Friday, 24 October 2014

Gotham Episode 2 Review: The Penguin in a John Carpenter Flick

Warning: Spoilers!

Following on from the death of Bruce Wayne’s parents and Gordon’s promise to reform the Gotham PD in the first episode, our heroes take us deeper into the Gotham underworld. And with it, things become more and more horrific and feels less like a crime drama on several occasions.

Selina Kyle aka Catwoman, who witnessed the Wayne murder is caught up in a child trafficking ring engineered by The Dollmaker, a supervillain I am not familiar with and would like to learn more about if it features more in the series. Gordon and Bullock, through a meeting with Fish Mooney find a way to the kidnapped children, learning that they might be used as guinea pigs in experiments carried out in Arkham Asylum.

Gordon and Bullock then rescue the children and are hailed as heroes by the mayor of Gotham, Auberey  James (Richard Kind), which seems to becoming a trope of the series, before stating that the kids will be sent to juvenile detention centres as part of an anti-homelessness program.

The bus carrying Catwoman is then recaptured by the Dollmaker and Catwoman attempts to escape before Gordon and Bullock arrive and bring the children home. The episode then ends with Catwoman informing Gordon that she saw the Wayne’s murderer and that Poison Ivy’s father was indeed a patsy. 

What I enjoyed most about this episode were the disturbing scenes involving the Penguin. There is a subplot spanning his descent into madness which he delivered with all the insanity and hysteria of a slasher film killer. I was reminded of Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween several times by the Penguin kidnapping and decapitating two teenagers after they pick him up from the streets.

Also, I was excited at the mentions of Arkham Asylum. Having played the video game and read the comic book, I was hoping the mysterious loony bin would make an appearance somewhere. The hints at it reopening did make me want to watch more episodes.

Finally, I praise this episode for showcasing some very strong and determined female characters. Camren Bicondova presented Catwoman as a feisty and determined street child who would use any means and resources to achieve her ends. I also found her manipulation of a detective at the end of the episode quite interesting as the series will hopefully display her rise into becoming an anti-hero aiding the corrupt police force.

Zabryna Guevera also offered a very authoritative and intelligent portrayal of Sarah Essen, the captain of the Gotham Police Department which reminded me of the chief judge in Dredd (2012). Comic books have always been an interesting place to find female characters who don’t fall into the Damsel in Distress or Manic Dream Pixie Girl trope – however I just wonder if the Women in Refrigerators trope will crop up somewhere, as I get the impression Gordon’s fiancé Barbara Kean is only serving as a plot point for the protagonist.

Finally, seeing Bruce Wayne startle Alfred (Sean Pertwee) and reference Batman’s later abilities to skulk in the shadows was quite a good use of foreshadowing, though I couldn’t grapple why Wayne was shown listening to Death Metal and having self harmed.

But all in all, a fairly good progression that will attract horror fans who like the batman stories influenced by gore and splatterpunk fiction.

Bechdel Result: Fail.

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