As the second episode of the series, “Selina Kyle” was given the choice of either becoming the police procedural most television networks are drowning in, or a serialized tale with comic book elements. Gotham, for better or worse, has chosen to be both. The huge draw for me in the pilot was the influence the mob had on the city, as well as the developing backstory of Oswalt Cobblepot. Fortunately, they carry over seamlessly into this past week’s proceedings, and take up a significant part of the episode. However, the “villian of the week” led to some procedural blunders, and its jarring repetition kept “Selina Kyle” from soaring.
First thing’s first, though: The central spotlight of this episode was NOT Selina Kyle. Personally, I’m not so sure how I felt about that, especially with how plainly she was introduced last week. However, what we did see of her worked, and Camren Bicondova’s interpretation of “Cat” is a few notches off of being spot-on. We also got to see her independence and survival tactics front and center, which I thought gave us a solid connection between her and the world of Gotham as we see it now. While some will question the character’s brutal mutilation of the henchman in one of the final scenes, I felt that it was an appropriately mature wink at who Selina was becoming. Another smart decision was creating a connection between her and Detective Gordon. It wouldn’t be too hard to imagine Selina playing a considerable part of this season’s story arc with her witnessing the murder of the Waynes, so having her trust Gordon enough to tell him who killed them was a satisfying conclusion to the episode.
However, what’s her game in all of this? As far as I’m concerned, Selina’s real intention is to keep Gordon happy with info so that she could avoid juvenile confinement. That’s fine and all, but what happens with her afterward? What happened to her parents that led to where she is now? Where’s the backstory? For an episode titled “Selina Kyle,” I would’ve liked an explanation of some sort. Instead, she just seems forced into the story arc. The character is handled well otherwise, but still.
I mentioned earlier that the episode’s “villian” (or in this case, “villians”) of the week were a large part of this episode’s struggles. Suffice to say, it was a serious problem. It wasn’t because Lili Taylor and Frank Whaley were bland or one-note in their performances as Patti and Doug; the characters just never did much to stand out. Also, this fraction of the episode mainly involved Gordon and Bullock reaching for leads to find them, which only got marginally interesting when they returned to Fish Mooney’s restaurant following the events of the pilot. What’s worse was Morry Quillan — an associate of Patti and Doug’s — ordering the kill on all those kids trapped up in his basement seconds after Gordon and Bullock engaging in conflict at his shop. Mind you, the detectives didn’t even leave!! I wonder if it was just a cheap setup for Gordon to rescue those kids (which he did,) but even if that’s the case the whole scene in general ceased to make much sense. To sum it all up, I couldn’t help but hope that we’d just see more of Falcone or Cobblepot instead.
Thankfully, Gotham didn’t disappoint in that regard. Although Falcone’s screentime was once again brief, he made quite a demanding presence. Walking into Fish’s restaurant and having his men beat the crap out of her “lover” (A.K.A. the comedian from the pilot) right in front of her was deliciously tense. The whole world is aware of Fish’s attempts at backstabbing Falcone now. Cobblepot’s journey back to Gotham was equally brutal, especially considering the hitchhiking scene with the jocks (If anything’s for certain, he definitely doesn’t like being called Penguin.) I mentioned in the pilot review that I enjoyed Robin Lord Taylor’s depiction of the character, and “Selina Kyle” went a long way into taking his performance to new heights. The threatening phone call later on was nailed to perfection, as was the mannerisms and the sheer awkwardness he oozed out of each individual moment. Only two episodes in, and the character seems to have already been perfected.
The extreme levels of corruption portrayed in Gotham were also highlighted in this episode, though I’ll talk about that in greater detail over my next review for “The Baloonman.” Just know that Selina’s story was centered around juvenile delinquency and the city’s prospects for taking homeless kids off the street and punishing their crimes at the same extent as consenting adults. Captain Essen and Mayor James are all in, yet one has to wonder if that could truly limit the level of crime on the streets. It’s an interesting idea for the show’s setting, and hopefully the moral aspect of it continues to bloom as we explore it further.
After delivering somewhat mixed results with the pilot, Gotham returned having made some really strong strides to invite new viewers into its world of comic book crime noir, while keeping everyone else enthralled. Even though “Selina Kyle” ultimately failed to discover the show’s full potential, the writing, story and focus were much sharper. Not a bad rebound for a show with such high expectations.
+Selina Kyle handled well
+Robin Lord Taylor brilliant malicious as the Penguin
+The corruption in Gotham beginning to open up moral dilemmas
+You don’t mess with Carmine Falcone
-Absolutely no backstory for Selina Kyle
-“Villians of the week” too clumsy and cliche