TV Review | Gotham 1.02 ‘Selina Kyle’

1.02Original UK air date: 20th October 2014. 

**Spoilers Contained Below**

This week on Gotham…

Gordon and Bullock work a suspected murder case that puts them on the trail of a pair of childknappers. Working for the (unseen) Dollmaker, this nefarious duo make several attempts to snatch and smuggle a number of children out of the city (including Selina Kyle), before eventually being foiled by our good cop, bad cop combo.

Elsewhere…

 – Oswald Cobblepot progresses from death faking lackey to psychotic murderer, via failed ransomer.

 – Montoya and Allen investigate the future Penguin’s disappearance.

 – Falcone and Mooney have a ‘friendly chat’ that doesn’t end well for the latter’s toyboy barman.

 – Alfred struggles to handle a grieving, self-harming Bruce.

The Verdict…

Two episodes in and Gotham is already veering sharply toward a foe-of-the-week format. Whilst there is nothing necessarily wrong with this, a more serialised approach would allow the audience to become more invested in the cases. That said, with the amount of characters they are trying to cram in to every episode, screen time is at a premium and it is what it is.

Though the parts are underwritten, antagonists of the week Patti and Doug (Being Human’s Lili Taylor and Born of the Fourth of July’s Frank Whaley) do at least feel part of this Tim Burton-lite interpretation of Gotham. Whilst Whaley’s Doug obviously occupies the lesser half of the partnership (and is written so), Taylor’s Patti stands out, in a sort of ‘evil librarian crossed with the Child Catcher’ sort of way. They do the best with what they’ve got.

Whilst the kidnapping storyline does get a decent chunk of screen time, it is time that is spread thinly across a vast array of characters. It is commendable that the writers are trying to flesh out the main cast as early as possible (as well as planting seeds for future storylines) but it currently feels a little bit scatter shot in its approach. Take Bruce Wayne, for example. Aside from who he grows up to be, there isn’t an immediate reason for him to be around. It made sense to use the Kents’ murder as a springboard for the pilot episode, but they could easily hold off Bruce’s next appearance(s) for later in the series. There was no need for him (nor Alfred) to be around this week, and a good five minutes could have been allocated elsewhere were it not for this.

Five minutes more is what Montoya and Allen could have done with. Introduced in the pilot (and reinforced here) as the straight cops in town, the two are trying to track down the disappearance of Oswald Cobblepot. The one proper scene they get shows them interviewing the missing’s eccentric mother (who, if this was a Tim Burton piece, would definitely have been played by Helena Bonham Carter). Whilst decent enough, it is only memorable because of just how off-the-wall Gertrude Kapelput is.

I’m not yet sold on Fish Mooney. The scene between herself and Falcone was quite good, and drilled the point home that Falcone knows exactly what she is doing (maneuvering herself to challenge him). On the flipside, she seemed shoe-horned into the the main storyline (albeit briefly) by having the initial murder happen ‘on her patch’. Of course it did.

While on the subject of Falcone, I really hope that – when everything hits the fan – he doesn’t get written out. The Wire’s John Doman has been one of the better aspects of the show to date, and plays the calm charmingly sinister mob boss so well.

Speaking of better aspects of the show, Robin Lord Taylor may only get a few short scenes this week, but he is still on course to (inadvertently?) become the true star of Gotham. We pick up his story shortly after the faking of his death; he has swam away from Gotham and is now hitch hiking out of town. Whilst it was quite obvious the the jocks who eventually pick him up were gonners from the start, the scene was still excellently handled and showed how great Taylor’s Cobblepot can be. One insult is all it takes is one insult, and he flips from deferential and thankful to psychotic and raging – bottling the driver and taking the passenger hostage. Later, we get a short scene where he hired a caravan the hide out for a little while. Finally, we see him trying to ransom his hostage – only for his hostage’s mother to think it is a sick joke. Said hostage is swiftly eliminated.

It wouldn’t be a stretch to assume that Cobblepot’s storyline is the B-story to the show. His eventual, inevitable rise to the head of his own crime family will hopefully be something to savour through the show’s run. Whatever become of Gotham, I’m pretty sure it’ll be remembered for the place Taylor’s star started to shine.

Eight paragraphs gone and I’ve barely mentioned the character for whom the episode is named after – and now you know how the audience felt the majority of the time. Aside from the opening sequence, we only get a handful of relatively short scenes with Selina Kyle. Thankfully these scenes do come together well and it seems the casting team snagged another promising talent in Camren Bicondova. A scene where she temporarily escapes the clutches of the kidnappers goes someway to show Kyle agility and evasion skills, though it is shot a little clumsily, making Doug look quite foolish for missing her.

Overall, there were a few improvements (the script was less exposition heavy, and all around a little tighter), but also some issues with the division of time between characters which hinder the development on the villains. ‘Selina Kyle’ is maybe a case of half a step forward, half a step back – but in Taylor, Doman (and lesser extents Bicondova, Logue, and McKenzie) Gotham does have an upside that they’ll hopefully exploit.

3/5

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