Review: Gotham S1E02 “Selina Kyle”


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Tonight’s Gotham picked up where the “Pilot” left off and that’s the fallout from the murders of Thomas and Martha Wayne. We find out during the episode that the Wayne family was considered one of the two pillars of the Gotham community which kept the city’s order and status quo. The other pillar being Don Carmine Falcone was a nice touch by the writers. It was this little piece of world-building information that is gradually selling me into this series even this early in it’s freshman season.

The history of Batman, the Wayne family and the underworld which permeates Gotham has been told and retold so many times that it’s hard to imagine that anything new could be added to keep things fresh to hardcore fans of the character and the world. It’s actually been a major problem for comic book and film screenwriters when it’s time to come up with something new and not have it become such a major deviation from the character canon to alienate fans.

Showrunner Bruce Heller must’ve seen something within the backstory and history of some of Batman’s adversaries because he looks to be setting up Carmine Falcone and Fish Mooney as the two main antagonists for season 1. In the comics and in the films we don’t really get to explore these two characters very closely. They’re described as underworld mob bosses and, at times, seen as brutish thugs who just happen to be the heads of their criminal enterprises.

“Selina Kyle” is the title of tonight’s episode though we don’t really see the title character until much later in the episode. The episode itself dealt with a new case for the Gordon and Bullock duo who are still feeling their way around each other. It doesn’t help that Bullock seems to be getting tired of Gordon’s “holier-than-thou” attitude towards him and the rest of the force considering he and many in the force think Gordon killed Cobblepot in the previous episode. We, the audience, know better, but Gordon knows he has to continue to sell that assumption made by everyone.

While tonight’s episode wasn’t as overly busy with cramming as many Batman characters and locations it was still quite packed. In addition to building on the Gordon and Bullock relationship, we also have the episode’s main story about teen runaways being grabbed off the streets by unknown parties. Then there’s still the Wayne murders which the pilot episode showed wasn’t really solved. Will the murders of Bruce’s parents take up the bulk of the first season (I sure hope it doesn’t) or will it get a good enough resolution to help move the season’s narrative towards other more interesting storylines.

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It’s in the last twenty or so minutes of the episode that we finally get to see Selina Kyle. Camren Bicondova has such a unique look that it’s a bit jarring seeing her, at first. Yet, it’s the actress’ very exotic-look that hints at Bruce Wayne and Batman’s one true love turning into quite the seductive beauty. Yet, tonight’s episode just portrayed Selina Kyle as a tough, street-savvy runaway whose major role this season is the fact that she knows who really killed the Waynes.

Now, what really made tonight’s episode keep the series on an upward trend would be the two characters mentioned in the beginning: Carmine Falcone and Fish Mooney.

These two characters have become more interesting in just two episodes than throughout all the thousands of stories told about Batman through the comics, films and cartoons. As played by John Doman and Jada Pinkett Smith respectively, Falcone and Mooney make the show really interesting. These are not costume wearing villains or mentally-scarred antagonists. They’re hardcore criminals, but who have learned how to work within the system that is Gotham’s elite society. Where the show pushes forward that the Wayne family has been and continues to be a longstanding pillar of Gotham community, the show also seems to intimate that it does so with a sort of tacit acknowledgement of the seedier side of Gotham.

John Doman’s performance as Carmine Falcone continues to impress. There’s an almost paternal quality to the character but one that never tries to hide the brutality that’s made him the boss of all of Gotham’s criminal underworld. There was such a nice transition from polite businessman to sociopath mob boss in a space of a heartbeat during Falcone’s impromptu meeting with Mooney that one had to rewatch the scene more than once to pick it up.

Of course, many will point out that Jada Pinkett Smith as Mooney was just as good, but in a much more showier fashion. No disagreement in this corner. Smith’s performance is the opposite of Doman’s and it will be interesting how the power play between the two bosses will develop and how it’ll affect the rest of the cast of characters on Gotham.

This show still has growing pains to go through, but tonight’s episode was a good way in working through it while still trying to tell a compelling story. One thing Heller seems to have gotten right (whether by accident or deliberately) with this show’s writing is that he’s made the villains more interesting than it’s supposed heroes. That’s always been the case with Batman outside the comics and this show just continues to perpetuate it.

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Review: Gotham S1E01 “Pilot”


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“Gotham stands on a knife’s edge” — Carmine Falcone

It’s one of 2014’s most-anticipated new series. The world is superhero crazy right now and it was only time before DC dipped back into the Batman well to base a live-action tv series on their most-successful property.

Gotham doesn’t actually take the usual tack and bring in Batman himself as it’s main character. The show uses one of Batman’s most important allies as the focal point of the show. Jim Gordon has always been one of Batman’s staunchest friends throughout every story ever told about the Dark Knight. This show looks to explore Jim Gordon’s early years as part of the Gotham City Police Department. We still get to see Bruce Wayne as a child and his character and who he will become still loom large over the pilot and, I suspect, the series in general.

The pilot episode was written by the show’s executive producer Bruno Heller and it’s actually too paint-by-the-numbers. It literally tries to introduce as many of the Batman rogues gallery in it’s less-than-an-hour running time. We get a quick intro to not just the Riddler and the Joker, but we also get the early beginnings of the Penguin, Catwoman and Poison Ivy. Don’t even get me started on Batman’s more traditional adversaries in Fish Mooney and Carmine Falcone.

It’s difficult to judge a series on it’s pilot episode since the show is still trying to find it’s identity. We saw this with last year’s other comic book series, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and how it took literally 2/3’s of it’s first season to finally find it’s stable footing before it could even figure out what show it wanted to be. Gotham may just have an easier time to find its way in the superhero entertainment landscape since DC has confirmed that the series will not tie-in with it’s cinematic universe the way Marvel did with it’s own series. This should give Bruno Heller and his writers a much more free hand in molding the show into what they want. Yet, there’s a danger in that freedom in that too much of a drastic deviation from the Batman source will rile up the character’s rabid fanbase.

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The first episode does arrive with some very good performances from it’s leads. Ben McKenzie as Det. Jim Gordon commands the stage whenever he’s on the screen. He’s able to convey not just the man of integrity we know Jim Gordon to be, but also inject a bit of a darkness to the character that we rarely saw in the films and cartoons, but comic book fans are very well aware of. McKenzie’s Jim Gordon definitely a bit more rougher around the edges but still idealistic than the Gary Oldman take on Jim Gordon who was more seasoned, but also more cynical about the best way to combat crime in Gotham.

Donal Logue as his veteran partner Harvey Bullock does a good job in becoming the bridge for the audience between the principled Gordon and the more corrupt, underbelly of law and order that is Gotham. We’re not sure if he’s a corrupt cop or just one who has learned how to navigate the dangerous waters of the criminal underworld as one of Gotham’s protectors. Time will tell if this version of Harvey Bullock becomes more of the Batman Begins analogue Arnold Flass or the cynical, but loyal cop of the cartoons.

Now, a show about Batman’s hometown wouldn’t be able to call itself by that city’s name if I didn’t mention the rogues gallery that will end becoming Batman’s (and to an extent, Jim Gordon) reason for being. We don’t see colorful costumes or even the recognizable look of Batman’s villains in this pilot episode, but as stated earlier they do try to cram as many of them in this series premiere as they could. It’s almost like a convoy designed to remind audiences that the show will explore not just Jim Gordon’s early days before Batman rises from the shadows, but also the time of the villains before he arrives.

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Of all the bad guys the show tries to push at the audience in this pilot it’s Fish Mooney as portrayed by Jada Pinkett Smith that stands out most. Her crimelord brings a certain amount of flair to the episode that hints at the over-the-top villainy that will come about once Bruce is all grown up and takes up the mantle of the bat. There’s hints of a past relationship between her and Logue’s Bullock that could turn out to be interesting. Robin Lord Taylor as a young Oswald Cobblepot aka the Penguin is ok, but something in his performance looks like someone trying too hard to bring out in this series the Penguin’s quirky mannerisms that the character looks to be the most cartoony of all introduced in the episode.

Gotham had a good and interesting introductory episode that laid enough stones on the series’ foundation as it moves forward. With only 16 episodes instead of the usual 24 most full-length tv series get Bruno Heller and the show’s writers has less time to create this version of the  Gotham and Batman world we’ve come to expect. Will they manage to inject some new blood into a world that’s been adapted and reimagined through decades of comics, tv and film work or will the series just try to appease the hardcore comic book fanbase thus alienating the wider general audience.

We shall see and future review installments will tell if this site buys into the series with wholeheartedly or end up getting off the ride before it’s over.