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Gotham S1:E7 – Penguin’s Umbrella (held in Gotham against my will…)

Open on Oswald walking down the street with a couple of large thug bodyguards. Cut immediately to a LOL-worthy Fish Mooney temper tantrum, bitching about Oswald being alive and demanding his head. Throw it to Jim who is telling Barb over the phone from the GCPD locker room to get out now. Once he hangs up, Harvey is there to punch him directly in the jaw and hold him at gunpoint, stating that he’ll have to “take (Jim’s) body back to Falcone and beg – BEG – for mercy.”

Oh no. I am so very afraid for Jim Gordon’s life. Y’know, not knowing any of his future story.

Bullock gets distracted, Jim gets his gun, tells Harvey he has a plan. Harvey tells him that he hopes he doesn’t see him again. Jim storms out.

Barb’s phone vibrates on the dining room table as a Falcone thug (with partner) tells her she has a very nice place (still too nice for a police detective, if you ask me). They’re holding her until her fiance comes home. Just as the thug starts talking all rapey (we get it, they’re bad guys) Jim rounds the corner, gun drawn. A Mexican standoff turns into Jim getting the upper hand (knocking out the talky-rapey one and shooting the gun-haver). Jim and Barb make it to the bus station and Jim sends Barb away telling her to never come back to Gotham, since we’ve seen how well that line has worked in the past. She tearfully boards the bus like a good Stepford woman and the title card hits.

Gordon returns to the noisy police station and silences the place with his very presence, asking for “blank warrants that Judge Bam Bam (?) signed. He gets them and walks out.

Falcone is tending to chickens (WTF?!?) while Fish and her Nico Bellic clone (fellow crime boss) bitch that Gordon and Oswald should both be taken out immediately. He tells them that he knows what he’s doing and brushes off their request. We find out from Fish that the Lorde Girl she hired to seduce Falcone is holed up in Falcone’s house cooking and cleaning. He, according to Fish, likes to watch her do chores which, as stated, is weird but seems to be a lightly misogynistic and pretty much harmless fetish if true.

Back at the GCPD, Gordon is typing up those pre-signed warrants when Capt (not) Sarah shows up and asks what he’s doing. He reveals to her that he’s written up arrest warrants for the Mayor, Carmine Falcone, and his close associates on the charge of perversion of justice in the Wayne murders. Kinda out of left field, but whatever. The Captain predictably tells him he’s completely effing crazy and makes him realize that the city is too corrupt to prosecute and imprison their major figures. The Captain tells him to get out of town but Jim, staunchly and in the most noble fashion, Jim says, “No, this is my town, blah blah justice blah.”

At the same time, in the bullpen of the GCPD, a bald Billy Corgan looking dude and a couple of dominatrixes (dominatricees? dominatrixis?) walk in and start acting like they’re in charge. None of the cops seem to want to lift a finger to this as Billy Corgan climbs onto a desk and announces himself as Victor Zsasz (pretty awesome, honestly) and tells the congregation of blue shirts that he was sent by Carmine Falcone personally and is looking for one Jim Gordon. Predictably, everyone points out exactly where Gordon is because he has made absolutely no friends here. Zsasz was apparently told to bring Gordon in alive. Jim tells him, “There are fifty cops in here. Try something.” Zsasz tells all the cops to go away and they do without a second thought. Things devolve into a gunfight between Jim, Zsasz, and his fetish models. Jim quickly runs out of ammo and, while attempting the old throw-the-garbage-can-at-the-gunman trick, catches a bullet to the lower abdomen while making good his escape through the back door and into the motor pool. The bad guys give chase and there’s the typical tense “hide and seek” moment as the injured Jim is taunted by Zsasz.

They use every trope in the book for the last moments of the standoff as, Just when Zsasz is about to find Jim, a rookie looking officer strolls in (apparently having missed the memo from upstairs) and tells Zsasz to freeze or hold it or some other thing. While Zsasz is busy shooting that woman in the kneecaps, Jim tries to sprint away and catches another bullet in his back for the trouble. As Zsasz closes in for the coup de grace, Montoya and Allen, our favorite MCU detectives, ride to Gordon’s rescue! Oh, wow! They’re able to fend of Zsasz and the Leather Girls long enough for Jim to get in the car and escape! Miracle of miracles! Sigh.

Best part about this scene: Zsasz finishes off the poor young female officer with a shot to the heart (and he’s to blame), promptly produces a box cutter, and slashes another hash mark into his arm, proclaiming her “twenty-eight”. Ok, that was pretty cool.

After commercial, Jim wakes up in a university dissection lab. The doctor says she’s a friend of Montoya and Allen. She pulled out the bullets and, amazingly, none of his organs were damaged. She calls out to detective Allen by his first name, Crispus, when Gordon gets out of bed.

It’s here I pause the show. Renee Montoya’s partner is Crispus F***ING Allen?!? How did I not make this connection? It’s right there in the comics. I feel shame. More on this later in the post.

Fish is taking a meeting with Maroni over Oswald. Blah blah threats blah. Maroni calls out Penguin and there’s a pretty funny scene in which Maroni makes Penguin apologize to Fish who then calls Oswald a scaly-faced bitch before slapping him and leaving. Really, the whole exchange plays off as a comedy.

Meanwhile, Falcone’s rapey thug from earlier rolls up on a group of nuns while in the back of a molester van. He kidnaps them, chains them together, and puts them in the middle of the street in front of a Maroni Moving and Storage truck. The truck stops (lucky day to be a nun) and rapey thug tells the drivers that Falcone won’t let any Maroni trucks through until they get Penguin. He kindly offers the men a choice between a beating and a bullet because a serious message must be sent. The scene is actually pretty darkly funny including the part where he puts holes in both of their shins.

Maroni won’t give up Penguin, vows revenge, Penguin tells him that he knows exactly where to hit them, blah blah gangster blah.

Montoya apologizes to Jim for being a dick while they sit outside Wayne Manor. Alfred catches Allen around the perimeter and holds him at knife point until realizing he’s with Gordon. We go to stately Wayne Study (still the only room in the biggest house in Gotham), Bruce does his whole “one day I’ll be Batman” schtick while Gordon tells him that everything is connected to his parents’ murder. Jim vows to Bruce that, should he die, Montoya and Allen will take over the investigation in his place. Gordon does the whole “now I have to go it alone” bit and offers a handshake to Bruce who hugs him instead. How unexpected and heartwarming.

Penguin leads a group of Maroni thugs to destroy a Falcone drug lab. They kill everyone inside including Nico. Maroni’s main thug, after all the murderation, punches Penguin and calls him out on being nothing more than a snitch. He threatens to kill Oswald and blame it on one of Nico’s men just to get Penguin out of his boss’ hair. Oswald calls the thug a cheapskate and it’s revealed that Penguin has bought off the other thugs who hold the guy down while Penguin knifes him in the stomach. His psychopathic and eloquent monologue proves that Oswald is the best thing on this show.

Maroni and Falcone meet (Penguin and Fish on their respective sides). Maroni bargains a piece of land (according to Fish, a “toxic waste dump on an Indian burial ground) in Arkham for Penguin’s life. Everyone walks away happy.

Jim is back at his apartment and looks to be gearing up for war when Bullock happens to show up, drunk with a prostitute on his arm. Bullock says he’s “doomed anyhow, so he’s going to join the good guys”. Jim tells Bullock his plan about arresting everyone everywhere in the city in any way involved with the framing of Mario Pepper and the Wayne murders. Bullock proceeds to bang a prostitute in Jim’s bed without much real objection from Jim. Gross.

They pin the mayor down in his limo in a funny-yet-stereotypical buddy cop maneuver and arrest him. They kidnap him to the Falcone estate and use the mayor to get inside. Without any effort whatsoever, they make it into Falcone’s inner sanctum with rifles and shotguns because when you’re dealing with a mob boss, there’s never any real security right? They serve a warrant, Falcone says Zsasz has Barb and pretty much LOLs in Gordon’s face. Falcone won’t prove this but dares Jim to bring him in if he thinks Falcone is lying.

We’re treated to Lorde girl in the kitchen making muffins with Zsasz as we see Barb sitting at the kitchen counter, hostage. Zsasz gets a phone call, looks at Barb and says, “What a shame…” Of course, it’s because Barb isn’t going to die. They release Barb to Jim. Falcone lets them go citing that there might still be hope for Jim. Zsasz is disappoint because he doesn’t get another hash-mark. Falcone does a lot of lecturing before they leave, blah blah foreshadowing.

Barb and Jim go home and kiss. Yay.

Lorde-girl is happy as Falcone is pleased with her muffins (and apparently not with her muffin itself) and goes to tend his chickens (again, WTF). Oswald appears, looking like he’s got a murder on, and calls Don Falcone by name. Falcone embraces Oswald and we get a flashback to the night before Gordon “killed” him.

All of a sudden, in a huge holy shit twist moment, we find out that Penguin and Falcone engineered EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENED IN THE MAFIA PART OF THE SHOW SO FAR. Penguin made a death-row deal with Falcone to have Gordon be the one to kill him, knowing Jim wouldn’t do it. He promised to come back to Gotham, embed himself with Maroni, and then snitch to Falcone about everything Maroni was up to. This before Oswald dropped the big bomb that Fish and Nico were out to off Falcone himself. We also find out that Jim only lives because Oswald asked Falcone not to kill him as a favor.

Wow, that twist actually made this show a lot better. I have to admit, while it is still very cheesy in parts and some of the bits are grossly inaccurate, this show is growing on me.

About Crispus Allen… yeah, totally forgot that he was Renee’s partner in the comics. In the books, he is unjustly murdered by another colleague and winds up becoming the third incarnation of The Spectre – God’s own holy vengeful wrath. We probably won’t see that on this show but it’s nice to know they at least got Montoya’s partner right. We also probably won’t see Vic Sage and Montoya’s progression into becoming The Question but that’s ok too.

No real complaints again this week. All the stupid Fish Mooney crap almost feels vindicated knowing that Oswald has the upper hand in this whole scenario. We’ll see what happens next. This show is officially coming into its own. I might not have to write any more of these unless some larger inconsistencies crop up.

Bidula’s Last Word – 6/10, if only for the twist.

Keep fighting the good fight.

Oh, and, I’m running a Gofundme to help take Unlucky Seven to Con. You should check it out. There’s rewards and stuff.

—end transmission—

Gotham S1:E6 – Spirit of the Goat (I’m getting tired of going to Gotham…)

We open this week on a LOL-worthy flashback showing Bullock as a Gordon-esque rookie detective with a heavy drinking partner named, appropriately, Dix. This proves that Harvey learned how to be one from someone who was actually named for his attitude.

They’re chasing a killer who calls himself “The Spirit of the Goat”, a shoddily-disguised Batman-looking criminal. Bullock’s partner falls through a trap door (released by The Goat) and falls about ten feet to career ending injury. Bullock opens fire and kills The Goat.

Cut to now, Bullock is “on the clock before the boy scout” as Gordon isn’t yet at their crime scene. A woman, rather ritualistically strung up on a small boat with spent candles lining the rail of the bridge. Harvey is freaked because this is the exact sort of murder The Goat perpetrated back in the day. Apparently, the goat preys on well-to-do first-born daughters. This one was a 21-year-old socialite.

We soon find out why Gordon didn’t make it in to work on time. Barb is chewing his ear off about keeping secrets. He says he’ll tell her the truth (everything he can, dun dun daaa) before storming out of their posh apartment to do his job.

He meets Bullock at the scene where we get another few playful glimpses at Ed Nigma, Bullock shows how freaked out he is by being nervous and standoffish (read: no different than usual). They leave the scene for the old, uber-rich parents of the murdered woman and the father claims he’s been having “strange dreams” while exhibiting either mild Parkinsons or alien hand syndrome. Bullock hides his fear behind dickishness when the family psychiatrist starts getting inquisitive.

Meanwhile, Nygma is investigating the old files. We prove that he’s a total creeper as he sniffs at the young female file clerk as she walks by then dissects her name (Kristen Kringle) and criticizes her filing system while attempting to hit on her in the most ineffective manner possible. I notice that they both have the same type of glasses which, in the Gotham universe, must be a flag for “really smart people”. Also, the file clerk dresses like a 50’s librarian so you know she has to be bookish. The stereotypes in this show just keep on coming.

Back to our intrepid team of dicks who are trying to figure out how the killer absconded with his victim from her locked home (another mansion bigger and better than what we’ve seen of the interior of Wayne Manor, by the way). Bullock remarks some more freaked-out history about the case and continues to hide behind his dick-shield. They figure that, like with the previous Goat, the killer may have some sort of janitorial or maintenance type access, granting him keys (as there was no sign of a forced break-in).

Oswald finally goes home to his crazy foreign mother. Mrs. Kapelput was worried that her son “was tangled up in some hussie’s demon purse” in what is clearly the best line of this show’s run to date. He explains to her that he’s been through hell and back. She blindly encourages him. The scene is hilarious.

Cut to the autopsy table with the dicks watching. Bullock suggests that they look under the scalp to find an incision at the base of the neck. It’s there, stitched shut, with a foreign object inside. Bullock calls that it will be a penny, and it is! He’s now committed to the idea that the original Goat is back from the dead! WOO SPOOKY!

Bullock explains, back at the main office, that it’s a specific kind of penny that was used by the original. They intentionally left this detail out of the file and the media so as not to inspire copycats. Chief Sarah Essen (God, that still bothers me…) forces Bullock to go talk to his old partner, Dix, as he was the only one besides Harvey who knew this detail and is still alive.

Cut to stately Wayne study where Bruce is watching coverage of the Goat murder. Alfred suggests that Bruce, as a first-born son of Gotham’s most powerful family, get out of town until the whole Goat thing blows over. Bruce, predictably, refuses siting that he “has work to do” and gets back to digging into his parents’ murder.

Back to Nygma, who is now rearranging Ms. Kringle’s entire file room. She’s predictably freaked out. You get that he likes her, she kinda likes him, he did what he did to try to help/impress her… blah blah, awkward flirting.

The dicks go to visit Dix in what looks like he shoddiest nursing home ever. Dix is in a wheelchair playing solitaire in a dimly lit room in case you thought he wasn’t lonely and sad enough. He lectures the dicks about Gotham’s “Golden Rule”: NO HEROES. Dix suggests a conspiracy of people rather than the one guy they killed so many years ago. Harvey doesn’t believe it and storms out. Dix tells Jim to watch out for Harvey because he’s a “real white-knight” type. Jim is obviously taken aback by this statement. We find out that Bullock has been paying Dix’s nursing home bill and ordering him dirty magazine subscriptions because, maybe, Bullock isn’t such a bad guy after all.

We then go to yet another place statelier than Wayne Manor and see a young woman preparing to go out and be The Goat’s next victim because she is stereotypically young, rich, and blonde. We’re shown that she leaves her cell phone on a table because why put it in your pocket, right? Her Latina maid gets taken down by the Goat right before the girl (SURPRISE!) gets snatched herself! We saw this exact scene on the horizon from about five-hundred miles away.

The dicks are still chasing people who would “have keys”. Bullock suggest bringing Nygma in on the case because he’s “freaky good with puzzles”.

Barb and Renee have an ex-girlfriend fight over Jim and Barb’s safety with him. Renee says she’s putting out a warrant for Gordon tonight and suggests that Babs leave town until shit goes down. Blah blah Barbara takes Jim’s side like a good little Stepford wife with a bisexual past.

Back at the station, Nygma comes up with another lead for the dicks (while showcasing the fact that he has a question mark coffee mug OMG FORESHADOWING) and the guys wind up at the giant empty house (still bigger than what we’ve seen of Wayne Manor) in which Dix was crippled during Bullock’s first encounter with the Goat ten years ago. The goat is prepping his victim when the dicks arrive, preparing her for the “sacrifice”. The Goat reveals himself in a very Batman way. Bullock goes to chase him down while Jim tends to the victim. Bullock and the Goat fight it out on a large sweeping stairway. The Goat keeps on about how he can’t be stopped and will always come back. Harvey gets his ass beat and Jim jumps in with the fists to take the Goat down, placing him under arrest.

After commercial, Selena breaks into Wayne Manor (through the window of the SAME STUDY! Does this house have ANY other rooms?) while Bruce sleeps on the couch (IN THE STUDY). She swipes something from Bruce’s desk, noting the massive conspiracy wall that Bruce has been accumulating. She beats it out of there as we hear Alfred tromping down the hall.

Oswald, at home, is being bathed by his mother which is NOT CREEPY AT ALL. She tells him that he can trust no one but his mother. He says he’s found someone else to trust. A policeman. A real friend.

At the station, we get some background on the Goat. He’s a maintenance man, with keys, something something criminal of the week behind bars but probably not really. Bullock thinks that, due to the similar circumstances, something “changed” the people who became the Goat. He’s noticeably shaken again and lets Gordon go home before the criminal seemingly wakes up from being The Goat, clenching his fist, to which Bullock responds “holy ghost on a bicycle”.

Barb warns Jim about Renee’s warrant claiming MCU now has a witness to the Cobblepot murder. Barb implores Jim to run (“Barb, I can’t run…”) just as there’s a knock on the door and Montoya and partner lead Jim away in cuffs.

Bullock goes back to the first victim’s house, interrupting a hypno-therapy session with the psychiatrist. He comes to the conclusion, in a roundabout way, that this hypno-therapist is initiating the Goat problem through her “public outreach” to the less-fortunate. She, as the real bad guy, claims to be doing Gotham a service by killing the children of it’s richest and most greedy. She pretty much confesses everything to Bullock for no good reason, apparently thinking she can get away with it. Bullock attempts to arrest her before using a hypnotic cue to send the old rich guy after Bullock as she calmly walks out. Bullock breaks free and shoots her in the leg and brings her in.

He’s explaining himself to the Captain when Montoya and partner bring in a very loudly protesting Jim Gordon who now openly admits to not killing Cobblepot. When Bullock rises to his defense, MCU takes him into custody as an accomplice. There is a bunch of fighting between GCPD and the MCU when suddenly… OSWALD WALkS IN! DUN DUN DAAAAAAAH! Cut to black.

I have to say, this week’s episode was the best so far. Only slightly cheesy, not too inaccurate, and much more of what I really want to see from this show.

The main good point: NO FISH MOONEY IN THIS EPISODE! Probably why it was the best one yet.

I’m not going to complain this time. This one was solid. Still not great, but MUCH improved over past weeks.

I continue to LOVE Oswald’s character. Nygma isn’t so bad either.

The only big problem I still have is that every structure in Gotham is more posh and expansive than Wayne Manor and that Jim Gordon lives in an impossible apartment.

Bidula’s Last Word: 5/10

Watchable this week. Hoping the show stays in this direction and, as long as it stays away from Fish Mooney, I have a feeling it’ll keep getting better. It probably won’t, because Jada Pinkett-Smith was already talking about the filming of future episodes in interviews. Maybe the writers will wise up by the end of the season and kill her off.

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

Gotham S1:E5 – Viper (another f***ing night in Gotham…)

The main problem of the week is the titular Viper; a drug which gives the user super strength and “delusions of ultimate power” with the sad side-effect of rapidly depleting the body’s calcium resulting in not-so-subtle fast-acting brittle bone disease. When it wears off, the user goes all Stretch Armstrong in the most ridiculous way before collapsing into a heap of human jello and suffocating.

The creator of the drug passes out tons of free samples to Gotham’s lower class (read: MOST of Gotham) and chaos ensues. Most notable uses are a drug-addled guitarist who uses it to single-handedly rip an ATM out of a wall and an old walker-using philosophy professor, a good friend of the drug’s creator who while being questioned by our favorite pair of dicks, inhales a vial of Viper and bends his walker into a mess before throwing Jim into the hallway through a wooden door and nearly choking him out.

We find out during the pre-old-man-Bane sequence that Viper was the first version of Venom – the drug used by Bane (that is, the REAL COMIC BOOK Bane, not the Tom Hardy born-in-the-darkness Bane) to give him the backbreaking strength he uses to take Bruce Wayne out of commission in the comics. I have to admit, I called the Venom thing at the beginning of the episode. I was pleasantly surprised to know they didn’t rename the actual drug for the sake of a television audience.

Needless to say, this was a horribly acted interrogation scene. I really want to blame the directors of these episodes for the horror. I feel I need to start blaming the actors just as much.

We also glean from the philosophy professor (again, in the most poorly acted way possible) that the creator of the drug, working for a subsidiary of Wayne Enterprises, blames his employers for the lives he took and is using the exposure of the drug to gain what he thinks is justice. He infiltrates a Wayne charity function (attended by Bruce and Alfred just for that extra “oh shit” angle that NONE OF US COULD EVER SEE COMING, AMIRITE?) and pulls a “somebody poisoned the waterhole” by letting his inhalant into the ventilation system.

This plan fails miserably after he delivers his missive to the assembled “middle management” and child-billionaire-in-chief. Bullock clears the ballroom quickly and Jim corners the perp on the roof, shooting the gas canister and giving him a huge dose of his own medicine before the perp turns and leaps to his death (body not seen, but the detectives don’t seem to care to investigate any further or clear that one up themselves). Just before he jumps, he tells our dicks to check out warehouse 39. Again, all of this using the poorest acting skills available.

They check this warehouse and find it empty. A Wayne rep (seen in a scene with Bruce, which we’ll get to) ominously warns a person on the opposite end of a cell phone that “we’ll deal with them if they get close”. End to the main story.

This week in subplots:

OMG SELENA KYLE SHOWS UP FOR LIKE A SPLIT SECOND I ALMOST FORGOT SHE WAS THERE THANKS FOR REMINDING ME!

Fish, now the proud owner of some pouty-lipped Lorde wannabe, is “training” her girl to become the weapon she is supposed to be by forcing her to learn to sing and appreciate opera. This, after a few more scenes foreshadowing the rather transparent plans she has in store for Don Falcone, culminates in the last 30 seconds of the episode where Lorde-girl shows up in a white dress with a new blonde doo humming an aria while Falcone sits on some park steps feeding the pigeons.

He goes to her in such a magnetic and insincere fashion that it almost looks like he’s faking it, like he knows what’s up. I kept waiting for him to shoot her while referencing Fish’s now-discovered and possibly thwarted takeover plans. Instead, fade to black. The acting was SO BAD by Falcone that for a minute I thought it was done on purpose!

Oswald comes clean with Maroni about his history. Jim gets called in to verify to Maroni that he, indeed, was told to kill Oswald for ratting but didn’t. Oswald helps Maroni rob Falcone’s casino. Boom done.

Bruce, from his one-room Wayne Manor, decides to continue investigating improprieties in the Arkham deal, wanting to talk to the board of directors regarding why the biggest crime families in Gotham got the biggest pieces of the deal. This leads to the aforementioned discussion with the Wayne rep who claims to be “just middle management”. Bruce, continuing to be made out as a child WELL beyond his years, gets continuously patronized by everyone including his own trusty butler because he’s just a kid. He freaks when the perp delivers his missive about the misdoings of Wayne Enterprises and is about to ask a few shocked questions aloud before Alfred covers his face with a suit jacket and ushers him out of the room to avoid the green smoke of Viper that infected no one.

This week in problems:

Stereotypical characters are stereotypical. This show leans heavily on this. Italian mobsters are overly Italian. Russian/Balkan mobsters are overly Eastern European. Old people are old people and like to feed pigeons. Young aspiring singers are really just sluts that will do whatever it takes to better themselves including luring known mafiosi into their ultimate demise with a display of tits and ass. Above all, EVERYONE IN GOTHAM IS BAD!!!

Stereotypes make this show horrible. They make it predictable. They make it look poorly acted. Wise up and throw us a curveball. I know the writers tried (TRIED) to do this with Fish, by making a “strong” black woman a capo of a major Italian crime family, but they just wound up giving us Eartha Kitt minus the purple spandex.

I continue to be disappointed.

OH! And, news out of the Gotham camp is that they have cast an actress as Dr. Leslie Thompson – one of the most trusted friends of the Wayne family and one of the few who knows Bruce is Batman – for a recurring role starting in early 2015. I would say this is cool but it only means that Gotham will be around UNTIL EARLY 2015. This may become a shame.

Bidula’s Last Word – 3.5/10

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

Gotham S1:E3 – The Balloonman (Three Nights in Gotham)

When we last left intrepid white-knight Detective James Gordon, he was sitting on a bench next to young Selena Kyle at GCPD headquarters. Right before cutting to black, she says, “I know who really killed the Waynes.”

After a sequence where Oswald returns to Gotham (which amounted to a supercut of every conceivable street crime happening at once within the same city block and a sequence where a lowlife financeer gets vigilant-ed the hell out of by the titular Balloonman (wearing a pig mask, so there went the Professor Pyg idea) hand-cuffing him to a weather balloon and leaving him to the mercy of the four winds while a large crowd of reports simply watch him drift away into the air, we finally catch up with our favorite Dicks, Gordon and Bullock, on the scene of another case entirely.

In what dimension should our first encounter with Jim Gordon in this episode NOT be extracting the exact information Selena Kyle teased at the end of last episode? How is he not doing everything but beating the identity of the real Wayne killers out of her right on that spot? Either this is truly shoddy detective work or this show really thinks we’re dumb enough to believe that the best (morally) detective on the force would say, “Ok, well, you have a lead on this closed case in which I know I killed an innocent man. Stop back whenever and I’ll take that info. Thanks, street urchin. Go ahead back to the streets where people just snatched you away and I’ll see you later.”

Nope. Jim and Bullock are now hot on the tail of “The Balloonman”, the afforementioned vigilante. Bullock continues to prove that his character was written as the laziest most BS detective on the force by saying that the financeer “got what he deserved”, case closed. Of course, Bullock is pissed that his partner is dragging him into another investigation because he has to be the absolute counterpoint to Gordon. Let the crime-of-the-week begin!

We get a quick glimpse of Fish Mooney as she speaks with Detectives Montoya and Allen from Major Crimes about the Oswald Cobblepot “murder”. Continuing with her best Eartha Kitt in the most vomitous fashion, Fish coughs up Jim Gordon as the shooter with Falcone (mispronounced) giving the order. Predictably, the two Dicks from the MCU confront Gordon about it but not before we get back to a bit of Selena Kyle.

Selena leads Jim to the alleyway after Jim called her back into the office (rather than, y’know, getting that over with immediately like a good detective) and does nothing more than set herself at the scene by referencing the stolen wallet she ditched in the sewer back in episode one. Jim handcuffs her to a fire escape before going into the sewer which turns out to be predictably laughable as she picks the cuffs and promptly ditches him while he’s ankle-deep in human filth.

We also get introduced to another mega-corrupt cop who winds up being red-shirted as the Balloonman’s next victim. See, Jim found out that there were four weather balloons stolen from a supplier (through some easy dicking around) which means there are two more victims yet to come.

They track down the guy who originally stole and sold the balloons and it’s not until this point that two police detectives – people who are paid to figure things out, mind you – need to have a skeezy stoner guy tell them exactly how balloons work and make them realize what goes up must come down. Frozen. And fast. We then get treated to the corrupt cop plummeting dead onto an innocent woman walking her dog. The coroner’s office promptly shows up with giant shovels to scrape them off the street because apparently victims of horrible accidents are routinely considered comic relief in Gotham City.

Key evidence is found on the body of the cop which has Jim Gordon’s name on it (GASP!). We find out that it’s the child services request Gordon made to have Selena brought to him. Apparently, orphaned children are as easy to order up as Chinese food. The bad cop JUST SO HAPPENED to swipe the orphan receipt from the Balloonman’s jacket just before he was sent to hypoxyia heaven.

Long story short, the next turns out to be a Cardinal who molested children (topical as well as borderline controversial, So Brash! So Bold! So Fox!). They use the orphan order slip and figure it’s (WOW!) the guy from child services! They track him to his place, have a bunch of overly long-winded pointed gun discussions, Bullock winds up cuffing him to his last balloon. Jim jumps to save him, tells Bullock to shoot the balloon. Bullock hesitates, thinking to his lazy self that if the Balloonman is killed, it will save him the work part of police work. He eventually shoots the balloon and Gordon and the Balloonman fall onto the roof of a conveniently parked van so as not to hit the ground from at least two stories up.

That’s the main plot, let’s get to the sub-plots.

Oswald comes back to town (as referenced) and is recognized by a Falcone thug. He pretends to be Dimitri from Odessa but the thug knows better. The thug drags him into a garage where he tells Oswald that he’ll be turned in to Fish Mooney for a bounty because Fish believes Oswald to be dead. Oswald begs for his freedom and, when nothing comes of it, he murders the thug with a pocket knife, steals a benji from the guy, and buys a tuna sandwich at the food truck across the street while the corpse bleeds out all over the garage floor.

Oswald then gets a job washing dishes in an Italian restaurant (not associated with his former, oft mispronounced, crime family) after first being denied and then straight up murdering the guy he wants to replace (after hours, of course). A smile comes over his face when Sal Maroni walks into the place and makes nice with the owner. Maroni being the main competition for the unpronounceable Falcone family.

Eventually, Oswald, now posing as Paolo (Italian on his mother’s side rather than crazy on his mother’s side) overhears a conversation between Maroni and the restaurant owner that involves a lot of names, including (as they directly point out) Falcone and Arkham. He gives “Paolo” a couple hunskys for claiming he heard nothing. They have a rather jovial exchange (including a VERY stereotypical Catholic Italian mobster moment) and it seems like Oswald is well on his way to starting into a new crime family. I’m sure he’ll quickly rise through the ranks, giving the inside dish to Maroni on Fish Mooney’s operation.

Speaking of Fish, there are a few extra-creamy limburger moments where she purrs at her lover, Laslow, the one who last week got the crap kicked out of him by Falcone’s goons as Fish’s “punishment”. She tells her head muscly guy that Laslow has lost his spine. She orders a retaliation against Falcone’s current lover (Natalia, for the record) and also tells muscly guy to “take care of poor Laslow as well”. Look, I know she’s supposed to be cold, but seriously? Straight-up killing her lover because he’s nervous after getting the shit beat out of him by serious gangsters is a bit too over-the-line-crazy which is, apparently, how they would rather characterize Fish Mooney. They’d rather use the “bitches be crazy” stereotype than the “cold, calculating, cunning businesswoman” type which, in my opinion, devalues the character. I guess shows like this that tout strong female leads only like them when they’re sex kittens or crazy. Or tiny teenage pickpockets. More on that in a minute.

Falcone and Fish have an exchange later in the show where Falcone stops by Fish’s club for seemingly no good reason other than to tell her that Natalia was mugged and he’s going to kill anyone responsible once he finds them. Blah blah foreshadowing blah. The exchanges between these two are supposed to look like a well-organized chess game and instead it looks like two rednecks playing checkers on a pickle barrel. Thankfully, there wasn’t much Fish Mooney in this episode which actually lent to this episode being marginally better overall.

Also in this episode, we get a little more about Barbara. Though not the worst character on the show by far, Barb seems to be the most sexualized. Every time we see her, she’s dressed in a sexy manner. In this episode, we see her in one of Jim’s dress shirts and nothing else, just as she gets out of the shower, and in sexy evening apparel. Yes, we get it. Jim’s fiancée is hot. Yes, their penthouse apartment (with awesome and incredibly uncommon clock tower window) is opulent, so she must also be well-to-do and have a decent job even though we haven’t yet had a hint of what that might be aside from her saying that “she has a meeting” later that day.

We find out, after Detective Montoya breaks in to expand on their sexy side plot, that said meeting may have been AA. After hinting at their shared past back in episode one, Renee comes back to warn Barb about the strong rumor that Jim shot Oswald on Falcone’s orders. This is the scene where Barb has just got out of the shower and is wearing a short hooded robe because she can’t wear normal clothing that doesn’t show the max amount of leg while on screen. Barb pulls out a joint (lolwut?) and sits down to smoke it in front of her police detective ex-girlfriend (yeah, they openly admitted it finally). Renee shows some concern and wonders if Barb is back on drugs because blah blah Renee’s been clean for a year since Barb left blah blah romantic tension blah blah Barb less-than-threes Jim blah blah. Renee, in typical romantic fashion, questions the safety and health of her ex-lover and goes in for the unwanted kiss at which point Barb asks her to leave. Yay, pan-sexual love triangle! At least Detective Montoya has the good sense to put some freaking pants on. Then again, they’re not selling her as the bombshell hot chick, they’re selling her as the discarded lesbian, so pants it is!

Lastly, we get to see young Master Bruce. First, practicing fencing with Alfred using a pair of wooden canes, dancing around the same study we’ve seen in every episode of this show so far. Stately Wayne Manor has been reduced to a single room, probably due to the show’s budget constraints. From the looks of things, tiny grieving Bruce is becoming tiny Howard Hughes and not leaving this damn room for anything. Also, he’s the heir to the freaking Wayne fortune. Can’t he afford legit fencing gear rather than likely antique wooden walking sticks? Couldn’t they clear out one of their likely vast dining rooms or even a ballroom and practice there? Nope. Wayne Manor only exists in this tiny study.

During the ruckus, Alfred uncovers the fact that Bruce has been looking at the police file of his parents’ murder. When asked by Alfred how he got the file, Bruce simply says: “It wasn’t hard.”

Time-out. You mean to tell me that Bruce Wayne, without adult supervision or guidance, left Wayne Manor on his own and talked to some likely seedy characters in order to gain access to a restricted, confidential police file. And that it “wasn’t hard”. Look, I know he’s supposed to be Batman someday, but he sure as hell isn’t anywhere close yet. Practically everything he does would go through Alfred (as his legal guardian). Don’t tell me Alfred leaves him be with like a thousand bucks in bribe money for him to sneak off to the police station and get one of any hundreds of corrupt cops to give him the file on the most prestigious homicide case to ever befall Gotham City. And, don’t tell me for a minute that even a corrupt cop would question giving that file to a child, let alone a famous child and recognizable face like Bruce Wayne. I shake my head in pain at you, writers. I shake my head.

Anyway, the rest of Bruce’s portion of the episode involve him not eating (claiming lack of hunger) and reading headlines/watching newscasts involving the Balloonman. Bruce seems inspired by the antics (big shock) but tells Alfred that the Balloonman was wrong because he killed, and killing made him just another bad guy. So yeah, Batman-ing it up already. They are going to rush this kid into a costume.

No real complaints this week about misused characters or dropped names. The only thing that disappoints me is that they used a pig mask for the Balloonman in his first scene and squished it without context into the sizzle reel, making every Bat-fan worth their salt think that Professor Pyg was on the horizon. Shame on you for abusing nerds like that, Fox.

There have been rumors floating that Gotham may already be facing the axe. I am not surprised. As much as I would love this shit and cheese show to continue, if only because it gives me fodder for blog entries, the earlier this disgrace to the Bat-franchise can be laid low, the better. Though this episode was a slight improvement over last week’s, I will continue to rail against it based on principal. As always, we’ll see what kind of slop they throw in front of us hogs next week and evaluate it then.

Bidula’s Last Word – Gotham S1:E3 – 4/10

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

Gotham S1:E2 – Selena Kyle (Two Nights in Gotham)

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.”

Bitch, please.

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.

—end transmission—

ANUSTART for Television

Netflix has become the absolute mecca for cult television viewing. It has taken niches and carved them out into much larger niches and has allowed the fandom of shows to expand well beyond the expiration date of their network tenure. This is not a newly discovered fact, however, the steps taken by them in recent months has proven once and for all that they herald the death of traditional television.

I am, of course, referring to the resurgence of Arrested Development.

Shows like this, for me, often fly under the radar. Until about two years ago, I had given up on sitcoms. I’d had my fill of bland humor in the nineties and wanted nothing to do with the same old jokes being told by different people on different sets in different ridiculous situations. I was tired of laugh-tracks being cued by the stereotypical lead characters dealing with a problem in the most “wacky” way possible while their sarcastic neighbor/friend made sarcastic comments which may or may not result in a catch phrase being printed on a t-shirt and marketed at Spencer’s or Hot Topic.

Sitcoms were not my friend. Most of them are very poorly written and are dragged out far too long, fading into obscurity before drawing former fans back with some heart-wrenching series finale which promises to be everything like the show you once fell in love with and not at all like the faded over-played tragedy it had become. I think I’ve shown enough of my disdain for one day.

When a good friend of mine recommended Arrested Development, it was prior to talk of the Netflix revival. I had, being a denizen of these fair internets, heard of the show and the plight which its fans suffered due to its abbreviated length. He told me that it would be my kind of humor and he was right. I thoroughly enjoyed it and, as happens with a Netflix revival, devoured the entire show within a week only to find that much to the disbelief of its continually expanding fan base, Netflix itself was involved in producing new episodes.

Shows like Arrested Development, along with other cult shows too numerous to list, are the Netflix cash cow. AD, Firefly, Galactica, every Star Trek series… these, 90% of the time, are why people subscribe. If there’s nothing else to do, you have every episode of these shows that you love on-tap and ready to go.

I realize I’m not telling you anything you didn’t know and I also realize that my blog is not, nor should it be, a Netflix commercial. What I am here to talk about is how Netflix changed the game by grabbing an otherwise discarded network show from the dead zone and resurrected it and how exactly that changes the game.

Network television, known for years to be yellowing their drawers over the encroaching crush of the interwebz, should now loose that fateful turd square into their panties over the fact that Netflix was able to put a show like Arrested Development back together for another season without any backing from the Old Boys Club. If internet-only sitcoms such as The Guild (as well as the rest of the Geek and Sundry lineup) and dramas like The Lizzie Bennet Diaries pulling down cult followings, awards, and millions of views on shoe-string budgets were the death knell for network TV, then Arrested Development Season 4 is the funeral.

YouTube and now, to some extent, outlets like Netflix have made it possible for new ideas to be brought to the fore without running the Hollywood gauntlet. It allowed for shows like FreddieW’s Video Game High School to be created and made public in a wider and more sociable forum. No offense to Freddie and his wonderful product (really, love the show) but if this were pitched to say NBC Universal Comcast Kabletown TGIFridays (or whatever they’re calling themselves now) it would have wound up on one of the backwater niche channels on digital cable that no one ever sees and would have received less views than it did on YouTube or FreddieW’s network, rocketjump.com. It would have also received less exposure. Case-in-point, here I am, talking about this awesome show and I’m able to link you to it directly. If it did wind up on that heretofore unheard of cable network and I mentioned it to you here, you’d still never see it because you’d have to a) determine if your cable provider carries the channel, b) find the channel somewhere in the vast labyrinth of the untouched numbers of the upper-hundreds, c) time it correctly to actually watch the show, and if that weren’t possible, d) condemn it to your DVR until such time as it is either potentially watched (could be months) or discarded in favor of the latest episode of Top Chef.

To clarify, I am not saying that all network television is horrible. I watch many shows on television (some network, mostly cable) and, though indie can be a wonderful thing, it is not the end-all-be-all. It would be impossible for someone to do an adequate Game of Thrones adaptation without the support of a major pay channel. HBO, however, hands over the keys to the kingdom and tells the creative types to lock up when they’re done. They are brave in that they will throw almost anything at the wall for at least one season to see if it sticks. Sometimes you get The Sopranos, sometimes you get Luck, either way it offers more freedom to the creators than the aforementioned Hollywood process, which is why HBO is consistently generating amazing programming. They, too, are making good use of the internet as they will soon (if they don’t already) allow people to subscribe to their HBOGO service; everything they have available on-demand, online, anywhere. First-run episodes of new shows are available as soon as the Eastern time-zone show is over, and they’re telling you that you don’t even need cable to watch it anymore.

Other networks operating on that sort of “take-it-and-run-as-long-as-the-ratings-are-good” philosophy are AMC and FX. Given a slightly longer leash than their network counterparts as far as the content of their programming, they are empowered to make edgier, quirkier, and ultimately more interesting shows that give a glimmer of hope for drama and storytelling within a bottomless abyss of reality shows about pawn shops, storage auctions, and trailer-dwelling creatures who believe they are beyond reproach.

I look forward to the day that channels like these take the Netflix route. They could strike out independently or partner up with a well-known distributor and make the shows they want to make as well as making the shows fans want them to make. I often love to see lists of show ideas that were shot down before being given a chance, especially spinoffs of cult ideas (I would have watched every episode of Starfleet Medical). So much potential was cast aside by fat-cat executives so out of touch with entertainment in general that they think Henry Winkler and Scott Baio are still Fonzie and Chachi hanging out at Arnold’s rather than standing in front of a jury as Bob Loblaw trys to prove that Barry Zuckerkorn can’t reach a doorknob of a schoolyard fence without the alleged use of a step-ladder. Any number of those shows once callously discarded may now face revitalization, provided the licences are available.

Arrested Development and the way it has drawn one fanbase to the internet should have the networks shaking and rethinking their strategy. Indie shows and films on the internet should have them watching their back. Cable networks continuing to expand their influence should make them take notice.

The obituary for traditional television is being written by a man who blue himself and no amount of forget-me-nows can make it go away.

Life is a roofie circle.

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

Spoils of War

It has happened to us all at one time or another.

You’re out at night and your DVR is running. By the time you get home, the latest episode of one of your favorite shows has been recorded and is waiting for the mere touch of a button in order to play. Maybe it’s late. Maybe you have other stuff to do. One way or another, maybe you don’t get to watch it until the next day.
Regardless of when you watch it, you will likely sit down in front of your computer or use your phone to browse Facebook or Twitter or your other social network of choice before you get the chance.

And there it is.

“I can’t believe (character) died!!!” or “OMG, (character) did (horribly unpredictable thing)!”

Right at the top of your feed. As unavoidable as death. Staring you right in the face. You’ll try to will yourself not to read it the minute you realize what it’s about, but you’ve already seen and cannot unsee.

You’ve been spoiled.

This has been especially prevalent over the past few seasons with shows like Walking Dead and Game of Thrones, where character deaths and crazy twists could be lurking around any corner and may surprise you even if you are a student of the source material.

Even though we live in the DVR/On-Demand era with most of our favorite shows at our fingertips, some of them available immediately after their original airing, social media has helped to keep these late-views to a minimum. It has also increased the availability for discussion of said shows thereby generating groups who will actually physically get together to watch a show or even do an online hangout so that commentary can be made while the show is actually being viewed.

I believe that these first-run viewings and their associated discussion groups, live or virtual, have come about due to the prevalence of spoilers popping up in full public view on a consistent basis. In essence, Facebook, Twitter, and the like are contributing to Nielsen numbers and are making it easier for networks to continue to track ratings with fair accuracy without as heavy demand on adjusted numbers for recorded or downloaded episodes.

More people are making sure to watch their favorite shows in real-time because it provides for a more pure experience. Once an episode is aired and in the zeitgeist, it becomes almost palpable. Even though you may not see any spoilers posted, you realize that the information is out there and is close enough for you to touch. People will reference it. People will discuss it off-hand. It may happen in person – you may overhear someone discussing it – but, it is most likely you will see something referenced on social media or in a meme or in a meme posted on social media which will reveal a detail that you would have preferred to get from the source.

This is also attributable to the current trend of serial television. Yes, I realize that most television has always been serialized but when you look back on the 80s and 90s, you realize that shows back then could usually be taken as independent episodes. You didn’t need to know the backstory to realize what was happening. Some shows running multiple seasons in the modern era don’t even bother to name the characters out loud, even in the season openers, because they expect that the viewer base is a returning one and will know the story up to that point. We rarely even see flashbacks anymore, unless you’re seeing something in season four that you may not remember from season one.

Even sitcoms are following the recipe of continuity more heavily than they have in the past. Most sitcoms in the past could be watched at face value no matter where you came into the series. Kids may get older, neighbors may move away, the main characters may switch jobs or even locations, but not many of them had story arcs or characterization deeper than the surface. Roseanne is an example of a prototypical serial comedy as there were story arcs with building tension and sometimes even a big reveal. It did this better than any other sitcom on the air at a time when most big twists in a comedy were advertised with the prefix “A Very Special Episode of…” This was usually when a main character, typically a child, was caught using drugs or joining the army or dying or another reason I can’t think of that could be used to escort a rapidly aging child star off the show because their appeal was down.

Then there are sitcoms such as 30 Rock and Big Bang Theory which, while easily digestible in a single serving, are much more satisfying when you come for the entire meal. Something always looms in the background and is usually brought to the fore in a one-hour season finale. Spoilers can ruin the final punchline just as easily as the big cliffhanger.

Television’s initial fears about the prevalence of downloading and how DVR can affect ratings should be largely allayed by the egregious amount of spoilerific material permeating social media (and even legit media, if they show is big enough).

Sundays are a very busy television day and, if I don’t get the chance to watch one of the two or three shows airing at the same time that very night, I know that at least one of my Facebook friends is going to blow any potential surprises I may have received watching it live. I am at the point where I will begin ignoring or deleting those who must constantly spoil.

I am declaring a moratorium of three days. No spoilers, no discussion on social media for three days after any given episode has aired. At that point, if you didn’t see it, it’s your own fault. There are a number of avenues available for you to watch an episode within three days (unless you’re on vacation away from the internet, as I have been before). After that, blab about who died or who killed who or whatever insane twist as much as you want. You have my permission.

Spoilers, for me, are incentive to absorb things as soon as possible. Movies, video games, television, books… I feel that if I’m not first to the finish, it will be inevitably ruined by some schlub who blabs about it on the internet. I’m sure that my particular brand of paranoia helps contribute, at least a bit, to first-air ratings and opening weekend box office totals and so on. It’s a marketing tactic we, as social media addicts, have brought upon ourselves. It is a very beneficial side-effect of internet assholes, at least to Big Entertainment, and gives me and those like-minded a reason to do it right away rather than put it off.

Oh, and in case you didn’t hear: Vader is Luke’s father, Bruce Willis is a ghost, “Would you kindly?” is a trigger phrase, and Dumbledore dies at the end of Book 6.

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—