By Courtney Key
*WARNING: FULL SPOILERS FOR GOTHAM FOLLOW*
“This is Gotham. If you don’t bend, you’ll get broke.”
That’s the message Jim Gordon’s boss, Captain Essen, gives the new detective in this week’s episode of Gotham, and we see how the city is already pushing its inhabitants towards one or the other extreme.
The second episode of Gotham is titled “Selina Kyle,” and her voice is heard for the first time this week as she’s involved in the case Gordon and Bullock are investigating. It seems local homeless kids are being knocked out by a couple purporting to be from the mayor’s homeless outreach project using poisoned pins and dragged into vans, never to be seen again. Selina, who we learn is called “Cat” by the other street kids because they have read Batman comics from the future, witnesses some of her friends being taken away and escapes, along with another homeless youth who ends up crashing through the plate glass window of an upscale Gotham restaurant in order to evade his captors.
Gordon and Bullock get pulled in to the case via the corpse of an older homeless man shot by the couple during the kidnapping. The kid who defenestrated himself is seen by Bullock as a suspect in the crime, and he threatens to beat him for information, to which Gordon takes offense. Donal Logue plays Bullock’s crustiness perfectly as he informs Gordon that he wasn’t going to beat the kid, but if he did, it would be his prerogative. I now have a headcanon that Bullock is a huge Bobby Brown fan. He points out that Gordon hardly has room to talk, having just shot a man and thrown him in the river. The captain backs up Bullock on this, expressing surprise at Gordon’s reaction since she thought he was “with the program.” Apparently, everyone knows about Gordon’s murder of Oswald Cobblepot. Everyone, that is, except Oswald’s mom, but we’ll get to that later.
Our old friend Edward Nygma shows up with the toxicology report on the dead homeless man. Fortunately, he doesn’t subject us to any more of his attempts at riddling, but just lays out the facts. The deceased had high levels of ATP in his blood, a narcotic that’s difficult to get on the street, but was in regular use at the old Arkham Asylum. Man, it’s a good thing that old place was shut down. I definitely hope no one gets the idea to reopen… Oh, wait.
The captain tells Gordon and Bullock to keep the investigation on the DL, since letting the people of Gotham know kids are being kidnapped right and left could start a panic. They’re ordered to follow up on the Arkham connection, and see where the drugs are coming from. This leads them right back to Fish’s club. Before they talk to her, however, Falcone shows up at the club to have a chinwag.
He tells Fish he talked to Oswald before he died, and that Oswald told him the death of the Waynes would bring troubled times. Falcone opines that the Waynes and Falcones were pillars of the same house. They understood each other. Now that they’re dead, everything is out of balance. He believes the Moroney family may be making moves against him. Fish says not to worry about them. “I never lose sleep over my enemies,” he tells her over a glass of wine. “It’s my friends that keep me awake.” Falcone says Oswald told him Fish said he was old and soft, and that she was going to take him out.
When Fish reassures him that she will never move against him, the conversation turns to kind of creepy small talk, as Falcone asks which of the men working for her is her lover. Ew. Lover is a word that should never be used in conversation. Fish laughs that she doesn’t have a lover, merely a boy she keeps around for “exercise.” Calling her bluff, Falcone summons the boy over to him. He’s a waiter, and his name is Laszlo. After admonishing Laszlo not to break Fish’s heart, Falcone has a couple of his goons take Laszlo to the back of the club, still within Fish’s eyesight, and administer a beating to him as he takes Fish’s hand to thank her for being honest with him. She tries to keep a brave face, but there are tears in her eyes as she watches her boyfriend get punched and kicked. The scene strengthens her determination to take Falcone down, as she confides to Gilzean later. Some day, she says, “I will kill that old man with my bare hands and teeth.” She only regrets that Oswald is already dead, or she’d make him suffer more.
About the only person who doesn’t think Oswald is dead is his mom, Mrs. Cobblepot – or Kapelput, as she corrects our old friends detectives Allen and Montoya of the Major Case squad, who have come to see about her missing persons report. Oswald’s mom is played by Kooky National Treasure Carol Kane, who has an unspecified Eastern European accent, lives in a house that appears to have been decorated by a Victorian brothel owner and is dressed like Miss Havisham found a Laura Ashley catalog. She is totally my new style icon.
Mrs. Kapelput refuses to believe her son would go missing for so long on his own accord. He keeps odd hours working for a nightclub, she tells the bemused detectives, but he always comes home to his mother. Her sweetness turns sour when she speculates that it must be some “slut” who has got her claws into him. Montoya and Allen’s expressions when she says this are priceless.
While Oswald’s mom goes to retrieve a photo to show them the shining specimen of male physical perfection that is her son, Allen whispers to Montoya that the cops must have had him killed. Montoya vows they won’t get away with it. Allen shrugs – snitches get stitches, after all. He wants to let the matter go, but Montoya feels some personal responsibility to Oswald since he was their snitch, and vows not to let his murder rest. Considering it seems the whole police department knows Gordon put him in the river, I’m thinking she won’t have to dig too deep to get to the truth.
Meanwhile, her very much alive though worse for wear son is making his way back to Gotham by hitchhiking. Conveniently for us, he’s chosen a spot to thumb for a ride by a sign saying “Gotham City: 9 miles” so we know exactly where he is. Can I just remark on how weirdly empty the land near Gotham is? It’s such a cesspit, even suburbs don’t want to go near it.
Oswald is picked up by two frat bros in a truck, who begin messing with him from the start, stopping and then moving away before he can open the door. When he finally gets in, Passenger Frat Bro remarks on his smell, and sprays him in the face with air freshener. Despite this affront, Oswald maintains a remarkably good if awkward humor, and admirably refrains from getting stabby. The bros hand him a beer and ask what happened to him. Oswald says it was his own fault, that his arrogance led him astray, but soon he’ll be back, stronger and smarter than ever. The bros scoff and tell him good luck with that. “But here I am,” he says with a smile, “riding in a lovely truck, sharing an ice cold beer with my two friends, my life’s already turned, right?” He looks so hopeful I want to give the creepy little psychopath a hug.
Of course, Passenger Frat Bro has to ruin the moment by asking him, “Dude, anyone ever told you when you walk, you look just like a penguin?” Oswald’s smile fades as he says, “No, no one’s ever told me that.” Uh oh, I think it’s stabbin’ time. Right on cue, Oswald’s rage takes over and he breaks the beer bottle on the seat and slashes Passenger Frat Bro’s neck, much to Driver Frat Bro’s horror.
Later, driving the truck, he pulls up to a farm to inquire about a trailer house for rent, paying the owner in cash. Hilariously, he’s wearing Driver Frat Bro’s polo and sweater over his own shirt, with his torn suit jacket layered on top. It’s quite a look. Despite a tense moment when it seems like the farm owner is about to discover Oswald’s murder victims in the truck, the rental arrangement is thankfully resolved without stabbing, and Oswald gets the key to his trailer.
Bullock and Gordon call on Fish, who says she’s decided to let bygones be bygones, especially now that Gordon’s “with the program.” She knows about the kidnapping of the homeless kids, but doesn’t know any details. Fish says they used to only take nice looking girls, but now there’s a new buyer overseas who’ll take anyone young and healthy. No one knows who the buyer is, or what the kids are wanted for, and “no one cares to know.”
Gordon, being the upstanding guy he is, is frustrated by the stonewalling and reluctance of the captain to make the case public, and tells Barbara so over some Chinese take-out. Barbara suggests calling in an anonymous tip to the newspaper, and when he balks, she does it herself. Gordon is upset about this, but it gets the result he wants – the news about the kidnapped homeless kids is on the front page of the Gotham Gazette the next morning.
Now it’s in the paper, the captain is angry. She asks Bullock if he gave them the tip, saying he’s done it before. That’s interesting – might the fact that Bullock has tipped off the paper behind the captain’s back in the past suggest he has something of a conscience after all? Bullock tells her no, that it would be a stupid thing to do, and looks right at Gordon. The captain orders them to investigate the three pharmacies in Gotham still stocking ATP. They’ll lean hard on all of them and see what they get. Chances are at least one of them is crooked. I’d think in Gotham the chances are more like possibly one of them is straight, but either way. Bullock tells Gordon after the cap leaves, “that was sneaky good, almost couldn’t tell you were lying.” Gordon insists he wasn’t lying, and Bullock guesses it was Barbara that called the newspaper.
It turns out the kids have been taken to the basement of a pharmacy, which is also the source of the ATP. They’re being held there before being sent overseas to a mysterious buyer called the Dollmaker. Gordon and Bullock arrive at the pharmacy to find Peggy, wielder of the poison pin, at the front. In the back, the pharmacist has a gun drawn on him by Peggy’s partner out of sight of the detectives. Gordon questions him about ATP, and the pharmacist insists he’s not peddling it – he used to, he says, back when Arkham was open. The Waynes were planning to reopen it but since they’re dead that’s all up in the air. The pharmacist is sweating, and Gordon is suspicious. “What a world, eh?” the pharmacist laughs. “Nobody’s safe.” Just then Peggy flips the switch, and a gun battle ensues in the dark. In the chaos, she and her partner escape, and Gordon rescues the kids from their captors.
The mayor uses the crime as a pretext for a program to sweep the streets of Gotham’s homeless youth and ship them out of town, ostensibly to new, safer homes upstate. Unfortunately, standards for the kids’ chaperones are as lax as everything else in Gotham, and Cat ends up on a bus driven by the Dollmaker’s helpers. Patty is especially creepy with her sadistic, hyper-efficient chirpiness – I feel like Lili Taylor in this role definitely took a cue from Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter movies. We also see the inside of Cat’s locket, which has the photo of a woman who’s presumably her mother.
Gordon and Bullock have taken the pharmacist into custody, and Gordon has made an exception to his usual rule about beating suspects for this guy. He still won’t partake himself, but he has no objection to Bullock threatening the man with a phone book. In other news, this is your semiannual reminder that physical phone books still exist. The pharmacist reveals that the trucks that came to pick up the kids in the past had a logo on the side – a blue plate and silver fork, like a catering company. Not that he’s saying he was delivering the kids to be eaten by some cannibalistic madman! That’s a whole other show on a totally different network.
The kids are delivered to a shipping container to be sent overseas to the Dollmaker, but Cat manages to escape, using her feline skills to clamber over and under the bus seats hiding from Patty. Camren Bicondova’s physicality works brilliantly in this role. We also get an idea of how dangerous Cat can be as she literally scratches a man’s eyes out in her bid for escape (thankfully the actual clawing happens offscreen). Cat is cornered while climbing a storage container after her locket slips and falls to the ground, alerting Patty to her presence. Fortunately for her, Gordon has figured out the fork and plate logo the pharmacist described seeing on the truck was actually a net and trident – the symbol of Trident International Shipping. Good detecting, Gordon! He arrives in time to take out Patty and rescue Cat and the rest of the kids.
Cat, however, still isn’t content with being sent upstate. “Have you been upstate?” she asks the detective informing her that she’ll be placed with a new home shortly. “Then you know.” Given the state Gotham’s in, I can only imagine upstate is some sort of Mad Max/Hunger Games hellzone to provoke such a strong reaction. The detective says that she can’t stay on the streets, and has no parents or guardians. Cat says it’s not true, her mother is alive…someplace. She bullies the detective into bringing Gordon to her by threatening to claim the detective molested her. I’m a little uncomfortable with this tactic, but hey, it works!
Of course, looming like a bat-shaped shadow over all the events in Gotham is the ongoing saga of Bruce Wayne. Back at Stately Wayne Manor, we find young Bruce has reacted to the death of his parents by testing his tolerance for pain. He holds his hand over a flame, letting it burn his palm. Later, we learn that Bruce has been cutting himself and, most disturbingly, listening to death metal while angrily scribbling. Many of you commented in the forum after the first episode that you weren’t a fan of this portrayal of Alfred as rough and uncaring. In this episode, the façade slipped a bit, and we see that he is actually worried about his young charge, going to Gordon for help in dealing with him. Sidenote: Alfred asks Gordon to come round at teatime, and Gordon doesn’t even ask when that is. He just shows up. My new headcanon for Gordon is that he’s a raging Anglophile who never misses Downtown Abbey. We also learn that Bruce’s dad specifically forbid Alfred from taking Bruce to a therapist in the event of his parents’ death, but instructed Alfred to let Bruce find his own way through his grief, within reason. It’s almost like he wanted his son to become an obsessive vigilante crime fighter. Gordon quite rightly observes that this sounds like a recipe for disaster.
Gordon tells Bruce that he’s been through a terrible experience, and talking to someone can help. Bruce asks if talking to someone helped him come to terms with the horrible things he saw in the war. Which war? Who knows. Time in Gotham is fluid and irrelevant. Gordon tells Bruce that it did, but Bruce says Gordon is a terrible liar. He says that he’s testing himself, not hurting himself. Bruce reveals he’s been keeping up with Gordon in the newspapers. He feels sorry for the kids who were victims of the Dollmaker, and offers to give money to them. Gordon says it doesn’t work that way, that the kids need someone who cares for them, like Bruce has with Alfred, who looks abashed at Gordon’s words. Money won’t buy that. It can buy the kids ponies, though, Gordon. Lots and lots of ponies. Bruce decides he’ll give clothes to the kids instead. I feel like Bruce is going to take this “just throwing money at problems doesn’t solve them” lesson and perhaps go in a more intense direction with it than Gordon was anticipating. Just a hunch.
Meanwhile, Oswald’s been hard at work decorating his new home. We see him staring up at the ceiling of the trailer, where he has pinned a map of city and overlaid photos and news articles about the players in Gotham on top of it, with scrawled notes beside their names. Some highlights include “Cry Baby Brucie,” “Gordon Stooge!,” a dunce cap pasted on the mayor’s head, and “BITCH!” scrawled underneath a photo of Fish. A phone call interrupts his reverie. It’s the mother of the driver of the car, returning Oswald’s call regarding his ransom demands for her son, who is sitting bound, beaten, bloodied and in his boxers in the closet. Unfortunately for him, his mom doesn’t seem too eager to pay the ten thousand Oswald’s asking, thinking she’s being tricked. Oswald can’t believe it. He even sent her a video! Honestly, if my kid had turned out to be a member of Kappa Kappa Douche I might write him off as a loss too. “Well, that’s disappointing,” Oswald sighs, hanging up and turning to his hostage. “You must be quite the scamp.”
My favorite part of that scene, besides Robin Lord Taylor’s everything, is the delightful exchange between him and the actor playing Driver Frat Bro on his Twitter:
Back at the station, Cat says she has information for Gordon, but first she gets his guarantee that he can get her out of being sent upstate. She reveals that she’s been watching Gordon, and she knows that Mario Pepper was a patsy. When Gordon says he can help her, she drops the bombshell that she saw the Waynes’ real killer. Somehow I feel finding him won’t be this easy.
Next week I’ll be livetweeting the show at 7 p.m. Central over on my Twitter account @Dachelle as well as doing the recap, so feel free to join in! In the meantime, let us know your thoughts on Gotham in the comments or on the forum.