Gotham’s premiere left some viewers undecided on the long-term prospects of the pre-Batman adventures of Gotham City, but now with its second episode it’s time for the show to prove if it indeed has a real future and can be more than Batman-lite. Does it succeed? Sorta, but the kinks apparent from the first episode don’t look like they’ll be a quick fix.
Starting the show on a similar note as the premiere, we kick off looking in on Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova) once again. For the slower viewers who have missed that she will eventually become Catwoman, she’s going by the wholly unnecessary nickname ‘Kat.’ This time out she’s hanging with a bunch of fellow street kids huddled around a trash can fire to stay warm when a far-too friendly couple (Frank Whaley and Lili Taylor) approach them claiming to be from the mayor’s office.
And their offer to provide some warm meals does indeed prove too good to be true as they drug the kids (save Selina) and shoot and kill a homeless vet. In cold and emotionless fashion the duo say they’re sure their efforts will please their boss, The Dollmaker.
In our weekly Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) update, he’s still testing the limits of his fear — this time by putting his hand over a candle. The show looks to be attempting to show exactly how screwed up a kid would be if he watched his parents gunned down before him. The big challenge will be in not going too far into making Bruce look like a young psycho as he is destined to be the main hero in Gotham eventually.
Meanwhile for the hero Gotham has for the present, Gordon (Ben McKenzie) and Bullock (Donal Logue) are investigating the vet’s murder. After Edward Nigma (Cory Michael Smith) pops in with some forensic evidence about the drug used to sedate the kids, Gordon and Bullock turn to the one person likely to know what occurred on her turf. But Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith) wasn’t too thrilled with them last episode and tried to have them killed. Turns out Gordon “killing” Oswald Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor) has squared things up with Fish and she tips them off to a possible lead. Pinkett Smith seems to be experimenting with an Eartha Kitt homage for Fish’s voice and demeanor, but she is inconsistent and reverts to her regular voice making Fish standout for all the wrong reasons.
Oswald is not actually dead, but is taking Gordon’s advice and getting out of Gotham. He’s picked up by some teenagers who are portrayed so obnoxious only so the audience won’t feel so bad when Oswald goes nuts after they make a penguin comparison and kills one of them. Taylor is one of the cast standouts, but Oswald hasn’t proven to be so indispensable to the story that he needs to make an appearance every episode.
The writers again try to cram in too many characters as detectives Montoya (Victoria Cartagena) and Allen (Andrew Stewart-Jones) try to learn Oswald’s whereabouts from his mother, Gertrude (Carol Kane in a nice cameo reprising her role from “Batman Returns.”) It’s all we get with Allen and Montoya this episode. Ditto for Carmine Falcone (John Doman) who not so subtly reminds Fish that he is the boss in Gotham and the rumors of her trying to take over should not be remotely true.
Barbara (Erin Richards) decides to “help” Gordon by tipping off the Gotham Gazette that homeless kids and being abducted, which allows Gordon and Bullock the opportunity to get a warrant at the suspect’s lab. The Gordon/Barbara scenes aren’t working so far as it feels tacked on to give Gordon a love interest without making Barbara a worthwhile addition to the cast so far.
Before the action though, Alfred comes visiting Gordon asking for
an obligatory Gordon/Bruce scene his assistance in talking to Bruce since Gordon’s earned his respect. I’m really hoping each episode won’t need the Gordon/Bruce sequence crutch as their interaction is forced and less impactful each time.
Gordon and Bullock get in a shootout with the kidnappers, but they get away just in time to make off with a busload of homeless children (including our girl Selina) thanks to a completely nonsensical plan by the mayor that only makes sense from the standpoint of needing to fill another 15 minutes of episode time.
Through no other reason than to show Selina’s stealthy abilities, she manages to get free from her captors long enough to call Gordon and claw the eyes out of another of The Dollmaker’s goons. The show is not shying away from violence at all yet it feels like an attempt to be edgy for shock value’s sake without adding anything else.
After things settle down at the station, Selina drops a big surprise to Gordon — she saw who killed the Waynes. I’m guessing since this is just Episode 2 we’re not going to get a definitive reveal next week, but it was a solid cliffhanger.
I’m still not quite sure what to make of Gotham, but I’m starting to think the writers don’t quite know either. The teaser for next week seems to be another throw every subplot against the wall and see what sticks. Gordon (and Bullock) are presumably the main focus, but trying to work in every character each episode doesn’t allow anyone to be fully developed and the show is becoming desperately in need of that focal point beyond the pre-Batman universe as a whole.