Following on from a pretty wall-to-wall pilot episode jammed with references to comics and characters from Batman-lore and proving itself to be more than an average crime procedural in an unusual setting ‘Gotham‘ takes a slightly darker tone to its second episode by delving into the world of human trafficking with its unusually titled second episode ‘Selina Kyle‘.
It’s unusually titled in that Selina (or Cat as she likes to be known…) is not the full focus of the episode although she is present for much of the action.
Following on from the pilot Gordon is still hiding the truth about what happened on the pier with Cobblepot whilst others have him squarely in the frame for the supposed murder. His secrets are beginning to put a strain on his relationship with Barbara whose own past is catching up with her.
Meanwhile a mysterious character known as the Dollmaker – note: he has appeared in an episode of ‘Arrow‘ – is using some shady characters to traffic children out of ‘Gotham‘ and after having gotten herself tangled up with the authorities once more Selina Kyle ends up is danger whilst en route to an upstate facility.
The episode deals with some dark and shady dealings which really show off how far this show is willing to go to make itself standout from a market swamped with crime procedural. ‘Gotham‘ of course has elements of those which are pre-requisites to its genre and it does those well: the montage shots of Gordon and Bullock going about their business are artfully shot and worked in to the episode; the action is lead well by both cops carrying their guns and the plot is obvious enough to make the viewer feel like a detective in their own right without being overly predictable. But as great as these elements are there are derivatives available in any other crime show on TV.
What ‘Gotham‘ does which really sets it apart is bring a level of darkness that doesn’t let up at any time. The subject matter, the tone, visuals all scream darkness and because of that there’s little about this show which will make you feel good. For a show which airs at 20:00 in America there’s a level of violence which seems to take it beyond the expectations of a normal network show, this episode pushes the envelope by showing the aftermath of a Selina Kyle attach on one of the traffickers.
The story is definitely stronger than the pilot (reviewed here), now we’re moving on from the introductions and getting in to the mess that is the Gotham underworld. There are a few plot threads going on here which help to make the series more of an ensemble than a show placed squarely at the feet of Ben McKenzie as Gordon. As the main characters aren’t all in the same place they do each have stories to help progress their characters forwards.
Bullock and Gordon remain joined at the hip and at the heart of the show, the partnership works and there’s little development needed between them as clearly both actors get it and have great chemistry.
Despite being introduced through her relationship with Gordon, Barbara has her own thing going on in this episode albeit tied in with the relationship. It would be nice to see her given a full storyline of her own but considering where we she needs to be placed for future storylines there’s only a certain amount of danger that she can be placed in.
Bruce is still in a dark place after the death of his parents, naturally, and is locked up inside Wayne Manor which presently only seems to have one room. With Alfred always at his side there is a feeling that the writers aren’t entirely sure what to do with him given the grand expectations for his future. We have no idea how long this show will last so the writers have to contend with their early vision to end ‘Gotham‘ with Bruce putting on the cowl for the first time but at present he is only a young boy so he’s resigned to watching the events of the episode from his mansion and doing what he can to be involved.
What does work about the Bruce story are his interactions with Gordon. Oddly in these moments it’s almost as if Gordon has come to Bruce for advice and the scenes play out very much with Gordon needing to learn. Not sure they’re constructed to play out this way but weirdly it works in the context of the show.
One of the biggest strengths in this series continues to be Robin Lord Taylor as Cobblepot, having dragged himself back out of the river his actions are relatively dangerous throughout his scenes and his personality allows him to switch in a moments notice from being a comedic element of the episode to becoming a lethal weapon. There’s an inferiority complex to him that I can’t decide to be a put on or a genuine quirk of how the character is written. However he’s written there’s an excellent lethality to him and he really is going to be a character to watch throughout this series.
The visuals of the show remain stand out, the city is constructed so well that it barely seems like an augmented New York, the CGI elements mix in brilliantly with live action and bring together a city with so much character. The sets are also standout, there’s dark corners and shady building abound and spaces can go from vast and empty to tight and constricted in a matter of moments, I want to explore more of the GCPD compound and would love some wide sweeping shots of Barabara’s clocktower home.
A solid follow-up and a good sign for things to come in ‘Gotham‘.