'Gotham' episode 2 recap: 'Selina Kyle'

September 30, 2014|By Karmen Fox | For The Baltimore Sun

"Whatever you do, don't make friends with anyone that's friendly."

That goes double for chipper people under overpasses at night.

This episode, "Selina Kyle," wasn’t so much about the titular antihero as it was setting up the dismal world that she lives in and what she needs to do to survive. That’d be lying, stealing and clawing her way out of tricky situations.

It was stronger episode than the pilot. The characters had more time to develop -- and the villains had more opportunity to up the creep factor.

I may not know every Batman bad guy there is (far from it), but I’m convinced that after tonight’s episode and a bit of research, the Dollmaker has to be the most terrifying villain in Gotham. Even his soda-shop-meets-Nazi-uniform henchmen practically whisper his name under their breath.

He didn’t even appear on screen or make his motive for kidnapping homeless teens fully known. “Nobody knows what they want, and nobody cares to know,” Mooney tells Gordon.

One thing’s for sure, the abductions weren’t a Soylent Green-type situation. And as much as it annoys me when shows tiptoe around hot-button topics, I’m relieved the detectives only hinted that the kidnappers weren’t taking “cute kids” instead of outright saying “sex trafficking.”

It’s a dark show, but it’s not a heavy show.

At least, that’s what they want you to think. The writers won’t come out and say it, so here goes: the Dollmaker makes dolls out of people with their skin. Just…blegh. He’s the Buffalo Bill of Gotham. That’s why they were throwing around "The Silence of the Lambs" references.

In "The Silence of the Lambs," Buffalo Bill put up dozens of magazine pictures of women’s eyes with crosses over them or poked out entirely. "Gotham" drew inspiration from that in a not-so-subtle and horrific way.

Sure, it could be a coincidence. But when two different characters mentioned gouging out eyes, it’s hard to ignore. First, Selina tells her bus buddy to go “straight for the eyes” if kids pick on him. Later she actually claws out one of the Dollmaker’s henchman’s eyes (agh!). Then the Penguin tells his victim’s mother that he’ll poke out her son’s eyes.

A more telling connection is the unexplained well in the dungeon where the street kids are locked up. It’s almost like the one where Buffalo Bill kept his victims.

Patty even had a wicker basket when handing out food to the homeless children. It puts the sandwich in its stomach or else it gets the poisoned pen again!

Where the episode lagged was his sluggish partner. Harvey Bullock is still a two-dimensional, over-the-top, burned-out cop cliché.

“We’re grownups! We’re smarter than you!” he barks at a suspect. Does any grownup actually talk like this? It’s more of a taunt that a teen sister would say to her kid brother as she snatches the last slice of pizza from his hands.

He did have one gem. “I got you one but I dropped it,” he tells Gordon while sipping a hot cup of coffee. Again, it’s childish, but that time it was funny.

As we learn more about Bruce Wayne’s past, we realize that his parents’ tragic deaths were not the only traumatic part of his childhood. He was raised by a boorish butler who looks like he’d rather scrub the toilets with his toothbrush than guide Bruce through these troubled times.

"Gotham" has the most disappointing interpretation of Alfred. In previous "Batman" iterations, he’s been a supportive confidant, not a rageaholic bully.

Quick: What’s the first thing you do when you see a child has burned his hand? If you yell, “You stupid little boy!” at him and pull him in for a hug when he starts crying, then jolly good, ol’ bean!

And if you find out that your adoptive son has been self-mutilating himself and your response is “he’ll choose his own course,” instead of “he should see a therapist,” then right-o! That’s guaranteed success for breeding a superhero.*

(*Results may vary. Void if child is not a Wayne.)

Alfred’s British charm — if you can call it that — feels forced. “Tea time, shall we say?” he tells Gordon when he’s setting up a meeting.

Um, “tea time”? Alfred’s been in the U.S. long enough to know that he’s in the land of coffee and doughnuts, not tea and crumpets.

The push-and-pull between Gordon and Bruce is what will ultimately help shape Bruce into Batman. We’ve seen this in the previews for the series all along, but I was hoping Alfred would have more of an impact.

But after tonight’s episode where Gordon saved 30 kids, talked to a troubled Selena Kyle and reached out to an even more troubled Bruce Wayne, I’d say he’s got this. Especially now since the show is picking up steam.

MORE HIGHLIGHTS FROM "SELINA KYLE":

BEST ONE LINER: “I never lose sleep over my enemies. It’s my friends who keep me awake.” – Carmine Falcone. John Doman is brilliant as Falcone. I can’t wait to see him spar with feisty Fish Mooney in later episodes.

BIGGEST LURKER: Ed Nygma, aka the Riddler. He was on screen for only a couple minutes, but his constant hovering felt like he was looking over my shoulder the entire episode. Ack!

BEST COSTUME: Mrs. Cobblepot’s dusty lace dress. Miss Havisham, is that you?!

BEST NOD TO THE BEST BATMAN MOVIE: A school bus of children getting hijacked, just like the school bus filled with patients from the hospital in "The Dark Knight."

CREEPIEST LAIR: The Penguin’s RV has the comfort of Walter White’s meth lab on wheels and the charming decor of John Nash’s "A Beautiful Mind" conspiracy theory chart. In other words, it’s primo real estate for a "Gotham" super-villain.

GLARING RED FLAG THAT YOU PICKED UP A PSYCHOTIC HITCHHIKER: “It was my foolish arrogance that lead me astray. But I learned my lesson. I’ll be back, smarter and stronger than ever before.” Who talks like that?! No one you want in your car. Head to the nearest gas station, say you’re going inside for a Slushie then make a dash for it. You’ll thank me later.

DYNAMIC DUO: I’m not sure what chemistry Ben McKenzie (James Gordon) and Erin Richards (Barbara Kean) have, other than the fact that they’re the best looking people on the show (conventionally speaking, anyway). But one thing’s for certain: They make an excellent crime-fighting couple. While Gordon is limited as a do-gooder cop on the down-low, Babs can take charge and pick up the case where her fiancé left off. We don’t want anyone thinking he’s “not with the program.”

BATGIRL VS. BATWOMAN: Last week I speculated that Barbara Gordon will become Batgirl. Their names are the same; seems easy enough. Until you consider the age. A reader pointed out that she could be Batwoman, which could also work. Either way, Gotham needs a hero outside the police department. Since Batman isn’t old enough yet, I nominate Babs.

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