[This is a review of Gotham season 2, episode 16. There will be SPOILERS.]
The "Wrath of the Villains" storyline continues to unfold on Gotham, but unlike the game-changing events that took place last week, the new episode is more concerned with developing those established storylines - rather than introducing yet another future member of Batman's rogues gallery. In many ways, this one feels like a return to the season 1 dual focus on the contrasting journeys of both Gordon (Ben McKenzie) and Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor). Let's go ahead and delve into this week's new episode, "Prisoners".
BELLY OF THE BEAST
Following his arrest for the murder of Officer Pinkney, Gordon finds himself behind bars and, after a few weeks, is moved into general population. The idea of a hero wrongfully imprisoned (at least somewhat, lest we forget that Gordon did kill Theo Galavan) with the criminals he put in prison is, of course, nothing new. Moreover, the fact that the Blackgate warden is conspiring against him holds little surprise, as does the predictable death of an ally that Gordon makes on the inside. In truth, much of "Prisoners" and Gordon's storyline in particular felt simply like house-keeping to set up the urgency behind Gordon's quest to clear his name.
With the GCPD's star detective out of the picture, the show does give Bullock (Donal Logue) a plotline of his own, even if it still revolves around Gordon. Logue has always been severely underused, and seeing his character filled with such agency to save his friend from inevitable death -- and delivering the unfortunate news that Lee (Morena Baccarin) lost their baby -- yielded the most memorable moments of the episode. In addition, the surprise reappearance of Carmine Falcone was a welcome one and underscored the season 1 vibe that "Prisoners" was so clearly going for.
This year has been so concerned with developing the larger world of Gotham that the more subdued vibe of this storyline feels almost quaint in comparison. As a standalone installment, it doesn't pack much punch, but amidst a binge-watching session of Gotham season 2, this will likely mark the significant quiet before the storm of the last half-dozen episodes and reinforce the character arc that has been brewing for Gordon since the season began. How the now-awake Barbara (Erin Richards) will factor into that remains to be seen.
Since last week, Penguin has developed a closer relationship with his father, Elijah Van Dahl (guest star Paul Reubens). Right off the bat, the episode establishes the tension that exists in the house, with Penguin as Elijah's only blood relative (as awkwardly clarified by Elijah himself). When this storyline was introduced in the previous episode, the timing of Elijah's emergence at Gertrude's grave felt like either some kind of scheme on Elijah's part or simply poor storytelling. Alas, the character fell prey to a plan meant to take Penguin out of the running for the Van Dahl estate, and we still have no indication that he was being anything but entirely honest with Penguin. Even worse, the storyline feels just as contrived as ever.
The concept of a rehabilitated Penguin being thrust back into power-hungry ways due simply to circumstance isn't without its merits, but Gotham neglected to properly set the stage for this development, leaving the audience with little emotional investment in the whole Van Dahl subplot save for a desire to see Penguin emerge triumphant once again. His heartfelt confession to Elijah regarding his crimes and his nightmares of the horrific things he's done were among Taylor's standout scenes this time around. Even though he and Reubens only shared the screen in a pair of episodes, it was certainly a fun nod back to Batman history.
ELSEWHERE IN GOTHAM
With Gordon and Penguin as the sole focal points this week, there wasn't room for a whole lot else. The show's other major figurehead, David Mazouz's young Bruce Wayne, was nowhere to be found, as was recurring baddie Hugo Strange (B.D. Wong). However, this episode almost undoubtedly will be followed by a string of episodes that see the former continuing his criminal education and the latter kicking off his reanimation project with help from Mr. Freeze. That being said, one of the most interesting aspects of recent episodes has been the shift in Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) into full-on Riddler mode. It's an evolution that will likely be largely completed by season's end - and one that longtime fans of Gotham likely can't wait to finally see come to fruition.
What did you think of "Prisoners"? Share your thoughts on the episode in the comments section below.
Gotham returns with "Into the Woods" next Monday at 8pm on FOX.