Gotham “Prisoners” Review (Season 2 Episode 16)

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On the latest episode of “Gotham,” as Gordon tried to adjust to his new life in prison, Oswald did the same in his new digs at the home of his father, Elijah Van Dahl (Paul Reubens) and his extended family, in “Prisoners.” But was it even possible for either to do so, given their unique circumstances?

We began with a montage of Gordon going through the motions of life in prison while still in protective custody, set to a beautiful choral rendition of what I’m pretty sure was Lamb’s “Gorecki,” though I’m not too sure who was doing it. My best guess would be either PS 22, a brilliant school-based choir known for their quirky covers or Scala & Kolacny Brothers, best-known for their haunting cover of Radiohead’s “Creep,” as heard in “The Social Network.”

Anyway, Gordon was doing what he could to get by, until the Warden Carlson Grey (Ned Bellamy, from “The Shawshank Redemption,” appropriately enough) informed him that he was to be removed from protective custody and placed into the general population- basically a death sentence for a cop, being as how he would be up close and personal with a lot of people he had personally put away.

To make matters worse, the Warden was obviously corrupt, telling Gordon that Commissioner Loeb says “hi” and blatantly allowing all manners of wheeling and dealing to go on unabated- no doubt for a piece of the action. The Warden welcomes Gordon to “The World’s End,” where one either got paroled or left in a body bag, according to him.

The Warden tasks a fellow prisoner, Weaver (Christian Frazier, “Street Behavior”) with making sure that the latter comes to pass- and by the end of the week if possible. Turns out that Gordon was directly responsible for the death of Weaver’s brother, when he helped bring down the Red Hood Gang, or so Weaver claimed, at least.

Either way, it didn’t stop him from ganging up on Gordon and a fellow prisoner who tried to intervene on his behalf, Puck (Peter Mark Kendall, “The Americans”) and beating them both down, landing them in the infirmary, bruised but not dead, at least. But for how much longer?

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Meanwhile, Bullock was working overtime with Harvey Dent to try and get Gordon at least transferred to another prison, so he wasn’t sharing the same place with people he helped put away, but it wasn’t happening fast enough for his liking, so it was obviously time to take another tack.

Bullock pays Gordon a visit in prison, to tell him to keep his head down and hope alive, but doesn’t help matters when he tells him that not only did Dr. Thompkins leave town and move down south, but that she lost the baby as well.

Gordon talks to Puck, who it turns out is the older brother of one of the little girls that Gordon and Bullock helped save in Season 1. Unlike Weaver, Puck sees Gordon as a hero and doesn’t regret standing up for him. However, Gordon warns him to keep his distance, as he’s a walking target for more of what they got previously.

Gordon has another ally in prison in the guard Wilson Bishop (Marc Damon Johnson, “Army Wives”), who warns him that Weaver is already out of solitary confinement, no doubt due to the Warden’s doings. He also says that tonight is movie night and that a lot can happen in the dark with a bunch of prisoners in the same room, so he needs to watch his back- literally.

No sooner than he’s warned than Weaver and his gang beats Puck down something fierce, landing him in the infirmary yet again. The guards restrain Gordon from intervening, but Weaver tells him he’s a dead man. Later on, Gordon visits poor Puck in the infirmary, but it’s Puck that ends up reassuring Gordon, not the other way around, telling him to “choose life.” Gordon once again insists Puck keep his distance, saying he’s not a hero.

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Bullock takes matters into his own hands and meets with the long-lost former crime boss Carmine Falcone (a returning John Doman), calling in a favor on Gordon’s behalf. Lucky for Gordon he did, because sure enough, Weaver comes gunning for Gordon on movie night, and would have at least tangled with him, if not for yet another prisoner stabbing Gordon instead- seemingly to death.

Of course, it’s just a ruse, as the man had a retractable knife and some fake blood, intended to fake Gordon’s death, which Gordon plays along with. Bishop and another guard cart him out in a body bag, after declaring him dead on the scene, and an ambulance is called to pick him up.

Once outside, the other guard is knocked out by Bullock, posing as a guard himself, then Gordon is released from the bag, but is wary of breaking the law, even to save himself. Bullock isn’t having it, saying a lot of people put their neck out to make this happen, but Gordon insists on going back in to save Puck, at least, who he knows is doomed if he stays.

Bullock and the guard aren’t thrilled, but agree to help. Once inside, Gordon grabs Puck successfully, but then the Warden intervenes with a gun to stop him. Luckily, the guard is hot on Gordon’s heels and knocks out the Warden, and then instructs Gordon to do the same to him, to make it look like he escaped.

Gordon, Puck and Bullock head to a bridge outside of town, where they meet with Falcone, who tells Gordon he has a choice- he can get him out of the country, where he can spend a life on the run; or he can get him to a safe location back in Gotham to try and clear his name.

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Naturally, Gordon chooses the latter, if not for his own sake, then for Dr. Thompkins, to prove he wasn’t lying about his innocence. He asks Falcone he if he can help track her down, which he agrees to do. Alas, Puck expires during the conversation, his injuries too severe for his survival, much to Gordon’s heartbreak.

While all this is going on, the Penguin is doing his best to fit in at his father’s house, but his family is obviously wary of him. We discover that his wife, Grace (Melinda Clarke, also of “The O.C.”- star Ben McKenzie’s old stomping grounds) was a former waitress that Elijah took a shine to, and that she was reportedly married to an abusive husband, who beat her and her kids.

Elijah took in both her and her family, daughter Sasha (Kaley Ronayne, also of “Army Wives”) and son Charles (Justin Mark), but none of them are his blood relations, only Oswald, his last living relative. So, Elijah tells Grace he needs to change his will accordingly to include Oswald, wanting to leave him the house and some money.

Naturally, this doesn’t go over well with Grace and company, who were not only the sole inheritors of Elijah’s family, but were already in the midst of a plot to kill Elijah. Grace had been withholding his heart meds, replacing them with breath mints (!) and simply waiting for it to get the best of him. With this new wrinkle in their plans, Grace knows they either have to recruit Oswald or get rid of him somehow.

Oswald finally confesses his past sins to Elijah, but Elijah is undeterred, saying that whatever he did in the past doesn’t matter anymore. The point is, he’s a good person now, and Elijah wants to do right by him. Having done that, when Charles shows up the next day with a newspaper showing what sort of person “The Penguin” was, Elijah isn’t fazed by it- in fact, quite the opposite: he’s kind of impressed. “The front page!” he enthuses, “You sold yourself short.”

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Also undeterred, Grace sets Plan B into motion: using her own daughter as bait. Sasha approaches Oswald the next morning and tries to seduce him, but Oswald is horrified, not titillated, saying they’re practically blood. She says she wants “in” on his plan, saying they could team up against her mother and brother together and take Elijah’s fortune for themselves. Oswald squirms away from her and sends her packing.

Informing her mother about her failure to seduce him, she deems him a bit “simple,” probably mistaking the after-effects of Oswald’s treatment for his being slow. Charles offers to give it a shot, thinking Oswald might be gay, but Grace says forget it, they’ll try something else. Soon after, Elijah collapses, after fitting Oswald for a new suit.

The doctor informs Oswald that Elijah doesn’t have long to live because of a heart condition, but Elijah scoffs, saying that doctors have been saying that for ages. Nonetheless, he’s told to get his affairs in order, just in case. Elijah arranges with Grace to have his lawyer over in the morning to include Oswald in his will, so she knows her time is limited.

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Planning to poison Oswald via a glass of wine, she brings him one, but Elijah ends up drinking it instead and almost instantly falls dead on the spot, foaming at the mouth. Charles comes in and tips over the container the wine was in, and we see it sizzle into the carpet.

Now they have Oswald to contend with still, so I imagine we’ll be seeing what happens after in the next episode. If I had to guess, I’d say they will probably try and pin Elijah’s death on Oswald, which may or may not reactivate his “evil” side, which we saw was starting to come back to him throughout the episode, hence his confessing to Elijah about it. Either way, it can’t end well for anyone.

This was a decent episode, but clearly another transitional one, meant to get Gordon and Oswald from Point A to Point B. The show had to get Gordon out of jail somehow, and they did, and things needed to come to a head somehow with Oswald to get him back to his more villainous side, and I think we’ll see the ramifications of what went down here in the next episode, so mission likely accomplished there as well.

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That said, though, there were some strong performances across the board, particularly from Paul Reubens, who once again shows that he can handle some dramatic heavy lifting when called upon to do so, though sadly, he rarely is.

Maybe his appearance here will help make that happen more often, because he was just great in this episode. Not that he isn’t brilliant as “Pee Wee Herman,” mind you, but this was just a different kind of performance than we typically get to see from him.

Also solid was Clarke as his ice-cold wife. I’ve been a fan of hers since her old “Scream Queen” days, when she starred in the likes of “Return of the Living Dead III” and “Killer Tongue” and it was cool seeing her in femme fatale mode here.

It’s a shame she didn’t get to work with McKenzie for a partial “O.C.” reunion, but it wouldn’t have made sense, either, given their decidedly different circumstances. The actors playing her kids were both pretty good as well, though I wasn’t really familiar with their previous work.

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It was also neat seeing Kendall outside of “The Americans,” where he plays new recruit agent Hans. Everyone else involved in the prison stuff was also really good in their roles, so this was just a well-cast episode all around. So, even if it was essentially a means to an end, it was a highly watchable one.

What did you think of the latest episode of “Gotham”? Did you also enjoy the cast’s work? How did you like seeing Reubens in a dramatic role? What do you think Elijah’s family will do next? Will they try to kill Oswald again? Or simply frame him for Elijah’s death? Will it bring out Oswald’s “Penguin” side again? How will Gordon clear his name? Will Ed make a mistake that exposes his role in framing Gordon? Make your predictions and comments down below and see you next episode!