Gotham 2.6 “By Fire”
Not sure if you noticed or not, but the producers of Gotham have quite a few tricks up their sleeves. I guess I hadn’t considered it, because for a while I was a bit baffled by a lingering contradiction. Here’s a strange little show with superb production values that doesn’t ever show the hero that makes the brand recognizable, and I’ve noticed how much the “geek” pod-casters and YouTubers and even acquaintances hate the show, and I’m sitting here wondering (since we’re talking about the show’s target audience here) how it manages to continue on – how it manages to somehow get better, not by giving in to the demands of the people, but by getting stranger.
I guess the only explanation I can come up with is that the producers have indeed lured enough people in, and enough of those people enjoy the show for what it is – rather than the Batman show it isn’t. And where last week’s entry really let us into the twisted Burton-esque world of this city, this episode (which happens to be a direct continuation of last week’s story-line) grounds the viewer again by strong performances – performances that make these somewhat comic-bookey characters into (almost) real people.
Take the Ed Nygma subplot: for the last few episodes (dating back further than I’d like to remember) he’s been trying to woo a stuffy girl from the GCPD while fighting his inner demons (in rather obvious ways – like talking to a double of himself that only he can see), and, once he finally won her hand for a few dates, he’s conflicted about how to tell her that he killed her abusive boyfriend last season. This story does nothing for me, and it comes to a peak in this episode. When he tells her, she leaves, and he holds her back, and in the process of embracing her and asking forgiveness, he chokes her. This is not the greatest of all stories, yet, I have to say this about the execution here: wow. Corey Michael Smith, who plays Nygma, was stellar during this scene. He had me caring for his plight. It’s all average boilerplate stuff, but somehow they almost managed to make me care.
That’s just the subplot. As for the main plot, this episode belongs to Carmen Bicondovia as Cat. She’s been excellent in Gotham from the first frames of that pilot episode. She looks like a cross between a young Michelle Pfeiffer and (with those unreal eyes) an anime character, and brings a great physicality to the part. But she also is credible as a teenage girl who knows her way around, one who acts tough but has a lot of heart. It’s time to single her out as one of the great players of this or any show.
This is the episode to do that. The main thrust of the episode is her trying to lure her troubled female friend, who’s now that costumed arsonist wanted by the cops for killing an officer, and she is trying to help this girl become as “free” as she is. I was surprised to find that all of these bonding scenes land for me, especially the one on the rooftop. Selena tries to act like it’s no bid deal – it’s her saving face as she realizes that she can’t convince her friend to leave the bad life – and the scene would have worked well enough if it ended right there. But no: she – as any teenager who can’t quite hold back all of her emotions would do – suddenly runs back into frame to hug her friend.
Selena also has a few good scenes with Gordon, and, though she vows never to speak to him again near the end of the episode, I’d like to think that they will talk again. Gotham‘s stories are like twisted rivers.
That scene happens after Selena’s friend is killed in a literal fire fight with cops, but the episode ends with us learning that a division of Wayne Enterprises is keeping her alive.
I could describe the rest of the episode’s story, but you can read a plot summary on Wikipedia, really. I don’t write these reviews to just tell you what happened. In the case of The Flash, the direction is so uninspired you might as well read the plot summaries than watch the show, but this show is just so strange and interesting and certainly not n”safe” that even the mundane story-lines are elevated through the execution. So, in this entry, there’s a really cool subplot about the Penguin trying to get his mind-controlled henchman Butch to be a mold of sorts on Galavan’s group, and Galavan is not quite naive enough to buy the scheme but he lets him in anyway. This all has the twisted result you’d expect on Gotham.
It is interesting that Gordon is a little rough on a low-life here and actually gets written up for it. Remember, this series started with Gordon being the boring straight arrow.
My rating: 4.1/ 5