Martin Carr reviews the eighteenth episode of Gotham season 2…
Does anyone remember that moment from Total Recall when Arnie’s cab driver removes his false arm? All backlit, reptilian mandible about two feet long with seriously sharp talons attached? That one. In term of moments on film it ranks with the boy on a tricycle peddling those endless corridors, or Woody Allen sneezing cocaine all over someone’s coffee table. I bring it up because last week we paid a visit to ‘Pinewood’ and discovered one Karen Jennings.
Played by Julia Taylor Ross there is a reserve and gentility to the portrayal which belies her physical deformity. Beyond Gordon’s one man army approach to tracking down the Wayne murderers, she offers up a moment of calm amongst the lunatics and hired assassins. Elsewhere Bruce and Alfred continue making a good double act, with Pertwee sharing those scenes opposite his young charge with ease. What gets uncovered during ‘Pinewood’s’ running time paints Wayne senior to be well-intentioned but misled.
At the heart of this drama remains an individual with a growing obsession. Bruce Wayne as portrayed by David Mazouz is gaining that harder edge we know will expand into a winged alter ego with murderous intent. Vigilante remains a harsh label to slap on someone but Wayne is going the right way about embracing that side of his persona, ably abetted by Alfred.
What we get with Gordon on the other hand is all the darkness which has been missing from other manifestations. McKenzie has brought a mad dog mentality to play with his interpretation that verges on the uncontrollable. Little more than hired muscle without a police badge enforcing the law on his own terms, Gordon is treading a very thin line without consideration. That he is being aided by an unbalanced Barbara Kean could possibly be his undoing, were things not already so dicey to begin with.
For me Gotham is getting better because it is embracing the ambiguity rather than indulging in clarity. There are more unanswered questions because of ‘Pinewood’, which broadens the playing field structurally and raises interest. BD Wong’s Hugo Strange stands at the centre of all this like an errant puppet master, controlling Gotham from behind wrought iron gates. It is he who holds the key to those apparent loose ends which currently remain hanging. As you would imagine a season centred on rising villainy has little room for one liners, yet Wong gives us a wry take on a seedy character. Intrigued by the outcome of his real life experiments, whether mastering reanimation or releasing confirmed inmates into society. It is in the balance between Jennings and Hugo Strange that Gotham came into its own last week. Making ‘Pinewood’ a rare example of an episode which caters to everyone and treats its audience with respect.