TV Review: Gotham - Season 2 Episode 16 "Prisoners"
Episode 16: "Prisoners"
Synopsis: After Gordon is removed from protective custody, he begins to face new threats and dangers inside prison walls. In order to survive, he must rely on a new friend, as well as Bullock and other outside help. Meanwhile, Penguin grows closer to his father, while his step-mother and step-siblings move forward with their own plans for the family.
Recap: I don't know why I keep my expectations set for Gotham. From the very first episode, I have been trying to view the series through the lens of Christopher Nolan or Tim Burton's vision of the Dark Knight saga. Even trying to do the same with Zack Snyder's perspective is faulty because Gotham is not anything like those stories. Gotham is a reinvention that blends pulp fiction storytelling with the dark and grim nature of those feature films but blends it with a very B-movie feel. I learned, especially through this episode, to stop taking Gotham seriously and enjoy it for what it is. While this was not one of the best episodes of the season, it is a turning point for me as a viewer because now I can watch the show without judging it too harshly.
The episode picks up with Jim Gordon in prison for the murder Edward Nygma framed him for. Gordon is in the isolation unit to protect him from the general population, but the warden, a friend of former Commissioner Loeb, has it in for the former GCPD officer and wants him dead. Gordon is sent to F Block, aka World's End, where he is not expected to last very long. Gordon mainly keeps to himself and makes it through the days thanks to a friendly guard and another inmate named Puck who idolizes Gordon's adherence to the letter of the law. Still, Gordon has quite a few enemies and the warden is doing anything he can to end the life of our hero.
Harvey Bullock continues his quest to clear Gordon's name but everywhere he turns he hits dead ends. Nygma grins maniacally when he hears Bullock trying to save his friend but that is about all we see of Nygma this week. Bullock runs out of options which leaves him with an unexpected decision. He reaches out to former Gotham crime boss Carmine Falcone who respects Gordon and will do what the cop cannot to save his partner. Back inside, Puck is beaten within an inch of his life for befriending Gordon. The guard then warns Gordon that something is going to happen during movie night. It ends up that Gordon gets stabbed multiple times and dies right there on the prison floor. Wait, of course Gordon doesn't die. Did they really think that trick would work?
In what ends up being one of the sloppiest twists I have seen on any series, Gordon was stabbed with a fake knife into a bag of fake blood. Somehow Gordon just knew to pretend to be dead. It also doesn't make sense that the guard would call for a body bag and that they would just take Gordon's body away. Don't prisons usually have places to deal with prisoner deaths? I guess not in Gotham. That also explains why movie night was an old film reel of Looney Tunes. Anyway, Gordon questions if he belongs in prison or not, especially after learning that Lee lost their baby recently. Gordon decides to go back for Puck and they escape together. Puck soon dies in the ambulance as they sit outside of Gotham. Falcone asks Gordon if he will run for the rest of his life or head back to Gotham to clear his name. Looking off at the city, we already know what he will do.
The only other plot of this episode concerned Oswald Cobblepot as he makes his home with his father, Elijah Van Dahl. What seemed like a pointless sideplot for Penguin turns out to be a bit more. With Van Dahl and Oswald getting closer, we learn that the other members of the family have ulterior motives. Van Dahl's wife and step children have been patiently waiting for him to die so they can become rich but the arrival of Oswald throws a wrench into their plan. The daughter tries to seduce Oswald but his conditioning works and he rejects her. The son offers to seduce him, but in the end they decide to poison him. Elijah Van Dahl explains to his son that he forgives the crimes he committed and reveals that their family has a long history of violent tendancies and that Oswald should embrace his lineage and their history in Gotham. He then drinks the poisoned brandy intended for his son and dies in his arms. Oswald holds him, screaming.
I could have watched an entire hour comprised of Paul Reubens performance alone. This role was great for him and very different than what we are used to seeing. It is a shame it only lasted for these two episodes, but it does reset Oswald's story arc and puts him back on the path of crime. Reubens is not exactly the most dramatic actor in history, but his slightly pulpy turn helps make this a very memorable role. It was also refreshing to see an hour of Gotham with only two storylines. It allowed the show to be more focused and have a little more fun. I would say that the show is still a bit too seriously for the pulpy tone of some of the story and the musical score betrays the serious subject matter, but there is still a chance the show could find it's footing at some point this season. With half a dozen episodes to go, I hope it finds it soon.
Episode Final Verdict:
Next Episode: "Into The Woods" airs April 11th: In an attempt to clear his name, Gordon (Ben McKenzie) steals his case file and approaches Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) for help. Meanwhile, Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) discovers his step-family’s role in his father’s death, and awakens from his conditioning.