I think I need to cut back on the length of my upcoming episode reviews for this series which is why I chose not to continue here the scene-by-scene analysis format that I did with the pilot episode last time. I decided that the best way to minimize the verbosity of my episode review while still keeping in the essence is to divide the parts into characters and their own scenes, giving only brief yet meaningful discussions for each. I would also group them into major and minor focal points to avoid confusion and to make the discussions among them more efficient. I've also done some research on reviews from other websites so I can better frame my own insights and criticisms for this episode based on what I've agreed and disagreed with in said reviews.
Overall, my assessment for the second episode of GOTHAM entitled Selina Kyle is that it had a better pacing than the pilot episode, which also meant that multiple plotlines have finally emerged and will hopefully be tackled head-on as the season progresses. As for the finer points, there is a noticeable conflict in tonality for this episode which one could either enjoy or find jarring. That may largely depend upon your own taste and sensibilities for a show that is understandably a mix of so many worlds and genres all at once. On one hand, this is a crime procedural filled with grit and gore; on the other hand it also allows itself for some abrasive campiness during the most unexpected moments, so in turn would deeply contrast its supposedly darker, more grounded roots. That could be either be very off-putting or delightful (I'm more leaning on the latter because I enjoy the dissonance of Gotham because it personally works for me in a level that I cannot explain fully for now). True enough, the show has yet to find the right balance of such elements and we as viewers have to give it more time. And why should we be? Well, in spite of its glaring flaws, there are also worthwhile gems which could possibly elavate this series if the writers continue to play by their strengths. It's only been two episodes and there are many narrative directions and character expositions to explore soon enough.
Ben McKenzie's surly and unsmiling take on Jim Gordon is only balanced by his ability to also brilliantly convey how much his character earnestly wears his heart under his sleeve--and so far it's his strength but I know that as the season progresses this could be a weakness as well. In the last episode, his partner Harvey Bullock (under direct orders from Carmine Falcone) asked him to dispose Oswald Cobblepot, a former Fish Mooney loyalist who snitched to the Major Crimes Unit regarding the framing of one Mario Pepper as the Waynes' killer. Gordon faked-shot Cobblepot and allowed him to swim away through a river, but now Bullock was led to believe he did kill the man so he has been quick to point out that Gordon should no longer ride around with his self-righteous high horse. So, much to Gordon's dismay, he has to play the crooked-cop part to keep the suspicions at bay. After all, he promised to clean up GCPD so it's necessary for him to establish connections and earn the trust of the real corrupt cops, including Bullock. I must say that though McKenzie continues to maintain his everyman-lead characterization for this show (which, at times, feels too subtle to make any lasting impression), he also tries to convey internal conflict pretty well through his overall countenance and body language in every scene that features his partner stepping out of line (and there have been two or three instances in this episode that Bullock does play up his crooked side during interrogations). I think his casting is still on-the-mark based on how the writers want him to act in the stories. I still buy his believability but I certainly want to see him engage with more characters that would challenge him and push him to the limits.
Speaking of which, I actually have this theory that Harvey Bullock doesn't really believe that Gordon is one of them just yet and may have doubts about him executing Cobblepot. So perhaps he's going to test Gordon in the next episodes because I'm getting the sense that Bullock is not entirely convinced and he shouldn't be because he's a pretty clever guy, and I would definitely love to see more tension between these two. As for important interactions, Gordon had at least four of them in the episode that are worth noting. Firstly, we have his first meeting with Selina Kyle who revealed to him that she saw who killed the Waynes (though we should remain skeptical because Selina is the type of street kid who knows how to manipulate adults to get what she wants). There is nothing much to say here but there is a promise of a hopefully interesting dialogue by the next episode to occur between these characters. We also have Gordon's pleasant chat with the Mayor of Gotham, Aubrey James (Richard Kind) where they immediately clashed heads about the goals and decisions politicians implement for the so-called betterment of the city. Mayor James doesn't give a shit what a rookie officer like Gordon has to say but manages to dismiss him rather coolly because, after all, every corrupt official seems to be well-informed enough to know that Gordon is the latest cop-on-mob-pay so there's no point in taking his moral posturing seriously. They're all just playing their own parts in the game and Gordon is caught right in the trap.
The last two interactions pertain to Gordon visiting Wayne Manor after Alfred pleads him to talk to Bruce. I am loving Sean Pertwee as Alfred a lot. He has a tough look about him which makes him showing his softer side much more endearing every time we see him trying to guide Bruce after the loss of the boy's parents. Alfred has also learned to recognize that Bruce has formed a bond with Gordon in just a course of a few days and so implores him to set Bruce straight. The conversation between Gordon and Bruce while Alfred is in the background shows that both men don't always know the best way to handle the boy, most especially when he's resistant to their help. I think the dynamics and tension works because it also helps Gordon and Alfred to develop some level of trust between them which should be engaging for the viewers in the next episodes when we see more instances of them working together for the sake of Bruce's welfare.
Robin Lord Taylor's Oswald Cobblepot is proving to be the most scintillating aspect of the show. He's no longer in Gotham, however, so his scenes mostly show him trying to get back to the city--which is all kinds of fun and creepy. I enjoy him every time he's on screen because Taylor's portrayal is so entertaining. He's so dorky and awkward around people, speaking with such courtesy and meekness like he's just some harmless school boy so it just completely takes anyone aback once he does unleash his violent streak out of nowhere. His berserk button seems to be anytime anyone calls him "penguin". Prepare to get your throat slashed by a broken bottle if you insult him with that pet name. Nothing much happens in his scenes except that we see him bidding his time, buying a trailer van and making a collage from newspaper clippings with the photos of people he is preparing to take down once he makes his comeback. He also kidnapped a frat boy whom he is now holding for ransom. Taylor makes his scenes shine because he adds that extra spark of charm and danger in his delivery. I can't wait to watch more of him and his journey back to Gotham.
As the titular episode character, Camren Bicondova is an adorable actress whose demeanour and camera presence somewhat reminded me of Game of Thrones' Maisie Williams who plays Arya Stark and the characterization is not far off. A hardened teenage petty thief, Selina Kyle (who much prefers to go by the nickname 'cat') is the central figure for this episode's crime case about child snatchers. She was generally great in her scenes and her fluid, graceful movements as well as her uncanny resemblance to a younger Michell Pfeiffer (who played Catwoman in the Tim Burton film) personally for me are able to capture the essence of what this character should be all about. There is something unsettling about her which I hope will be developed some more because I think Selina Kyle is the gray villains/anti-heroine of the rogues' gallery. You never know her motivations unless she wants you to. Granted that Bicondova is young so we will yet see the character play up her sex appeal, but she already does have that Lolita vibe going for her, unafraid and more than capable of manipulating adults around her especially the cops as long as she gets something from it. My interest is piqued with her future interactions with Gordon and possibly Bruce himself in the next episodes. I'm left wanting for more with Bicondova's Selina and I hope the process of peeling off her layers will be sweet torment because she's one of those characters in the comics that is so relentlessly dynamic that you never know what she does next--and whose side she's on.
Maybe it's just my general bias towards Bruce Wayne/Batman but I always look forward to watching David Mazouz as the young Bruce embody this character in the show. I think he's personally engaging, able to portray a vulnerable and privileged boy who struggles to deal with the death of his parents and his growing awareness of the reality of dangers and evils of the city he has been sheltered from. We continue to see him test his body (Alfred mentioned that he is burning and cutting himself) which feels as if he is truly using self-inflicting pain to cope and merely justify such habits with nobler reasons. That scene of him doodling graphic violent images while listening to heavy metal in his earphones was unusually cute but it also shows how secluded and lonely he is. I've mentioned that I truly believe that both Gordon and Alfred will take larger roles in his life from now on, with the latter raising him as a second father and the former as a trusted ally.
FISH MOONEY and CARMINE FALCONE
I'm one of those people who consider Jada-Pinkett Smith's Fish Mooney to have a lot of potential as a formidable frontrunner villain for the series, but I will admit that she can come off cartoonish and over-the-top in her delivery. Still, I believe she has put a lot of weight in her interpretation of this original character, and her scene with Carmine Falcone for this episode was something I could hardly take my eyes off from. She was both conniving and vulnerable in that scene. Speaking of said scene, here we see Falcone warning her sternly not to betray him and beats up her current lover to teach her not to tiptoe outside of his line again. Of course, Cobblepot was the one who planted suspicion on Mooney before Falcone had him killed and this only made Mooney wish she at least made Cobblepot suffer before he was disposed of. Oh, I believe she will get that opportunity once her little penguin comes back and shows her what he had learned under her tutelage. We also get another scene of Mooney and Bullock patching things up while she taunts Gordon for being a 'disappointment', seeing as he is now as crooked as the rest of them. I was quite fine with Mooney's contribution to the episode but she was in the sidelines, only there to move the plot forward. I certainly hope the next episode will shine the spotlight on her because I do think that most of the viewers still underestimate what the character and the actress are capable of with the proper story material.
John Doman as Falcone was intimidating and I can't wait to see him in future scenes with opposing crime lord Salvatore Maroni played by Dexter's David Zayas. Doman continues to play the ageing mob boss with a crisis among his underlings with the right kind of temperature. I wish we could see him interact with Bullock, the cop who is on his payroll. Doman's Falcone still comes off like a senior salesman who is just too damn tired of the youngsters messing his turf and I think it works great. I'm more interested to see the mob wars for this series as oppose to the standalone case-of-the week storylines, honestly. I also have something I want to discuss at the last part of this review concerning a plot point Falcone mentioned during his conversation with Mooney.
Donal Logue also takes the sidelines here even if he is in most scenes with Gordon as they investigate the case and gun down perps. I'm so pleased to see a live-action Harvey Bullock at long last and Logue has gotten the character down to a tee. I want to see how he reacts once he finds out that Gordon is working the Wayne case with Selina Kyle as an eye-witness, and hopefully a conversation with Falcone just to see how their relationship works--and why he chose Falcone and not Maroni as the mob boss to get money from.
MONTOYA AND ALLEN plus GERTRUD KAPELPUT
This scene really adds nothing important to the story. I wish we see the MCU have more essential roles in the upcoming episodes. I feel as if they just rehashed the same thing we saw in the pilot when we met these two investigators for the first time. We need a more prominent contrast between their unit and the GCPD so the viewers can decide for themselves which one to root for; or if either of their branch will even be worth rooting for.
So far, they're investigating Oswald's disappearance and interviews the mother played by Carol Kane, and she is a truly Burton-esque character in appearance. Based from what we can gather, Gertrude Kapelput is the kind of parent who dotes obsessively on her son like he's the most special boy among the special. I'm eager to see if there is more to their mother-son dynamics than meets the eye, especially since Mrs. Kapelput did mention a 'painted slut took her son away' whom I assume must be Fish Mooney, Oswald's former boss who did act like he was his surrogate mother.
...is absolutely stunning even in her homely clohes as she munches on take-out Chinese food. On a serious note, I believe Barbara Kean is more important than we would initially give credit for. She's the stability that keeps Gordon grounded and he's going to need her a lot once the plot thickens and things in Gotham get more topsy-turvy. I still think that Barbara might eventually lose her trust in him because I see glimpses of her suspicion in this scene whenever the camera looms close to her face. The writers really need to follow up on the Montoya angle of this story because that would provide more character drama for these three.
Stay fucking awesome, Mr. Pertwee. Put Bruce in his place if he gets too extreme with his self-training, and do invite James Gordon again for teatime. I'm enjoying his presence in each scene because it was unlike what I expect from Alfred which totally then sets the character apart because he's a different take on the family butler.
..is underappreciated in his role as Mooney's go-to guy but the actor (Drew Powell) had the best facial expressions while Mooney was monologuing out loud in her cartoonish way. It's almost as if he truly gets her including her mood swings and seething temperament and he's just amused by everything about it. I do believe he is her most loyal henchmen. I want to know more about their relationship because I think Butch is a secondary character who will have more screentime in the future.
Jesus fuck, man, stop being a creeper! I was not happy at all of how wasteful his character's appearance was in this episode. The actor has credibility in his delivery but he just stands there in a scene like an expendable piece of plot device when one can obviously see that Cory Michael Smith wants to break out of the shadows and have his Nygma treated seriously for once. And he should be given a chance, considering the Riddler is one of the smarter villains from the rogues' gallery and a top favourite of mine. I am still convinced that he's crushing on Gordon in this scene because I think he's leering by the window because he's watching Gordon. We need to have a more substantial scene to utilize this character so I hope we get him alone with Gordon; maybe he'll then cook things up and not just lurk around in the background, making viewers like me uncomfortable. I was almost expecting Ivy Pepper to appear again, tending to her plants. GET THIS SHIT FIXED SOON, WRITERS!
VILLAINS OF THE WEEK
I found Lili Taylor and Frank Whaley as the child snatchers very hilarious and entertaining. He looks like a traveling salesman with his dapper suit and she looks like a librarian who will shush you rather harshly if you don't read your book quietly. The high-fiving they did in one of the scenes after they managed to round up enough children and young teens to serve to the Dollmaker is as campy as it gets which I believe is something a lot of viewers did not like. They seem out of place because of their cartoonish display of villainy but I thought it was what made their characters more menacing. You're forced to take them seriously and even when you do they still come off as annoyingly chipper for a bunch of psychos injecting kids with drugs and selling them to some enigmatic figure known only by a creepy-ass alias. If these characters do make a comeback for some episode down the line in the season then I'm open to it because this is Gotham after all and they handle their criminally insane with style: lock them up until they break out later.
SPEAKING OF WHICH...
- The Wayne Foundation is opening up Arkham Asylum which has been shut down for fifteen years. I for one am on board for this subplot! This mental institution is essential to the city as a setting piece. The name most associated with Arkham, of course, is the Joker (and Dr. Arkham himself who is just as dangerous as any criminally insane villain). I'm really eager to see how this one plays out. Do they have a location or set for this place already? I hope they unveil it soon..
- What is up with Falcone talking about the Waynes AS IF THEY'RE IN CAHOOTS WITH THE MOBS TO BEGIN WITH? That's how that piece of dialogue came off to me. Falcone made it seem as if the Waynes were able to co-exist with (AND MAYBE EVEN FUND) the rest of the criminal element in the city and that they played and served their part well--right until they had to be killed through a professional hit, I guess. I don't know how to feel about this but it's...an intriguing take. The Waynes are the pillars of the community and to find out that they were corrupt and bought by the mob is unsettling but worth the exploration. BUT HEY, I COULD HAVE MISINTERPRETED IT. Falcone could simply mean that the Waynes did their altruistic thing and that also helped with the balance of good and bad forces in Gotham. That could be it...
I NEED THE NEXT EPISODE SO BADLY BECAUSE OF THESE PLOT POINTS!
FINAL VERDICT: 3.5 STARS
Though an entertaining episode with great action and memorable performances from its main cast, the story still needs more time to sow its seeds while its characters need to have more meat and bones to their roles and not just serve as plot devices