Surgically Removing The Onions: Gotham “Welcome Back, Jim Gordon”

“Welcome Back, Jim Gordon,” is an interesting title choice for this episode, but not in the way that “Selina Kyle” or “Harvey Dent” or “Lovecraft” were. “Welcome Back, Jim Gordon” feels like almost a re-pilot for the entire Gotham series. It contains all of the show’s trademark elements, both good and bad, and presents them in a mostly adequate package. If you combined every single episode of Gotham up until this point and then divided to find the median, you’d probably end up with ‘Welcome Back, Jim Gordon.” In true Gotham fashion, the exposition re-hashes just about everything we already know about the world of the show, and even though it kind of does technically advance the overall plot, it also feels (with the exception of a few details) like it could have been slotted in at any point in the series, just to fill up space.

Still, it makes for a decent hour of procedural television—which, coming from me is some of the highest praise that I can offer this show.

Bullock and Gordon are called in on a homicide case where the corpse of a local drug dealer is hung up in a warehouse. There’s a lengthy re-introduction to Narcotics Detective Flass (cameo’d last episode), and if that wasn’t enough to tip off that he’s the killer, then his recognizable gait when we see him murder a witness in police HQ was definitely enough to give him away.

Was that a spoiler? Whoops. But really, it was pretty obvious.

Gotham Welcome Back Jim Gordon

Even so, it launches an investigation that’s enjoyable enough to follow, even though we’ve seen this territory before. Gordon suspects that the killer is part of the police force, but Bullock and Essen warn him that you can’t just go around arresting your fellow officers because they’re all corrupt and protecting each other and so Gordon’s not going to make any friends that way. So naturally, Gordon doesn’t listen, and goes about his internal investigation anyway, and naturally, it makes the other cops like him even less than they already do, which is not very much.

It turns out that the Narcotics department (with a little help from Commissioner Loeb himself) has basically been busting up drug dealers and then taking the drugs for themselves and selling them for a profit. It’s a classic corrupt cop scenario, but I commend Gotham for finally showing us how the police in the city are corrupt, instead of just telling us over and over and over again. Detective Flass tries to play this off as “deep undercover work,” but Gordon calls in a favor that turns up some hard evidence against Flass. They have yet-another shouty-match showdown in the middle of GCPDHQ, where Gordon delivers some St. Crispin’s Speech about honoring the badge and saving lives and general cop-y things, et cetera et cetera, and Captain Essen ultimately ends up arresting Flass in front of the entire police force, despite his cries of “You can’t do that! I’m protected!”

About that favor though. “Welcome Back, Jim Gordon” should probably have been called “Welcome Back, Team #Gobblepot,” because Gordon gets in touch with his old friend Penguin (now the manager of Fish Mooney’s nightclub) in hopes of finding some incriminating evidence against Flass. Unbeknownst to Gordon, Penguin sends Big Gabe the Henchman to rough up another narcotics officer by the name of Delaware (whom Gordon had previously tried to arrest in the case). Gabe beats the pulp out of Delaware and nearly drowns his wife to death.

Gotham Welcome Back Jim Gordon

At the end of the episode, we see Delaware accosting Gordon in alley, begging for forgiveness; it seems Delaware has some newfound respect for ol’ Jim Gordon, now that he thinks that Gordon has the mob on his side. While this kind of re-treads the whole Gordon-kills-Penguin-but-not-really territory, it could potentially lead to somewhere new and interesting—will Gordon realize the power and influence he could have by letting people think that he’s as crooked as the rest? Will Gordon start to use his underworld acquaintances to actually clean up the streets? Not likely; this is Gotham, after all. But it’s nice to dream.

YOU HAD ONE JOB, BOB!

“Welcome Back, Jim Gordon” introduces us to the most terrifying, most threatening villain in the Bat-pantheon: Bob. No, not Killer BOB. Just Bob. You guys don’t remember Bob? He’s Falcone’s resident torturer, and after last week’s big mob showdown, Falcone has sent Fish and Butch off to be killed separately, after wiping out their entire legion of henchmen. Butch uses his handy skills of plot to break free from his restraints and escapes. He seeks out Fish Mooney and rescues her from Bob’s diabolical clutches, because Bob is apparently the most ineffective torturer ever.

I get that this was supposed to illustrate Fish’s resilience, but man, Jada Pinkett has a superhuman ability to chew scenery even when she’s tied up to a torture board. Anyway, she tries to reclaim her club from Penguin but Victor Zsasz comes after her. She manages to escape (again), but Butch is captured by Zsasz. Why didn’t Zsasz just shoot Butch when he had the chance even though Butch betrayed Falcone and escaped from his ordered death, and it would make way more sense for Zsasz to finish the job? Because that would require Gotham to establish some actual stakes by killing off a character, and by leaving Butch alive, they can drag out another repeat of the exact same thing.

Gotham Welcome Back Jim Gordon

Oh, I almost forgot to mention: Fish gets out of town with the help of Harvey Bullock and the two of them share a kiss at the docks before she goes. I never thought that Harvey’s flirtations were ever meant to be serious—but then, Gotham does smartly keep Harvey’s private life, erm, private, so this was a nice little surprise. I quite like the idea of a genuine romance between Bullock and Fish, and I’m interested to see where that goes as well.

THE SHATTERED SNOW GLOBE OF THE SOUL

Bruce and Alfred return from their vacation in the Swiss Alps in the aftermath of the assassination attempt (as seen in “Lovecraft”). Bruce is desperate to find and re-connect with Selina Kyle, going as far as to force Alfred to conspicuously circle the streets in his fancy car in hopes of spotting her. Bruce ends up finding Ivy Pepper instead, whom he pays $20 to deliver a message to Selina.

Later, Bruce is playing chess against himself when Selina shows up at his window. Bruce presents her with a snow globe that he bought for her in Switzerland, and invites her to live in the mansion with him again. But little orphan Selina has trust issues galore, and is unaccustomed to any signs of affection—so naturally, she lashes out at Bruce and pushes him away, which is the only way she knows how to survive. It’s a surprisingly effective scene, as you can make out the palpable pain in Bruce’s heartbroken eyes, but also empathize with Selina as the similarly traumatized orphan who’s afraid to open her own heart (whether she likes Bruce or not is irrelevant; he’s being too nice to her, and she’s not used to that). Before she goes, she drops a major truth bomb: she didn’t actually see who killed Bruce’s parents. She just lied about it so she wouldn’t be sent to the orphanage upstate.

Now, was this itself a lie? Or just an attempt to push Bruce further away? Hrmmm…

Gotham Welcome Back Jim Gordon

Eventually Alfred comes across a heartbroken Bruce crying over the shattered remains of the snow globe. “Shall I get a broom then?” Alfred asks. “Or would you like to continue crying over the shattered fragments of your young dreams?” To which Bruce replies: “Yes, Alfred. A broom.” Look, on a parenting / sociological level, I have mixed feelings on Alfred’s frequent “man-ups” with Bruce. But then, I suspect that’s the point, because those moments feel so, so satisfying whenever they happen (think brass knuckles and Tommy Elliott). No wonder Bruce turns out the way he does…

OTHER TIDBITS:

  • “Uptown Assassins” sounds less like a drug gang and more like a funky hip-hop group from the early 90s.
  • Alfred on Ivy Pepper: “She’s got the mange.”
  • I’m kind of with Captain Essen, in that Gordon’s self-righteous attitude is really starting to piss me off and making it increasingly harder for me to root for him.
  • I enjoy the suitably creepy Zsaz as a recurring hit man. He freaks me the hell out, man.
  • Penguin brings his mother to see his brand new nightclub. The episode spends a little too much time on it, but it’s worth it to see Mama Kapelput hitting on Jim Gordon. Also to finally see Penguin’s look of disgust after his mother leaves, at which point he gets drunk alone and dances all crazy and it’s…kind of delightful despite being totally excessive?
  • I’m calling it: Commissioner Loeb is pulling the strings in the whole Lovecraft / Wayne murder coverup. Hey, remember that sub-plot that seemed like it might be of some importance?
  • Nygma tries to mack it with Kringle again, this time giving her a greeting card full of quirky little poems. Unfortunately, Detective Flass finds the card in Kringle’s desk and reads it aloud to his cronies, publicly ridiculing poor Eddie Nygma. Even more unfortunately, Kringle approaches Nygma herself to explain that she had no involvement in it, which Nygma takes as a sign that there’s still hope for their relationship. He is so, so, so creepy and clueless—but also realistic. But again, I hope his cluelessness with the opposite sex is not what turns him to the dark side.
  • Bruce: “We were in the Swiss Alps. We have a chalet there.”
    Selina: “What’s a chalet?”
    Bruce: “It’s basically a house…It’s a house.”
  • But the best line of the night goes to…
    Kringle: “Am I interrupting?”
    Nygma: “I’m surgically removing the onions from my take-out so…yes.”
  • And best of all….NO BARBARA! WOO-HOO!

Gotham Welcome Back Jim Gordon


Thom Dunn is a Boston-based writer, musician, homebrewer, and new media artist. Thom enjoys Oxford commas, metaphysics, and romantic clichés (especially when they involve whiskey and robots). He is a graduate of Clarion Writer’s Workshop at UCSD, and he firmly believes that Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” is the single worst atrocity committed against mankind. Find out more at thomdunn.net.

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