GOTHAM Debriefing: “You’re not a bad guy. Just a bad cop.”

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The Gotham premiere worked hard to create a distinctly decaying universe in which corruption is an accepted way of life for the city’s residents. With its visually stunning sets and well-known characters, it wasn’t any surprise that it would attract an audience, for curiosty’s sake, but does it manage to live up to the hype when the series really gets underway?

The answer for me, at least, is a resounding yes. Picking up where the pilot left off, the second episode manages to peel back the layers of what may be the most debauched city on television these days. Everyone in town is touched by the seedy underbelly, one way or the other, and it’s becoming increasingly clear that everyone survives by navigating layers of corruption to their own devices.

Courtesy Fox

Courtesy Fox

Like last week, there are several interwoven stories in “Selina Kyle,” primarily focusing on the plight of future Catwoman Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova), who reiterates loudly that she prefers to go by “Cat.” (Gee, wonder why?) She watches over Gotham from the shadows, witnessing crimes the local PD avoids investigating at all costs — such as the murder of the Waynes in the pilot. Cat bands together with several other street kids, when they are approached by a seemingly innocuous pair of relief workers offering them food. However, the scene soon turns dastardly, when the woman (played by the always amazing Lili Taylor, whose look here reminded me, oddly enough, of Shelagh on Call The Midwife) stabs the unsuspecting kids with some sort of incapacitating drug, kidnapping them in an ominous-looking delivery truck.

Courtesy Fox

Courtesy Fox

Cat manages to escape, but one of her friends, Mackey (Kyle Massey), isn’t quite as fortunate, when he is thrown through the window of a nearby restaurant for all his troubles. The local beat cop mistakes his crash as a drug-fuelled rampage, and his pleas of innocence and warnings about a string of kidnapping among his circle to Detectives Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue) and Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) fall on deaf ears at first. Instead, he’s accused of killing the homeless man we know was actually murdered by Oswald Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor) in the premiere, whose body turns up under a railway overpass. Bullock threatens violence, while Gordon argues in absolute horror (“What do you mean no one’s gonna beat him? I am! I just said I was gonna beat him!” I admit that made me laugh, and it was all in Logue’s delivery). Captain Sarah Essen (Zabryna Guevara) implores them to sweep this under the rug, until lab rat Edward Zygma (Cory Michael Smith) confirms that the drug found in Mackey’s system is a pharmaceutical drug used to subdue psychiatric patients, but the nearest asylum has been closed for over fifteen years. Thus, Bullock changes his tune and realizes there may be something to Mackey’s kidnapping claims, and Essen gives our duo the green light to investigate the case, on the down low.

The trail sends Bullock and Gordon straight to Fish Mooney’s (Jada Pinkett Smith) club, since the homeless man’s murder and the alleged kidnappings all happened on her turf, and she’s likely to know more than any law enforcement these days. Fish is cagey as always, but confirms that local street kids have been disappearing in recent months — despite the fact that “cute girls” used to be the only serious targets. She doesn’t know why they’re being taken; she’s just heard that they’re sent overseas, never to be hear from again. It’s bizarre, but it’s also the only serious lead they’ve uncovered.

Courtesy Fox

Courtesy Fox

After venting his frustrations to fiancée Barbara (Erin Richards) over the dead-end trails and corrupt practices within the force, he pays the price for his honesty when she calls in an anonymous tip in to the local paper about the kidnappings, because “it’s the right thing to do.” While it may lack professionalism, the headlines put the heat on the police department, which gives Bullock and Gordon enough ammunition to get warrants to search the three drug companies in town that manufactured the drugs. At one manufacturer, they confront psycho Patti (Taylor) and her accomplices, who are hiding their “merchandise” at the shop. The traffickers escape in a shoot out, but at least Gordon manages to save the victims, who were about to be killed by the complicit shopkeeper, who didn’t want the trail leading back to him.

Courtesy Fox

Courtesy Fox

Mayor Aubrey James (Richard Kind, in an uncharacteristically dramatic turn) uses the opportunity to sweep the city of its homeless youth, under the guise of “helping” them, sending them into foster homes and juvie. Gordon, of course, sees through this staged benevolence, telling him, “you’re using the snatchers as a pretext to lock kids up without a trial.” Kind is usually so cheerful in his roles, but here, as a smarmy politician, he threatens Gordon under a mask of cooperation — perhaps making it even scarier. Cat is caught up in these forced relocations, against her will, yet bonds with a frightened passenger on the bus taking her upstate, when her guards are revealed as none other than her attempted kidnappers.

The bus is hijacked, and back in town, Gordon figures out that the kids are being shipped — literally — to their purchasers overseas, horrifically being herded into shipping containers by the traffickers, and being threatened with gunfire for disobedience. Cat manages to hide from them on the bus and sneaks out, but she’s caught in a game of, well, cat and mouse, when her dropped necklace alerts Patti to her location. Patti almost shoots her, until Gordon apprehends her in the nick of time, saving the rest if the kids along with Cat.

Back at the Gotham PD, Cat manipulates her way into a one-on-one conversation with Gordon, and says she’ll trade vital information on one of his cases for a guarantee she won’t end up back in juvie. He’s skeptical, until she reveals she’s been following him (as we saw her lurking last week), and offers her trump card: she saw who really killed the Waynes. Talk about a cliffhanger!

Courtesy Fox

Courtesy Fox

Elsewhere in Gotham, Fish is rankled by the attempts to take over her ward by rival gangsters, precipitated by Cobblepot’s snitching last week — she wishes he hadn’t died, because she wants him to suffer even more. Falcone (John Doman) is all smiles when he comes to visit her at the club, but makes it known in no uncertain terms that this is his game. Fish returns the false sweetness, but she is livid as soon as he leaves, upset that it is not yet time for her to make her move. He told her that the Waynes’ murder has thrown the foundations of Gotham off-balance, which seems hard to believe, given how things seem to be tenuous enough as it is. Definitely expect a turf war to follow in the future.

Courtesy Fox

Courtesy Fox

Meanwhile, poor old Penguin, er, Oswald, is still on the run, hitchhiking his way out of dodge, and continuing his homicidal rampage by taking out one of the men who pick him up when he comments on the fugitive’s waddle resembling everyone’s favorite arctic bird. He takes the driver hostage in an attempt to extort money from his family, but when they can’t pay up, we’re left to believe he won’t fare any better than his friend. Back in Gotham, Detective Montoya (Victoria Cartagena) questions his mother — a perfectly-cast Carol Kane — about his disappearance, rightly convinced he was offed by the fuzz, but unaware it was all a coverup. What’s her deal against Gordon?

Courtesy Fox

Courtesy Fox

On a more uplifting note, young Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) has begun risky behavior to deal with his parents’ murder, much to Alfred’s (Sean Pertwee) dismay. He calls upon Gordon to help the boy cope, but we get a glimmer of what’s to come for the Dark Knight: he’s not hurting himself, he’s “testing himself.” Ah, the seeds of a superhero are taking root.

Courtesy Fox

Courtesy Fox

I have to say, the quality of this production continues to impress me. The sets are beautiful in their decrepitude, and it really does feel like a mini-movie each episode. I’m loving the layers to the story so far, and how the characters are so well established for such a new show. The performances are the bright spot for me: Jada Pinkett Smith plays Fish with such an intensity, that you know she can turn on you in a second and wouldn’t bat an eye, and Donal Logue brings a certain charm to Bullock, even when the character could be rather loathsome on paper. And guest star Lili Taylor was wonderful in this episode juxtaposing her sunny exterior with absolutely psychopathic tendencies underneath.

I’m so impressed with Gotham so far, and I can’t wait to see more of this world unfold in the coming weeks.

 

Nels
Nels knew how to operate a TV remote control before she knew how to talk. As a result, she has spent an inordinate amount of time pretending she actually lives on a soundstage. When she isn’t watching whichever show is currently capturing her heart, she is writing about how said show is currently capturing her heart. She loves pie.

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