“You’re a fighter, Jim. Don’t let this break you,” says Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue) to his friend and partner Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) who’s been convicted of murder and is sentenced to doing time at Blackgate prison in episode 16 of season two of FOX’s gritty comic-book inspired crime thriller, Gotham.
Gordon is staying quiet and keeping to himself as he goes through the new routine of life at Blackgate which consists of terrible food, working in the laundry, exercising, and trying to keep his head down. After several weeks go by, the Warden reveals to Gordon that it’s time to move him to general population. It seems Jim is headed for the F-wing which is known as “World’s End” because it usually marks the end for most inmates. Oh and yes it seems the warden happens to be an old friend of ex-Commissioner Loeb so it’s not Jim’s imagination; the warden does have it out for Jim.
Bullock visits Gordon in prison, trying his best to keep him from losing hope and showing his friend and partner that he hasn’t forgotten about him. In fact, earlier Bullock vented his frustration to Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) at the GCPD that no one is bothering to try to find out who set up Gordon for Pinkney’s murder. Ed responds by smiling when Harvey isn’t looking since it was he who did it. As their conversation continues it falls to Harvey to let Jim know that Lee has left town, going somewhere down South after she lost their baby. This devastates Jim who’s been silent and remains so as he walks back into the prison’s population.
Later, an inmate who has been instructed by the warden to kill Gordon by week’s end tries to pick a fight with Gordon but Jim refuses to take the bait. The inmate head butts Jim and knocks him to the floor but Jim still won’t fight. That’s when a young inmate gets between Jim and the bully and tries to convince the aggressor to stop. This only results in the young man getting knocked to the floor as well. One decent guard breaks up the fight and sends the bully to the hole while he sends Gordon and the young inmate to the infirmary for treatment. Gordon tells the young inmate not to try to be his friend and it’s best if he stays away from him. The young inmate introduces himself to Jim as Peter but everyone who knows him calls him Puck (Peter Mark Kendall). It seems Puck has Jim up on a pedestal because he saved his sister from a kidnapping. Jim asks Puck why he’s in prison and the young inmate tells Gordon that he “borrowed” a car to impress the girl of his dreams but got caught driving it before he had a chance to pick her up. The judge didn’t believe he only wanted to borrow the car to impress the girl and gave him six years. Puck is not bitter about it though, telling Jim he broke the law and will do the time but he will not end up like his grandfather who spent his life in prison.
The warden tries to get a rise out of Gordon by telling him he knows that his baby died, but Gordon still refuses to be baited into a brawl. The big bully inmate gets released from “the hole” and he and a few comrades go after Puck who ends up beaten very badly and goes back to stay in the infirmary to heal.
Meanwhile, Oswald (Robin Lord Taylor) is staying with his newly discovered father, Elijah (Paul Reubens), while his step-family plots to find a way to get rid of him fearing he will inherit the family fortune being Elijah’s son and only blood relative. Elijah tells Oswald how he met his current wife Grace (Melinda Clark) when she was a waitress and decided to help her escape from her pointless life.
The first attempt to get rid of Penguin fails when Grace, along with her two adult children, try to expose Oswald’s criminal past to Elijah. They are unaware that one sleepless night Oswald stayed up with his dad and told him all about his past. Elijah was not shocked to hear about Penguin’s crimes but in fact was proud of his son for being so modest about being famous in the underworld. Grace’s back-up plan is even worse than the first one, which has her daughter trying to seduce Oswald to no avail.
Back at Blackgate, Gordon visits Puck in the infirmary and once again tries to convince the kid to stay away from him and that he’s not a cop anymore or his friend, he’s just a convict. Puck won’t be deterred. He tells Gordon he can feel his sadness and he can’t lose hope and has to choose to live life. The honest guard who broke up the fight a few days ago warns Jim that it’s movie night and for him to be careful. Meanwhile, Bullock hasn’t given up on Jim and is determined to get him out of Blackgate one way or another. Seeing no other way, he turns to his last resort and asks an old associate and friend for help: Carmine Falcone (John Doman).
During movie night Gordon is trying to be careful and on alert for any trouble. The big bully inmate is making his way towards Gordon and is setting up to kill him when another inmate tackles Jim and stabs him in the side. The guards call for a body bag with Jim being pronounced dead.
Oswald and Elijah have been spending some quality time together while at a suit fitting, talking about Oswald’s mother. During their bonding Elijah reveals to Oswald that he has a hole in his heart and it’s getting bigger. He also tells Penguin that his father committed suicide – a fact he has kept private. Elijah tells Grace to contact his lawyer because he needs to make a few changes in his will to include Oswald. Grace is now desperate and poisons the wine they’re going to drink. Elijah drinks the poison that was meant for Oswald and collapses to the ground with poor Penguin holding his father in his arms, crying and yelling for help.
Gordon’s body is being taken out of the prison and surprising the body sits up, startling the guard who’s then knocked out by Bullock. Yes, that’s right, it’s a jail break set up by Bullock and Falcone to get Jim out. “I can’t believe a little fake blood and a retractable knife actually got you out of there,” says Bullock. Gordon tells Harvey he needs one more favor and he goes back in to get Puck and take him with them.
Bullock, Jim, and Puck make their way out of the city and meet up with Falcone. Jim thanks him for his assistance and Falcone tells Jim he wanted to help him as they are friends. Falcone offers Gordon two choices: he can stay in Gotham and Falcone will find him a safe location or he can help him leave the city and start over somewhere. Harvey knows what Jim is going to do before he even decides, saying, “The guy’s a fighter and he won’t be able to rest until he clears his name.” Gordon smiles and asks Puck what he thinks but gets no response. He walks over to the ambulance calling Puck’s name but still no response. Jim’s happiness is extremely short-lived when he realizes Puck is dead from his wounds. “But I got you out,” says Jim as he looks out over the city’s landscape.
Gotham Season 2 Episode 16 Review:
Violent, dark, and oppressive, Gotham season two episode 16 titled “Prisoners” focuses on two major characters – Gordon and Penguin – as they deal with their prisons as it were. Having the feel of a 1930s/1940s era James Cagney prison film, Gordon’s storyline here is the most interesting one with him clinging to what little hope he gets from Harvey and Puck and trying to survive in the gated and walled jungle.
The stand-out performance in this episode was delivered by Ben McKenzie as Jim Gordon struggling to survive and not lose what little control he has left. McKenzie’s performance is remarkable especially in the scene where Harvey tells Jim that Lee lost his child and has left town. The emotion he conveys of overwhelming sadness and loss without ever saying a word but just by using his face, eyes, and body language is powerful. Also, the scenes with Puck as he appreciates the young man’s attitude and friendship but tries to protect him by telling him to stay away allows McKenzie to show a softer, kinder, and likeable side of Gordon. It’s his best performance this season.
With Harvey, Gordon, and Falcone determined to clear Jim’s name and find Pinkney’s real killer, Ed Nygma might be up against more than he can handle this time.