It’s the Gotham crossover with Shawshank Redemption that you always wanted as Jim Gordon serves his sentence. Not a bad episode, this was, but it felt a bit on the rushed side. Jim’s situation should have lasted longer than it did since he is guilty of killing Galavan, but looks like the plot demands he be released so he can track down whoever framed him. Also, Oswald and Elijah bond.
The episode begins in Blackgate as Jim and the other inmates go about their daily routines, over and over again. One day, the warden, Carlson Grey, played by Ned Bellamy, tells Jim to step out of line and remain silent. Several weeks have passed with no incident.
Jim just wants to do his time, but he’s being moved to F wing, World’s End, as in general population. Protective custody was just a temporary privilege, one that can’t be sustained for his kind of sentencing.
Grey tells Jim that his friends have abandoned him, but he’ll see plenty of familiar faces from people he collared when he enters general population. The warden tells Jim that if he gets along as a team player, things can go his way. Also, ex-Commissioner Loeb says hello. The only way you get out of World’s End is parole or in a body bag, and nobody gets parole.
Over at Elijah’s home, the family dines, with Oswald telling the family that he’s seen ghosts. The house has several, but luckily, they’re friendly ghosts. Elijah then tells how he met his wife, Grace, played by Melinda Clarke.
He found a diner not far from the home and went there the same day to get the same food. Grace was his waitress, and she told him about her kids: Sasha, played by Kaley Ronayne and Charles, played by Justin Mark, who suffered at the hands of their abusive father.
One thing led to another and love blossomed. Boom, instant family. But Oswald is Elijah’s only true blood relative. Well, that won’t cause any resentment among the other siblings, will it? The family toasts to…well, family.
Over at GCPD, a frustrated Bullock learns of Gordon being placed in World’s End. He summons Nygma to vent his anger, but Nygma says that Jim’s prints were on the murder weapon.
Elijah and Oswald share a drink. He talks about his father, who made suits for the city’s elite. Elijah himself also served as an apprentice, but it was not to be. When his father died, Elijah’s mother held him close and home-schooled him to protect him from the temptations of the city. All this time, Elijah has been afraid to ask about Oswald’s mother. He apologizes for abandoning them both.
Oswald tells Elijah that Gertrude had a good life, but he wasn’t always the best son. Yet Gertrude never spoke a word of reproach. Elijah finds it hard to believe that a nice young man like Oswald could be bad, but he maintains that he’s done bad things. Grace enters and gives Elijah his heart medicine. Outside, we see that Grace has swapped the medicine for mints. Who actually does that?
Back at Blackgate, Jim watches inmates make shady deals when he learns that he has a visitor. Grey, meanwhile, tells an officer that he wants Jim dead. Turns out that Jim’s visitor is Bullock, who tells him that Dent is considering reopening the case. Bullock will also look to Penguin for information, but he’s been hard to find. Letters from Leslie have stopped coming. Bullock then admits that Leslie lost her baby.
As for Leslie herself, Bullock tells Jim that she moved down South and no one has heard from her, since. He advises Jim to not let this beat him and promises that he’ll get him out.
Inside, an inmate, Weaver, played by Christian Frazier, gets rough with Jim, which leads to several men kicking the ever loving hell out of him and another inmate who tries to stand up for him. Jim, though, does not fight back. Weaver is taken to the hole.
That evenng, Penguin has nightmares about the horrible things he’s done- subjecting us to a few seconds of Fish Mooney in the process. He heads downstairs, where he finds Elijah sleepwalking to his father’s office. Elijah then asks Oswald to help him back to bed. He explains that he has a hole in his heart that keeps getting bigger, like his demons are feeding on it.
Yes, Elijah has demons, and he fears that Oswald does, too. Oswald admits that there’s much he hasn’t shared, so he begins to talk about his criminal past and the horrible things he’s done, the manipulation, lying for power, revenge, even murder. Elijah tells Oswald that nothing before their meeting at the cemetery matters, so he forgives Oswald for his transgressions. Oswald is free to live his life at the mansion in peace.
At Blackgate, Jim and his new friend, Peter- or Puck- played by Peter Mark Kendall, are patched up. Jim doesn’t want his help, but Puck refuses to move aside. He calls Jim a true hero. His sister was abducted by the child snatchers and Jim saved not just her, but dozens of other lives. Puck explains that he stole a car to go out with a girl. He planned on returning it, but the cops didn’t believe him. As such, he got six years.
Puck won’t be like his grandfather, who died in prison. Last time Puck saw him, Grandpa was so different that Puck didn’t recognize him. Jim advises Puck to keep away from him. Grey enters and tells the guards to watch out for Jim, since losing a child can make him angry. He claims to know everything, but Jim knows what kind of man Grey is.
We return to the mansion, where the family presents Elijah with the bad news that Charles, while at the public library, found out that Oswald is not the nice young man he says he is. They bring up his criminal past and how they could have been raped and murdered by this man, but Oswald counters that he never raped anybody. Elijah tells the family that he already knows about Oswald’s past, just not his nickname of Penguin.
Elijah has looked into Oswald’s soul and seen his beautiful heart. The family sulks off with Grace opting for Plan B. What’s Plan B? Sasha.
So Sasha tries to put the moves on Oswald. She asks if there’s any bad-boy Penguin left in him, because Sasha has some bad-girl and a nice pair of bad-girls. If they work together, Sasha says they could squeeze the family out. Oswald slips out, telling Sasha to restrain herself since they’re practically related. Well, that worked. Charles offers to try, but Sasha figures Oswald for simple.
A guard warns Jim that Weaver is coming out of the hole already since nothing happens in Blackgate like it should. Indeed, Weaver warns Jim that his day is coming. He’s left to watch as Puck gets the shit kicked out of him while the guards do nothing. Jim is warned to let it go so he doesn’t extend his sentence. Jim watches Grey with obvious loathing.
At a diner, Bullock wonders who would set up Jim and how much longer he can stay alive in Blackgate. Bullock knows that he’s making a bad choice, but he has nowhere else to turn but to Carmine Falcone, who just focuses on the fact that Bullock is wearing a hat indoors. It’s the little things.
Elijah dresses Oswald up in a nice Italian suit, telling him that a man says a lot about himself because of what he wears. All of a sudden, Elijah erupts in a coughing fit. The family hears downstairs, with Grace telling the kids to call a doctor.
We return to Blackgate, as Jim’s guard friend tells him that Puck is in bad shape. Jim refuses to visit him in the infirmary, but Puck will die in there, one way or another. So Jim visits Puck, who is indeed beat to shit. He’s glad to see Jim, though. Puck tells Jim to not give up hope. He feels Jim’s sadness, but Jim has to choose life. Jim tells Puck that when he gets better, stay the hell away because Jim is not a hero- just a convict.
The guard tells Jim that tonight is movie night, meaning all inmates will be in one room with the lights off. Stay alert.
Back with Oswald and Friends, the doctor tells the family that the hole in Elijah’s heart has gotten bigger. He’s been given medication, but he may not have long. Elijah warns Oswald not listen to doctors since he’s beaten their diagnoses before. He promises Oswald that they’ll have plenty of time together. However, Elijah does want to speak with his lawyer now that his affairs have changed.
Grace and the kids figure that Elijah is planning to change his will. She’s livid. After all, she brought Elijah back to life, and now he’s trying to mess things up for them. She wants him eliminated, but how do you get rid of vermin? Before we can answer that, Oswald comes down and tells the family that Elijah will not be joining them.
It’s time for movie night at Blackgate. Weaver gets a shiv and sits behind Jim, who is keeping his eyes open just in time for prison fight to break out. Weaver stabs Jim over and over again until the lights go up and the officers break up the brawl. The guard checks Jim’s pulse and tells Grey that they’re going to need a body bag. That almost seemed convincing.
Anyway, Jim’s body is wheeled out into an ambulance. Bullock and the guard are ready to free him, but Jim wonders whether he’s supposed to stay here. Bullock reminds Jim that the person who freed him is still out there. He finally agrees to leave, but he’ll need one more favor.
Back inside, Jim knocks out the guard and is ready to save Puck, but then there’s Grey with a gun. He monologues long enough for the guard to knock him out. Jim apologizes for getting him involved, but the guard is glad to help.
Elijah, meanwhile, admits that he lied to Oswald, as his father was plagued by dark impulses and evil thoughts of violence. Many in his family had the same affliction. Elijah remembered the sound of the gunshot and finding the gun in his father’s hand. Mom said to never talk about it and for years, she and Elijah never left the house. Elijah tells Oswald to never give into the pain. He is loved and most certainly not alone. The sun will come up tomorrow.
So Elijah has himself a drink- damn his health- and tells Oswald that he wants him to have it all. Keep it as a piece of their and Gotham’s history. First thing tomorrow, Elijah will have his lawyers draw it up. Well, I guess it’s a good thing that Grace prepared that drink because it turns out to have been poisonous.
On a bridge, Bullock explains to Jim that Falcone had the contacts to set up this arrangement. Falcone tells Jim that there’s no need to pay him back. He offers to get a safe spot for Jim in Gotham or a way out of the country, but right now, Jim wants to find Leslie. To do that, he has to clear his name by going back to Gotham City. Part of Jim’s heart says to run now that he’s breathing fresh air, but he can’t go back inside.
Falcone warns Jim that if he runs, he’ll have to keep running. Some people can live with that. Bullock tells Jim that he’s a fighter. Jim asks Puck for his opinion, but turns out that, with his lifeless head resting on the ambulance door, he died from his injury. Well, they can’t all be happy endings.
There’s a lot of good to “Prisoners,” with one positive being that it’s, for the most part, a contained storyline. We’re either with Jim in prison, Bullock trying to get him out, or Penguin bonding with his family. There’s no long Nygma scenes or traveling on the road with Bruce and Selina for the sake of reminding us that they’re still on the show. To me, that’s how it should be since the episode can devote more time to the main two storylines.
Now I liked that we got to spend time with Jim in Blackgate, but much like his stint in Arkham Asylum during “Rogues’ Gallery,” I think it was over a bit too quick. And similar to that episode, I would like to have seen this span over a few episodes. Again, Jim is in the wrong because he did kill Theo Galavan. When he considers staying at Blackgate, he realizes that he should be atoning for his wrongdoing.
But the story calls for him to make a quick escape so he can clear his name, but why right now? He’s guilty of killing Galavan. For that much he deserves incarceration and we should see him live out some of his sentence. That does not mean condensing a few weeks into a montage. We get a day in the life of Jim Gordon as he lives out a Shawshank Redemption fantasy, but it’s glossed over so we can set up his escape.
We go through the typical routines: the system is corrupt, guards turn the other way when inmates beat the innocent, the warden is all-powerful, corrupt, and gung-ho on keeping down do-gooders like Gordon, a brawl where you hope the good guy fights the good fight and we learn this is no fairy tale, the protagonist making inroads with a guard, and finally, the main character tastes the clean air for the first time after you escape.
I really want to watch Shawshank Redemption right now.
My point is that Jim’s time in Blackgate is all too routine and I’m quite surprised he only got off with the few beatings that we saw, given how apparently most of the people in general population are criminals that he collared. Given that Jim is guilty, his eventual escape should feel earned. His redemption needs to feel authentic and not convoluted just so he can return to Gotham City.
What’s worse is the warden now knows that Gordon has escaped. Whether that comes into play later, I don’t know, but there are some stones left unturned in this grand escape.
Puck felt like a plot device to give Jim the motivation he already had to escape. He didn’t seem destined for this world and the fact that we got a bit of his backstory hinted that he was a goner. But then, we only knew him for this one episode, so his death doesn’t feel impactful. It also doesn’t seem to affect Gordon that much since he’s already motivated by his desire to see Leslie and clear his name.
What I find interesting was Bullock going to Carmine Falcone- who must not have gone far from Gotham City- in order to free Jim. Now, Bullock has cleaned up his dirty cop act from the first season, but he’s still able to pull strings. Here, Bullock and Gordon are taking advantage of the same behind-the-scenes maneuvers that Jim fought to stop when he first came to Gotham City. It’s a moral dilemma that I wish Gotham would explore.
As for Penguin goes, it’s a shame that we’ve lost Paul Reubens so soon because I did like Elijah’s relationship with Oswald. It’s a given that Penguin will end up back as a criminal, but I appreciate that Elijah was playing it straight and didn’t try to deceive Oswald, as the family did. He accepted Oswald for who he was and didn’t care about his criminal past. He wanted Oswald to resist giving into pain so he could have a fresh start.
And had the family not intervened, I wonder whether Oswald would have kept going down this route. After all, Elijah planned to leave everything for Oswald after he died, so he wanted Oswald to at least keep making a name for himself. So with Elijah now out of the picture, I’m curious what Oswald will do next and how he’ll end up back on the Penguin path.
So “Prisoners” was decent, but again, the situation with Jim in Blackgate, I feel, didn’t explore as much territory as it could have since it felt rushed just to get Gordon out of prison. More time could have spent here in a place where Jim deserves to be and it’s another example of Gotham not going as deep with some of its material as it could. Does that mean it’s a bad episode? No, but Jim’s time in prison should have spanned more than one episode.