Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Gotham: A Day in the Narrows Review


A Day in The Narrows is the first Gotham episode that I've enjoyed in some time.  I think it has to do with the fact that the Edward Nygma/Solomon Grundy storyline was completely absent.  It isn't until now that I realize just how much I dislike it and everything connected to it.  Balancing three stories all in the course of a very long day, this episode has some wild gallows humor and showcases Detective Jim Gordon, showing how he will eventually rise to Police Commissioner in this dark and dour city.

Our main story is that of Gordon (Ben McKenzie), still on the hunt for Professor Pyg (Michael Cerveris), the madman targeting crooked cops.  Over his loud objections, his partner/boss Captain Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue) brings in Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor), their unholy alliance finding a common enemy in Pyg.  As Victor Zsasz, Pengy's main hitman, is off visiting his 'bubbie', Pengy has the arrogant Headhunter (Kyle Vincent Terry), who brags about shooting twice but needing to shoot only once.  "The second one is his signature," he tells them.

Gordon, with various degrees of assistance by the GCPD and Penguin's men, find their first clues in The Narrows, the poorest part of Gotham.  Gordon uses tact, the Police/Penguins use tactics, violent ones, until they get what they need.  The manage to rescue one cop, Officer Vizolli, while another remains missing.  Gordon puts the clues together and tracks Pyg down to an abandoned courthouse.

Only, the thing is the whole thing is an elaborate trap, down to Officer Vizolli, which we discover is Pyg in disguise.  By this time Penguin in particular has become publicly attached to taking Pyg down.  Sofia Falcone (Crystal Reed) flat-out warns him that her father would never have so publicly affiliated with the police, for they will fail, and when they do, it will be a spectacular failure...and Penguin will be the face of it.  Penguin decides to double down on his plan.

Gordon warns them not to storm the courthouse.  Again, over Gordon's loud objections and Penguin's demands, they all storm the courthouse, where they find it is a trap and Bullock has inadvertently shot a fellow officer.  Gordon rescues them, and despite all his moral upstanding the police still struggle to acknowledge his efforts.  However, things are slowly turning around when one former antagonist tells a criminal that they will no longer be accepting Penguin's licenses.

Pengy for his part is irritated that he has been again publicly humiliated by his own hubris and in Headhunter's inability to get things right.  In irritation, he stabs the wounded Headhunter twice...the second time is his signature, he tells the dying hitman.

Our second plot involves our Unholy Trinity of Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova), her mentor Tabitha Galavan (Jessica Lucas) and Bonkers Babs (Erin Richards).  Babs is pulling out now that she lost her benefactor Ra's al Ghoul, but Selina insists they can still make their enterprise work.  She decides to prove this by robbing a biker gang, but ends up getting trapped there.  Tabitha and Barbara, independent of each other, go to the rescue, and silently agree to unite.

The third minor plot involves Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz), who meets a pretty young thing in Grace Blomdhal (Samia Finnerty) at a fundraiser at Wayne Manor.  She in turn brings him into her circle, which includes an old rival of Bruce's, Tom Elliot (Gordon Winarick), whom we've met earlier.  Elliot seems to have forgiven Bruce for punching him, even admitting he deserved it.  Tom's friend Brent (Tommy Nelson) isn't so eager for Bruce to be in their circle.  When he fails to get them into a club, Bruce buying it.  On this dark night of his soul, Bruce engages in drinking and making out with Grace, seemingly having fun but perhaps with a hint of desperation in his revelries.

It's interesting how well Gotham works when the Nygma/Grundy storyline disappears.

What I really enjoyed about A Day in The Narrows is that it made Professor Pyg into a credible threat versus a silly character who walks around with a pig's head on him.  I think it is because Cerveris is allowed a moment where he isn't wearing the pig's head.  It is also because he is eloquent with a luxurious voice that makes even the most oddball statements almost genuinely evil.

"It's a saga.  It's an epic.  It's a spectacle, and you're my Muse, Jimmy Gordon," Pyg coos near the end.  It's all rather grand, but Cerveris pulls it off so well you accept that Pyg is a real danger.

He even informs Gordon that his name should be spelled P-Y-G, as in 'Pygmalion'.  It's all creepy stuff, and Cerveris and A Day in The Narrows pulls it off.

As a side note, this is the first time I remember anyone calling him 'Jimmy'.

The episode also gives McKenzie a time to shine as Gordon.  We see that Gordon is rigid in his moral code, sometimes to his and other's detriments, but he won't accept wrong.  The scene between McKenzie and Cerveris as 'Officer Vizolli' shows McKenzie is able to deliver a convincing dramatic monologue: his regrets about the times he has compromised and his unerring desire to do right making him a hero.

He can even use his growl to good comic effect.  "You know why I carry two guns?", Headhunter asks Bullock and Gordon.  The latter deadpans, "Overcompensation?" to an oblivious hitman.

Mazouz too does a great job as the tortured Bruce.  His remorse over killing Ra's al Ghoul, his struggle to contain his anger, and his seemingly carefree indulgence in the pleasures and temptations of the flesh make his version of Bruce one of if not the best.  We sense that behind that carnal figure is a young man deeply haunted and tormented by his own morality and what he must hide and suppress to achieve his ultimate aim.

Logue too showed himself to handle action and drama with bits of comedy as the morally-compromised Bullock.  He reprimands Gordon's incessant morality by telling him his officers don't want to walk around with "bacon-flavored death masks".  Taylor, sporting a wild cockatoo hairstyle that is pretty outlandish even for him makes Penguin into an all-around fascinating character.

He is dangerous (the killing of Headhunter).  He is arrogant (his insistence on storming the courthouse over Gordon's reasonable objections).  He is more arrogant (his insistence on doubling down to spite Sofia's reasonable opinions).  He is hilarious (his inability to deal with the orphans at Sofia's place).

Though she has one scene Reed too is able to hold her own against the powerhouse of Taylor.  "Don't ask for my opinion if you don't want to hear it," she tells him with aplomb, then smoothly turns to the orphan that is so irritating Pengy and tells her she can stop covering her ears.

With the women, Bicondova, Lucas, and Richards have less to do in this episode, but they still make for a fascinating triumvirate.   

If one is going to be nitpicky, it's going to be on how Gordon didn't know "Officer Vizolli" was a fake given he seems to know everyone.  Also, that cockatoo hair for Pengy...just weird even for someone who has mastered the 'Disco Vampire' look.

Again, nitpicky.  A Day in The Narrows gives us great insight into the future Commissioner and Batman, how they are being molded by circumstances into the men they will become.  It wasn't until this episode that I really realized how uninterested I am in the Nygma/Grundy story.


Next Episode: Stop Hitting Yourself

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