Synopsis of 2×11: Lucius Fox rallies the GCPD to search for a kidnapped Bruce Wayne and a missing Jim Gordon, Lee tells Jim she’s pregnant, Jim leads a team to capture Galavan and, with Cobblepot, kills the mayor before proposing to Lee.
Readers and watchers are willing to excuse an awful lot of bizarre plot twists or actions if those actions feel rooted in character. A great example of this comes to us courtesy of Breaking Bad. At the end of the series’ fourth season, Walt, triumphant after killing Gus and seizing a controlling stake in the Southwest’s meth market, is revealed to have poisoned a young child in order to secure Jesse’s temporary loyalty and complacency.
It’s undoubtedly one of the most morally indefensible actions the character takes and probably ends any allusions viewers hold for seeing Walt as a hero. What’s important though is it’s been built to. We believe that Walt would take that one last horrible step to becoming that monster, something less than human and less than worthy of compassion. Similarly, he midseason finale of Gotham, “Worse than a Crime,” asks that viewers believe that Jim Gordon has fallen as a police officer and as a man. Your enjoyment of this episode will entirely depend on whether you think that fall has been built to or not. Can you guess what I think?
For the mid-season finale, remarkably little happens here. Theo tries to convince Silver to seduce Bruce before he’s sacrificed because, I don’t know, he really likes pimping out his pre-teen surrogate daughter. Theo Galavan is the fucking worst. This takes up the great majority of the episode and asks that viewers be really invested in a fake romance between two characters who’ve solely been using each other for the last eleven episodes.
Even under the best of circumstances, that’s asking an awful fucking lot of the viewer and this show hasn’t earned the good will to pull that off. While Bruce and Silver keep this charade going, Jim gathers a strike team to bring down Galavan and rescue Bruce. Lee tries to get him to give up the quest and reveals that she’s pregnant but Jim’s still going to go for it.
This is the most the episode really does to push the idea that Jim has fallen as a cop and a man. An early scene suggests that a new Jim has been born out of Barbara’s fall but his abandonment of Lee is actually fairly damning for this show. I’ve never quite bought the suggestion that Gordon has a monster inside because the show really backloaded this characterization into the last few episodes, but his actions at the episode’s end do feel justified in the short term. It’s something that the show will need to tangle with when it comes back in February but for now, I’m unconvinced. Jim is ostensibly the foundation Gotham is built on and it’s really hard to see what the show gains from making him like every other corrupt cop in the setting.
Not everyone gets as complete characterization though. Tabitha’s betrayal of Theo is one of those scenes that’s clearly meant to feel like an “oh shit” moment but it lacks any of that punch. See, this season of Gotham has really leaned on using Tabitha as little more than Theo’s heavy, with her only real characterization being some vaguely kink-shaming references to her relationship with Barbara. I don’t know what Tabitha is getting out of her relationship with Theo and the episode’s beginning almost seems to throw doubt on whether the two are even related. As viewers, we’ve always been left with more questions than answers about Tabitha and while her choice to rescue Silver and leave Theo to die is interesting, it doesn’t feel rooted in anything we know about the character.
There’s some coloring around the edges of this episode that actually benefit it considerably. Many of Gotham’s defenders have argued that the show’s, well we’ll call them ill considered, stabs at humor and kookiness were a deliberate reference to Batman ’66. You may be able to tell that this isn’t really an argument I buy. So much of Gotham’s visual and stylistic aesthetic is loaded with references to Tim Burton’s Batman films and that’s really why the kookiness has never worked for me quite as well as the darker, gallows humor that this show very occasionally dips into.
I genuinely enjoyed the scenes in this episode where Nygma seems positively giddy to be caught harboring Jim Gordon and his attempt to fool Fox with a riddle is, if nothing else, mildly charming. Similarly, Penguin earns a couple genuine laughs in this episode, namely as he knocks out Barnes just so he can have a shot at murdering Galavan. Robin Lord Taylor, despite often being saddled with one-note, less than interesting stories, has always given one of the better performances on this show and he’s really started to nail a slightly campy, slightly threatening, easy to underestimate but always dangerous Gotham City criminal.
While I didn’t enjoy much of “Worse than a Crime,” it’s one of the most character driven episodes of the season and feels like it’s been built to by the proceeding episodes. It also feels at least partially as if the show has a chance to restart the season with Theo out of the picture. Still, it makes so many mistakes and depends so much on viewers being fascinated by its most unlikable and uninteresting characters and dynamics that it’s almost impossible to really praise.