'Welcome Back, Jim Gordon,' is not just the return of the detective from the doghouse but the return of the formulaic police procedural. See Gordon argue with his superiors, see Gordon go against their wishes, see Gordon be told he shouldn't rock the boat, see Captain Essen not help-then help-Gordon roused by an inspirational speech. We've seen this before and it's not any better than the last thirteen times.
A "public service homicide" occurs according to Bullock in a warehouse (where else?) because no one innocent was affected. Well, this poor schmuck was killed and left dangling with drugs hidden in his heel. It turns out he was part of a group of killers known as the Uptown Assassins. Or could be the name of a break dancing crew from the 80's. Luckily, for Gordon and Bullock a witness by the name of Leon Winkler has stepped forward to provide a description of the killer. Unluckily, for Leon he's waiting for the sketch artist in the least safest police interrogation room ever. He's subsequently murdered by a mysterious assailant. And the procedural begins.
As it always does. A quick death, jump to the crime scene with photographer, Nygma and Bullock and Gordon standing by examining the situation. The virtual same set-up as any crime of the week we've seen before with exactly the same amount of intrigue and tension: zero. Perhaps, it's the usual insignificance of such investigations that only lead to propelling Gordon's storyline as the department's sole honest cop. But really in doing what needs to be done to bring justice isn't always that honest anyway. He'll pursue justice and be told time and again to get with the program only to prevail in the end. The formula continues.
Arnold Flass, another cop, is Gordon's suspect but because this is the GCPD, the Captain tells him good luck getting an arrest. At this point, the Captain should already know that Gordon won't stop investigating and that she'll eventually give in and help. This is not new territory and thus the redundancy.
Gordon gets help from Cobblepot to get the evidence needed to arrest Flass. A favor among friends is how Cobblepot sees it and he provides him with a murder weapon and a tape of another cop, Delaware, confessing that Flass was running the stash houses he was suppose to shut down. A confession Cobblepot got through his henchman torturing Delaware's wife. The scene was cleverly horrific with tension and menace that brought real power to the story. Unfortunately, there aren't enough scenes like that to save the episode. In other situations, the tension is subdued or smothered by some contrivance rendering a scene flat.
It's only when the show follows the villains does it really get interesting or exciting. Even though Mooney's capture and escape with Butch's help devoid of creativity just having the mob bosses at odds makes for some scenery chewing delight. Sure, Cobblepot's montage of drunken joy at Mooney's club he had taken over a waste of time the payoff came when Mooney returned to claim it. Standing there with Butch by her side holding a baseball bat, Mooney is mocking Cobblepot. Finally, some earned tension on screen. Some critics point to Jada Pinkett Smith's over-the-top portrayal of Mooney. I say, 'thank goodness' for breathing life into a character and a show that at times needs a defibrillator. Along with Robin Lord Taylor's devilishly wacky Cobblepot they've saved episodes all by themselves.
Bullock's fondness for Mooney also was an interesting thread in the end. A development that brought some questions as to how far they go back and what does either owe to each other. It was a nice layer of character development that hopefully will be explored later.
Bruce returned briefly to learn a hard lesson about getting too close too fast with a girl. Searching the streets for Cat proved fruitless but of course she found him at home later when she climbed through the window. Cat rejected Bruce's help and offer to stay at the mansion. She even smashes the snow globe he gave her as a gift. He means well, but he's still a kid. A privileged kid at that. Alfred tells the dejected youngster to keep his chin up and get back on his parent's murder case. This won't be the last time young Bruce will have girl troubles. Not by a long shot.
In the end, the show lacks focus and consistency. The tone changes week to week without an end game. Great performances by the villains prop up the episodes but too much reliance on Gordon's predictable scowling and growling over meaningless cases. It needs a consistent hard edge it gives its villains whose character rarely changes providing a great foundation to draw from. Everything else feels disjointed and slapped together with school glue.
If you're a glutton for punishment, check out previews of next week's episodes with these 3 videos:
Ben McKenzie & Donal Logue discuss Gordon’s return to the GCPD and tease the lengths he will go to fight corruption.
Ben McKenzie discusses his relationship with Barbara and new romance in Gordon’s future. GOTHAM airs MON at 8/7c on FOX.
Robin Lord Taylor recaps Fish’s downfall and teases the big changes that are to come.