Gotham, Ep. 1.02, “Selina Kyle” slows down pace with rising tension

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Gotham Season 1, Episode 2: “Selina Kyle”
Written by Bruno Heller
Directed by Danny Cannon
Airs Mondays at 8pm ET on FOX

After a full throttle pilot, Gotham switches to a slower gear in order to explore the issues facing Gotham’s inner city children, and the failing of its government system on how they’re handled. The corruption of Gotham City reaches just as high as Gordon had suspected, and it’s not simply that the Mayor is in Falcone’s pocket. There’s a general flaw in the system of the City itself; everyone is trying to survive, and does so by looking out for themselves, and to hell with everyone else. Gotham City has been represented in comic books and other media adaptations as a city that breeds criminals, and by having a high poverty rate and children without homes or parents, the Gotham series may provide an answer for why that is. The inner city children are antagonized by the police and mistreated by the law system by being sent upstate into prison-like disciplinary facilities, and this is most likely the cause that riles up the citizens, making them push back.

Having the title “Selina Kyle” is a bit misleading, as the episode doesn’t really get into her back story, which remains mysterious, the only hint being that her absent mother is alive somewhere. Instead, the episode winds up tensions tighter from the pilot, setting up for a breaking point later in the season. Falcone confronts Mooney about his awareness of her likely betrayal, and while that defuses her as an immediate threat, doing so sets her more resolutely against him. There is an investigation on the whereabouts of Oswald Cobblepot, who is thought by most to be dead, but he remains on the loose on the outskirts of Gotham City plotting his return. Gordon continues to work against the corruption of the police department with his moral code intact for now, but in a city like Gotham, it doesn’t seem likely that Gordon will be able to hold on to it for too long.

Character Study alternate

Character Study

When we are first introduced to Selina ‘Cat’ Kyle in the pilot, she is stalking rooftops and stealing without regard before she finds herself in an alley to witness the Wayne murders. She then begins to follow Bruce Wayne and watch him from a distance, and the question arises of whether she will come forward with what she knows about the Wayne murders. In “Selina Kyle”, she finally does come forward with the information, but not from any sense of guilt or responsibility, but in trade for help in avoiding going upstate. This type of attitude appears to be the way to survive in Gotham, where you do not do things without getting something in return. Selina Kyle is portrayed by Camren Bicondova, and she very much looks the part, sharing more than a passing resemblance to former Catwoman Michelle Pfeiffer with her teased out curly hair, large eyes, and an incredible cat like prowess in her physicality. The actress does very well in performing sweet and unassuming when playfully coaching a street kid on how to survive in the upstate institute, and does just as well in portraying the threatening presence of someone who is capable of protecting herself by any means necessary.

The enduring effect of seeing his parents murdered in front of him are starting to affect Bruce Wayne, and is causing him to test his endurance in strange ways. We, as the audience, may know that Wayne is displaying these tests for what he intends to become in the future, but what’s unusual is that, when presented in a realistic setting, these actions tend to come off as more suicidal or psychologically disturbed than its usual representation in other media. We know Wayne as a damaged character, and he would have to be in order to become what he needs to become, but to see it play out at a very young age is very disconcerting, and Alfred’s concern is completely warranted. Alfred doesn’t believe therapy is an option for Wayne, as he was told by Bruce’s parents not to take that path. This has to have more of a reason, possibly in connection with Arkham Asylum’s downfall. David Mazouz is doing very well in the role of Wayne, playing across Sean Pertwee’s tougher yet less confident Alfred, which will certainly develop into the warm relationship that we are all familiar with. It’s clear in this episode that Wayne needs a guiding hand, and one of authority like Gordon could be his only option, because Alfred is still a subordinate to Wayne, and Wayne tends to still treat him that way in these early years.

Child Trafficking

The Case File: Child trafficking ring

The case of this week involves Patti and Doug, (Lili Taylor and Frank Whaley) as two very campy goons who prey on the inner city children for nefarious unknown reasons. It’s bizarre, as all the flat out villains of Gotham appear to be playing up their roles to an almost campy extreme, but they are doing very heinous acts that come off as super creepy. It’s almost more disturbing with the heightened portrayal.

The flawed law enforcement system in Gotham City would’ve allowed for these child kidnappings to go unnoticed if not for Gordon’s meddling, which leads to a very informative confrontation with the Mayor of Gotham, amicably played by Richard Kind. Gordon’s moral battle on what is right and wrong with the city continues in this episode, from the patrol officer to the Mayor, which shows just where the corruption in the system is, and how deep it runs. If Gordon is to change the system, he is going to need allies with power to make those changes, and maybe Bruce Wayne is that ally.

There are still some open ended questions about the Child trafficking ring, such as “Why were they kidnapping these inner city children and what for?” and “Who is the Dollmaker?” (who is named as the head of the ring), and “What is their connection with Arkham Asylum?”

It appears that Arkham Asylum was closed down at some point in the past, and that the Wayne foundation was in development to try and resurrect it. There may be some kind of conspiracy behind the plotting of the Wayne’s murder, perhaps in order to prevent the return of Arkham Asylum. Falcone mentions to Mooney that his Crime Empire and the Wayne Foundation worked in tandem with each other, and with the Waynes taken down, that pillar is broken, from which there will be fallout. Arkham Asylum is a piece of the puzzle that is known as a helpful institution in keeping Gotham City safe in the future, but currently its resources are in the hands of an unknown threat. The development of this plot can be an ongoing device for the series, and one that will be very interesting to see play out.

The episode is written and directed by the same team as the pilot, and maintains the atmosphere of a dangerous city with its sleek neo noir style. There is a distinct difference in how Gotham looks compared to the outskirts of Gotham, where Oswald is currently setting camp while he plots his revenge. It’s a bright contrast to the dark city, and Oswald looks very out of place, which is the intent. The entire tone of the series is very gritty and appears to be getting more so, as dark moments tend to color what the characters are capable of. From eye gauging to self mutilation to unblinking murders, this series is set to eleven on grim.

Detective’s Notes

  • It’s funny that former Addams Family grandmother Carol Kane is Oswald Cobblepot’s mother in Gotham.
  • Bruce Wayne starts up early with his creeping up on people, and Alfred’s reaction is priceless.
  • Jada Pinkett Smith is still dynamite as Fish Mooney, and I can’t wait to see more of her.
  • Edward Nygma tones down his riddle tasking, yet is still very creepy.
  • Bruce listening to death metal? Maybe Gotham is more of a precursor to The Lego Movie, rather than Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice.
  • “If you don’t bend, you’ll get broke” seems like the Gotham mantra. Are mantras supposed to sound so threatening?
  • Bullock tells Gordon that he’s “a monkey riding on a racehorse” when referring to Barbara Kean. What does he know about her and what does he mean by that exactly?
  • The Dollmaker in the comics makes dolls out of his victim’s skin and hair. Is that what he intended to do with Gotham’s inner city kids?

-JP

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