While last week’s episode was devoted primarily to introducing the characters and the various plot threads of the show, this week’s episode of Gotham starts to build on those threads and develop them into larger story elements. Well, at least, I think that’s what the intention was.
In general, this episode focuses on story of a mysterious team drugging and kidnapping the homeless teens of Gotham for mysterious figure known as the Dollmaker. Against this background, we are given additional stories of the development within the Falcone crime family; the continued clash between Gordon’s principles and the entire GCPD; and the drama that is young Bruce’s life. Oh, and Oswald Cobblepot gets really angry a few times.
In general, I did not enjoy this episode. I think they were trying to accomplish too much, so everything was rushed and felt forced. I did like some of the story elements we were given, but they fell into second place to the larger plot pieces, which I did not appreciate.
First and foremost, let’s consider Selina Kyle. As a character, we know nothing about her. Without the pre-knowledge of the character (and the constant camera focus) she would just be a kid in the background. As a main character, she’s gotten the second least amount of screen time (just ahead of Nygma) and hasn’t done anything other than lurk on a fence or a fire escape. And in the episode that is NAMED AFTER HER, she doesn’t have any major acttvity until halfway through the show. And the first time she gets dialogue is further after that. The show obviously intends for Selina to be central to the overall plot. She witnessed the Wayne murder. Her age puts her as a contemporary with Bruce, so that will probably develop into a relationship. I predict that she will show Bruce the darker side of the city and teach him some sort of “valuable lesson” on his way to becoming a vigilante. But as of right now, she’s a non-entity. She’s a pretty face (way too pretty to be a street kid) that does a lot of lurking.
At the end of this episode, we see Selina interact with a few street kids, but that’s not enough to build a character. We see her stare longingly at a locket, which she then carelessly places into an open pocket that then (surprise) falls out at a key moment. I didn’t mind her interaction with Gordon at the end of the show. It was a little stilted, but we at least got a glimpse into her potential. And she’s still wearing those damn goggles over her hoodie. Why?!?
And then there are the sort of funny, sort of akward team kidnapping street teens. I loved seeing Lili Taylor in the role. And then I got disapointed as she sunk into cheesyness. The giant pin to deliver the drugs was…odd. I guess they are building towards criminals with goofy MOs for some reason. The references to the mysterious Dollmaker are intriguing and point to a continued development during the show. And stuffing the kids into shipping containers? Nasty.
The chemist owner was a random cameo (did you notice it without cheating and checking IMDB?). But what was the point of that chunk of the show? There was a bit of dialogue and a shootout. And there was that terrible CGI hole in the back room a janitor fell down after being shot by Gordon.
Speaking of terrible CGI, it has again plagued this show in completely useless situations. The broken window and the clawed out eyes on the thug could have easily been done much better with practical effects. Why are they wasting money on such obvious and shitty digital effects?
The story elements with Falcone are mildly interesting. They serve only to set up future drama, but they at least painted Falcone as a ruthless boss. But on the downside, they also showcased an absolutely terribly performance from Jada Pinkett Smith. She was chewing the scenery in the worst way. She shifted into and out of an accent that can only be described as a “wealthy person’s inflection”. She delivered her lines with no emotion or depth. Everything she did felt forced and fake. When she screamed to empty her restaurant? It was just silly. When she talked very slowly to indicate how menacing she was trying to be? Also silly. I expected more from her.
In this area of the show, we can also touch briefly on Cobblepot. His character showed some promise. We potentially had a mob underling developing into a brutal criminal mastermind. Instead, we have a joke of a peon who makes a quick change from snitch to killer. I would’ve enjoyed a long development, showcasing how and why he evolved into the criminal we know later in the comics. He is clearly going to be used as a thorn in the side of the mob that will also work against the cops.
He also serves as yet another sledgehammer to the face with plot references. Not only is he waddling down the side of the road in his first scene, but the rich bro that picks him up flat out calls him a penguin. Which, of course, sends Cobblepot into a murderous rage. We also had a contant sledgehammer with people calling Selina “cat” and her clawing that thug’s eyes out. But Nygma came in the least offensive with only 2 references to “guessing” things.
The final secondary side story is the drama of young Bruce. And this is the one I care the least about. We saw Alfred continue to be an ass. He also stated he had no idea how to care for a kid and was going to let him “take his own path” while shifting the duty of instilling a heroic drive to Gordon. At this point, Alfred feels like a pointless character. He’s there because he has to be according to the Batman lore. Bruce is also somewhat pointless. Yes, his task right now is to be the child who has suffered a trauma and is on the road to recovery. And yes, the average kid will probably sink into some depressed and dark behavior. But all we have are cliche examples of a kid acting out. Maybe if the show wasn’t so concerned with other events, we could focus on Bruce’s journey. We did see one moment of Bruce’s desire to help, even if that help did just consist of throwing money at a problem.
The strength of this episode, in my opinion, was what was happening in the city behind the story of the main characters. And really, that’s what I was hoping for. In a show called Gotham, I want the focus to be on the city itself. We only got a few tastes of this concept, but I liked what I saw.
We saw some of this in the scenes with the mayor and his political manipulations. And we saw some more with Falcone, when he was out-acting Pinkett Smith. My favorite moment, though, was the simple exchange with Gordon, Bullock, and the beat cop when they found the murdered homeless guy.
First off, Bullock’s line of “I got you one, but I dropped it” was absolutely hilarious. Then, we get the exchange between the beat cop and Gordon while Bullock plays both sides. The beat cop openly admits to ignoring the requirements of his duties in favor of a payoff from a local restaurant. In itself, this action isn’t entirely bad. (let’s save the debate on morality for another time) It’s Gordon’s response that is the most important. He says “You’re not a bad guy, just a bad cop.” This speaks volumes to the character of Gordon.
In this one line, we are shown that Gordon is a man that believes in principles. He is driven to support and uphold the foundation of what it means to be a police officer. He draws his strength and purpose from what he believes the badge represents. This is his guiding light. This is how he defines right and wrong. This is why he has decided to stand against the corruption and injustice he sees in the city around him. This will continue to be his driving theme as the show progresses. Hopefully, it will also be called into question so that we see an opportunity for Gordon to grow and develop into the man we know him to be.
Or maybe he was just reprimanding a dirty cop for taking a bribe and I’m reading way too much into one line.
There is one thing I really hoped would’ve gone differently. I know, I know. Only one thing? Let’s say one thing that would’ve been easy to remedy. In the opening scene, we see a homeless kid run and be chased down. There is a cut to the interior of a fancy restaurant with the kid running by outside the window. For a split second, I hoped that we would see the kid run by and get taken down while the elite class ignored or watched without acting. I thought this would’ve been a great, quick scene that spoke volumes to the true nature of Gotham’s citizens. Instead, we got a window broken horribly with digital effects. Unfortunate.
Overall, this was not a bad episode. It was better than the pilot for sure. This was really the first episode in which things happen, so I guess this is our baseline for the rest of the season. My hopes are still low. I am frustrated by bad acting and direction, as well as constantly being beat over the head with plot points and nods to the comic reality. And the doom hanging over our head is the knowledge that as a prequel, there are no true surprises during the course of this story. Unless this show is attempting to build towards its own reality, independent of the movies and comics (maybe working towards its own movie? huh?) we know exactly what is going to happen with all of these characters.
That being said, I’m still willing to ride along and see what develops.