'Gotham' recap: Can Jim find hope in prison?

For The Baltimore Sun
"Gotham" recap: Jim has a rough time behind bars.

Our "Gotham" hero’s having a rough time in lockup.

He’s eaten away by guilt, the warden has a hit on him and he found out his unborn child passed away. On the bright side, he has a short stay in the clink, thanks to the help of some friends.

I gave Jim three, maybe four episodes tops on the inside while Harvey worked his magic to get him back on the outside. Turns out, Harvey has more tricks up his sleeves than we thought. But we’ll get to Jim’s prison breakout later.

Jim’s 40-year sentence starts off surprisingly quiet. In protective custody, he faces the same boring routine, day in, day out.

The monotony breaks when a cold and calculating Warden Grey tells him protective custody was temporary. Now Jim is being relocated to the World’s End, where it’s brutal even if you aren’t surrounded by criminals you put away.

“That’s why they call this wing ‘World’s End.’ For most here, it’s exactly that: the end. The only way out [is by] parole or body bag — and nobody gets parole," the warden said. 

If that sounds like the most dangerous place to take a former cop who’s waiting for an appeal, that’s because it is. The warden is prepping Jim for his body bag, likely as a favor to his friend, former Commissioner Loeb. That’s right, the same Commissioner Loeb who lost his job thanks to Jim.

Any suspicions that the warden has it out for Jim are confirmed when he tells an inmate he wants the “boy scout dead by week’s end.” Shortly after, the inmate starts a fight with Jim.

Jim refuses to fight back, not only because he doesn’t want to make his prison sentence longer, but because he’s given up hope. He just found out from Harvey that Leigh lost their child.

(Side note: That’s possibly the saddest way to write off Jim and Leigh’s on-screen baby, especially considering actress Morena Baccarin is pregnant with Ben McKenzie’s real-life child.)

That’s when a young inmate named Puck, who looks like a stand-in for Jesse Eisenberg, defends Jim and tries to intervene in the fight. Both Puck and Jim get battered and bruised and sent to the infirmary.

As they're getting their wounds stitched, Puck gushes about how Jim’s a “true hero.” Unlike most of Jim’s prisonmates, who want him dead, Puck admires him because he saved his sister from kidnappers.

See, Jim? You are a good person. But he tells Puck to stay away from him. If only Puck had taken his advice. He gets beat senseless and is sent to the infirmary again.

But back to Jim. He has a bounty on his head, so he needs to get out of World’s End and prison, fast. But since nobody gets parole in World’s End, the only way he’ll get out is by body bag — and that’s exactly how he escaped.

With a little help from a friendly prison guard, he prepares himself for movie night with a bag of fake blood and a retractable knife. It was orchestrated with help from Harvey. Our lovable, lackadaisical detective pulled some strings and asked a favor from a powerful and nearly forgotten crime lord, Carmine Falcone.

Yes, he’s still alive (you’re thinking of Sal Maroni, who got killed off last season). Yes, he’s still in the game (maybe — we know he has connections in Gotham). And, yes, he’s willing to help Jim bust out of jail and find safety in Gotham or out of the country.

But living on the run is out of the question. Jim, being Jim, wants to do things the hard way and decides to go back to Gotham. There, he can clear his name and find Leigh. Besides, who will be Gotham’s hero while the future Batman is living on the streets?

Jim doesn’t like to admit it — he even tried denying it to Puck and Harvey — but he is a hero. He’s a born leader who will do everything he can to save the corrupt city he loves. That’s why it was no surprise he chose to stay in Gotham.

I’d be more excited about Jim breaking out of prison if the ending weren’t cheesy and melodramatic. Harvey’s pep talk felt trite, and Carmine’s sudden support felt out of place.

But worst of all is when he goes back to the ambulance to check on Puck and discovers he has tragically died. Um, yeah, that’s what happens if you take someone who was beaten to a bloody pulp off life support.

Like we didn’t see that one coming. The minute Puck said “I won’t die in here” to Jim at the infirmary, we knew he’d be dead before the credits rolled. His fate was all too predicable.

Was the doomed sidekick/heroic sacrifice trope necessary to help lift the guilt-ridden Jim’s spirits so he could escape prison? Sure. Could the prison escape have been less over the top, without Jim running back into the infirmary to rescue Puck? Yes. Yes, please.

In spite of all the schmaltziness, the episode wraps up nicely with the sun rising over Gotham’s skyline. It echoed Elijah’s optimistic advice to Penguin: “The sun will come up tomorrow.”

With a new day breaking, will Jim find Leigh? How will he prove his innocence? We’re not sure, but at least he’s not in the World’s End.

More highlights from “Prisoners”

Best Harvey one-liner: “He’s wasting away in there while the real is killer is eating doughnuts and getting laid!” Harvey says to Ed. Ha! Harvey’s so savage he unintentionally insults Ed right to his face.

Creepiest line: “I’ll have my friends on the outside pay her a visit, and show her what she’s been missing," a convict says to Jim after seeing his picture of Leigh. Ugh.

Best burn: “I hear everything, I see everything. Everything you know, I know," says Warden Grey, trying to rile up Jim by mentioning the death of his unborn child. Ouch, that’s low.

“I know something you don’t know," Jim replies calmly.

“Yeah, what’s that?” – Warden

“I know what kind of man you are.” – Jim

Grossest line: “Restrain yourself, woman!” Penguin said to Sasha Van Dahl, who tried to seduce him. “I am practically your brother!” This, coming from the guy who got sponge baths from his mother.

Most dangerous sleepwalker: Elijah Van Dahl. Who the hell lights a candlestick when sleepwalking? Better question: Who the hell uses, let alone owns, a candlestick when half the characters on the show would probably use their flip phones to light the way?

Cutest moment: Elijah making a bespoke suit for Penguin. Aww, father-son bonding moment!

I’m glad Penguin got some quality time with his dad before Elijah was accidentally murdered. Sheesh, two parents killed in less than a year. Almost makes you feel bad for Penguin. Almost.

Like grandfather, like son: “I don’t pretend to understand my father’s torment. I think perhaps you do,” Elijah says to Penguin about their family’s dark side. Elijah confesses that his father killed his grandfather, and that the obsession with violence ran on that side of the family. And it’s all coming together.

The son also rises: I’m curious to see how Penguin will get Elijah’s assets. Go figure Elijah told his son he wants him to be his beneficiary two seconds before he croaked, quite literally, from the poisoned liquor. Will Grace and her modern Addams Family blame Penguin for the murder? Or will those morose gold-diggers trigger his stabby-stabby tendencies and bring back the old Penguin we know and fear?

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