode. Serving as pretty much the physical embodiment of morality and that “never say die” mentality Jim desperately needed, the character was kind of just tossed to the side at the end. I’m sure Puck could have made a more interesting, well-rounded character if they kept him on, but as it stands Puck was just a device to move the plot forward. Jim needed someone to motivate him and Puck was there for him… Until Jim basically got him killed by removing him from a medical wing he needed care in.
Penguin’s relationship with his father also came and went this episode as it seems Reuben’s wasn’t destined to stay around long. His death is pretty much going to act as the catalyst to bring back the evil, psychopathic killer we know and love. Yet, it was still incredibly sad to see the one person Oswald cares about die in his arms over a family fortune. Don’t get me wrong, it was a powerful scene and Robin Lord Taylor showed off some impressive acting chops here, but the absolute cartoony nature of the rest of the Dahl family ruined it for me. His step siblings and stepmother couldn’t scream out “Clearly Evil” anymore unless it was stamped across their forehead. Though it will be interesting to see how long it takes Penguin to figure out his daddy’s killers, this shift in tone for the character has been largely successful. Even with the most wooden, one-dimensional family in all of Gotham City, seeing Penguin experience such a tremendous loss once more was important. The character obviously is going to return to his old ways, but having it most likely be off a tragic family death may give him, even more dimension.
With only a six more episodes left in the second season, one can only wonder where these characters will end up. Though we had some much needed and well-deserved development on Gordon’s side, Penguin’s arc did not fair as well. With still fairly wooden performances from the Dahl family and an absolutely ridiculous plan on Gordon’s side, Gotham was fairly up and down this week. Though the future looks promising, especially with the reemergence of Falcone, one can only wonder how long it will take before Nygma is found out to be the perpetrator.
- Characters: Gordon, although the main character, finally received much-needed emotional development that was only enhanced by Harvey’s confession. Penguin once more progressed nicely, with Puck and the Dahl family pretty much being paper-thin.
- Cinematography: Special mention to the fantastic opening that showcased Gordon’s repetitive life in prison.
- Story: Though Cobblepot’s ended on a rather strong note, Gordon’s felt rushed once again. Even with Falcone entering the fray once again, the entire prison experience just felt too short and a wasted opportunity.
- Acting: This is arguably the best performance McKnezie has given during Gotham, along with some fantastic moments by actor Donal Logue. Sadly, Penguin’s family were rather wooden and one dimensional in their performances, offering very little in the way of intrigue.
- McKenzie/Logue Performances
- Gordon's Prison Life
- Elijah's Death
- The Dahl Family
- Harvey's Breakout Plan
A recent graduate of Arcadia University, Collin MacGregor is a freelance video editor and writer. He covers video games, television, and film for The Nerd Stash. Collin currently is the head film/television reviewer for the site.