Martin Carr reviews the sixteenth episode of Gotham season 2…
Gordon behind bars is a more intriguing prospect than you might think this week. As ‘Prisoners’ splits itself evenly between Penguin and Black Gate prison, giving both actors the opportunity to shine in their own shared episode. McKenzie takes stoic to another level with his hardened convict routine, warming to jail time like a professional lifer. Playing resignation to its limit against a dirty legal system, McKenzie illustrates restraint against the odds.
Coming across like an old Stallone actioner, there are plots aplenty which mainly involve Gordon going into a body bag within the week. There is the obligatory confidante and friendly prison guard to be on hand where necessary, plus mountains of muscle waiting to pounce. As a continuation of last week it works well, even if the resolution which sees Gordon free is convoluted in the extreme. Bullock maybe his man on the outside but the way he approaches an old adversary, smacks of convenience rather than realism. Where Gotham gets its fire this week rests securely in the hands of Paul Reuben and Robin Lord Taylor.
Feeling more and more like an episodic interpretation of Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows, Oswald’s new family play gothic Edgar Allen Poe to the max. A sense which is exemplified by oblique camera angles, minimal lighting and lots of mahogany reflections. It is however a pleasure to see Lord Taylor and Reuben play off each other in fireside dialogue scenes, which dampen down the more fantastical elements elsewhere.
Oswald’s new brother and sister do their best to rise above their pantomime villainy, but are given as little to do as the wife here. They are all sinister glances, furtive seduction and closed-door scheming. Elsewhere other regular characters barely get a look in because obviously they serve no narrative purpose. ‘Prisoners’ came across like The Shawshank Redemption without any of the requisite gravitas or sense of peril. Gotham as a programme felt confined and focused in a good way but somehow rushed and predictable elsewhere.
I take nothing away from the production design, acting or other technical merits, but merely wish to mention that something was lacking. As a season Gotham has improved hugely from its first time out of the gate. But with the reassurance of a third season and only four episodes left in the current run, it would be far to say Gotham can afford to drop that ball occasionally. However what ‘Prisoners’ proves is that this programme works best as an ensemble piece, rather than a focused character study. Such is the nature of the beast that minimal involvement by only a few results in dissatisfaction amongst a minority of audience members.