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Gotham – “Selina Kyle” Recap and Review

Detectives Gordon and Bullock investigate a child trafficking ring preying on Gotham’s street kids, including Selina Kyle. Meanwhile, Penguin resurfaces in the countryside and begins to make his way back to Gotham, leaving victims in his wake.

Last week’s pilot episode was bloated with introducing familiar faces from Batman’s world as well as all new characters, but still managed to present a decent murder mystery that sets Gotham up as an institutionalized organized crime world that’s begging for a hero. In Fox’s Gotham, that hero is unfortunately a straight-laced Jim Gordon, who ended the pilot episode by pretending to go with the flow by faking the murder of Oswald Cobblepot. Penguin and the rest return in “Selina Kyle,” which I enjoyed a bit more than the pilot simply because the episode was not afraid to take the focus away from Gordon and Bullock and explore Gotham’s far more interesting characters.

The episode opens with young Bruce Wayne attempting to conquer his fear, as he opened up to Gordon about last week, by hovering his hand over a burning candle. Alfred catches him and immediately reprimands him before they embrace. This is an Alfred we’ve never before seen portrayed on screen – the young soldier who’s inexperience with child care is almost painful to watch. With Gordon being propped up as the obvious father-figure, it’s difficult to see where Alfred fits in. Hopefully their tense relationship allows us to dive a bit more into Alfred’s own past and personality.

We cut to the mean streets of Gotham as a young Catwoman playfully swipes at her locket (we get it, she’s Catwoman). A van pulls up in the alley (remember, Gotham is all alleyways) and two oddly cheerful figures offer food to some street kids. Cat is cautious and for good reason; Patti (Lili Taylor) takes out a needle-like object and gently begins poking the kids, quickly rendering them unconscious. One of them tries to flee and Doug (Frank Whaley) is forced to shoot a would-be hero hobo and chase him down.

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I found it immensely interesting not for the premise but for the way Patti and Doug were portrayed – almost immaculate and Ned Flanders-like. “Oh Fudge,” Patti exclaims when the runner takes off. When Doug catches up to him he yells, “Slow down, buckaroo,” and inexplicably throws him into a restaurant window. Our fresh new villains reminded me a lot of the Lutece twins from BioShock: Infinite, and I was pleased to see their gleeful shenanigans would become the focal point of the episode.

Our dead Hobo leads to the eventual arrival of Bullock and Gordon, and Bullock hasn’t lost any of his sass and open disdain of Gordon. Gordon hasn’t lost any of his annoying ability to pick a fight with every single person he meets, including the first responder police officer who was supposed to be watching the crime scene (but was instead babysitting the restaurant’s broken window because they pay protection money and, ya know, everyone’s corrupt). Gordon is furious and begins insulting the cop and it all ends with Bullock’s coffee getting spilled. A lethal weapon this team is not.

Thankfully for our cops, they have a witness. Mackey, the teenager that was hurled into the restaurant gets grilled by Bullock, who has absolutely no qualm in playing the role of Super Aggressive Bad Cop in every interrogation. Gordon, of course, has a problem with this and Bullock reminds him of the Penguin’s supposed murder before kicking another random detective that attempts to talk back. Please tell me we can get away from these two soon.

Success! The following scene shows our limping Penguin hobbling along the street just outside Gotham’s city limits. A car slows down to give him a ride, but not before executing that classic jerk move of pulling forward at the last second. Cobblepot is not amused. Robin Lord Taylor’s simmering rage while acting friendly with his new companions is one of the highlights of the episode.

Just as things are going surprisingly well (and Cobblepot is being brutally honest if vague about his downfall and motivation), one of them makes the offhand comment, “When you walk, you look just like a penguin.” This seems to trigger an explosiveness within Cobblepot, and he proceeds to smash the beer bottle and murder his new friends with the broken shards. The whole scene is so wonderful that you forget everything you just saw was a very lengthy cold open as the title sequence pops up.

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Bullock and Gordon are summoned to Captain Essen’s office where they discuss our new villains and their penchant for kidnapping kids. Edward Nygma begins creeping up on the office before Captain Essen impatiently summons him in. Nygma was a fun but brief part of last week’s episode as the resident forensic and medical examiner, and he gets a similar scene here as he drops a crucial bit of evidence – the drug that Patti used is ATP, a “fast-acting knockout drug. Used to use it at the old Arkham Asylum to bring down troublesome patients.” Arkham Asylum should be intimately familiar to even the most casual Batman fan, but even more fun was Nygma’s complete lack of social skills as he stands there awkwardly, reminding me of that scene in A Christmas Story when Ralphie brings his teacher his paper. Cory Michael Smith is another bright spot in the character line-up, though so far he’s being used very sparingly.

Gordon and Bullock go to visit the old supplier of the drug, which is located within Fish Mooney’s territory, giving us an easy seque into a scene where Carmine Falcone visits her as a follow-up to last week’s shenanigans where she almost murdered two cops. Falcone believes strongly in the system of carefully regulated organized crime, and Fish’s calm and seductive exterior belies a violent and reckless nature. Falcone seemingly knows this (“I never lose sleep over my enemies, it’s my friends that keep me awake”) and engages in a heart-to-heart conversation before calmly having her latest lover – or as she deliciously conveys, “The boy I keep around for exercise,” severely beaten in front of her.

Fish is visibly shaken while Falcone holds her hand in an obvious display of power and humility. Afterward a furious Fish orders everyone to leave the club, and she later discusses her hatred of Penguin with henchman Butch. I love that we get these scenes that build upon these characters without having to contrive reasons for Bullock or Gordon to be there, not just because I’m personally not a big fan of our detectives but it proves the show’s confidence in its strong cast.

In their only scene in the entire episode, Detectives Allen and Montoya visit Oswald Cobblepot’s creepy mom (all messed up villains have creepy moms). It’s a completely worthless scene that’s seemingly inserted just to remind us that Montoya and Allen are out there doing things. This scene begins a rapid sequence where our narrative bounces around from Penguin to kidnapped kids in a creepy Saw-like room to Bullock and Gordon visiting Fish before finally settling on Gordon and Barbara at home. Barbara wants to tell the press about the child trafficking but Gordon wants to keep a lid on it, even though he agrees the right thing is to talk. Word gets out anyway (and I’m not quite sure whether it was Barbara, Jim or just a random third party that blabbed) and Captain Essen is furious, which sets up a future run-in with the mayor.

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Our detectives arrive at the drug supplier but our hilarious yet still intimidating villains are there first having a not-so-friendly business discussion with the supplier, Morrey (Wayne Duvall). “Oh gosh. Cops.” A humorous scene unfolds where Morrey attempts to talk his way out of it while being held at gunpoint by Doug quickly turns into a shootout when Patti turns off the lights. Doug and Patti escape, but Gordon gets to be a hero again as they arrest Morrey and free the kids in the backroom.

Disappointingly, Cat was captured at some point off-screen as she’s one of the kids lead out of the building, though she does serve as a useful focal point for when a busload of kids is immediately jacked by our hard-working villainous duo. She recognizes them and attempts to escape, but young Selina doesn’t quite have all her tricks and gadgets yet and must bide her time.

Meanwhile we’re finally treated to a real scene with the always scene-filling Richard Kind as Mayor Aubrey James as he shares a rather inappropriate victory drink with the Captain and detectives. Gordon immediately pisses him off: “I see you’re using child snatchers as a pre-text to lock up children without a trial.” The Mayor is less than amused. If Gordon’s job is to become the most-hated man in Gotham he’s on the right path.

To help give Gordon a bit of humanity, Alfred shows up with a somewhat awkward cry of help that makes me respect him a bit more – it takes a real man to know when he has to ask for help, and Alfred knows he’s out of his league when it comes to helping Bruce. Jim acquiesces and we get a brief peek into Bruce’s current state of mind as he scribbles dark images into a notepad while listening to loud rock music. It’s a bit on the nose, but it’s clear Gotham wants to take its time evolving the young crime-fighter.

After Patti and Doug hijack the bus filled with kids, Bullock and Gordon are left interrogating Morrey. To Harvey Bullock this means beating the shit out of him with a phone book while screaming, but this time Gordon simply looks on. “The lives of thirty children versus one scumbag,” reasons Gordon – now that’s more like it! Morrey gives up a clue to the logo the company Doug and Patti work with, though its investigation and subsequent revelation by Gordon falls flat. To be fair it’s hard to make good old fashioned police work at the desk seem very exciting.

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Doug and Patti unload the kids in a shipping warehouse at the docks and we’re treated to our first real suspenseful scene in the series as Selina Kyle hides on the bus from Patti. Cat may be young but she’s resourceful and brave – and, turns out, exceedingly violent when she needs to be as she literally scratches a guard’s eyes out off-screen. We get to see the brutal reality of her handiwork up-close, and Patti engages in one of the most darkly humorous moments I’ve ever seen as she attempts to execute the man as a mercy kill. “It’s just a scratch,” she claims, then levels a gun a the man’s now blind head. The gun gives an audible click and the man is full of anxious questions. “Hang on,” Patti replies as if she just dropped her phone, before cocking the gun and shooting the man in the head. It was absolutely brilliant and Lili Taylor’s performance is nothing short of a treasure.

Patti catches up with Cat but the police arrive on the scene just in the nick of time to subdue our entertaining villains and save the kids. A convenient wrap-up and one employed by most serialized cop dramas.

Afterward Jim makes good on his promise to Alfred and visits the Wayne manor. Alfred and Jim have another nice little scene where Alfred explains that the Waynes’ wish was for Bruce to choose his own path, to which Jim replies “is a recipe for disaster.” Hey, it’s a Batman prequel, there’s bound to be lots of heavy-handed wink-wink foreshadowing.

The best part of the scene is when Jim and Bruce get to sit and talk, and Bruce wisely steers the conversation away from himself and onto the child trafficking and Jim’s heroic involvement. Bruce wants to throw money at the kids to help them, but Jim knows that’s not the answer. “There must be something I can do,” Bruce responds. He’s introspective and defensive, but also empathetic to others, especially the kids. For someone that for all rights should be wallowing in self-pity, young Bruce cares deeply for others, a quality that I loved seeing here. Thus far David Mazouz fills the very difficult shoes of young Batman quite nicely.

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We move on to the final scene with Penguin, our series’ first attempt at a complete B-story running alongside the main plot. Cobblepot dives a bit deeper into obssessive madness with the rather cliché trope of staring at newspaper clippings on a wall before he gets the ransom phone call he was waiting for. One of the frat kids from the car he left alive, and sent a video to the poor bastard’s mom. Unfortunately for our burgeoning villain, the mom doesn’t believe it’s really happening, taking it all for a prank and hangs up on him. To Cobblepot’s credit he takes it in stride, though we cut away before he gets to exact his next plan. I must admit, I’m interested in following more of Penguin’s journey back to Gotham and rise to crime lord, though I can’t imagine every episode can include the Side Adventures of Young Penguin.

In the final scene, Cat finally gets an audience with Jim Gordon after quickly blackmailing the cop watching over her by threatening to claim that he molested her (clever girl). Selina knows where the kids are being sent and has no desire to ‘go upstate’ to the juvenile prison. She trades the only card she’s got – the identity of the killer that murdered the Waynes in the pilot episode. Bump Bump Buumm.

 

Final Thoughts

This episode’s willingness to explore different corners of Gotham without having to rely on Gordon and Bullock’s weekly crime investigations is refreshing. I especially enjoyed seeing more of the world from Selina’s and Oswald’s point of view, even as our young Penguin is yet to cross paths again with our main heroes. Jim Gordon continues to be insufferable (even his humanizing scenes with young Bruce Wayne are more of the ‘man up’ variety) and his disastrous relationship with partner Bullock is still more exasperating than entertaining.

Gotham’s strengths continue to be with its excellent supporting cast. Characters like Fish and Falcone had very little to do in this episode but their scene together is fantastic, while Edward Nygma and Mayor James nicely steal their respective scenes. As Selina Kyle, Camren Bicondova finally gets some actual dialogue and I found her a compelling anti-heroine in training. The real treat was Penguin’s bumbling yet surprisingly entertaining journey back to Gotham as well as the hilariously entertaining villainous duo of Patti and Doug. I’m far more invested in Penguin and Catwoman’s stories than I am Jim Gordon’s at this point, which makes “Selina Kyle,” a slightly better episode than the pilot.

8.5

 

 

 

 

Did You Notice?

  • Arkham Asylum’s been closed for over ten years, but we know it’s fully operational by the time Batman’s running around. Perhaps its reinstatement and grisly history will be covered in this series?
  • Doug and Patti are kidnapping kids for an unseen figure known as the Dollmaker, a minor Batman villain from the comics that likes to go all Texas Chainsaw Massacre (or Silence of the Lambs) with his victims and wardrobe. Interestingly, the Dollmaker was also featured on an episode of Arrow, another series that takes place in the DC Universe (though the shows are on two different networks).
  • Selina has a locket with a picture that’s presumably her mother, and she mentions she still has a mom somewhere near the end of the episode. In the comics her mother committed suicide to escape an abusive husband.



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