‘Gotham’ 5×09 Review: ‘The Trial Of Jim Gordon’

“The Trial Of Jim Gordon” marks Erin Richards’ debut as a director, with a script written by Ben McKenzie.

They created pure gold.

The episode is loaded with so many of the things I love about Gotham: Favorite characters and heartfelt conversations, mixed with life-threatening crises. It was a little less heavy on the crazy, but there was just so much going on that I didn’t miss it.

Jim On Trial

A near-death experience can make you rethink everything. That’s just what Jim’s subconscious mind does after he’s shot. He dreams of a trial where he is both defendant and prosecutor.

The prosecution’s case is that Gotham would be better off without Jim Gordon. “Lawyer Jim” claims too many have died because of Jim’s need to be a hero. Among the witnesses is a dream Lee, who says everything he touches dies.

We know Jim feels a lot of guilt over the many, many deaths that have happened in Gotham. There are two ways we can respond to guilt. We can take the coward’s route, trying to shift the all blame to others. Or we can become martyrs, shouldering it all, even if we haven’t earned it. Often the truth is really somewhere in between, as it is in Jim’s case.

Gotham was a nightmarish cesspool even before Jim Gordon arrived. By being, as Harvey says, a “pain in the ass moralistic ” detective and then captain, Jim has led many into the light who otherwise might never have made it there. Including Harvey and the GCPD.

Bruce’s Crisis Of Conscience

Jim’s unconscious nightmare is echoed by Bruce’s conscious worry that he is bad for Gotham. He confesses it to Selina at a makeshift dinner date, leading her to ask if he plans to leave Gotham. Bruce points out that many terrible things have happened because of him.

Selina doesn’t get much chance to argue with him, because they are interrupted by Ivy. So I’m going to argue a bit with Bruce.

Remember that martyr syndrome I mentioned? Bruce has it in spades right now. Many of the terrible things that have happened in Gotham had some connection to him. But he doesn’t own the blame for them. That belongs to the Ivys, Jeremiahs and Ra’s al Ghuls of Gotham. They are the eternal forces of chaos. Bruce has just been a convenient excuse for them. They would have found someone else if he wasn’t there. But Bruce doesn’t realize that yet.

It’s very easy for a truly good person — a hero — to take the blame when things go wrong. But a hero is not defined as someone who always saves the day. Check out the first part of the Webster’s Dictionary definition:

1a: a mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability

b: an illustrious warrior

c: a person admired for achievements and noble qualities

d: one who shows great courage

Nothing there says they always win. But it takes great courage to try. Bruce Wayne and Jim Gordon both have that great courage. They may not always believe it, but they have made a difference in Gotham, as forces for order.

A Force Of Nature

So Ivy didn’t leave Gotham after all! She’s still around, enthralling men with a perfume that entrances them into doing her will.

And her will includes the death of Jim Gordon and the continued isolation of Gotham. Not that she’s getting either of those things.

I was glad to see Ivy again, and hope she will be part of the big wrap-up episode. I was also delighted to see my favorite Gotham sidekick, Victor Zsasz, even if he was under Ivy’s influence.

I was less impressed to see the Mutant Leader return at Ivy’s side. Selina once again made very quick work of someone who, based on his comics origin, should have been a much more formidable opponent. Either Ivy’s root made Selina super-badass, or Gotham’s Mutant Leader is one of those characters whose fierce bark hides the bite of a Pekingese. (Don’t @ me. I have a Peke. They don’t have much of a bite.)

I hope we see Ivy and Victor in the series’ final battle for Gotham. But they can leave the Mutant Leader at home.

Gotham’s Unexpected Hero

Jim got shot while trying to broker a ceasefire among the gangs. It’s a step toward reunification with the mainland. Jim didn’t quite get that ceasefire.

But Barbara did!

She did it in typically semi-twisted Barbara Kean fashion, coercing the gang leaders by secretly poisoning them. Her motive was good, even if her method was… questionable. It wasn’t quite in keeping with her promise to go straight. We don’t know if anyone besides Penguin is aware of what she did. In the meantime, Penguin is still quite willing to manipulate Barbara, using her fear of losing her baby.

The Conversation We Didn’t Know We Needed

I cannot recall whether Lee and Alfred have ever had a scene together before this episode. I don’t think so.

It’s a quiet moment after Lee has stabilized Jim. She confesses to Alfred that she doesn’t know how she’s going to handle everything with Barbara and the baby. He in return confesses that he’d never planned to have children, but then found himself guardian to Bruce. He brings tears to Lee’s eyes — and to ours — as he tells her about the unexpected joys of this unexpected role.

I’ve always said I love the father-son relationship between Alfred and Bruce. And I adored this warm, tender reflection on it. I am so glad that Lee and Alfred are part of the roster of rare pairings the show has given us in this final season.

The Love Stories We’ve Waited For

Jim Gordon and Lee Thompkins have walked a very long, difficult road over five years. They’ve suffered tremendous losses, together and separately. Each of them has also, for a brief time, become an unlikeable person. But they’ve managed to come through hell on Earth, and to come back to each other.

This brought us a rare moment of pure joy in Gotham. Jim and Lee marry in the GCPD headquarters (where else, really?), with Harvey Bullock as their officiant. Although, as Harvey notes, it’s with the power vested in him by absolutely no one. So, is it legal?

Eh. It’s Gotham. Who cares? We know things won’t be peaceful for long, so we’ll take this bit of joy while we can get it.

And we’ll also take the joy in the #BatCat moments of this episode, from the impromptu date in the beginning, to Selina’s rescuing Bruce in the middle, to their liplock at the end of Jim and Lee’s wedding (ahem, way to steal the show, kids!).

A standing ovation, please, for Erin Richards and Ben McKenzie, who gave us a wonderful way to head into a two-week hiatus before the series’ final three episodes.

Gotham returns to FOX on Thursday, March 21 at 8 p.m./7 p.m. Central.

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