Quote of the night: "But I like having you here. I can sit at my desk and look at you. It's soothing, like a bonsai tree." Too bad you can't say that about this episode. It's awful dreck from beginning to end, disjointed, dysfunctional and dumb, a serious misfire with which to open the second half of Season One.
Throughout the episode we lurch from short scene to short scene in a manner that might be seizure inducing if the scenes were more interesting. It would take far too much effort to try and arrange the bits and pieces of this story into a coherent narrative, so as Samuel L. Jackson might say, "hold on to your butts."
We open in Arkham Asylum where the inmates are performing a wretched riff on Shakespeare in something that wouldn't be out of place as a Saturday Night Live skit. The play is led by inmate Jack Gruber who is very unsubtly wearing a mop head to draw attention to himself. Since I've watched the actor playing Gruber (Christopher Heyerdahl) craft a memorable sociopath in AMC's "Hell on Wheels," and this show doesn't have much imagination in terms of stereotypes, I already know he's tonight's villain. That's one of the dangers of type casting.
One of the audience attacks a cast member. New Arkham guard Jim Gordon (remember that plot development?) breaks it up. He then takes the injured cast member to the infirmary. In rapid fire we meet his mindlessly dickish bureaucrat of a boss, Dr. Lang, and Dr. Leslie Thompkins. The latter is played by Morena Baccarin of "Firefly" and "V" fame, among other things. Since she's a good actress who can be quite charming we naturally blitz through her introduction in a hail of blatant script gestures.
Cut to young Ivy Pepper sick and coughing in a cold, rainy alley. Young Selina Kyle helps her up for a journey to a warm place. That would be the abandoned penthouse apartment of Barbara Kean, Jim's sometimes girlfriend currently on a lesbian bender with Detective Renee Montoya. I wouldn't mention that except you'll need to know it for a ridiculous scene later.
Young Penguin is trying to raise the taxes on a bunch of disgruntled fishermen. The cops show up and punch him in the face.
If you're already thinking this is too many characters to keep track of, kudos to you. You're perceptive.
Gordon checks in on the inmate who attacked the play, only to discover he's brain dead courtesy of some homemade electroshock therapy. Dr. Tompkins finds this "rather unusual and sinister." Her flair for the obvious still beats Dr. Lang, who carries on about his budget.
Some Arkham guard was missing a set of keys after the fight at the play.
Fish Moony and two other mobsters we've never met before are complaining about Carmine Falcone. They say they won't follow Fish, though.
Cut to Young Selina on a balcony for maybe five seconds.
Gordon questions inmates. It's a terrible montage scene that tries to tightrope its way into comedy only to fail miserably, falling splat on the pavement below in a fit of over mugging. That pretty much destroys any mood the central mystery might have developed. It's tonally very off.
Fish tells Butch, her Number One Guy, to deal with Saviano, one of the guys we didn't know before. That scene takes maybe fifteen seconds.
10 seconds of someone being subjected to electric shocks somewhere in Arkham under very poor lighting conditions. Gordon later finds the victim wandering the halls of Arkham spouting Shakespeare.
Cut to Barbara and Renee, the very worst example of token lesbian exploitation I've ever seen. And get this--Renee is dumping her. We've never even seen them together again save for one lurid five second shot in the sheets, yet they're already breaking up. How can this possibly have any resonance or impact? The actress playing Renee gamely tries to spit out some silly dialogue about their drugs and drinking (another thing we never saw) making them toxic together. No kidding. But it's got nothing to do with drugs or drinking, Renee. Writing this bad would make anyone toxic.
Gordon calls Bullock so GCPD can investigate the actual crimes now being committed in Arkham. Dr. Lang is pissed. He says Gordon is finished. Bullock saves the day by hauling Lang downtown for questioning. That should help smooth things over, right? Maybe in Bizarro World. I'm guessing Lang doesn't make it to the end of the episode.
Butch talks to Jimmy Saviano. They're old pals. The minute Jimmy goes out of his way to repeatedly call Butch "brother" while talking about their childhood friendship, we know Butch will kill him. Subtle this show is not.
Bullock harasses Lang downtown. Penguin (remember him--he's in this episode) calls out to Bullock for help from "The Cage." That's right. Prisoners are locked up on display right among the detective's desks. Bullock delivers tonight's line about Penguin being a bonsai tree; it's the only line all night that actually works.
15 seconds of more Fish and Butch.
Gordon thinks there must be records he needs in the abandoned basement of Arkham. Sure. Why not? Weirdo nurse Dorothy Duncan promises to take him there.
Bullock harasses Lang some more. He demands to know which of the staff is responsible for the current reign of unauthorized electroshocks. Lang says that can't be, that the entire staff has been with him since Arkham reopened. Then he looks dumbstruck and says "It couldn't be her..." Yes, it's as blatant as it sounds.
Nurse Duncan tricks Jim by releasing all the inmates on one floor. Dr. Thompkins arrives in time to be chased by them. Nurse Duncan gets trampled to death for her trouble while Dr. Thompkins is trapped at a locked chain link fence. Just before she gets killed, Jim arrives to punch one prisoner in the face and hold off the other twenty psycho killers through the sheer force of his glare until Leslie can use his keys to open the fence. That's about as believable as Barack Obama endorsing Ted Cruz for President.
Barbara (remember her--she's in this episode) calls her abandoned apartment to ask for Jim. Ivy (remember her--she's in this episode) answers. She pretends to be Jim's girlfriend because she's bored. Unable to tell the difference between a snotty thirteen year old playing a prank and some seductive mistress, Barbara freaks out.
I hate to say this, but I'd really like to see someone kill her. Off camera, of course. That would be in character.
Gordon and Bullock discuss the late Dorothy Duncan, who turns out to have poisoned five guys as a teenager and was an Arkham inmate for half her life. There was, and I quote, "chaos when they shut Arkham down." Dorothy must have, and I quote, "hunkered down in the basement until it reopened." At which time, apparently, she just pretended to be a nurse and no one asked her for ID. I'm sure that happens all the time.
Cut to Moroni appearing before Penguin to say he let his subordinate be arrested to teach him a lesson. Moroni orders Penguin released, and it is so.
Cut back to Jim and Bullock. A coroner rushes in to say Nurse Dorothy had the same electroshock burns on her temple that the other victims did. They were just covered up by her hair.
Sure they were.
Jack Gruber has electorshocked some other guy into being his slave. They kill Lang (told you), then flee Arkham, but not before leaving a nice note for Jim.
Gordon goes to Barbara's abandoned apartment. He see Ivy's abandoned bowl and freaks out.
Butch meets Jimmy Saviano and shoots him. Because of course he does.
Thus ends one totally irredeemable episode. Apparently Jim will hunt Gruber next week. I'll see if I can muster up the will to care.