Gotham: Selina Kyle

Posted on September 30, 2014

gotham201PinBen McKenzie in Fox’s “Gotham”


Ruh-roh. We’re on the second episode and this show’s already cracking under the strain of its own conceits. This could indicate one of two things: that it’s a show struggling to find its voice and its way or that it’s a fatally flawed show that cannot work the way it’s conceived. We tend to think at this point that it’s a combination of both problems.

After viewing the pilot we had an issue with the show’s reliance on Batman mythology and the ways in which it conflicts with trying to do a gritty police procedural. We thought that was going to be the inherent conflict in the show’s makeup; that push-pull of wanting to tell a  superheroic tale and wanting to tell something like a police procedural story. But that’s not the issue here. It’s a bit broader than that and became very obvious with this second episode: the show doesn’t know if it wants to be campy and fantastical or gritty and semi-realistic and it’s having clear problems struggling with that one issue.

On the one hand, you’ve got a child abduction ring with references to the idea that the kids will be sold as sex slaves or that the kids will be sold as food.

Yes, food.

On the other hand, you’ve got Jada tearing up the scenery like she’s Eartha Kitt reincarnated; Carol Kane doing a brilliant job of starring in her own little Tim Burton movie, and Lili Taylor and Frank Whaley slumming it like psycho killers from Pleasantville. Then we zip on over to the Not-Yet Penguin, who appears to be killing, kidnapping, and torturing whoever he stumbles across. There’s a feeling of whiplash as we go from scene to scene. It’s a crime story about a mob boss! It’s a comic book story about Batman villains! It’s Burton! It’s Nolan! It’s EVERYTHING YOU WANT!

Except it’s not. We like that the show blends various influences into its makeup, but at the end of the day, it’s really going to have to decide if it wants to be a Tim Burton Batman story without Batman or a Christopher Nolan Batman story without Batman. We’re only two episodes in and we can see that you can’t have it both ways. Carol Kane in particular came off pretty ridiculous, although if the show committed to its mild Burton influences, she’d fit right in.

The other MAJOR problem we have with the setup is the reliance on Bruce Wayne as a character in this story. We just don’t see the point. All he does is cast a big, bat-shaped shadow over a story that’s ostensibly not supposed to be a Batman story. And when the show tries to come up with a reason as to why we’re still checking in on him, it tends to get extremely silly.

There are certain aspects of superhero origin stories that not only should be hand-waved away, but were designed to be hand-waved away when they were first written. Bruce Wayne’s parents got murdered and (hand-wave, hand-wave) his butler raised him as he trained himself to become the Batman. It doesn’t do any good to delve into the particulars of that because it only works in the broadest sense. Of course there are questions that arise when a story has a butler in charge of a wealthy child’s well-being, but there’s really no point in asking them because the answers are either not going to make sense or they’re going to be weirdly byzantine and convoluted. “Bruce isn’t seeing any form of therapist because (frantic hand-waving) he doesn’t want to and Mr. Wayne’s will said he … um… didn’t have to do anything he didn’t want to?” Well alrighty, then! Clearly emotionally damaged child doesn’t need any form of guidance or help coping after a traumatic event because HAND-WAVE TO END ALL HAND-WAVES.

Don’t even get us started on the outrageously cartoony Gotham Police Department, which is supposed to be “corrupt” but instead comes off like a bunch of sociopathic morons. “Hey, Jimbo! Heard you shot a guy and dumped him off a pier! You’re one of us now, bro!” Granted, we wouldn’t expect a mature and thoughtful exploration of police corruption on a show like this, but we also shouldn’t expect everyone to act like two-dimensional cartoon characters. Isn’t the whole point of a show like this that the characters AREN’T cartoons?

This show needs to work very fast to figure out what it wants to be. We’d be more inclined to stick to the less fantastical elements, but Robin Lord Taylor as the Penguin and Jada as Fish Mooney are probably two of the best reasons to tune in right now. As much as we like McKenzie and Logue, their characters are starting to look really buffoonish in this atmosphere, not to mention doomed to fail.


[Photo Credit: FOX]

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