This Gotham review contains spoilers.
There’s good and bad throughout this week’s Gotham, which finally gets us a little time with Selina Kyle. Street kids are being abducted, so Detectives Gordon and Bullock are on the case. Of course, nothing is ever simple in Gotham City…
Once again, though, Gotham can’t seem to decide on what it is. We have scenes that could come right out of any police procedural (the early scene with Gordon, Bullock, and the beat cop investigating the dead homeless man), scenes that border on serious crime drama (will get to one of those below), and then some fairly obvious Batman-world stuff. At any given moment, Gotham is ready to get good at something, but then gets distracted or remembers that it’s supposed to be a different kind of show, and we’re left with half a really good scene.
Lili Taylor (I miss her on Almost Human) deserves better than the “straight-laced as a cartoon librarian but actually kills people” villain trope she’s saddled with. Frank Whaley is here, as well, but doesn’t get much to do. For the record, Whaley had a ridiculously great turn as a villain on The Blacklist last year. That baddie would have felt right at home in Gotham. Possibly moreso than what he has to work with in this episode.
So, with these villains of the week and their poorly-defined scheme, in one big series of broad strokes we get the kind of outlandish criminals (but not as outlandish as the ones to come, of course) that Gotham City will be known for. We also get a better indication of how the corruption in Gotham City goes all the way to the top, with the mayor’s phony-ass interest in looking out for the street kids. Thanks, but I think we got that already, right?
Here’s another perfect example of Gotham‘s schizophrenia. There’s a terrific scene between Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett-Smith, playing a character I’m really beginning to dig) and Carmine Falcone (John Doman, who could quickly become the highlight of the show if he isn’t careful) in her club. Once again, for a few glorious minutes, this is a crime show, with two fine actors working up some chemistry together. It’s spoiled by her rather cartoonish cap to the scene, yelling for everyone to leave. So close.
We’re far less Penguin-centric this week. However, the “flies into a murderous rage every time someone calls him Penguin” schtick is gonna get old really quick. “You must be quite the scamp,” is a great line delivery, though. I’m digging Robin Lord Taylor in this role.
And why are we less Penguin-centric? That’s because the episode is called “Selina Kyle.” Of course, young Ms. Kyle insists her friends call her “Cat,” which is, at best, annoying. Please stop spoon feeding us, Gotham. However, Camren Bicondova is convincing enough in the role, and we do learn that Selina fights dirty when cornered. In fact, we learn that in fairly gruesome fashion. Gotham has some edge for an 8 pm show. Speaking of brutality, the scene with Bullock using a phone book to beat details out of some jerk while Gordon looks on with steely eyes was kind of great, despite it going against all my normal, real-world sensibilities.
Ben McKenzie and Donal Logue seem a little more comfortable in their roles and with each other this week, so that’s good. But their relationship as partners and not-friends and the boundaries therein aren’t all that clearly defined. For example: Gordon knows the only reason he’s still alive is because Bullock thinks Gordon killed Cobblepot. So why on earth would Gordon feel safe admitting to Bullock that it was his fiancee who tipped off the newspaper about the child-snatchers? It felt out of place, and a rather dumb move for such a smart cop.
Side note: David Mazouz really is an intense young Bruce Wayne. The throwaway scene with him furiously scribbling disturbing pictures while listening to heavy metal was actually effective. Far more so than the bits with him burning himself with a candle. On the other hand, it’s interesting to see his insistence that he’s “testing” himself, while, of course, grown-ups just see it as the acting out/self-harm of a disturbed and traumatized boy. It’s definitely a facet of Bruce’s youth that I’m not sure we’ve seen explored anywhere, but I’m also not too sure how far they can take this in five minute increments.
This episode manages to look even better than last week’s, though, which is impressive. I was initially a little put off by the show’s desire to blend gritty New York City locations with slightly stylized interiors and splashes of color. I’m much more at ease with it now, though. It really does occupy a middle ground between the cold realism of the Nolan films and a more hyper-real aesthetic, without ever crossing the line into Burton-era gothic or the excesses of the Schumacher films. I won’t moan about it too much, but…this would look great if it were an actual Batman show, y’know?
I’m still unsure of what to make of Gotham. While “Selina Kyle” is an improvement in some ways (mostly by way of a marginally stronger central story and with less general explaining that has to be done by the characters), it also doesn’t get the extra cushion I gave the pilot for being, well…a pilot. Worse, it still fails to answer the main question that Gotham will have to deal with for the duration of its run: Why should anyone care about Gotham City before Batman? You won’t find that answer this week, but it should give you reason to tune in again. Same non-Bat time, etc…
– Arkham Asylum has been closed for fifteen years. I wonder what’s gonna cause it to reopen?
– We’re going to have to hear about this child-snatching business again, as the name “the Dollmaker” was dropped. Funny enough, we saw a version of the Dollmaker on Arrow last year (read about it here). Since that was the Barton Mathis version of the character who was introduced in the New 52 Detective Comics #1, I would suspect we’ll see something similar here in Gotham. Don’t expect this to line up with Arrow, though!
– When Penguin is trudging around outside of the city limits, there’s a sign that says “Gotham City: 9 Miles.” I got excited for a minute thinking it was a nod to the 1960s Batman TV series. I was wrong. That legendary sign said “Gotham City: 14 Miles.” Damn.
– Only a brief moment with Edward Nygma this week, who is a little less on the nose with his proto-Riddler personality. However, note his question mark body language/posture in his intro.
– Fish Mooney tells Carmine Falcone that Sal Maroni will “always be number two” in Gotham City. Somewhere, young Harvey Dent had to run to the bathroom to change his shorts.
– Renee Montoya and Crispus Allen are the only other two honest cops in Gotham City, it would seem. I wonder how long they’ll make us wait before one of them reaches a certain logical conclusion?
I probably missed some, so feel free to let me know in the comments!