“Selina Kyle” opens with a shot of Bruce Wayne holding his hand over an open flame. Although clearly in pain, Bruce does remove his hand until Alfred (Sean Pertwee) comes into the room. Once Alfred realizes what Bruce is doing, he yells at the boy, only to immediately regret his outburst and instead wrap Bruce in a big hug.
This loving moment is juxtaposed with a far more sinister scene. We see a dapperly dressed couple, Patti and Doug (Lili Taylor and Frank Whaley respectively), tricking, drugging and stealing kids off the street. One of the children (Mackey, played by Kyle Massey), manages to get away. A brawl soon ensues between between pursuer and pursuant.
This fight sequence is shot perfectly. We are led to believe that this horrible crime is taking place in one of the seedier parts of Gotham. However, as soon as Mackey escapes Doug, he turns a corner and suddenly finds himself outside a fine dining restaurant. Doug catches up with him and resumes his assault, but the upper class citizens in the restaurant neither seem to notice nor care.
My favorite shot during the fight is the one where the camera looks from inside the restaurant out into the street. Everything in the restaurant is bright, clean and removed from the violence while the outside world is dark and grim. The contrast is stark.
With this shot, director Danny Cannon suggest these two worlds simply do not intersect. The rich cannot be bothered to notice until Massey’s character is physically thrown through the window of the restaurant. This scene is a bigger metaphor for the larger socioeconomic problems in Gotham. As long as crime does not interfere with the lives of the rich, then they do not see it. Yet once the moment crime boils over into their lives, they demand action.
Even then, the upper class are not trying to clean up the streets out of the goodness of their hearts. They just want it to go away because it’s interrupting their daily lives. It is clear they could not care less about helping the needy. Bruce is the only one who seems genuinely willing to help. He offers all of the street kids his money since they do not have a home. When Gordon explains “that is not how it works,” Bruce offers to buy them all new clothing instead.
Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett-Smith) continues to shine as she tries to piece together her plan to take over Falcone’s empire. Her lightning quick slips from cool pragmatism into raw rage is chilling to watch.
I also enjoyed the scene where Nygma explains Patti and Doug’s drug to Gordon and Bullock. He is exhibits sincere excitement when talking to the detectives. His love for riddles and questions is evident even in that small bit of screen time. Seeing Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) acting in complete earnest is adorable – that is until you remember who Nygma will eventually become. When that realization hits, the scene turns from endearing to heartbreaking.
We also got more of a glimpse of Mayor Aubrey James (Richard Kind) in this episode. We learned he’s the kind of mayor who cares more about his image than the people he supposedly represents. He should prove to be an interesting player in Gotham‘s political subplots.
The most interesting part of this episode was not the greater narrative, but the subplot if Oswald Cobblepot organizing his return to Gotham. Cobblepot is one of the more terrifying characters because, like Mooney, his emotions can flip on a dime. I loved how he’d turn from incredibly polite and shy to raging homicidal psychopath in an instant. Robin Lord Taylor does a phenomenal job playing one of Batman’s best villains as he adeptly manages these wild mood swings.
For an episode titled “Selina Kyle,” we really didn’t get to see much of her. This was an odd choice considering the title of the episode. The few moments she does have onscreen make it is clear that even at such a young age, Kyle (Camren Bicondova) is full of that feisty spirit so key to Catwoman’s character. He sass is best part of the episode, hands-down.
Gotham is looking more and more like a “crime of the week” kind of show. I was iffy on this idea at first, but now I am starting to realize how ingenious it is. The general audience loves watching procedurals; see any of the fifty versions of CSI and Law and Order for evidence. Normally I would give a new show demerits for pandering but in the world of TV, where dozens of show get cancelled a year, I would say it is a smart way to build and hold a quick fan base.
All of the character tropes of crime procedurals are present in Gotham, but they’ve been molded onto familiar faces. Nygma is the nerdy analyst, Gordon is the cop with uncompromising morals and Sarah Essen (Zabryna Guevara) is the tough-as-nails police captain. The layout of the procedural is there, too; a crime happens in the first few minutes of the episode, the cops try to figure out what’s going on and, eventually, they catch them in a manipulative scene that inevitably plays on our love of suspense.
Gotham nevertheless stands apart from all of the other procedurals. Through its crime drama dressings, the show is building origin stories for Batman’s allies and rogue gallery. We also get to see the city reinvented through this lens. This adds a distinct layer to Gotham that isn’t present in NCIS and its brethren.
I’m not sure what I was expecting from the premiere last week, which is why I think I was left somewhat disappointed. Now that I’ve gotten a feel for Gotham‘s style and have shed any preconceived ideas about what I thought Gotham‘s identity, it has revealed itself to be a highly enjoyable and a deceptively smart show. This episode also ended on a cliffhanger, a surefire way to keep people watching. Based on next week’s previews, “The Balloonman” looks like yet another jampacked foray into Gotham.