After the pilot, “Gotham,” it was clear that this show had a high ceiling. With plenty of Easter Eggs and a promise of what is to come, Gotham has passed the initial test. The continuity is out of whack, but there are enough shout-outs to keep hardcore fans engaged. Yet, there is enough (even too much, at times) explanation of what is going on to hook new viewers, as well. Two weeks in and it seems as though Detective James Gordon is making no friends whatsoever at the GD GCPD. For us at home, however, it is a different story altogether. Already, Gotham has dramatically increased in quality. The tone is much closer now to a Sopranos episode than last week, which played out like a Kung-Fu flick without martial arts. It has already established itself as the best comic book related show on the air right now (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is the only other comic book-related series on the air right now…until next week); however, there are still a few lingering poor qualities that keep Gotham from reaching its full potential.
This episode follows Gordon and Bullock as they try to take on a mysterious kidnapper, who turns out to be one of Gotham’s most terrifying villains! THE DOLLMAKER! Now that you’ve been thoroughly let down, I’ll explain what that means for the show. For one, we don’t even get to see The Dollmaker in this episode, although his name is heavily dropped throughout the show. Unfortunately, it looks like DC is still relying on masked maniacs and gimmicky goons to add some flavor to the show, but it’s really not something they need to do. Kidnapping homeless children off the street (which was eerily reminiscent of Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s “Anne”) makes Gotham look frightening enough on its own. You don’t need to tell us that “bums get shot here all the time” when you are walking people off the pier and Waynes are getting shot all over the place. We get it; it’s a bad place.
I’ve tried to put up with this two weeks in a row, but I can no longer give Jada Pinkett Smith the benefit of the doubt. I thought decades of marriage to Will Smith, that she would have learned a thing or two, but no. As arguably the biggest “star” on Gotham, I expected her performance as upcoming crime lord Fish Mooney to equate to more than focused, off-camera glances and exaggerated screams of fury. If a mob boss like Fish Mooney existed in real life, it would be in a junior high acting class. The bad acting isn’t isolated to just her either. I have been extremely put off of the whole Wayne situation. Bruce, who insists he is not self destructive but is, and his humorously irate butler, Alfred, are a constant distraction to what Gordon is up to. The relationship between Alfred and Bruce is very eyebrow-raising. While there is an unmistakable Earth One influence here, the way Afled man-handles Bruce, I can’t help but wonder if Bruce gets beat off-screen. Maybe that’s why he’s listening to such angry music and drawing Bat-caves. Good going, Alfred. #NOTMYALFRED
On the other side of the coin (aww, look at that convenient Two-Face reference that I will have to save for later…), Oswald Cobblepot has become a big player in Gotham, and is easily one of the most interesting characters thus far. The preview showed Penguin murdering a couple of people kind enough to give him a ride, but it didn’t tell the whole story. The two frat boy douche rockets that gave him a ride were constantly disrespecting him before using the trigger word, saying he looked like a penguin and incurring his murderous rage. Now, the producers could have chosen to make the people who picked him up a normal family that accidentally set Cobblepot off by talking about Happy Feet; rather, there was a distinct and deliberate decision to make him a likable character by killing unlikable people. His character is intriguing – oddly charming and cordial until he loses it. We also learn, through a visit with Oswald’s mom, that he was once a fairly handsome and respected young man. What series events created the tweaked out, waddling psycho that we saw in this episode?
The GCPD dynamic is getting stronger, too. Gordon has stepped up and is fighting authority every step of the way. One of the best encounters is when he tells a patrolman that he’s “not a bad guy, just a bad cop.” That statement more or less sums up the entire GCPD. Harvey Bullock is supposed to outrank Gordon, but I think a chain of command like in the comic books had would be better suited for a lone wolf cop situation like the one Gotham is aiming for. Not only are they as crooked as a question mark (Nygma reference thrown in there, too!), but when they do decide to do the right thing, they are usually so inept that they cause bad things to happen anyway – like say handing busloads of untraceable children to a human trafficker. Thank goodness that Gordon is on the case. Ben McKenzie is really a great choice as leading man. He is the model officer, risking death to be an honest cop in a crooked city, and carries with him a sense of dry humor just good enough to keep him charismatic to the audience. The only thing holding him back is his (and really any characters in the show) tendency to get uncomfortably close to everybody he has a serious conversation with.
Meanwhile, though, Captain Sarah Essen, who seemed to be totally clueless in the pilot, is all of a sudden criticizing Gordon for not “being with the program.” Not only is this a major cop-out to building her character, but all but removes the likelihood of a Gordon-Essen affair, which was a BIG deal in the comic books. After seeing what Barbara looks like, would you leave that for a crooked police Captain like Essen? No, you would not. Behind every good man is a strong woman, and that is no exception with Barbara Kean. She is a great supporting character with strong convictions – the perfect match for James Gordon.
Barbara is not the only female to get some screen time, though. Selina Kyle, who prefers to go by Cat – oh! I get it; because she’s Catwoman (eye roll) – finally gets some love. Although, and I’m not sure I would have even noticed if it had not been pointed out to me, it took FORTY minutes of the episde before the character that the episode, “Selina Kyle,” had any dialogue. She’s a spunky character, and we get early traces of her acrobatics to be, but there is a scene later on in the episode that kills any chance of me liking her again. When trying to get an officer to get Gordon for her, Selina threatens to scream that the officer touched her inappropriately if he does not do her bidding. Especially with “Yes Means Yes” gaining so much traction, it is bullshit that scenes like these are making rounds on public television, where many impressionable young women will undoubtedly watch and see this as an admissible way to get what they want. Ugh. Getting back on track, Selina seems to have a valuable piece of information concerning Joe Chill and the murder of the Waynes. Knowing her angle, it’s fair to ask, on a scale of 1 – Selina Kyle, how full of shit is she?
Gotham has improved over two episodes in almost every way, but writer Bruno Heller really needs to stop holding our hand through every little tidbit of fanboy information we come across. For example, if I see Selina Kyle will be in an episode and I have read the comics, then by hearing her insist they call her “Cat,” I am, assuming that you either think I am an idiot and cannot figure the subtlety on my own, thinking that calling the future Catwoman “Cat” is gimmicky and lame. FOX should not be afraid to assume that their viewers can read between the lines. This is a detective show isn’t it? Stop assuming your viewers have the intelligence of your average GCPD beat cop and give us something to satisfy the need to solve cases right along with Jim Gordon.
Hush Comics gives “Selina Kyle” a B+ for it’s continual improvement, notably in setting a dark tone. The acting is a mixed bag, with main players like Cobblepot, Gordon and Falcone outshining the rest of the cast. If Gotham can get over the speed bumps of spelling out the entire story for viewers and avoid being too corny, it has the potential to keep us glued to the screen all season long.
All pictures in this article belong to Warner Brothers and DC Entertainment