Plot: Gordon (Ben McKenzie) and Bullock (Donal Logue) are tasked with tracking down a couple sadistic kidnappers who abduct homeless children off the streets. Back at Wayne Manor, Alfred (Sean Pertwee) struggles to deal with a reckless Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz), and Oswald (Robin Lord Taylor) starts to rebuild himself outside of Gotham.
There’s no question this episode lost a lot of steam following the great pilot. The good news is that it could have been a lot worse. This is really a tale of two halves. The first was over the top and silly, but the second half finally cut the crap, and showcased a character who really came into her own. If there’s one element that scared the hell out of me though for this series going forward, it’s the “freak of the week” mentality.
I never imagined this could even be a possibility for a Batman related show. The “freak of the week” strategy?! You got to be kidding me! For those unfamiliar with the “freak of the week” concept, it was used incessantly on shows like Smallville. While the core cast and general storyline was solid on Smallville, the bad guys would always be these lame goofball one-offs who would be there for one storyline, and you’d never see them again. That’s what Gotham did tonight with these horribly fake, overly friendly kidnappers (Lili Taylor and Frank Whaley). To their credit, they got a little better as the episode went on, but at one point the female villain says “Oh, fudge.” No. I don’t accept this. Call me a Batman snob all you want, but this is unacceptable in a Batman-related show. I’m totally fine with isolated storylines and criminals that Gordon and Bullock have to go up against, but Gotham already has enough primary antagonists running around. We don’t need to do the “freak of the week” motif.
Now that we got that rant out of the way, we can dwell on the rest of the episode’s shortcomings. To make a long story short, the acting was way over the top. Everyone was screaming and going crazy, but there was no build up to it. This is all in the first two acts. Let’s calm down a bit. Jada Pinkett Smith especially had a cringe-worthy moment in one scene where she raised her voice. Even Donal Logue and Ben McKenzie weren’t immune to this. And as much as I’m enjoying the hothead fiery Gordon, they need to dial it back a bit. There was too much comic book crap goofiness, especially in regards to Oswald’s mom, Gertrude (Carol Kane). Yeah, that’s a character I don’t need to see again anytime soon.
Some of the weaknesses from the pilot still leaked into this episode as well. Gordon’s fiancé Barbara (Erin Richards) is simply not a good character. Her name should be changed to “Television Girlfriend Cliché #36.” Her dialogue and delivery is just painful. The dialogue in general is way too on the nose. Officer Montoya’s (Victoria Cartagena) lines are just embarrassing. That’s another character who needs to get better.
Despite all my complaining, the second half thankfully saves the episode. They tone everybody down, and we get a solid detective story. The dynamic between Gordon and Bullock worked really well once again, and the relationship between Gordon and Bruce continued to be a highlight. I also like what they are doing with Alfred. We’ve always known Alfred to be the wise know it all, but that’s because we’ve never seen him as the father to a young Bruce Wayne. We see Alfred actually struggle and overreact here. He doesn’t know how to handle raising a kid, and I like the conflict they’ve set up for him. David Mazouz is great as Bruce, although I could have done without the “drawing evil pictures while listening to heavy metal” cliché. Really?
Robin Lord Taylor continued to be a great Oswald, despite one unfortunate “walk like a penguin” line. But the real pre-Batman villain standout tonight was Camren Bicondova as Selina Kyle. Bicondova has a great command of this character. She takes control of every situation, and the episode follows up on her stalking of Bruce. There was actually a purpose to it. The only other character I’ll mention is Corey Michael Smith as Edward Nygma. We’ve seen him in a total of two scenes, and he’s anything but subtle. If they can tone him down, I definitely see potential with the character.
While a step back from the pilot, there was still plenty of good to take away. One aspect this episode did well where a lot of television dramas fail is it was able to have a standalone story, but also progress the main season thread. That’s a good sign, as pacing is always an issue in television. All I ask is for them to cut out the silly crap, and maintain the dark tone. This is Batman for crying out loud. Show some respect.
Rating: 6 out of 10 (“meh”)
Daniel Cohen is the Film Editor for Pop-Break. Aside from reviews, Daniel does a weekly box office predictions column, and also contributes monthly Top Tens and Op-Ed’s on all things film. Daniel is a graduate of Bates College with a degree in English, and also studied Screenwriting at UCLA. He can also be read on www.movieshenanigans.com. His movie crush is Jessica Rabbit. Follow him on Twitter @dcohenwriter.