Gotham: Smile Like You Mean It – Darkness (Review)

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At long last, Gotham has seen the resurrection of Jerome Valeska with a little help from ineffectual Jerome copycat Dwight. In “Smile Like You Mean It” Dwight has some issues with bringing The Joker back from the dead and resorts to cutting Jerome’s face off.

Wearing it like a mask, a’la The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, House of a 1000 Corpses, or The Devil’s Rejects  Dwight gives a live speech via Channel 9 to the Jerome fan club. While the re-emergence of Valeska was the big storyline here, there was also the Penguin take down, by Ed, Barbara and Tabby as well as the Kyle storyline.

It is Selena’s tale that is the most far reaching in this episode of Gotham. We now know just what caused the falling out between the future Cat Woman and Bruce Wayne. (It was also nicely worked into the “spat” between the two as Wayne is getting better at the whole taking care of himself business. Kyle only hits him twice…)

Some of this episode required major suspension of disbelief for the thing to work. Tabitha, whose recently severed hand has healed incredibly fast, was able to dispatch Oswald’s former associates very easily.  Shooting Tommy Bones and the men in the nightclub with no hesitation or difficulty using that right hand stretched credibility a good bit.

Granted, Tabby’s incredibly healed hand was no less impressive than Jerome’s re-attached face. However…Jerome’s wincing performance while stapling back his visage was funny enough that one could ignore the lack of sag and drag around the eyes and mouth.

Gotham this week required a lot of forgiveness when it came to certain plot lines. Another problem arises with the Oswald Cobblepot and Ed Nygma story. Oswald has always been mad as a box of frogs but he is not stupid.

The teaming up of Barbara and Ed, along with Tabitha – who reminds her partner that Oswald will die by her hand (pun intended) when Nygma’s exercise is through – is coming to a close. It is hard to believe that Cobblepot has not worked out just yet that the whole thing is a ruse.

By the end of the episode, Jerome blows up Dwight and the Gotham power plant plunging the city into darkness. Valeska’s closing message is one of madness and mayhem, one that his fan club will act upon, and James Gordon is, quite rightly, concerned.

Selena has “gone off” Bruce Wayne. Her issue is his having not told the truth, which, as any man should know, is the same as lying to any woman.    Lee is also annoyed with Gordon, she helps out with the interrogation of the cop/mole but tells Jim to keep his mitts to himself and that he cannot tell her what to do.

Gotham airs Mondays on FOX.

CAST:

Guest starring Ivana Milicevic as Maria Kyle, Cameron Monaghan as Jerome Valeska and David Dastmalchian as Dwight Pollard.

 

 

‘Gotham’ Mad City: Ghosts – Destroying Penguin (Review)

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Gotham: Mad City “Ghosts” sees Ed’s plan to destroy Penguin, for his murder of Isabella, take root and reap a bountiful harvest. He uses Clayface to haunt Oswald, driving him to a murderous frenzy.

Cobblepot has moved on from his devotion to his mother and he is now focused upon his dead father, Elijah Van Dahl. His dad’s “ghost” reveals that his body been stolen and he cannot rest until it is returned and the thief punished.

The episode follows Oswald’s journey towards a complete meltdown, which culminates in his murdering his new assistant and then blowing the big live interview with Margaret Hearst.

Ed tricking Oswald into confessing his love was done very well. “I was talking about becoming business partners.”

Lee orders Jim Gordon killed and then, at the last moment reneges. Selina and her mother spend some turbulent time together and bond by the end of the episode. This process is aided somewhat by both Alfred and Bruce.

Dwight Pollard is busily rejuvenating the dead and it looks like Jerome, whom Galavan killed last season, will be making a return to the city. A face from Maria Kyle’s past turns up demanding money. He is told to ask Bruce Wayne for the cash.

The episode ends with a close up on Jerome’s resting face, his mouth stretched into a disturbing rictus sans any real color.

Gotham “Ghosts” was a good follow on to last week’s episode. While that one did have a good bit of humor, Jim Gordon speaking in rhyme to force Tetch to reveal who had Alice’s blood was beyond brilliant, this episode allowed Penguin to deteriorate spectacularly before the end credits rolled.

(Speaking of humorous moments, Erin Richards as Barbara Kean last week  killed it with her Isabella death scene mime.)

This week’s episode also seemed to indicate that Lee does still love Jim, she gets Carmine to call off the hit, and Zsasz (Carrigan) provided some more amusing moments. “I’m going to miss you” and “Good shot on Mario, I never liked him,” were funny as was the bright smile and his “okay boss” when told the job was cancelled.

The uneasy alliance between Tabitha, Butch, Barbara and Ed will be interesting. Although not as interesting as the resurrection of Jerome, who  will, at last, be allowed to become The Joker.

Kudos to Michael Chiklis and his “guilty” rant at Lee. That actor can do enraged madness like no one else.

Gotham: Mad City airs Mondays on FOX.

CAST:

Guest starring Ivana Milicevic as Maria Kyle, Jan Maxwell as Margaret Hearst, Brian McManamon as Clayface, Cameron Monaghan as Jerome Valeska, David Dastmalchian as Dwight Pollard and Paul Reubens as Elijah Van Dahl.

Gotham: By Fire – Killing Kris Kringle (Review)

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Things just took  a grim turn in Gotham. By Fire was an episode that turned out to be a bit rough on the female members of the juvenile criminal community.  Things also turned deadly for another female character who probably should have thought before freaking out in front of Mr. Nygma. Before the end credits roll things are very bleak and a particular bird-man is getting ready to take his troops out to rescue mommy.

Bruno Heller once agains teases us with his tendency to usher in characters that appear to be related to the DC Gotham verse. A female firefly was introduced and then, seemingly, discarded almost as quickly as Jerome “The Joker.” Although Bridgit Pike is not dead, the gender swap firefly has been sent to Indian Hill, a Wayne Enterprise facility where invasive testing, aka torture, of “monsters” is the rule of the day.

Poor Pike has been abused not just by her arsonist “family” but by Gotham’s finest as well. The kid looked to be ready to take on all those who bully and threaten the helpless only to get caught by Captain Barnes and the GCPD who wanted payback for the death of new Strike Force member Garrett.

The storyline for Pike (Michelle Veintimilla) was good. An abused and downtrodden girl whose adoptive family are a group of fire-bugs that bully her into submission. A little taste of power transforms the shy and awkward child into a homicidal human flame thrower.  Turns out the kid likes the power of the fire and the fear it induces and death it deals by her hand. 

Kudos to Veintimilla who pulls off the switch from timid victim to vengeful fire-starter effortlessly.  Her expressions give the viewer her thoughts and feelings, just as that one eye tells us that Firefly is terrified as she is being wheeled into Indian Hills.  This poor kid just cannot get a break. Just as she starts a little well-deserved payback to all those bullies, she is incarcerated with a fire proof body and destroyed visage.

Jim Gordon learns that his alliance with Captain Barnes is going to be an uncomfortable one. Barnes (Michael Chiklis) is a “black and white” cop. There is no grey in his view of the law, but as Gordon tells his new boss, “This is Gotham” if one were to look up grey in the dictionary, there would be a picture of the city in the definition.

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Cat tries to save her friend Bridgit.

Selena Kyle (Camren Bicondova) goes off the deep end when her friend Bridgit is kidnapped by her brothers. Getting tooled up she is approached by Gordon who promises her that if she lets the GCPD take care of things the girl will be protected. Sadly, Jim has made a promise he cannot keep, Barnes does not honor grey pledges. 

When the Strike Force head down to the meat market where Firefly is torching the owner/auctioneer and releasing the caged female captives, things go wrong. A stray shot, an angry youngster with fire at her disposal and an exploding police car means that Jim’s promise to Cat cannot be kept, even without Barnes’ insistence that Gordon was out of line.

The female Firefly goes up in flames and later Gordon will tell Kyle that the girl is not expected to “make it.” Selena swears off making friends with cops and this  presumably pushes her over the edge into full villainy. Bicondova kills it in her scenes with Bridgit and her slow tears in the scene with Ben MacKenzie as Gordon was an emotionally underplayed powerhouse performance.

As expected, Mr. Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) blows it pretty spectacularly with Kristen Kringle and he ends up killing the woman, even as he swears his love for her.  This was a doomed relationship from the start, Nygma was too socially inept to carry on a relationship with anyone, let alone the woman he killed for.  This was heavy in the irony department and one felt sorry for Kringle, who really was  a bad judge of character all around.

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Chelsea Spack as Kristen Kringle, sic transit Kris mundi…

Kringle really was an odd one, seems her admission to Lee (Morena Baccarin) that she really liked a bit of rough, was not true after all. Once Ed confesses he murdered the abusive cop Dougherty poor Kris freaks out, despite that fact that she and Nygma just had sex in his bed.  Cue one short exit for the woman who had very poor taste in men.

Butch manages to get into the employ of Galavan and becomes the plaything of Tabitha and Barbara. Later, sporting a mallet for a right hand, Butch is caught looking for Penguin’s mother. After being punished by Tabitha, the “Tiger Lady” locks him up. Gilzean (Drew Powellescapes and reveals where Gertrude Kapelput is being held and Penguin rounds up his troops for a rescue.

One does wonder if Butch has been turned by Theo’s sister as the big man stands in front of the fireplace while Penguin ratchets a shell into his shotgun and gestures for his men to go.  By the end of the episode, before we see poor Bridgit being wheeled into a room surrounded by screaming “monsters” and  the city of Gotham is full of some very unhappy people. Selena and Nygma (who is cradling the women he just murdered, screaming) are two characters whose destinies have been shaped by this episode.

Gotham airs Mondays on FOX. Tune in and catch the murder, madness and mayhem that Bruno Heller delivers on a regular basis. See just how Nygma’s killing of Kris Kringle turns out for the city and its denizens.

 

Gotham: Scarification – Firefly Gets a Gender Change

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Gotham: Scarification features a gender changed Firefly, taking a page from Marvel’s decisions to change up the guys and gals with a female Thor…Of course the televised version of the DC verse sans a grown up Bruce Wayne and a Jim Gordon who is considerably younger than, say, Gary Oldman’s police commissioner has given viewers a number of origin scenarios.

That said, not all origin tales are true or meant to be taken literally. Just as The Joker was introduced via Jerome Valeska and Heller just yanked the future jokester with the big grin right out of the equation. Granted, it was an effective way to show just how far new character, in the television verse of Gotham, Theo Galavan was prepared to go in his quest for revenge.

Now seems a good moment to discuss Theo and sister Tabitha (Jessica Lucas as sis just kills it, that great combination of sexy sultry vixen with deadly psychopathic killer tendencies is an epic win.)  These two had some brilliant interactions in this episode.

Tabitha  complaining that  she was bored, and brother dear retorting that she has plenty to do. A parent chiding a child who complains that they have nothing to do. In the same scene, after she complains that Kean sleeps too long is is “crazy” Theo takes off his “daddy” hat and protests that the crazy bit is what makes Kean so much fun.

Most telling is when the audience is spared the sight of Tabitha taking Bunderslaw’s eye but Theo watches it all and the “master criminal” looks decidedly ill.

Thus far, all of the good guys are boring, most probably because they are not Batman; with his long list of issues including the murder of his parents that will not reach fruition till the young “Master Bruce” grows up.  Alfred is there to provide a bit of color and break a few heads (and slap a young Cat Woman, aka Selina Kyle).

Back to the Scarification episode, the Penguin is losing his grip on whatever passes for normal in his “I’m the King of Gotham” brain. After meeting the expository antique queen, Edwige the “bird man” (great line from Tabitha) decides that the Dumas tale of Wayne ancestors chopping off the hand of a transgressing Dumas relative,  Penguin opts to chop off Butch’s hand.

*Sidenote* The punishment of removing the hand of Caleb does make one wonder what sort of “illicit” embrace the two were caught in? Where was Caleb’s hand?  Celestine was not telling anyone but…the fact that she died an “old maid” spinster speaks volumes…

One note of complaint has to be played here. The flashback was odd to say the least. With all the participants in the sepia memory having some pretty “punk” version of old fashioned hairstyles. Considering that these “mod” do’s needed styling wax, someone made a boo-boo here. Just saying.

Still, this is Gotham. The only place in the world where one can buy weapons and all things connected to murder and mayhem in a giant Home Depot type of store, The Merc.   While this was amusing, the gag about the Firefly “brother” exploding when Gordon shoots him was funnier, albeit a cinematic joke that has been almost, pardon the pun, done to death.

The newly formed GCPD Strike Force suffers its first fatality, Luke Garrett, much to the consternation of Captain Barnes (Michael Chiklis) who vows to make the “cop killer” who killed his man pay.

Jim Gordon proves that his ability to read people is way off when he offers to support Theo Galavan for mayor.  The mayoral candidate and former Dumas gets a visit from Father Creel, a robed figure who is obviously from the punishment cult that the old Dumas transgressor, aka that young man who could not keep his hand to himself (Boom Boom), Caleb, was banished to.

It now appears that the old chap in the robe is promising a legion of more old chaps in robes who are about to lay waste to Gotham. (Fair enough, these traveling monks may not all be old, but that was the vision that sprang to mind when watching the end of Scarification.)

The change of Firefly to domestically abused gal pal of Selina Kyle is interesting as a sort of skewed Cinderella tale sans mice and the further Cat Woman as Fairy Godmother. The main difference being that Bridgit Pike (Michelle Veintimilla) makes ashes and does not sweep them. 

Still, as those who take Gotham far too seriously would point out, in this Batman-less verse this is Bruno Heller’s vision and not necessarily a mirror image of DC’s Gotham.   In Bruno’s world, if you are a good guy, it essentially “sucks to be you.” The villains all have a lot of fun, get the best lines and have access to the prettiest women…except for Ben McKenzie’s gal on, and off, the show Morena Baccarin

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Thinking about it, Jim Gordon had access to Barbara Kean as well, and crazy or not, this sleeping beauty is lovely to look at but, after the evil Jason Lennon got done with her,  dangerous to hold. After the “death” of Jerome, whom I am still hoping pops up like an evil “clown” from a kid’s crank toy, it seems the best way to take Gotham is with a huge grain of salt. Blood pressure be damned.

This verse is all pre-pre-Batman. With origins to be played with and varied up until  Heller’s verse only faintly resembles the real DC tales of this darker than dark city called Gotham. The series airs Mondays on FOX. Tune in and enjoy the alternative version of a DC favorite.

Gotham: Season 2 Premiere – Perfect Opening

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Gotham season 2 premiere, once it gets past the Bruce Wayne access code “blockage,” dives into the most perfect opening ever. With Lou Reed’s It’s Just a Perfect Day overlaying a montage titled “One Month Later” director Danny Cannon and creator Bruno Heller give us sheer bliss on screen. All before the opening credits.

As the episode opens,  Bruce and Alfred  go down the steps behind the fireplace and see the door to the “bat cave” complete with access keypad. Alfred tells Wayne that there must be a million possible combinations and  the “One Month Later” montage begins.

We see Jim Gordon getting dressed with Leslie “Lee” Thompkins helping, Harvey Bullock is tending bar (comically lifting a drunk’s head off the bar so he can wipe it and letting the appendage slam back down to the bar top),  Penguin now wearing the metaphorical crown as King of Gotham and dooming an underling to death and Barbara Kean arrives at Arkham Asylum complete with luggage.

Jerome Valeska (who is destined  to become The Joker) clocks the arrival of Ms Kean and is instantly interested. The montage, and the music, ends and we are introduced to Zaardon, the soul reaper, who drinks a beaker of blue liquid handed to him by Theo Galavan (James Frain).

Transition to:

Jim Gordon in a uniform directing traffic and Zaardon runs into Gordon who, in short order, overpowers the “soul reaper” pushes an overweight and late fellow cop back and gets fired by Commissioner Loeb.

Through the course of this season premiere opening episode:  Jim is fired and reinstated. Penguin does Gordon a favor and receives one from the future commissioner in return.  Bruce gets that door open, with some major help from Alfred.  Barbara shows what she is really made of and the Riddler (Nygma played with a glorious schizophrenic desperation by Cory Michael Smith) proves that he really is ready to make his criminal presence known.

This whole opening episode works like a well oiled machine. Each part coming together perfectly, seamlessly, to become a major signpost of both who is whom and why. Several important things happen.  One scene, however, is a turning point which changes the direction of three characters.

Wayne and Alfred (The brilliant Sean Pertwee who commands scenes almost effortlessly by his ability to be both sternly in-charge and  instantly turn  domestic “I’ll put the kettle on.”) have just rushed to clean up after finding the hidden door behind the fireplace. Jim Gordon shows up to announce he has been fired from the Gotham police force.

The former cop wants to apologize for not being able to keep his promise and he reveals that there is a way to get back his job, but it, “it’s too  ugly.”  He implies that he cannot pursue this avenue of reinstatement. Young Wayne, after a short Q&A session then asks if Gordon is not sacrificing the greater good for his own code of vain ethics.

Bruce makes a harsh point:

“Surely, sometimes, the right way is also the ugly way.”

Alfred rebukes Bruce, who then apologizes to Jim. This little meeting results in Jim doing the favor for Penguin (collecting from Ogden Barker) and  the new King of Gotham then gets Loeb out of the commissioner position and Jim is taken back as a detective. Later, Bruce takes his own advice and blows up the entrance to his father’s secret “lair.”

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The King of Gotham in his throne…

This event is the main thrust of the episode. The tiny “cameo” of Nygma talking to himself in the mirror and the parallel storyline of Galavan’s beginning of the “super criminals” he is designing all work together perfectly. As does the story thread of Harvey Bullock working as bartender while staying sober for “32 days.”

Bruce Wayne’s continued journey toward manhood and “becoming” Batman is still wonderfully paced. Bruce (David Mazouz) and Alfred are the “odd couple” to match Jim Gordon and Bullock’s version.  The young Wayne is slowly leaving his boyhood behind him although we know that it is still there. The scene where Alfred brings the wire behind the end of the sofa where Bruce waits shows that both the butler and Wayne are “childishly” excited to blow open the door.

After the “ugly” scene, Jim takes that final step, Alfred becomes more advisor and less guardian, and Bruce takes another purposeful stride toward becoming the adult who becomes the “caped crusader.” (Three major characters all taking a particular fork in the road to fulfill their destinies.)

Once Alfred and Bruce enter the secret office, after Wayne decides to take the “ugly way” to  get past that locked door,  he learns the truth of his father.  Bruce’s dad has left him  a letter explaining what he was doing and the final line of the note reveals something very important:

“You can’t have both happiness and the truth. You have to choose. I beg of you, my son, please choose happiness. Unless… Unless you feel a calling. A true calling.”

This final line, which Bruce alludes to earlier in his conversation with Jim Gordon, is the crux of the series, all the more so in season two. All the players have a “true calling.” From Theo Galavan and his new band of villains to Jim Gordon and his relentless quest for justice in Gotham.

From the mouths of babes, as they say, comes some pretty in-depth wisdom. Wayne’s own true calling is still coming to fruition but the “child,” as Alfred repeatedly refers to Master Bruce, knows that truth is not pretty, not in Gotham.

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Bruce learning his “true calling.”

Robin Lord Taylor is killing it as Oswald Cobblepot, aka the Penguin and Ben McKenzie  as Jim “I did a bad thing” Gordon is magnificent as the square-jawed hero. Anthony Carrigan is back as the terrifying enforcer Victor and new female bad-a**  character Tabitha Galavan, played by Jessica Lucas, looks to be a great addition to the baddie ranks. As does James Frain as brother Theo.

Gotham airs Mondays on Fox, even if you are not a fan of the comic verse, this is compelling television and features some great performances from all concerned.  Tune in and enjoy.