Gotham 2:18 – Pinewood
To articulate why “Pinewood,” Gotham’s latest outing, works so well, it might come down to something simple: payoff. At last, quite a few plot strings that the producer’s had left dangling just out of view are now being pulled together. It’s one thing to get something new and wonder where are they going to go with that, but it’s another thing to finally see where they were going with those things. Now the creators are ready to give us those payoffs: they are ready to tell us the who’s and why’s of the Wayne murders, and the tone is set right from the opening moments of this episode: the characters themselves are unwilling to wait any longer for some answers. As a result, “Pinewood” grabs hold of the audience from the opening moments and never lets go, and even some plot twists that, in retrospect, would be easy to see coming, still feel kind of unexpected and satisfying. What’s more, in a manner befitting a show that rides the line on contradictions, it’s not a bad thing that we call out the villainous mastermind well ahead of when it is actually revealed to the characters..
The episode begins with both Gordon and Bruce determined to solve the Wayne murder once and for all, and about how halfway through the episode their paths meet and they can compare notes. Of course, that last sentence made this sound like a dull procedural kind of episode, but “Pinewood” is the farthest thing from it. This episode kicks major ass, takes name, and keeps forging ahead,
Gordon, still working off the force, checks into the hitman Matches Malone and learns that he was likely hired by “The Lady,” as part of her club of assassins. She’s the same mysterious lady that sent hitman after Gordon a few months before, and ever since she failed to have Gordon killed , the Lady has been trying put her reputation back together. Gordon beats up a few low-lifes before tracking her down in a women’s-only club. This is where Barbara comes into the plot: She tried to visit Gordon after her release form Arkham, but Gordon won’t trust her, but she tells him that she can get into the club (after all, she’s a woman) and find the Lady. And, in typical Gotham fashion, there’s a double-cross of sorts here, or maybe a triple cross. She finds the Lady and offers to help her kill Gordon, and I actually fell for it. Simple as it was, I fell for it. I was so caught up in the moment that I didn’t consider that she would work with the Lady to trap Gordon in order to get Gordon closer to her. Nice. Gordon learns that person who contracted her is known as The Philosopher. No points for guessing who that might be quite a long time before the characters figure it out.
Meanwhile, Bruce is unwilling to wait as Lucious Fox stars defragmenting his father’s computer. At least his a father’s old appointment calendar is readable, so he finds a name, Karen Jennings, on there and takes off to find out what she knows. He and Alfred drive out to a seemingly abandoned ranch to find her, and although she’s obfuscated by shadow for her first couple of scenes, the creators have already told us a bit more about this woman even before Bruce meets her: Hugo Strange knows that someone is searching for her, and we learn that he had modified” her somehow. So, right there in the beginning of the episode, we already know he’s the lynch-pin of the entire episode. He altered her once-deformed hand into something more suitable for a T-rex. Isn’t that what mad scientists do by definition.
Again, I need to mention it: all those others shows like Flash and Arrow and Supergirl might seem to give your comic book fix, but do any of them embrace the delightful possibilities of the genre as much as Gotham. Again, Karen Jennings arm is more like a dinosaur’s, it was put there by a mad scientist, and that mad scientist can send Mr. Freeze out to do end her.
I’m getting ahead of myself. Eventually Bruce Alfred come to just talk to her to her and find out that she was modified at a secret bioengineering lab run by Wayne Enterprises. I love the great detail that all of the experimentation at Wayne Enterprises occurs under names like Pinewood and Indian Hill, names that won’t draw any attention to themselves. It’s actually proves that this show has good writing. When the three of them head to Pinewood, the police surround the building, and Jennings kills a guard with her “claw” during their failed getaway. It’s about here that Bruce’s and Gordon’s plots come together. Hearing Gordon and Bruce actually piece together the Wayne murders while at a diner was one of the most satisfying conversations on this series: Wayne was murdered because he tried to put an end to these experiments.
Even better, Gordon and Bruce formulate a comically simplistic plan to free Jennings as she’s transported to prison. It’s the kind of cartoonish plan that could only be done without in-the-moment irony on this series: just lure the guards away from the transport by leaving a bag of money on the street. As dark and gritty and violent as this show can get, one of the strange charms about it is that it really isn’t serious, and I’m glad the regularly embrace this contradiction. A lot of viewers might scoff at this, but at least the producers aren’t afraid to allow inane inspiration take hold.
The plan works and Bruce, Gordon, and Alfred have seemingly rescued Jennings, at least until Mr. Freeze comes after them. Gordon’s reaction to realizing that this guy’s still alive is dead-on. Even better Bruce’s all-too-human reaction after Freeze kills Jennings: he reacts as any human would. In a show where guest stars of the week are offed regularly, we are caught with sympathy for how Bruce feels when this faux-sister of his buys it. He’s still a kid, and death doesn’t really sit well with him.
And the following scene, where Bruce is overcome by anger, are by far the best Bruce moments of this series. David Mazouz has always been a captivating Bruce Wayne on this show, and he has never been better than he was in the closing moments of this show. He might be a kid, but he’s the best live-action Bruce Wayne we’ve ever had, bar none.
And we can wonder all day why Strange has made certain decisions that invariably point back to him, after working in secret for so long. I have a feeling that he’s like a pressure cooker, and it’s about to blow up anyway.
My Rating: 5/ 5.