sehope's Blog

Gotham Season 1, Episode 10: How did they know?

Review: The show's mid-season finale brings up a few more questions than it answers.

In the Gotham mid-season finale, "LoveCraft," was one major question to be pondered: "How did they know?"

The episode opened with three assassins descending on Wayne Manor. Dressed all in black, balancing flawlessly on a pair of several-inch heels, the lead assassin kills a gardener and worms her way in through the front door, claiming to be an injured victim of a car accident. Seconds later, she and her cronies blow their cover and lunge after Bruce and Cat. Alfred, a deceptively talented fighter, fends them off while the kids flee.

The assassins, it turns out, were after not Master Bruce, but Cat. Someone, it seems, leaked to Dick Lovecraft that young Selina Kyle was the witness Harvey Dent was harboring, threatening to take him down for the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne. But how did they know she was at Wayne Manor?

Cat leads Bruce into Gotham City, where she plans to hide him from the would-be assassins. The two are presented successfully as somewhat naive (but smarter than their contemporaries) children bonding over a shared sense of adventure and independence. To Bruce, Cat is teacher and friend. To Cat, Bruce is a symbol of the childhood and the privilege she never had, but a worthy student of her world. Despite their frequent tiffs, their bond is growing, with their personalities, strengths and weaknesses complementing each other at every turn.

Elsewhere, Falcone believes rival boss Maroni was behind a botched plan to steal his fortune. But how did he know where Falcone kept his money? Falcone interrogates and attempts to intimidate Cobblepot for an answer. Cobblepot says there must be a mole.

The mole, we know, is Liza, Fish Mooney's seductive weapon in her aim to weaken Gotham's ruling Don. But Cobblepot wants to keep that secret a bit longer. He has her (and by proxy, Fish), Falcone, Maroni and Detective Gordon under his thumb, and as he tells his driver Gabriel: "Timing is everything." In an effort to ferret out the mole, Falcone makes an example of one of his thugs, Bannion, by shooting him. His face lands directly in his oh-so-appropriate bowl of pasta, and the "family" goes about their dinner. Quietly, Fish makes plans to turn Falcone's mob against him.

As Alfred, Gordon and Bullock search the Gotham streets for Bruce and Cat, the two kids "disappear" to the Narrows - "like the mall for street kids without the crappy music," Cat says. There they run into Ivy Pepper, who has escaped from juvenile detention, where she was taken after her mother's suicide. They leave Ivy quickly (Cat finds her "creepy") and go to visit Clyde, Cat's primary fence, or the guy who buys her stolen goods for resale. Unfortunately, the assassins have already located Clyde and paid him to lead them to Cat. How did he know she would come by? He could assume; a good thief can't stay away for long, and a good fence can't refuse a payday. Cat and Bruce are detained in a storage closet, awaiting the assassins. With some feline ingenuity, a bravery heretofore unseen from Bruce and a little suspension of disbelief on the part of the audience, the youngsters manage to hold the trained killers at bay until Alfred arrives to deliver the final blow. Cat escapes, and a distraught Alfred is reunited with his charge.

Meanwhile Detective Gordon, who is convinced, like Dent, of Dick Lovecraft's involvement in the Wayne murders, goes to visit the wealthy businessman at his home. Gun drawn, Ben McKenzie Serious Face on, he busts in, only to find Lovecraft cowering in hiding. He had nothing to do with the Wayne murders, he says. He holds no real power, he insists. The same assassins who infiltrated Wayne Manor also came after him. But why?

"I know too much."

Before Lovecraft can finish telling Gordon about a suspicious run on Wayne Enterprises stock just before Thomas and Martha were killed, the assassins arrive. Miss High Heels takes Gordon down in a sleeper hold. When he wakes up, Lovecraft is dead in the bathtub from a single shot to the head - a shot fired from Gordon's own gun.

Though Ben McKenzie's cogency as the broody but devoted Gordon remains spotty, these last few episodes have held together well. McKenzie's consistent state of heightened awareness and his growly anger play well when there is actually something to be upset about.

Rather than trying to fight the public's imminent suspicion that a GCPD cop killed a prominent local figure in cold blood, Gordon allows Mayor James to kick him off the force for being overzealous - but not before a nice request for a smooch where the sun don't shine. He is reassigned to Arkham Asylum where, as we see in the preview, he will work as a security guard for Gotham's most mentally challenged (as if he wasn't already doing that). True to the episode's theme, how could the mayor know that after a short time, Gordon's particular hero cop skills would be called upon in the battle sparked by one of the most famous jailbreaks in comic book history?

As we wait for the series' January return, we are left with many nagging questions. Without Lovecraft's suspicion or files, how will Gordon, Bullock and Bruce find who really killed Thomas and Martha Wayne? Where did these assassins really come from, and why are they after Cat? Will Falcone's thugs rebel against him and join Fish? Where and when does the Penguin plan to intercept the transfer of power? And most importantly: Will Bruce and Cat kiss again?

Gotham returns in January.

Gotham Season 1, Episode 9: Come together to fall apart

Review: The network show introduces a new character to, as he says, "clean up" Gotham, and longtime Batman are in for a surprise.

In Gotham's penultimate episode, everything finally seems to be coming together. Whether you're rooting for the heroic Detective Jim Gordon, anxiously awaiting the rise of the young Bruce Wayne or (like me) reveling in the evil and chaos sewn by the show's colorful villains, episode nine, "Harvey Dent," probably had you feeling pretty jazzed.

This week, the central vigilante was not a vigilante at all. Ian Hargrove (Leslie Odom, Jr.) is a mentally ill inmate at Blackgate Penitentiary who is liberated by former associates of the recently deceased Russian mobster Nikolai. They, working in collusion with Fish Mooney, want him to build a bomb (he is somewhat of an bomb-making MacGuyver) to help them penetrate the iron door of Falcone's money vault. They succeed, but Fish has bigger plans. She sends her own closet bomb expert, Butch, to blow up the whole operation, in hopes of further crippling Falcone. Hargrove - who may be, as his brother insists, just a sick man caught in a series of bad situations - is recaptured and sent to Arkham Asylum, where the mayor has decided to relocate all of Gotham's criminally insane.

The episode was appropriately titled "Harvey Dent." How appropriate that in the same episode Arkham Asylum is reopened, we meet one of its most infamous future residents. Dent is earnest, intelligent, and Gotham's youngest-ever assistant district attorney and is destined to be both an ally and (later) an enemy to both Gordon and Batman. He is brought in by the Major Crimes Unit to help investigate the Wayne murders. Selina "Cat" Kyle, the only eyewitness of the Wayne murders, has returned and, with a sketch artist, recreated an image of the killer. Dent wants to use the idea of a witness (without putting Cat in any danger) to bring down a mogul named Dick Lovecraft. Gordon is hesitant at first, but is won over by Dent's commitment to "make this city a better place."

Lovecraft is not a direct reference to any major character in the DC Comics universe. There is a minor villain named Dr. Lovecraft, but his name is more likely a nod to H.P. Lovecraft, the American horror novelist. The Arkham Asylum was originally named as a nod to Arkham, Massachusetts, a fictional town prominently featured in the writer Lovecraft's works in the 1920s, and in the works of those who followed and expanded upon his Cthulhu Mythos. The term "Cthulhu" will be familiar to fans of True Detective; this character-creature was one of many "weird supernatural horror" easter eggs in the first season of Nic Pizzolatto's critically-acclaimed series.

When Dent meets with Gotham's Lovecraft (Al Sapienza), we the audience were offered a glimpse at the beginnings of Dent's own mythos. When his plan to misle Lovecraft by pretending that a key eyewitness can tie him to the Wayne murders doesn't work, and instead draws a threat from the powerful man accused, Dent snaps. "Don't threaten me. I will rip you open," he growls, then returns to his calm and unthreatening manner. Somebody's a little bit two-faced, if you know what I mean.

Meanwhile, for her own protection, Gordon has sent Cat to stay at Wayne Manor with Bruce. The two future allies have a predictably rocky start; the genius rich boy writing his own school curriculum and taking lessons in discipline and willpower was bound to clash with the street-wise, chipped-shouldered, curious orphan. But eventually, they connect through a little pre-teen flirtation and the mutual understanding shared only by those who have lost parents. The strict but loving butler-caretaker Alfred, who is initially wary of Cat's influence on Bruce, also comes around to her charms when he sees them having a food fight. Bruce's interminable seriousness is finally softened as he dives under tables and dissolves in peals of laughter unheard since the night of his parents' death.

Elsewhere, the Penguin continues his slow but persistent takeover from the ground up. He sneaks into Fish's "weapon" Liza's apartment and, with a keen sense of smell, deduces that Fish has sent Liza to unhinge Falcone. No one can pull one over on this guy.

Of note in the last few episodes has been the spectacular music that accompanies Penguin's antics. At times, a honky tonk piano give a jaunty circus feel to his quirky walk. While sleuthing in Liza's apartment, lilting violins lend a creepy air to his pursuit, giving way to expansive Zimmer-esque "bramms" to underscore his dark revelation. It's the only place where the score truly seems to complement the action, rather than distracting from it. Though the music, like the rest of the show, has calmed down a bit from the first episode, there is still work for composer Graeme Revell to do in unifying the cadences of music and drama.

At the end of the previous episode, Gordon's girlfriend Barbara had left town, fearing for her life after a brush with Falcone's thugs. Though this was not a major theme in the ninth episode, it was woven lightly throughout. Poor Jim, always having to deal with the raucous criminals of Gotham City while keeping his personal troubles at bay.

But Barbara may not have left for the reasons she stated. At the end of the episode, Gordon calls Barbara, pleading: "I don't have anything without you and I love you." This heartfelt voice over gives way a surprising image: Barbara in bed with Major Crimes Detective Renee Montoya, her former lover. What is really going on here? Can Gordon truly trust either of these women?

Indeed, just as everything seems to be coming together, everything will come undone for its characters in the fall finale on Monday. Fox has released eight minutesof the episode already.

The Gotham mid-season fall finale will air Monday at 8 p.m. on Fox.

Orange is the New Black, Mulaney stars to visit campus Wednesday night

Dascha Polanco, breakout star of Netflix's 'Orange is the New Black,' will speak at Hendricks Chapel, while John Mulaney, creator and star of Fox's 'Mulaney', will perform stand-up at Goldstein Auditorium.

On Wednesday night, Nov. 19, two of television's freshest faces will be on the Syracuse University campus, providing an evening of inspiration and entertainment.

Dascha Polanco, best known for her role as Dayanara "Daya" Diaz on Netflix's Orange Is The New Black, will speak in Hendricks Chapel at 7:17, presented by the Omega Phi Beta sorority. On OITNB, Polanco plays a quiet woman sent to the same prison as her mother. She deals with family loyalty and the prison's gendered power structure, and falls in love with a guard.

According to SU News, Polanco's talk will focus on gender, body image, full-figured women in the media and being a role model to women of color. In a July 2014 interview with Bustle, Polanco discussed the insecurities instilled in her by her upbringing; she was born in the Dominican Republic and raised in Miami and Brooklyn.

"You look at novelas [Spanish soap operas] and things like that,” Polanco told Bustle. "The women are so small! Full head of hair. Fair-skinned. You get trained to think that way. My insecurity growing up [only] limited me in moving forward."

With her success on OITNB, she has gained confidence.

"I read messages from little girls telling me they think I’m beautiful,” she told Bustle. “And that validation - receiving love - means more than anything."

Admission to the Hendricks event is $3. Tickets are available at the Schine box office, which is open 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday.

Also Wednesday night, at 8:00 in the Goldstein Auditorium at the Schine Student Center, comedian and Saturday Night Live writer John Mulaney will perform. His appearance is a rescheduling of his cancelled performance during Orange Central weekend in October.

Though Mulaney, 32, may be a fresh face to many outside the stand-up comedy community, he is well-established. He has written more than 90 episodes and sketches for SNL since 2009, including co-creating the character Stefan with Bill Hader. He has an impressive stand-up resume.

Mulaney's semi-autobiographical sitcom, Mulaney, premiered this fall on Fox to bleak ratings and heavily negative criticism. On Monday night's Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Mulaney talked about the sitcom experience, ratings and his mom's Google alerts.

Admission to Goldstein Auditorium is $5 for students and $7 for faculty/staff. Ticketholders for the cancelled Oct. 11 event must exchange their tickets at the Schine box office.

Gotham Season 1, Episodes 7 and 8: Writers embraces camp, Cobblepot embraces the power of the Penguin

As the first season nears its ending point and as the Peguin's master plan is finally revealed, the writers amp up the comic-bookishness and pray it pays off.

It's official. Gotham has finally embraced its neo-noir silliness, just as Penguin has finally embraced his avian nickname. It's a new day in Gotham.

Well, not really.

The last two episodes of Gotham have picked up their pace and tightened some loose ends - but the city of Gotham has not yet changed. It's still a terrible place full of terrible people, both downright evil and willfully hamstrung.

In episode seven, titled "Penguin's Umbrella," Jim Gordon (a much more emotive Ben McKenzie) finally takes his place as a worthy hero in this dark world. After it is revealed that he did not, in fact, kill Cobblepot when the crime Don Carmine Falcone ordered him to, Gordon is convinced that Falcone will be out to kill him. With nothing to lose, he faces Falcone's hitman, Victor Szasz (Anthony Carrigan) head on. Szasz comes to the GCPD precinct and dramatically perches on a desk, calling out for Gordon across a sea of stunned faces on paralyzed bodies.

Now, are we truly supposed to believe that all those cops would quietly stand and stare, then disperse at Szasz's command, leaving him alone with Gordon? Are all of these women and men truly that cowardly? Yes, that's exactly what we are to believe. Gotham is, after all, the worst city ever. And are we supposed to believe that Butch, Fish Mooney's thug (played by Drew Powell in a deliciously wicked performance), would really run a heist using a road block made of nuns? Yes, yes we are.

It might be the fact that the series seems to be taking itself less seriously and camping it up with abandon. Or maybe it's the lack of truly bad dialogue in these last two episodes. (Though Fish Mooney still has some of the worst, like that "scaly-faced bitch" line. Huh? He's a Penguin, not a snake!) But somehow, I did believe it. For the first time since Gotham's premiere, I felt myself rooting for Jim Gordon as he stood, feet firmly planted, and took on the three thugs sent to bring him in. Due to the hitmen's ability to shatter a lot of glass, but somehow not hit Gordon, he gets away. He continues his quest for the arrest of Gotham's most corrupt and ends up at Falcone's doorstep. As he is about to slap the cuffs on the Don of all Dons, he learns that his beloved Barbara has been captured by Szasz and will be killed if he moves forward.

The quest is over. Another day, another loss for the good guys. Love gets in the way of justice. Gotham City, have you no compassion?

In episode eight, "The Mask," the GCPD is back to investigating weird criminals with weird methods. A corporate finance head makes his prospective employees fight to the death for a position at his firm, with an abandoned cubicle farm as a ring and staplers, printer cartridges and desk phones as weapons. "Let the games begin," the ringmaster says over the intercom. How very Jigsaw of him.

Despite losing some of its self-serious gravity and embracing its campy side, several moments in episodes seven and eight had me asking: "Is this really network television?" Graphic stabbings, flying bullets, severed fingers and self-mutiliation, plus quite a few sexually suggestive moments, put Gotham in running for boldest new network series. It is perhaps out-scandalized only by ABC's steamy Thursday night double-whammy of Scandal and How To Get Away With Murder. It's no Game of Thrones, but it's pretty audacious next to its more tonally even network sisters Gracepoint and Red Band Society.

Meanwhile, through the previous two episodes, Penguin has begun to step into his role Gotham's cleverest puppetmaster. Episode seven opens with him strolling down the street to a jaunty honky tonk piano theme, finally the master of his own fate - with his own musical theme and everything! When his new boss Maroni calls him a golden goose, he cheerfully and deferentially quips, "honk, honk!"

Falcone and Maroni broker a deal whereas Maroni gets to keep his golden goose in exchange for some real estate. And so, the tangled web of Arkham special interests grows more convoluted. Little does Maroni know, he's drawn a much shorter stick.

Robin Lord Taylor as the scheming, maniacal Oswald Cobblepot (a.k.a. The Peguin).

In a flashback, we learn that, after Penguin snitched on Fish Mooney and Falcone, he bargained with Falcone to save his own life using both a promise and a valuable secret. He asked Falcone to give the task of killing him to Jim Gordon, who he knew would spare him. Then, he promised, he would come back to Gotham under a different name and be Falcone's undercover agent in the Maroni operation. He would help him defeat Nikolai and Fish, who were planning to take him down and assume power. Falcone agreed, and the events of the first season so far unfolded just as the Penguin had predicted. Penguin is alive with both of Gotham's most powerful crime lords and the most earnest of the city's crime-fighting force under his thumb, and no one is the wiser. They always say don't piss off a goose. Honk honk, indeed.

Coming up in the final two episodes before good network dramas give way to weeks of holiday specials and reruns, Alfred will begin to teach the the caped crusader about honor, pride, loyalty and fighting. The relationship between Alfred and Bruce has felt stalled so far; for an alliance that plays such a huge part in the Batman legacy, it has been back-burnered for too long in this series. Finally, Alfred's world view and personality are coming through, and Bruce is growing.

We'll also meet Gotham's sharp young assistant district attorney, Batman ally and future plastic surgery candidate, Harvey Dent.


Gotham airs Monday nights at 8 on Fox.

"Copygoat": What's working and not working on Gotham

Review: More than halfway through season one, Gotham is still hitting the mark -- kind of. When it works, it works, and when it doesn't, it really doesn't. Here's why. (Warning: Spoilers ahead.)

So far on Gotham, we've had a murderous balloon vigilante, a hobbling Penguin vigilante and a drug peddling anti-Big Pharma vigilante. In episode six, our vigilante came from a much more unexpected place: the doctor's office.

Ten years ago, Harvey Bullock pursued a serial killer who called himself the "Spirit of the Goat." He killed three of the firstborn female children of Gotham's wealthiest families. Bullock and his then partner, Detective Dix (Dan Hedaya), pursued the suspect to an old theater, where he had strung up his third victim in an act of sacrifice, arms splayed in a Biblical homage. As the killer attacked Bullock, Dix fell through the ceremonial altar and was paralyzed.

Cut to the present day, where Bullock is standing on a bridge looking at much the same scene: a young, wealthy woman murder and hung like an angel. Is this this a copycat killer? Or a copygoat? No. It's a conspiracy 10 years in the making, staged as an act of "therapy" for Gotham.

Dr. Marks (Susan Misner), a beautiful, distinguished hypnotherapist, has hypnotized a series of politically motivated serial killers, aiming to create a fictitious force that "will not tolerate" the greed and corruption of Gotham City's one percent. Gordon and Bullock take her down, of course, and just liked the rest of the series's one-off vigilante killers, we can probably count on not hearing about her ever again. There is no back story for her, no connection to other story arcs.

This flash in the pan method of introducing and disposing of lesser villains is just one of several methods that are not working in this ambitious series. Thankfully, the writers are doing a decent job of propping up some that are.

NOT WORKING: Silly, wordy Bullock-speak

"How the hell did this copygoat know about this?"

Though Bullock only used the word "copygoat" twice in the episode, I laughed so hard at its absurdity that it was the only thing I remembered after the first watch. It would be just campy fun if this series didn't seem to take itself so seriously.

"I'm in a deja vu acid flashback." / "Deja voodoo all day long."

Again, if Gotham's writers would jump off the fence and embrace the camp, I'd be all about this kind of unwieldy showstopper.

"Your bum liver's between you and the bottle. I just busted up your gams and put you in that chair."

It's almost as if Bullock falls somewhere between cowboy anti-hero and True Detective's Marty Hart - predictably damaged, might have had a heart of gold once, but is just kind of a shallow a------. In episode six, we see a bit of Bullock's softer side. He supports his old partner Dix, who now lives in an assisted living facility because of his paralysis, which is partially Bullock's fault. He also sends him dirty magazines and speaks to him with a rude and selfish tone.

"You think you can shrink my head, boy scout? Because you can't. This is the black box, man, and we don't open the black box, ever."

This guy is complex! It would be convincing if it didn't feel so contrived.

NOT WORKING: Ben McKenzie, tortured police man

I've said before that McKenzie's super seriousness doesn't do it for me. Sure, Detective Gordon is a jaded, serious man who just wants to fix this crazy city. That's the Detective Gordon we've always known. But does he have any emotional depth aside from frustration and anger? In this episode, McKenzie has the same demeanor when fighting the copygoat killer as he does when speaking to his girlfriend about their future. His face forms the same contorted expression when the Major Crimes Unit knocks on his door and arrests him for the murder of Oswald Cobblepot, as when Cobblepot shows up alive and well at the station, proving his innocence and revealing that he lied to Bullock. His brow is always furrowed, his eyes always dead.

There needs to be some dynamism in a show's protagonist. If Gordon's emotional state never changes, then it doesn't matter. And if the audience doesn't care about Gordon, the show's supposed anchor floats away, leaving this potentially great series adrift in a sea of rainy streets and bad dialogue.

WORKING: Foreshadowing The Riddler

Edward Nygma is a likable guy. Smart. Socially awkward. Always smiling. But for some reason, all of the jaded, serious people of GCPD seem to find him annoying, a nuisance to be tolerated only for his intelligence. We've begun to see hints of dejection and anger in his reactions to them, though it seems this nerd isn't boiling over any time soon.

This bespectacled schemer's arc is beginning to form just behind Cobblepot's. Like two waves on a dark and stormy night, they seem to be rushing toward Gotham with no rocks to break on, while the young Bruce Wayne is locked away trying to solve Gotham's mysteries with books and brains.

In episode six, we learn a bit about Nygma's personal struggle, in the vein of the stories we've been privy to about Cobblepot. Nygma has a big crush on GCPD record-keeper Kristen Kringle (newcomer Chelsea Spack), but his lack of social graces leads him to show it by reorganizing her meticulously kept files. They're both smart (matching glasses, eh?) and clearly awkward. Poor Nygma. Like every baby villain, he just wants to be loved!

WORKING: Penguin and Mama Penguin

Speaking of villains and love, in episode six, Cobblepot returns home to his overbearing mother Gertrude (Carol Kane). When he tells her that he was almost killed, she assures him that the bullies are just jealous.

"You watch, Mom," Cobblepot says. "I'm gonna be somebody in this town."

"I always know this," she croons.

While this scene came across a bit obvious and trite, it worked by balancing the Penguin (the series' only other anchor besides the rigid Detective Gordon) delicately on a fulcrum between socially stunted mama's boy and conniving, secretive killer. He loves his doting mother but tells her nothing close to the truth. She doesn't ask. It's not clear if he is the way he is because of her indulgence or in spite of it. The chemistry between Robin Lord Taylor and Carol Kane is undeniable, and I hope there is more of it to come…whatever that means for the future of Gotham City.

Selfie Season 1, Episodes 3 and 4: Bestie love, Selfie love

Review: Two more episodes in the series' inaugural season find it sticking to its shallow routines while once again showing promise for poignancy underneath.

Making friends as an adult is weird.

As a kid, your world is small. You sit next to other kids on the bus. You swing on swings. You play in the sand. Your moms drink wine on the porch while you ride bikes in the driveway. Friendship.

As a teen, you pick a category and define yourself. Jock, geek, goth, theater kid, music nerd. These are your people. Stick to them like glue, and enjoy the same things as far as your minimum wage part-time salary from the grocery store will take you. Friendship.

College is a time to break free from your high school gang and experiment. Show up at that loud party house and hang out with whomever. The possibilities are endless. Here you really start to define yourself, and meet people who share your interests and appreciate the things about you they don't share. Friendship.

But as an adult, the field is rough. As outlandish and shallowly referential as Selfie can be, the message about adult friendships in episode three, "With A Little Yelp From My Friends," is a refreshing one.

For many of us in our mid-twenties, between work, relationships, maybe school and our deep social commitment to the Internet, who has time to put in all the effort it takes to make real adult friends?

Step one: find out what they like. In the age of the Internet, many of us cyber stalk everyone we meet. Where are they from? What does their significant other do? What movies do they like? Do they use proper grammar on their Facebook and Twitter? Are they mean to local businesses on Yelp? Do they post funny things? Political things? Ignorant things? All preliminary questions to friendship, these days.

In episode three, Eliza cyber stalks Joan, a coworker with whom she thinks she has nothing in common. She finds Joan's only social profile: a Yelp account. She learns what Joan likes and dislikes, and tries to use the woman's own words to foster a connection between them. But friendships can't be forced, and their contrived connection tanks quickly.

The best friendships are the ones that pop up organically, where you least expect them. Eliza confesses to Henry that she eats standing up because no one used to want to sit with her at lunch. The two stand together and eat, and finally make a connection.

"When a friendship is real, you can feel it."

Episode four finds Henry challenging Eliza to spend her weekend doing something productive, like helping a friend, rather than partying and trying to maintain her social media reputation. Eliza in turn challenges Henry to spend the weekend having fun, rather than working.

Charmonique (Da'Vine Joy Randolph), the receptionist, is preparing for her high school reunion. Eliza offers to help her get ready. The two laugh, share common interests, and dance to "No Scrubs" by TLC in Charmonique's wig room (which, she notes, is climate controlled and valued at more than $60,000). When Charmonique's babysitter cancels, Eliza ends up babysitting her 9-year-old son, Kevin.

Eliza's struggle to connect with this precocious young man is comical and endearing, and somewhat humanizes her. But are we truly to believe that this vapid narcissist would have stuck around? Maybe. Maybe deep down, she's just a damaged spirit hiding her love and care in favor of approval.

Selfie is migrating from a swirling trough of social media jokes to a sweet (albeit simple) exploration of relationships in the digital age. It's not exactly insightful. In fact, it remains about as shallow as Eliza was when we first met her. But certain story lines show potential for a more poignant meditation on human interaction.

At her reunion, Charmonique hopes to reconnect with a high school crush. But Mitchell McMoney (Isaiah Mustafa) is now a priest, and he deeply shames her for being irresponsible in her sex life and becoming a single mother.

Countless women -- especially black women -- are shamed for having children "out of wedlock," even though studies show that's the new normal. Just this month, North Carolina State Senator Jim Davis made racist and accusatory statements about the effect of black single motherhood on rates of incarceration. McMoney's judgment of Charmonique is as relevant as any social media-infused quips peppered throughout the show so far.

But Charmonique does not internalize McMoney's shaming. Instead, she turns inward.

"I'm glad that you found higher love," she tells him. "But I have self love, and that's real love."

At the crossroads of "Decent Story About Friendship" and "Dude Tells Girl How To Behave," Selfie's writers seem to have chosen the right path. Selfie's message of the week: love yourself. Everyone's first friend is his or herself. Once you know yourself like a bestie, you can bring that person out to meet people, and maybe make other organic, lasting friends.

Gotham Season 1, Episode 5: Sex, drugs and opera

Review: The season ramps up its crime narratives and finally fleshes out Bruce Wayne, the story's catalyst, as a fuller character.

A man sits on a dirty Gotham street corner, playing a guitar. Propped in his case is a cardboard sign that reads, "Why lie - I need money for drugs." A bewildered-looking but unflinching man approaches and drops in his case a green vial. The label reads, "breathe me."

This week's Gotham villain is yet another vigilante. A disillusioned ex-pharmaceutical worker, Stan Patulski, leaves the Wayne Enterprises-owned manufacturer WellZyn, taking with him a supply of a chemical weapon developed in the labs of the otherwise benign multibillion dollar corporation. While Patulski was supposedly developing shampoos, he was in fact -- under the direction of WellZyn officials -- working on a drug that would give its user unnatural strength and a "euphoric sense of power." The goal was to create an army of superhuman soldiers. (Isn't that always the goal in comic universes? See also: Wolverine, Captain America.)

Patulski unleashes the weapon, "Viper," on the "street people" of Gotham. Drug addicts and prostitutes wreak havoc on the city before crumbling (literally) to their deaths. It's a nasty side effect of the drug, which burns calcium from the bones for fuel.

In their search for the culprit, Gordon and Bullock show pictures to people, in a montage accompanied by some "we're badass cops" music, as per usual -- this time with baritone saxes instead of wailing guitars. They comb through Patulski's personal files, and come across a photo of a philosophy professor at Gotham University, to whom they pay a visit. Patulski, with the help of this professor, is seeking to expose Wayne Enterprises' true priorities: pharmaceutical weaponry.

Meanwhile, ever the brilliant and super-serious child, Bruce Wayne is mounting his own investigation. Alfred has supplied him with all of his parents' files on Arkham, and he is working to locate a connection between the asylum deal and his parents' deaths.

"I don't want revenge," he says. "I want to understand how it all works. How Gotham works."

Alone in the study in his mansion on the hill, the young brooder finds that, since the Waynes were murdered, Wayne Enterprises has been doing business with the Falcone and Maroni crime syndicates.

At a charity event, Bruce approaches a middle manager in the company. She agrees to connect him with the board for a discussion, as alarms are clearly going off in her head. Suddenly, an image of Patulski comes on the screen in the ballroom. He says that he has realized that he can only expose Wayne Enterprises by making bad things happen to "important people." He has hooked up a barrel of Viper to the ventilation system. As it begins to seep through the vents, Bullock and Gordon arrive and everyone is able to escape in time. But Bruce's suspicions are validated. Alfred joins him in the study, and in his search for answers.

It's nice to finally see Bruce as a character, though Gotham's primary focus is still its villains.

In fact, there's even more in the DNA of this story than creepy chemical weaponry and the deepening of a sociopolitical crisis. In the Batman universe, Venom is an important drug. It is the source of power for one of the more well-known villains, familiar to fans of the final film in Christopher Nolan's trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises (2012). Venom creates superhuman, power-hungry strongmen. Sound familiar? If this connection amounts to anything, we may soon get a peek at a young fellow from Santa Prisca. Eventually, the Arkham Asylum that is now being rebuilt will be destroyed, and we've just seen birth of the drug that will enable the man who will do it.

Fish Mooney, who in last week's episode hired a "secret weapon" (a young, beautiful girl with a sultry singing voice) is trying to teach her to sing "O mio babbino caro." This aria, from Puccini's opera Gianni Schicchi, is a powerful confession of love and desperation from a daughter to her father, begging for a chance to marry the man she loves. It's also a popular choice for poignant film and television moments.

"This is important," Fish says. At the episode's conclusion, she sends the weapon, Liza (Makenzie Leigh), out to cross paths with Falcone. As she hums the aria to herself, Falcone stops her. His mother used to sing that to him and Liza looks remarkably like… well, nevermind. Fish Mooney's weapon may prove valuable in her takeover of Gotham.

Meanwhile, Cobblepot is rising in the ranks of the Maroni operation. He confesses his former connection to Falcone and Fish Mooney, and how he ratted on them to the Major Crimes Unit and defected. Gordon, to protect himself from exposure to Falcone (since he was supposed to kill Cobblepot and didn't), corroborates the story to Maroni, and thus becomes beholden to him. Even boy scout Jim Gordon can't avoid being drawn into Gotham's corruption.

Gotham Season 1, Episode 4: We're all just the Penguin's puppets

Review: An improved story arc involving mob-boss warfare proves yet again that the villains in this pre-Batman series are more captivating than the heroes.

Can a lowly, hobbling dishwasher take over Gotham City without anyone noticing?

In the fourth episode of Gotham, the political tangles of government, law enforcement and the rival gangs reach a climax. The disturbed vigilante justice of the first few episodes gives way to organized crime syndicates at war.

The rival crime bosses Carmine Falcone and Dom Maroni each want a piece of the coveted Arkham district of Gotham. At the site of an old mental health hospital, Arkham Asylum, Falcone wants to build a low-income housing project, and Maroni wants to build a waste treatment plant. Before their untimely deaths by an as-yet-unknown assassin, Thomas and Martha Wayne wanted to rebuild the asylum to help Gotham's neediest.

But in the highly political battle for this decaying monument to Gotham's dark decline, the Waynes no longer have a say. It's one crime boss against another, with the hapless mayor (a criminally underutilized Richard Kind) caught in between.

First, a hired assassin takes out a councilman and his aid, who backed Falcone's plan. Then, the same assassin takes out a backer of Maroni's plan. In the midst of the chaos and violence, Oswald Cobblepot makes a play by staging a stick-up at the Maroni-owned restaurant where he has been hired as a dishwasher. The stammering dishwasher becomes a hero, hiding with some of the sought-after cash in a freezer. Maroni promotes him to restaurant manager, and a Machiavellian smile flickers across his dirty face. The Penguin was behind it all.

Though this is no The Wire in terms of complex sociopolitical storylines, the cohesive Arkham arc was one of the best so far. The lukewarm compromise reached between the warring parties highlighted the complications of managing rival constituencies and underscored the corruption at the heart of Gotham. The twist of Cobblepot's involvement in the shakeup between the gangs, while somewhat predictable, laid further groundwork for the rise of what seems to be the season's central villain. The series seems to finally have its feet on the ground. It is slowly gaining balance. In time, it may even run.

While the scenes of the city of Gotham are gorgeous, like something out of a big budget DC Comics flick, and the mostly well-constituted cast does an OK job with what they're given, there is still somewhat of a disconnect in this series. A quarter of the way through its initial 16-episode run (which was increased to a full 22 just this week), the best writing, most intriguing storylines and best acting can be found among the villains, who still don't feel central enough to the story.

Harvey Bullock is boring. He's lazy and corrupt, and he hates his boy scout of a partner. What else can we learn about him? Donal Logue is a good actor, perhaps second on this program only to Robin Lord Taylor (Cobblepot). And plus, he looks great in the role (that hat!). I only wish he was given some worthy material.

Even James Gordon himself, the central protagonist in this swirling ensemble, is boring. Ben McKenzie's flat acting and unending state of agitation are really starting to get old. Does the boy scout detective have any states of emotion beyond anger and trepidation?

Gordon and Barbara's relationship problems are boring, too. When she gave him an ultimatum ("Let me in or let me go"), I wasn't hoping for a raised boom box Say Anything moment. I was just relieved. (Yawn.)

The villains, on the other hand, are impossible to look away from. As the conniving Fish Mooney, Jada Pinkett Smith is superb. Despite the occasionally strained lines of cheesy dialogue the writers put in her mouth, when Pinkett Smith's seductive schemer is on screen, I am hooked. Edward Nygma's (Cory Michael Smith) maniacal grin and pointed syntax captivate in his brief scenes. Even the identity-stealing assassin was more compelling than any of the series' do-gooder protagonists.

And as the shrewd and unassuming Cobblepot, Taylor continues to impress. In scenes where he feels his power growing, the nimble tinge of pleasure in his face and stature are undeniably good. In scenes where he is vexed, his bubbling rage brings goosebumps to the skin. Forget the boy scout cop, his lazy partner, his worried fiance and even that broody orphan in the mansion. I want this guy to win!

In the next episode, "Viper," we meet a superhuman ATM thief with an apparently insatiable taste for milk. Makes sense, right?

Selfie Season 1, Episode 2: The Good, the Bad and the Fugly

Through its social-media caution tales, 'Selfie' has the power to be relevant -- if it can control its self-destructive impulses. (Warning: Spoilers ahead.)

Haters gon' hate. But in the Twitterverse, haters mean you've "made it." You're famous. And favoriting their hateful tweets is a way of showing it doesn't hurt you. But we can't favorite away real life haters. We should change to better fit their expectations of us.

That's the set up for the second episode of Selfie. Our protagonist, Eliza (Karen Gillan), the vapid and narcissistic (yes, there's really a drawing of Narcissus and the pool in the opening credits) social media maven who just wants to find some real friends and maybe fall in love, has her fair share of haters both on- and offline.

As the number one sales rep for Kindercare Pharmaceuticals, Eliza draws what might be jealousy from the women in her office. When they see her flirting with Freddy (Giacomo Gianniotti), they gossip about how she got her prestigious "number one" title.

Henry (John Cho), the marketing genius who has agreed to help Eliza "rebrand" her image, comes to her "rescue," covering her nearly peeking cheeks with his jacket as he follows her back to his office.

There, he tells Eliza that her clothes are not acceptable for work and she needs to think about how she is perceived in the office. She counters that her "hot" clothes help her sell drugs to "repressed old doctors."

Personally, I would much rather Eliza actually be good at her job. Hopefully, if she takes Mr. Marketing's suggestions, we'll see that she could have sold those drugs without those "tight tights and the short shorts and the high high heels." That would be a solid commentary on misconceptions about attractive young women in the workplace and the struggle to establish credibility. But I have my doubts.

Henry wants Eliza to stop giving in to sex with Freddy, pursue interests other than men and the Twitterverse and seek relationships with people who really value her.

"Don't get all slut-shamey on me just because you don't get my generation," she says.

Go girl! Stand up for your right to be casual about sex and get down with no attachments if that's your style.

Oh wait, this is not that kind of show.

"You are what Jamie Foxx and other men of my generation refer to as a 'booty call,'" Henry says, with an air of condescension that I could practically smell through my TV screen. "And if your behavior persists, that is all you will ever be."

Slut-shamey indeed. Remember last week when I worried about where this show was going?

This could easily devolve into Henry following Eliza around, "teaching her" how to be a lady... A guy telling a woman how she "should" behave? Shaming her for wearing revealing clothes? Policing her behavior?

Welcome to episode two.

Where's the blame for Freddy, the jerk using Eliza for sex, who meets her request for a real date with cold indifference and a request for an "after-sex pic"? Eliza takes his indifference and internalizes the "booty call" label, begging Henry to help her. Creator Emily Kapnek (Suburgatory, As Told By Ginger) could take a step back on Henry's moralizing. It's not funny.

I thought the social media references would lose their novelty by now, but the best storyline in this episode is Henry's. After he is chided by co-workers for not being on Facebook, he decides to join and is quickly sucked in. In less than 30 seconds, we watch him discover baby videos, creep on high school friends, get friended by his mom and take a quiz where he finds out he's Sansa Stark. ("I always felt that.")

His foray into stalking exes leads to his tagging himself in an ex's photo of her baby, which he can't figure out how to undo. He seeks her out, and we learn that Eliza is not the only one who has had trouble connecting in real life. Whereas her crutch is social media, Henry's has been his job. When he asks his ex how she's doing, she says she's great.

"The moment I realized you were never going to care about me as much as your job, I moved on," she says. Henry ponders his choices and begins to truly connect with Eliza.

Now there's some intriguing drama. Two lonely people, caught up in the hustle and impersonality of the 21st century, save each other from themselves and find love. Here's a show that I'll keep watching.

Episode four, "With A Little Yelp From My Friends," airs Tuesday at 8 p.m. on ABC.

Gotham Season 1, Episode 3: Sick city

Fox's Batman-without-Batman tale plows onward, though its villains prove much more interesting than the heroes. (Warning: Spoilers ahead.)

"If people take the law into their own hands, then there is no law."

Fans of the Batman franchise know all too well that Gotham is a broken city. The corruption in government, the police force and business create fertile ground of vigilante justice, and the Batman series has brought us some of the DC Comics universe's most interesting villains.

Even those outside of comic culture may be familiar with Bane (played by Tom Hardy in The Dark Knight Rises) — the self-proclaimed "liberator" of the people — and the Joker (played most recently by Health Ledger in The Dark Knight, the last role before his death, and earlier by Jack Nicholson) — a stand-up comedian-turned-criminal driven insane by the death of his wife and unborn child. There's the Penguin, who has been tortured throughout his life for his physical impediments, and Catwoman/Selina Kyle, an orphan who lives at the edge of society and fluctuates between good and evil. Many Batman villains have been snubbed or abused by society. They see Gotham's (and the world's) corruption and take justice into their own hands.

One such villain, introduced in the third episode of Fox's new drama, Gotham, is the Balloonman. This masked assassin targets well-known, corrupt citizens and strings them up — not by lynching each man up a tree or a telephone pole, but handcuffing him to a large weather balloon that rises into the sky and pops, sending him plunging to his death.

Though I don't endorse vigilante justice, the stories of villains like the Balloonman, the Joker and Bane are the best kind of stories. They are complex. I don't think the Balloonman should be killing dirty cops, but what else is he supposed to do? Gotham is a sewer of lies and violence, with no one looking out for the good of the people! Even the journalists think he has a point! So does Detective James Gordon (still played by Ben McKenzie, still not that interesting). When he finds the killer and hears his motive, it stirs him deeply. Something must be done. He will clean up the police department, and the government, if he can! (Wait, wasn't that the takeaway last week, too?)

Gordon's girlfriend, Barbara (Erin Richards), is worried about him. She sees him come home physically and emotionally sore, and serves as an encouraging wife-to-be — even if there is absolutely no chemistry between them. But she is also hurting, though we're not yet sure why. Suspicions of a past relationship between Barbara and Gotham Major Crimes detective Renee Montoya (Victoria Cartagena) are confirmed, and past drug and alcohol addictions are suggested. These peripheral characters are growing more enigmatic, but I'm still not invested in anyone but the villains.

Oswald Cobblepot (the Penguin) has returned to Gotham. Ousted from Carmine Falcone's ranks and perceived dead, he seeks to hobble his way into another competitor's circle, work his way up and take over the city. Using the pseudonym "Paolo," and after killing a line cook and trading out those familiar shiny shoes, he finds a job in a restaurant. Surprise! The shop turns out to be a front for the operations of Salvatore "Don" Maroni (David Zayas), a menacing mob boss with a frightening sense of humor and a bad accent. Maroni is on a mission to take out Falcone, as is Falcone's own disgruntled lieutenant, Fish Mooney. Cobblepot may have found his in.

The battle will come to a head this week in episode four, "Arkham." The Arkham district of Gotham is up for grabs in a city council election, and all parties want a stake. Plus, my favorite villain gets a leg up.