Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Gotham: Lovecraft Review

If you see it, note the bottom.
Look familiar?

The mid-season finale to Gotham has a lot going on.  We have some great moments where all these characters and their motives/actions collide into what was a corker of an ending.  We have some really fantastic moments between future adversaries, fantastic double-teaming with people we didn't think would work well together, and even touches of comedy.

The patrician Master Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) and street urchin Selina "Cat" Kyle (Camren Bicondova) are still figuring each other out.  Selina shows Bruce how to keep a steady balance, and in return Bruce declines her offer of a kiss.  He'd like to, Bruce tells Selina, but he knows she doesn't do anything without an ulterior motive.  She isn't, in his words, 'nice', meaning he suspects something is off.

Alfred (Sean Pertwee) answers the door and encounters someone who claimed to have been in an accident, asking to use the phone.  However, when the woman spies Selina, Alfred immediately realizes she's a hitwoman and orders both of them to run for their lives.  Selina from the streets is more adept at running, while the young Master isn't.  There is only one place they could run to: the heart of darkness known as Gotham.

Detective James Gordon (Ben McKenzie) is visibly furious at Assistant District Attorney Harvey Dent (Nicholas D'Agosto) for 'carefully' leaking both his and Selina's names to 'select' people to put pressure on Dick Lovecraft (Al Sapienza), whom Dent thinks was involved in the Wayne murders.  Gordon sees that these two kids are now being hunted by professional assassins, and that his semi-private investigation is about to explode on him.

Also angry is Gordon's partner Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue), who insists the Wayne murders were already solved.  As far as he's concerned, this whole thing is insane.  While Gordon goes searching for Lovecraft, Alfred and Bullock team up to get to Bruce and Selina before the assassin (Leslie-Ann Brandt).  Gordon finds that Lovecraft, rather than being the brains behind the operation, is himself a target, for the same people behind the assassin are also after him.  Lovecraft is killed by the assassin after she knocks Gordon out, using his own gun as a nice touch.

The kids, however, are still out there.  After Selina has Bruce change from his sweaters to something a little more grungy, they meet an old friend of Cat's.  Ivy Pepper (Clare Foley), whose father was framed for Bruce's parents' murder, has run away from her adoptive parents and is now on the streets.  She tells Cat, looking at Bruce, "He's cute, isn't he?", and a visibly freaked out Cat replies a bit nonchalantly, "Yes, he is," before ushering the young Master Wayne from a girl even she is a bit scared of.  Selina thinks they can get money from her fence, but Clyde has double-crossed them, selling them out the assassins.

Good thing Bullock has no qualms about having a good relationship with Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith), who leads them to Selina's fence, with a little friendly persuasion by Alfred, who charms her into doing something good.  Fish, for her part, has problems of her own.  Her boss, Don Falcone (John Dorman) is visibly livid about the theft of his money at the Armory.  At first he suspects his rival Don Maroni and hauls his snitch Oswald Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor) to answer for this.  Penguin insists Maroni had nothing to do with this attack and blames a mole.  Falcone suspects Penguin's hatred for Fish (that's an odd phrase) may be behind his charge, but Penguin is holding back that he knows about Liza (Makenzie Leigh), waiting for a more opportune time.  Fish, for her part, is visibly frightened by how Falcone so casually shot Bannion, his old friend who failed to protect the Armory.  She in turn is displeased that 'tribute' has gone up to make up for the financial loss. 

Eventually the assassin, whom I'm told is a villain called Copperhead, tracks down her targets, but won't kill Bruce because he isn't the target.  "Don't ever mistake bravery for good sense," she warns, but to Copperhead's displeasure Bruce's diversionary tactic allowed Cat to escape. 

With Lovecraft dead Mayor James (Richard Kind) is furious at both Gordon and Dent for how things went down.  Dent is willing to go along to get along, but Gordon, ever upright, refuses.  James opts for a creative solution: send Gordon to work at the newly-opened Arkham Asylum.  This news upsets GCPD forensics Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith), who asks whom he can contact about this and gives Gordon a hug.  Bruce returns to Wayne Manor, where Cat sneaks in, shows him the case she took earlier, and gets her giving Bruce a kiss.

What really sells Lovecraft was the great dual double acts of Bruce/Selina and Alfred/Bullock.  Lovecraft does what I have been hoping for a while: get our characters out of their areas.  More than anything, young Master Bruce had pretty much been holed up at Wayne Manor for almost the entire season, and now we see him in a foreign world, one without his wealth or Alfred to protect or shield him.  He in a sense has to fend for himself and rely on the unreliable Cat for protection, but in Lovecraft we see not the somewhat-frightened patrician more cerebral than active but a growing action figure.

In my mind, I should know Bruce is going to make the leap from one building to another that Cat, with her years of training, makes with the greatest of ease.  However, as he lands on the edge and is leaning dangerously close to falling, we do have a sense of danger.  We also get this with their first flight from Wayne Manor, where in the end we have to remember it's two kids being hunted down for assassination. 

We get such great character development from both Mazouz and Bicondova, who are simply the best thing about Lovecraft.  They have to carry almost the entire episode, and they play so well against each other.  We, or at least I, can see these two becoming Batman and Catwoman, at odds but also drawn to each other. Their conflicting worldviews (Bruce's genuine concern for Alfred, Selina's growing awareness of the goodness of people), those things that shape them, collide with each other as they have a mutual goal: survival.

Of course, we don't have to worry about Alfred Pennyworth, for he proves what a bad-ass he is.  This certainly isn't your father's Alfred, all prim and proper.  This guy takes people down with extreme prejudice.  I've seen many comparisons between Sean Pertwee's Alfred and Liam Neeson's character from Taken, and the comparisons are not without merit.  Pertwee's Alfred knows how to fight and fight back, and Lovecraft is similarly a great showcase for both Pertwee and Alfred: the tough-guy who can take a bullet, the determined investigator who can make Bullock the more in-line officer, the smooth charmer who can get Fish Mooney to see things his way thanks to her "eloquent gaze".

Finally, the two plots (Bruce & Selina's bid to live and Falcone's demand for his money) work well without colliding with each other.  Dorman has unleashed his inner psychopath, where a mixture of velvet glove and iron fist puts the fear of God into his minions.  Seeing JPS look downright terrified at how he took out Bannion takes the somewhat camp nature of Fish down to where she now appears to be part of this underworld.  This does mean RLT has very little to do in Lovecraft, but he still makes his presence known.

I did enjoy CMS as Nygma this week, where he makes his Edward almost an innocent.  "Detective Gordon, I hear you've been thrown out in disgrace.  Is this true?" he asks Jim.  His whole scene, from asking which boss he should contact about this to his spontaneous hug lent the whole scene, brief as it was, both a light and even gentle touch.

Along with the future Riddler, the brief appearances of both the future Poison Ivy and future Two-Face I think worked well and didn't seem forced as they had before. 

Perhaps Lovecraft's one minor flaw was the appeal to emotion.  The exchange between Alfred and Bruce at the end might be a bit syrupy, but honestly I didn't mind.

Lovecraft does what any mid-season finale does well: open the doors to new stories while giving us an exciting hour that pushes previous stories along. It gave a showcase for David Mazouz, Camren Bicondova and Sean Pertwee to where soon they will be seen as excellent additions to the Batman mythos.

In short, Lovecraft was simply an excellent Gotham episode, and I can't wait to see where we go to next.


Next Episode: Rogues' Gallery

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