The creative team behind Gotham has some good ideas, but they squeeze them into the blender that is the pilot episode and hit frappe. Watching the seedy streets of Gotham through the eyes of a tweenage Catwoman is fun for a while (before you find out that all she does is prowl Gotham when she isn’t Bruce’s creepy stalker). Then we get the Wayne death scene which feels robotic. There are a few reasons for this: uneven acting, sudden shifts in POV between the aforementioned Catwoman and Bruce Wayne, and slowing down the moment so it has an other-worldly feel when the scene occurs in real time instead of flashback. (If you wanted to show this scene in flashback form, you should have given us an adult Bruce Wayne as Batman.)
But the clunky life-altering scenes don’t stop with the Waynes’ death. A ten-year-old or so Ivy Pepper (AKA Poison Ivy AKA Pamela Isley) watches the GCPD invade her home as she tends to her plants. Ivy suffers from Gotham’s interlocking origins as her story arc ties closely with Bruce’s storyline, but she isn’t the only one. The Penguin actually takes the plunge into supervillainhood by episode’s end, and it feels rushed. Cobblepot’s cohorts tease him with a nickname, Penguin, that isn’t explained or earned (he looks more like a weasel), and his arc ties into Gordon’s and Bullock’s. You can feel The Penguin, and most other characters, getting shoehorned into the episode. Slow down, Gotham. You have an entire season to introduce these villains or the people who will become Batman’s rogue’s gallery.
Speaking of Batman’s rogues, Edward Nygma fumbles his way on-screen for a half a minute as an annoying crime scene investigator who asks too many questions or riddles, while a comedian with a love of gory jokes sweats his bodyweight on the stage in front of Fish Mooney. Could he become The Joker? Groan.
The dichotomy of Gordon’s clean cop and Bullock’s not-so-clean cop works well, but that’s mostly because of the engaging Bullock not Gordon. While Bullock brings his patented style of moral ambiguity, perfect for Gotham’s mean streets, Detective Gordon struts around stiff, making questionable decisions. Many of Gordon’s choices are unwise (telling multiple people inside and outside of his department that they killed an innocent man and yet not filling a report), others are obtuse (anytime he speaks with Bruce Wayne: especially after the Wayne death scene), and some are flat out stupid (confronting Mooney without any back-up).
Despite all these issues, the city of Gotham feels like it should, Carmine Falcone adds a dash of pepper in the scene he has, and Bullock should be a fan favorite by season’s end.
Verdict: I remain cautiously optimistic
Kyle and I are pretty much in agreement on this one. Gotham is neither as good as I hoped, nor as bad as I feared. There are some instances of cringe-worthy dialogue (the references to Penguin, and a cliche war analogy), and there are far too many characters in this episode with nothing to do. The decision to have all these characters’ origins interconnect feels contrived, but for all its faults, there are signs of promise. Gotham feels like its own city here, not just New York with a paint-job, and Donal Logue as Harvey Bullock is definitely the high point. The show might improve, and it will need to if it’s going to hold my interest, but the pilot did its job. I’ll check out the next episode.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Season 2 Premiere
Let me come clean. I’ve got a thing for Hayley Atwell; an unwavering, and mildly alarming thing. With that said, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (AoS) kicked off season 2 with a bit of a tease. A flashback to 1945 set up the plot with a cameo from Peggy Carter (Atwell), Dum Dum Dugan (Neal McDonough), and The Howling Commandos, but it’s short-lived. This first arc is a familiar one. There’s a super-powered villain and another “084” in play. Both of these remain factors at the close of the episode, so we can assume this thread will carry through at least part of the season. It’s a little formulaic at this point, but the real aim of the opener is to reacquaint us with the state of the Marvel universe as we left it. This is done somewhat effectively, and we start to see how the characters have evolved over the break, but the developments aren’t always believable. As usual, the team’s plans come together a bit too easily, and I’m left with the feeling that outsmarting the bad guys ought to be more complicated, otherwise having them in the lead is no small embarrassment. The show’s big reveal at the end of the episode (no spoilers) isn’t so much a shocker as it is a groaner. It has potential for a major character development, but it was used more as fodder for one of Coulson’s speeches about “why we fight,” and it appears at least for now like it’s going to be used as another heavy-handed example of how good the “good guys” really are. Some of the lapses in subtlety and logic have carried over from season 1, but the improvements we saw following The Winter Soldier are still there. This is a much better debut than we saw last season.
Verdict: Not bad.
This week’s episode was a lot better than the previous week’s. The story progressed because there was no possible way that the creative team would create and introduce yet another character, and this season’s loose strands of a story came together for the most part. The people of the city reinstated “Awesomes Day” for all the great deeds the Awesomes had done over the past year—even though most of their accomplishments occurred away from home, so Perfect Man (ugh) could have his bits where he wandered Awesome Mountain alone, and the times where the action occurred at home Metal Fella (Hot Wire) saved the day in lieu of the team. Reinstating Awesomes Day made little to no sense but at least some laughs ensued and the season appears to have gotten back on the track. The characters are back. The laughs have returned. Even Perfect Man’s bits had a little payoff and some chuckles this week. Finish strong, Awesomes. Finish strong.
Verdict: Worth a look