No my name ain’t baby, it’s Selina, or “Cat” if you’re nasty. In tonight’s episode, young Selina Kyle reminds people multiple times that she prefers to be called “Cat.” We get it, writers of Gotham, she’s going to be Catwoman. Message received. We are also well aware of the fact that Oswald hates the mere mention of anything penguin-esque in relation to him. Please stop clobbering us over our heads with these finer points to their psyches.
The second episode of Gotham had an interesting first act: Lili Taylor and Frank Whaley show up in a Gotham alleyway offering food to some street urchins, who they soon start poking with a large knitting needle, rendering them unconscious—don’t worry though because Cat once again slinks away unnoticed; young Master Wayne is found playing with fire literally, as Alfred discovers him hovering the palm of his hand dangerously close to a burning candle; Oswald Cobblepot is found limping his way out of Gotham (for now) and hitches a ride with a pair of popped-collar preppy douches. One of them makes the mistake of mentioning how Oswald looked like a penguin as he hobbled down the road, so you can pretty much guess the fate of that character.
The second act was hella clunky: Detectives Gordon and Bullock throw barbs at each other as they disagree over trying to find whoever killed a homeless veteran (it was Taylor and Whaley) and whether or not that’s connected to the street kids who were drugged and taken; meanwhile, Fish is visited at the club by Don Falcone, who serves up a polite reminder that he is still in charge of things no matter how soft he’s heard Fish has said he’s become (at least that’s what the Penguin told him); the Riddler (er, Nygma, whatever…) reveals to the detectives that he found a small amount of a potent drug not used in most places other than Arkham Asylum in the blood work of one of the street kids who escaped the abduction. That other pair of detectives, Allen and Montoya (the ones who don’t trust Bullock) visit Oswald’s mother to find out if she knows his whereabouts. His mother is played by Carol Kane! She looks like she’s been doused in dusting powder and came straight from a video shoot for The Cure. In short, she was probably the most interesting thing about that scene. The mayor (played by the always-excellent Richard Kind) is furious about the newspaper scooping the story about the missing kids (thanks to Gordon’s fiancée calling-in an anonymous tip) and urges the detectives to fix things. As if he doesn’t already have enough on his plate, Alfred appears at the police station and asks for Gordon to come visit Bruce, since he respects the officer and Alfred doesn’t have first-hand experience dealing with kids.
There’s a lot going on in under an hour. A few more layers of narrative also unfold as we draw closer to the finale: the children that were taken are headed for someone known as “The Doll Maker,” which is something that Fish casually knows about, but cautions Bullock and Gordon that it isn’t something anyone should concern themselves with. The Penguin is now living in a trailer…down by the river (at least until it’s time to seek revenge back in Gotham). Selina Kyle reappears! (You remember her from the title of tonight’s episode, yes?) She’s homeless and therefore put on a bus headed for a corrections facility (long story, ask the mayor). But who should hijack the bus? Well, it’s Taylor and Whaley, that’s who. Selina tries to escape out the back exit but it’s bolted shut. She’s met with a gun pointed at her as Lili Taylor’s character demands she take a seat. These kids are obviously worth more to The Doll Maker alive than dead. The bus detours to some sort of shipping container port and the children file off the bus and into an open container. Taylor and Whaley discover that their headcount comes up one short of the attendance sheet and Taylor gets back on to check the bus for the stowaway.
I’d just like to say here that if Selina had such cat-like reflexes, wouldn’t she have already successfully climbed out of the roof hatch of the bus? Well, I suppose not, as she and Taylor play the lamest cat-and-mouse game (get it) on a claustrophobic bus. Of course Selina escapes. At the same time, Gordon is piecing together who the child abductors are, based on a sketch drawn by an accomplice while being interrogated, which correctly leads him and Bullock to the shipping facility right before Selina is almost shot by Taylor.
In the closing scene, Selina is insisting she not be sent back to the corrections facility and demands to speak to Jim Gordon. When he finally acquiesces to meet with her she reveals that he needs to help keep her in Gotham, as she was in the alley the night of the Wayne double-murder and is the only person alive who saw their killer, plain as day. Holy cliffhanger, Batman!
I’m enjoying the series so far and look forward to how they intend to develop the characters. Camren Bicondova, the actress who plays Selina, is a dead ringer for Michelle Pfeiffer (I seriously doubt her own children look this much like her). She’s got good acting chops and plays a convincing tough-as-nails streetwise teenager. Mind you, Gotham is not the grittiest of dramas—it really isn’t as foreboding a Gotham City as Nolan painted it, nor is it as whimsical and cartoonish as the Burton films portrayed the town—instead, Bruno Heller’s town falls somewhere in between. It does get dark (Selina gouged a man’s eyes out tonight, and she’s barely a teenager!), and sometimes the dialogue is groan-inducing (such as Bullock shouting on the phone to Gordon “Meet me at Fourth and Grundy in an hour!” in the premiere episode) as are some of the other “insidery” jokes (like setting up the Riddler as a forensics-type employee at the precinct who always makes you try and guess his result before he shares them). And hey, many viewers might just enjoy the wink-and-a-nod moments that are peppered throughout the show. I’m a Batman fan; I’m not a Batman purist, so I can accept the tweaks to these characters’ backstories. However, I do enjoy a well-written drama, and I hope that Gotham becomes just that. It has a lot of potential, just like Selina Kyle.