‘Gotham’ Review: “Selina Kyle”
FOX’s ‘Gotham’ detects its second installment in “Selina Kyle,” as the future Catwoman (Camren Bicondova) finds herself kidnapped by a child-trafficking ring, while Oswald Cobblepot struggles to regain a foothold outside of Gotham City, and Fish Mooney faces Don Carmine Falcone.
Last week's ‘Gotham’ premiere saw James Gordon partnered with Harvey Bullock to investigate the murders of Bruce Wayne's parents, while Fish discovered Oswald to be the rat in her criminal organization so how does FOX’s latest episode of Bat-prequel drama shine a light on the city's villainous beginnings?
Read on for your in-depth review of everything you need to know about ‘Gotham’ episode 2, “Selina Kyle”!
For as much as FOX’s ‘Gotham’ seems to have divided audiences amid its premiere airing, I stand by my assertion that the show has very little idea of what it wants to be just yet. Similarly, my colleague Mike Ryan watched the premiere on a whim, and found in light of the classic ‘60s ‘Batman’ series that ‘Gotham’ needed to embrace the campier aspects it seemed so oblivious to striking in an attempt display its “dark” side, and that got me thinking. For all the division I’ve seen among fans and critics alike, ‘Gotham’ very much acts as a sort of prism for Bat-nostalgia, with each viewer’s image of the Dark Knight shaping their viewpoint on the new series.
I grew up primarily in the ‘90s, with a meaty diet of ‘Batman the Animated Series’ and its subsequent iterations breaking up the latter ‘Batman’ sequels I was at least old enough to form opinions on. It wasn’t until I read the leaked script for Christopher Nolan’s ‘Batman Begins’ that got my first taste of the character being taken seriously in a modern context, one that subsequently became my go-to image for the character. That’s my Batman, and while I knew going in that I'd have to weigh ‘Gotham’ as an interpretation entirely independent of Christopher Nolan, the pilot episode lacked commitment to either angle, in spite of the camp seemingly built into its DNA, thereby suffering all the more for it.
“Selina Kyle” on the other hand, seems very much to have landed in camp territory, right down to two child-kidnappers high-fiving over the amount of children they’ve kidnapped. My gut feeling tells me that FOX learned a very poor lesson from the surprise success of ‘Sleepy Hollow’ last year, and presumed that ‘Gotham’ would succeed with an amped up approach to similarly fantastical material, but for now at least, the series remains a terrible tonal mess of half-formed ideas.
In a nutshell, tonight’s installment put a spotlight on Camren Bicondova’s Selina “Cat” Kyle (apparently the literal cat last week didn’t make things clear enough), weaving its story around the idea that the corruption of Gotham City’s infrastructure proves every bit as threatening as its unapologetically cartoonish villains. Our first up-close visit with Mayor Aubrey James (Richard Kind) emerges from a leaked investigation of the two child-kidnappers, as Gordon comes to realize that the city’s efforts to “help” the underpriveleged children only sweep the problem aside into worse circumstances. To ‘Gotham’’s credit, the series works toward highlighting the “one step forward, two steps back” frustration of Gordon’s efforts to do right, and makes a strong visual parallel in juxtaposing the Mayor’s speech with a cuffed Selina taken to juvenile hall amid barking police dogs.
That alone might have elevated the series to some thoughtful discourse on the ugly side of societal outreach, but the message ultimately drowns amid ‘Gotham’’s pulpier action and cartoon villainy. By the same token, “Selina Kyle” gives the young Bruce Wayne a first opportunity to do some genuine good after the death of his parents (you know, when he’s not burning himself, doodling scary faces, or listening to death metal), only to undercut the moment with a bit of slapstick visual. Yes, Bruce, your thoughtful generosity toward spending Wayne wealth on some new clothes for the homeless children shines a ray of light on an otherwise bleak situation, but look at all the children dressed identically in preppy clothes, guys!
Elsewhere amid the Dollmaker’s footsoldiers high-fiving across Gotham, our fish-out-of-water Penguin follows his impressively intense sandwich murder by cozying up to some new fratboy friends out on the road, only to see Oswalt reacting to a mild taunt by slashing the passenger’s throat. He tries to ransom the other, but fails. Some detectives interview his crazy mother. Nothing comes of it. Obviously, the series isn’t going to do away with Robin Taylor’s Oswald Cobblepot anytime soon , though it does beg the question of why the pilot bothered to fracture Oswald’s relationship with Fish Mooney so quickly, given the narrative seems only to want to kill time before his inevitable return ascent.
It’s certainly saying something if Jada Pinkett’s seething gangster boss gets the strongest beats among ‘Gotham’’s criminal characters, seen here tonight as Mooney is forced to bow and scrape to the reigning Don Falcone, following her impetuous attempts to seize power last week. Although don’t be fooled, that janitor racing against time to shoot a bunch of kids in the face, before getting shot himself, and falling down a well made a strong contender for a Batman villain I’d like to see more of in the future. Who else might be down that well? Do they want to high-five over evil deeds, perhaps?
I’m not sure if we’ll ever come to a consensus on ‘Gotham,’ and I haven’t yet watched the third installment made available to critics, if only to see if “Selina Kyle” acts as the definitive trendsetter of ‘Gotham’’s tone, or a more common second-episode stumble. For now at least, ‘Gotham’ remains little more than camp without the heart, as where ‘Sleepy Hollow’ managed to hook us with relatable characters reacting to the insanity around them, ‘Gotham’’s characters seem only to be sources of it. At best we have Ben McKenzie’s stalwart Gordon keeping low enough tones for a sense of stability, but sooner or later, someone will high-five that guy for noticing some shiny shoes, or recognizing a trident, and all of us will have been too slow to stop this down-low madness.
AND ANOTHER THING…
- So yes, Bruce has yet another troubling outburst this week, and it’s Gordon’s job to reinforce surly Alfred’s stern lessons. Because Thomas Wayne apparently had therapy aversions of Tom Cruise-ian proportions. Nice cover, guys.
- Drama between Jim and Harvey mostly hits the back-burner this week, apart from a few jabs about Cobblepot’s “murder,” but darn it all if those two won’t be back to grinding their teeth at one another next week.
- Drink every time the Penguin overreacts and grabs a sharp object!
- Oh good, we’ve made the Edward Nygma character even more of a looming weirdo. What, we couldn’t have Ivy Pepper tending a fern in the background?
- Our two looney-bat kidnappers (as portrayed by ‘Almost Human’’s Lili Taylor and Frank Whaley) reference working for the Dollmaker, who almost certainly showed his ugly mug in the latest trailer today. No, he was not intended to be the same iteration as portrayed by 'Arrow.' Do not fall down that well, guys.
- Does Jim Gordon already know when “tea time” was? Did he have to Google that? Do they have computers here, guys?
- Of course the Penguin has a crazy conspiracy wall. Of course. Of course.
Well, what say you? Did ‘Gotham’’s second episode “Selina Kyle” help set the stage any further for Batman's beginning? How do you think the prequel drama fared in its campiest outing yet? Give us your thoughts in the comments, and check back next week for our review of ‘Gotham' episode 3, "The Balloonman" on FOX!