Heroes are born when they’re at their lowest. This popular trope has been the predictable upside-down bell curve for most of our favorite heroes and heroines. Luke gets his hand chopped off by his own dad. Ripley squares off with a bloodthirsty alien that’s already killed her entire crew. Marty McFly kisses his mom.
At the end of last year’s “Lovecraft,” former GCPD detective James Gordon follows a similar trajectory. After being punished for righteous insubordination by trying to imprison Carmine Falcone and mayor Aubrey James Gordon, Gordon walked slump-shouldered into Arkham Asylum, taking his new post as a common security guard.
Until “Rogue’s Gallery,” Arkham Asylum, Gotham’s notorious criminal psych facility, has existed on the periphery, a somber specter of the city’s truly lost and deranged. It was also the centerpiece to a volatile land grab between two of the city’s top mob bosses. Oh, and that one guy was set on fire in the parking lot. So yeah, the audience hasn’t really seen much of what goes beyond the iron gates at Arkham.
But this episode changes all of that. Gotham channels madhouse clichés as if ripped from a Francisco De Goya painting or maybe the more culturally relevant American Horror Story. In short, Arkham is a complete shithole. From the episode’s opening moments, you get the sense that the newly opened institution is in disrepair and woefully understaffed. It’s hard to peg if most of the staff is morally contemptible or just doing the best with what they have. Either way, Arkham Asylum is a place where people go to be forgotten. Just as the mayor wanted Gordon wiped from the GCPD, so too are all the “patients” really just living out their lives as living ghosts until time does its eventual mortal business.
Because of this oppressive feeling of isolation, it’s fitting that we’d open up with ramshackle production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Like the island that Prospero finds himself shipwrecked, Gordon is in similar isolated circumstances at Arkham. The scene is also completely dripping with foreshadowing, and even before you know what the episode is really about, you get the sense that these will be important characters in the 45-minute traffic of our show.
NEXT: New friendships and failed relationships