Monday, September 29, 2014

REVIEW: 'Gotham' - Gordon Tries to Help the Children of Gotham While Penguin Hitches a Ride in 'Selina Kyle'

FOX's Gotham - Episode 1.02 "Selina Kyle"

Detectives Gordon and Bullock investigate a child trafficking ring preying on Gotham's street kids, including Selina Kyle. Meanwhile, Penguin resurfaces in the countryside and begins to make his way back to Gotham, leaving victims in his wake.

I enjoyed the pilot for Gotham but I do have to admit that it had a ton of plot and characters to introduce. I wasn't quite sure what the episodic formula was moving forward. For instance, I didn't know that Jim and Harvey would be investigating a crime in every episode. And yet, here it is in "Selina Kyle" and the villains that they are hunting are definitely more campy than anything else the series has done so far. That is a relief of sorts. It's fascinating watching how all the different levels of the mob and corruption in the city are changing. Those are the plot mechanics I'm really engaged in. But it's also good to know that the series can go for the campy piece of characterization as well. I don't think it's especially well-utilized here - Lili Taylor is having lots of fun (way more than she did in this time slot last year for Almost Human). But they are completely one-note characters whose sole purpose is to kidnap a regular character - whose only connection the audience has with is that she'll one day become Catwoman. They also tease the pending arrival of The Dollmaker which I'm genuinely intrigued to see this show's interpretation of. However, the story arc also sets up this depiction of Gotham as a bit more fantastical than it originally seemed. That will be important going forward.

Even though the episode is named after her, I don't think this is an especially big episode for Camren Bicondova's Selina Kyle - who wants to be referred to as Cat (because of course!). It's a step up from the minor role she had in the premiere. She finally gets some lines and it's nice to see that feisty and smart side of the character. And yet, she doesn't start talking until two thirds of the way through the episode. If the show is keeping a regular character that quiet for its first handful of episodes, it better have a reason. It's important at the end of the episode where she shares with Jim that she was also there in the alley when the Wayne's were murdered. But the rest of the time, she's reacting to horrible things that Patti and Doug - the kidnappers - as well as the mayor's office are doing. I enjoy that the show isn't wasting any time getting Cat into Jim's orbit. I think Bicondova is fine in the role - it's nice to see that when she speaks she can interesting.  However, I'm not exactly sure the episode warranted being named after her.

The tent-pole villains of the season - Fish Mooney, Carmine Falcone and Oswald Cobblepot - continue to impress. Following the events of the premiere, their world is slightly in flux. Falcone recognizes that Penguin was right in saying that the murder of the Wayne's is shaking up the city. He also needs to make sure that Fish is loyal to him following her hot-headed decision to try and have Jim and Harvey killed. She gets the lesson but she is not a character who is just going to sit back and let things happen. She is angry and sometimes can't hide it but she's also very methodical. A winning but possible deadly combination. The wheels are spinning in her head and it's fascinating to see how organized crime will evolve over the course of the season. All of that is made even more precarious by the fact that Penguin is still alive and slowly putting all the pieces together as he tries to get back to the city. Jim warned him not to return. He does so anyway and he's just as vicious as any other villain Gotham. That should make the next interaction between Jim and Penguin even more dynamic and highly anticipated. 

Some more thoughts:
  • "Selina Kyle" was written by Bruno Heller and directed by Danny Cannon.
  • While Lili Taylor was having a lot of fun, I can't really say that about her partner in crime Frank Whaley who is largely just forgettable.
  • Also forgettable is former Disney star Kyle Massey as one of the homeless street kids.
  • Carol Kane also debuts as Penguin's mother. It's a very specific kind of performance that I'm going to need more than one episode to say if it is wonderful or not.
  • What's the story with Cat's mom?
  • Future Riddler continues to just be creepy and completely unnecessary. He doesn't really add anything to the one scene of police investigation he is in in every episode.
  • Meanwhile, Bruce is testing his pain tolerance which is unhealthy but he also wants to do something for the children Jim is trying to help. That's very indicative of the traits he will have as future Batman. It's also enough to make Alfred reach out to Jim for assistance. I love this interpretation of Alfred as well as the dynamic between him and Jim.