Wednesday, November 26, 2014

[Gotham] Episode 10 Review

As a midseason finale, Lovecraft wasn't exactly the story we wanted Gotham to end with this year, considering this episode should also get us excited for next year's material and yet there is something anticlimactic and underwhelming about the way it presented supposedly crucial game-changers. If I simply look at this as a standalone episode, then I think it held up well because it has one major plotline and one subplot in the background which allowed the flow of the narrative to run smoothly enough. The ensemble of characters was utilized pretty well but the quality of the scenes is, at best, uneven which fortunately served to highlight the strongest performances and moments found in the episode. I don't feel the need to lengthen this review because my best guess is that you're reading this because you have watched the episode so I owe it to all of us to keep things simple.

MAJOR STORYLINE: Someone hires a group of professional killers to dispose of Selina Kyle since she's supposed to be a key witness who will testify for the Waynes' murder trial. Last episode, Gordon dropped her off to Alfred and Bruce's care while he struck a deal with the defense attorney Harvey Dent who was building a case against a businessman named Dick Lovecraft. Dent tries to pin the murders to Lovecraft by hinting that he has a witness to convict him with. The entire episode dangles the red herring that the titular character was the one who hired the killers who were after Selina, but we later find out that he was also being targeted. Once again, Gotham reinforces the puzzling habit of naming an episode after a character who barely has anything to contribute to the episode itself. After all, the great bulk of this story was devoted to the budding relationship of young Bruce and Selina. They had genuinely heartfelt moments together and a few awkward, clunky dialogues here and there. Personally, I think David Mazouz and Camren Bicondova have great on-screen chemistry and are given storyline material that I believe they performed in very well. There's a polarizing quality to Mazouz' character as Bruce Wayne in the show and I claimed in a few of my reviews that I belong to the positive faction. I actually look forward to him every episode though admittedly he serves no bigger purpose in the plots themselves and his scenes are usually there as a standalone appearance. IRONICALLY ENOUGH, he and Pertwee's Alfred have a more nuanced relationship and fleshed-out characterization than more major characters, and this midseason finale has once more touched upon that. Bicondova's Selina Kyle has never felt important to the show until this point but it's still arguable how she should or will eventually fit in whatever the writers plan for her next year.

MINOR STORYLINE: The continuing escalation of the mob wars. John Doman's Carmine Falcone is becoming one of my favorite performances of the show. He has this screen presence that keeps you on the edge of your seat and his interaction with Oswald Cobblepot allows Robin Lord Taylor to really step up his game (it should go without saying that fan-favorite Taylor is a solid actor in his role but he was not the focus of the episode this tea ). Meanwhile, the tension between Falcone and Mooney is highlighted in that delightful dinner scene where Falcone straight-up shoots one of his foot soldiers and passive-aggressively forces the rest of his family to eat without even getting rid of the dead body on the table. It's great to see Jada Pinkett-Smith's Mooney express fear and nervousness around the old don, but I think she's now ready to take him on out in the open which should happen next year.

STRONGEST PERFORMANCE goes to Sean Pertwee as Alfred Pennyworth. HE IS NOW MY OFFICIAL FAVORITE ON-SCREEN ADAPTATION OF THE LOYAL BUTLER! Not only does he kick ass in hand-to-hand combat and firearms, he also excels in interrogating suspects by sweetening the information deal through financial currency, and charming Fish Mooney to aid him in his search for his Master Bruce. Originally, when Sean Pertwee was casted for the role, a lot of people were negative because he doesn't seem to fit the mold of what we are used to when we picture Alfred, but I am happy that Sean Pertwee's character does seem to have a military background and so he also functions as a bodyguard to add in his posh job description. He was the show-stealer of this episode and rightfully so, especially after his arc wraps up beautifully with a tearful reunion with Bruce. You really get the palpable sense that he will kill and die for the boy if need be and that just makes me choke up because Bruce and Alfred's relationship has always been one of the greatest things I look forward to when I'm reading the comics. Also, HARVEY BULLOCK was totally enjoying Alfred as his temporary partner during the episode. Gordon is busy taking care of other things so Bullock and Alfred had a chance to work together which proves to be terribly entertaining. I would consider Bullock as one of my favorite characters of the show now, seeing as he's the first major character to get a backstory and Donal Logue continues to nail the character whom I don't really like much in the source material. Speaking of partnerships, it looks like this is the end of the road for Bullock and Gordon and it had been a spectacular ride, personally. I'm sure they'll run into each other next year but they won't be working cases together anymore which may be a fresh start for both of their characters.

The episode ends with Gordon's transfer to Arkham Asylum where he will now work as a security guard alongside the city's criminally insane. Whoopee-doo. He's surprisingly lax about this demotion. He was a homicide detective for Loki's sake! And the Mayor just decided to turn him into a scapegoat and we're supposed to just deal with that. It's far-fetched and I think contributed to the underwhelming factor of that closing scene for the episode. I'd like to be optimistic about this ordeal because that means we will be exploring a brand new location next year and Gordon will be working in the fringes, and not for official cop business anymore (no more formulaic case-of-the-week? That would fantastic). In line with that, I'm also excited to see who Bullock will partner with. I could use some time away from Bruce-Alfred storylines next year because I feel that Gotham should prioritize the mob wars because they got some pretty strong material for their players in that arc, and Taylor, Pinkett-Smith, Doman and Zayas are brilliant enough to actors who need to be given more screen-time and backstory. The show will really benefit if they spice things up with the conflicts and characters they already have instead of just throwing random easter-egg references from the comic books and hoping they will be enough to hold the interest of the nerd population of viewers which I don't think is that a lot, honestly, so best not alienate the casual viewer. I'll continue to expect things to get better for Gotham. I still hope it will.

This installment excelled far better as a standalone chapter, considering it mostly focused on character work and development which were handled superbly. It nevertheless failed to deliver the crescendo a midseason finale deserves.

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