Although I liked it well enough, last week’s premiere of ‘Gotham’ received a very mixed reaction from many viewers, especially regarding the performances of stars Ben McKenzie and Jada Pinkett Smith, both of whom I singled out for praise. Some people just can’t stand one or the other of them. I find this puzzling, personally.
I honestly don’t know what more anyone could want from Pinkett Smith. She plays the villainess Fish Mooney with delicious glee. She’s exactly what a comic book villain is supposed to be. McKenzie, meanwhile, bears a strong resemblance to a young Russell Crowe, and seems to be playing the role as ‘L.A. Confidential’ with a comic book backdrop. I have no problem with that either. To each their own.
I’m less impressed with Sean Pertwee, who plays the Wayne family butler Alfred Pennyworth as some sort of barely-reformed Cockney thug. I have no idea what that’s about. Maybe the character is written that way in some of the comic books, but I have trouble understanding why the wealthy Waynes would have ever hired such a person to be their proper English butler.
Anyway, Episode 2 is called ‘Selina Kyle’, which should clue you in that it’s going to be about the young future Catwoman. Strangely, she’s not really in that much of the episode. Regardless, the major plotline has her witnessing the kidnapping of homeless people off the streets by a pair of overly-friendly weirdos named Patti and Doug (Lili Taylor and Frank Whaley) pretending to be ambassadors for the mayor’s homeless outreach program. After they murder one guy who tries to run, Gordon and Bullock catch the case. Bullock couldn’t possibly care less about disappearing homeless, and goes out of his way to act as corrupt and abusive as possible the entire episode. Gordon (who hasn’t made many friends in the police department) picks a fight with him. They’re not exactly getting along.
The mayor (Richard Kind) gives a press conference and puts on a big show about protecting the city’s children – which ultimately amounts to rounding up homeless kids and shipping them off to either orphanages if they’re cute and well behaved or Juvenile Detention if they’re not. Selina (who likes to call herself “Cat” – how original) gets put on a bus to juvie, which gets hijacked by Patti and Doug. We learn that they’re grabbing the homeless for a mysterious boss called “The Dollmaker” who we’re not allowed to see. I assume that he or she will become a major player later on.
After arriving at a generic factory setting at a facility called Trident Shipping (Aquaman reference, maybe?), Selina makes a break for it by scratching a guard’s eyes out. Patti stalks her through the warehouse and almost catches her when Gordon (who’d been investigating the case) shows up at the last second to save the girl. Later, Selina tells him that she got a good look at the Waynes’ killer. Is she bluffing? How much could she have seen? The guy was wrapped up in a mask and hood.
In side stories, Oswald Cobblepot hitchhikes down the road out of town and gets picked up by a couple of dipshit college kids. When they antagonize him, he kills one and steals their SUV, then uses their cash to rent a trailer outside the city to use as a home base while he plots his revenge. He attempts to call the other kid’s parents to ransom him, but they think it’s a hoax and hang up on him. The Penguin has a long way to go before becoming a diabolical supervillain.
Back in town, the detectives on the Major Crimes Unit interview Cobblepot’s eccentric mother (Carol Kane in full-on Simka Gravas mode).
Mob boss Falcone distrusts Fish, and has her boy-toy lover beaten in front of her to make a point about obedience. Fish bides her time while planning a power play to kill Falcone and take over his operation.
Worried about young Bruce when he catches the boy intentionally burning his hand on a candle, Alfred asks Gordon to talk to him, hopefully to provide a positive male role model. Bruce insists that he’s not self-destructive and that he was testing himself.
With any new show that starts out of the gate with a strong pilot episode, it’s natural to fear a decline in the quality of the following episodes. This one seems to be much of a piece with the premiere. It’s perhaps a little too cluttered with storylines, and the rampant police corruption is overplayed, but I enjoyed it and look forward to more.