I’ve decided to make this an ongoing recap/review series because, as the biggest Bat-Fan in my particular region, I feel it necessary to provide an ongoing progress report of Bat-Culture, for better or worse.
In this case, it got much, much worse.
Gotham S1:E2, for all the promise shown by the “this season on…” sizzle reel currently circulating the internet, was horrible.
Start with some homeless teenagers who looked as though they could still afford massive amounts of hair-product and had regular access to showering facilities. A truck approaches with overly-sweet, 1950’s-dressed, little-over-middle-aged, white guilt poster people step out offering sandwiches and snacks to the “poor, hungry orphans” who looked like they skipped out on their family vacation to their lake house because their parents didn’t understand them (ie, probably not that bad off at a glance).
Of course, the caring, as it often does on television, plays far more sinister. Sinister to the point where you wonder how actually stupid these kids would be to attempt to take a sandwich from these people who were obviously just going to drug them and throw them into the back of their large truck. Then, the stupid kids get drugged and thrown into the back of their large truck.
The creepy couple stabs the kids with a long pin (which everyone in the episode continues to incorrectly identify as a “pen” either by miscommunication between props and writing or due to some as-yet-unheard Gothamite accent’s poor pronunciation) providing the movie-appropriate immediate knockout except for one of the hardier “street kids” who leads the male member of the duo on a chase, eventually breaking a restaurant-front window while people are eating. As long as we’re doing tropes, we might as well do them all, right?
Of course, our friend Cat (aka, young Selena Kyle) is nearly a party to these shenanigans but smartly makes a getaway just as the stabby-stabby bits begin. An older homeless man the kids call Soldier attempts to interfere and takes a bullet to the chest for his trouble in a very unsurprising death.
Cut to Gordon and Bullock in the street staring at Soldier’s body. Gordon, being the ex-soldier himself, finds the dead guy’s dog tags buried under his bloody shirt and has that stereotypical uber-patriot moment of extra sad at which point Bullock shows up and basically flips him the middle finger by announcing, coffee in hand, that he got Jim a cup of coffee but he “dropped it”. I don’t know if you could pick it up by this point in the show, but these guys don’t really like each other. Subtle hints. Very subtle.
Gordon berates a beat cop because he wasn’t there preserving the crime scene which leads to a lot of “You killed the Penguin, I thought you were ‘with the program’” talk regarding Jim’s continuing to be a White Knight in a sea of corruption. Banter, banter, fight with the fat lazy cop stereotype, Bullock drops his coffee, irony ensues.
The Dicks (yeah, I’m going to keep using that double-entendre until it doesn’t apply anymore) do a bad-cop/saccharine-sweet cop on the sturdy street kid who fell through that plate glass window earlier. This is the first time that the PIN is misidentified as a PEN. Repeatedly.
Bullock goes over-the-top stereotype on the kid and then lashes out at Jim. The acting by Bullock here is absolutely atrocious as there doesn’t seem to be any reason that he could be as upset as he plays. Not to mention Bullock is berating his partner in an open area of the police station where all of their peers can see. He punches a guy for being in his way as a surrogate for Gordon and storms off.
Cut to a highway where we conveniently find that it is approximately nine miles to Gotham City. The newly gimped and still shabby Oswald Cobblepot is trying to hitch a ride back to town. A couple of (again) overly-stereotypical frat boys stop to pick him up, doing the old “reach for the handle, drive away” on him a few times before legitimately picking him up and proceeding to bully him for the first few seconds before handing him a beer and trying to make nice (still laughing at him). You can feel the tension building as Oswald continues to be very polite and proper.
He, of course, loses it when the passenger-seat boy tells him that he “walks like a penguin”, breaks a beer bottle he’d been given, and goes for the kid’s neck to the horror of douche-y boy #2 driving the car.
Meanwhile, Fish Mooney is continuing to be portrayed by Jada Pinkett-Smith with levels of cheese potentially exceeding Adam West Batman. She is channeling Eartha Kitt in all the wrong ways and even a severe sit down with Don Falcone – regarding information of her attempted coup cited in last week’s episode – into a bad caricature of the way elderly people think organized crime operates. He decides to beat up the waiter she confesses she uses for “exercise” (wink wink, nudge nudge) as a warning and leaves, prompting Fish to scream to her operating nightclub full of people to “GET OUT!!”
This leads to a quick aside. Based on this scene and Fish’s not-so-subtle request for everyone to scram from the main room of her club: does this mean that Fish’s place isn’t really a nightclub but more of a honeycomb hideout for her many minions, or is Fish just a very bad club owner who would clear a packed room of paying customers due to an overly emotional (and unprofessional, even for presumably a Capo in the local mob) outburst? If it’s the latter, she lost out on quite a bit of money, in which case Falcone should look into shutting her down for real. Threats or no.
She then sits at the bar and proclaims in her most cheese-ball line yet that, “I’m gonna kill that old man with my bare hands… and my TEETH.”
By the way, writers/actors: IT’S STILL F***ING falCON-ee NO MATTER HOW MANY TIMES YOU SAY falCONE. I know my Batman, don’t fight me on this.
We are then treated to a scene with Detective Montoya and Partner at Casa de Cobblepot where we meat Oswald’s insane immigrant mother who, of course, insists the cops use the correct old world pronunciation: Kapelput. This is the one bright moment in the show as Mrs. Kapelput is played by Carol King – always the awesome eccentric (see Princess Bride and Scrooged at least for more details). She does crazy good and proper and plays herself as a doting mother to Oswald’s well-dressed and well-behaved demeanor. Showing the eccentricity of his mother only serves to add to the cold sociopathic nature of Oswald and cements him as my favorite character in this show so far. This scene only serves as exposition for Oswald and has really nothing else to do with the episode as a whole.
I’m going to be a bit more brief with the rest of the episode.
The homeless kid snatchers become a serious threat. Jim and Bullock chase down a lead based on Ed Nygma telling them the kind of drugs they found in the hearty orphan’s blood, making them lean on the pharmacies that have it in their inventory. We find out that one pharmacy is holding the kids in an overly-dungeony basement with a brick-lined bottomless pit to nowhere in the middle used for “evidence disposal” as implied by the typically fat-and-greasy corrupt pharmacy owner.
Jim, being the supercop that he is and Barbara, being the oft-trodden voice of reason that she is, discuss Jim’s latest case likely in some kind of violation of HIPAA laws or something similar. She does exactly what the Mayor, the Captain, and Bullock told Jim not to do and calls the Gotham Gazette to tip them off about the missing kids in an attempt to spark public outrage. The Mayor, the Captain, and Bullock are all shocked when the story suddenly hits the front page and berate Jim, calling him out for supposedly being “with the program”.
We do get a shout out from the kid-snatching duo that they work for the Dollmaker (a more recent addition to Batman’s coterie of villains in the comics) just before Jim and Bullock bust in to try to find the well-groomed homeless kids and do so after a bit of trickery.
The Mayor (not given an official name in this episode but, depressingly, not Mayor Hill) applauds the two detectives publicly and vows to get all the homeless kids off the street, telling Gordon, Bullock, and the Captain (who I’ll get to later) over an on-the-job glass of whiskey that it’s “foster homes for the ‘cute ones’, upstate for the rest”. Gordon, predictably, is outraged that the mayor is using the abductions as an excuse to move these poor homeless kids to juvenile detention, blah blah, moral argument, Jim is a good guy, we get it.
Also, the writers continue to hint at the insane amount of corruption in Gotham by referencing the fact that Jim’s “murder” of Oswald puts him “with the program” and implies that his White Knight code should go immediately out the window, making him as bad as the rest of everyone else (according to a brief interlude with Fish Mooney in her continuing efforts to bog the gears of the show down with immense amounts of congealed dairy product).
Suddenly, faced with “going upstate” we see that Selena Kyle wants to speak with Gordon (and Gordon only) and gets a quick brush-off as she’s getting on the bus for her trip up north. In a “surprise twist” the bus driver and attendant turn out to be the kid snatchers and aren’t taking them to Juvie but rather to a cargo container to be shipped off to the Dollmaker in the most conspicuous act of human trafficking ever attempted. They throw awake and alert teenage kids into a cargo container and expect them to be quiet for the entire trip via pounding on the container from the outside and yelling threats at them.
Of course, the kid snatchers realize they’re short one Selena Kyle (who insists on being called Cat for no good reason aside from, possibly, street cred). They search for her and find that, even at 13, she is extremely good at hiding and avoiding detection. Off screen, she claws a guard’s eyes out, prompting a hide-and-seek sequence with the female kid snatcher who, just as she gets Selena in her clutches, Jim Gordon bops on the head with a pistol whip knockout. Bullock enters the scene with the male kid snatcher at gunpoint and we’re left with a happy ending to that plotline.
Laced throughout the episode, we get glimpses of young emo Bruce Wayne burning his hand over a candle while “testing himself” and drawing gory pictures while listening to thrash metal. We’re left to believe that this is his way of acting on PTSD in a very sad attempt at a troubled-kid trope. Eventually Alfred asks Jim over for tea to talk about Bruce’s development because, y’know, you barely know this guy from Adam and there were apparently no close friends of the most famous philanthropists in Gotham to talk to. Alfred throws out some BS about Thomas Wayne telling him that, in the event of his death, Bruce should be left to “find his own way” in the world because reasons and because f*** parenting, right? Alfred expresses to the childless rookie police detective with no qualifications that he doesn’t know what to do with Master Bruce at which point the worst actor to ever play the character enters. He’s written as a child well beyond his years in speech and attitude (aside from the fact that he immediately goes for the biscuits on the tea tray) and plays it like a block of wood. Rich or not, no kid speaks that properly. I don’t care if he will grow up to be Batman someday, he’s still a kid and should be written as more of a kid whether or not he has a brooding dark side.
By the end of the episode, we get Selena and Jim on the same bench in the police station together. She tells him that she can identify the murderer in the Wayne case right before we cut to black.
Some additional points I would like to address:
GCPD Captain Sarah Essen. First thing you should know is that, in the comics, Sarah Essen was not a police captain. Sarah Essen was indeed a GCPD officer, specifically one who became romantically involved with one James Gordon long after Barbara was out of the picture (by death or divorce depending on continuity). She died at the hands of the Joker during the No Man’s Land event. Gordon shot the Joker in the leg and apprehended him (in a moment where he could have outright murdered the Joker) and, upon the reformation of Gotham, retired from the force as a broken man. After the DCnU continuity came into play, Sarah was ultimately written out of the story and Gordon remains Commissioner. In my opinion, this is an incredible disrespect to the original Sarah Essen and seems to be a way for Fox to continue shoe-horning familiar names into a show with absolutely no context or respect to the source material.
Aside from that point, the writing and directing on this show is bargain basement. I know this is a show based on a comic book, but we don’t have to ramp up the cheese factor just because it is. It feels like they’re taking their cues from Batman and Robin rather than the Nolanverse, which is extremely upsetting.
The sizzle reel makes Victor Zsasz look very exciting in this incarnation, however, I almost feel this is going to continue being a villain-of-the-week show involving the lower or less-recognizable caste of the rogue’s gallery. Zsasz is a stretch for most and Professor Pyg (presumably, also glimpsed in the sizzle reel) is an extremely recent and unknown villain to the uninitiated. We did see what looks like Scarecrow as well, which should prove interesting.
Before the season is over, I predict Calendar Man or Holiday (from The Long Halloween). Holiday would make more sense because of the show’s involvement of the falCON-ee mafia but, without Batman and the other supporting cast as grownups, it would be tricky to pull off. Knowing this writing staff, if they tried it, they would absolutely butcher it.
I’ve resolved to be here for you, my friends, as a source of everything that is wrong with Gotham. I will keep watching and keep pointing out everything I find good or bad with it because, for people unfamiliar with the canon, you’ve got to know how bad they’re destroying the mythos so that you don’t get the wrong idea about the universe surrounding the World’s Greatest Detective.
Bidula’s Last Word on Gotham S1:E2 – 4/10
Keep fighting the good fight.