Gotham S02E18 “Pinewood” REVIEW

Gotham S02E18 “Pinewood” REVIEW

0 comments 📅17 May 2016, 21:48

Gotham S02E18 “Pinewood” REVIEW

Jim and Barbara

stars 4

Airing in the UK on Channel 5, Mondays, 10pm
Writers: Robert Hull, Megan Mostyn-Brown
Director: John Stephens

Essential Plot Points

• Barbara

  • Barbara shows up at Harv’s apartment and tries to convince Jim she’s better now.
  • He throws her out but not before she asks him to say her name. On the way out she completely freaks out the incoming Harv.

• Bruce

  • Bruce has been up all night and has, in fact, got lucky. He’s unlocked his dad’s old calendar and found a meeting he’d arranged with a woman called Karen Jennings about something called Pinewood shortly before his murder. Lucius, who really wants breakfast, suggests Pinewood is the exact kind of innocuous codename Wayne Enterprises likes to use for covert research sites.
  • Alfred’s all for a Full English and discussion. Bruce rolls out anyway. Lucius, we like to think, ate their breakfasts. He’s earned it.
  • Harv politely points out that Jim isn’t a cop anymore. Vigilante Jerkface ignores him and points out he’s got a lead on the Wayne Murders. Matches Malone worked for two contractors: one’s dead, the other IS MICHELLE GOMEZ! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! THE LADY’S BACK!
  • Ahem.

• The Whammy Drawer

  • Anyway, Jim goes off to question people using blunt objects but not before Harv lets him take a few items from the Whammy drawer, where Harv keeps all his weapons. And, we choose to believe, his Oreos.


  • Jim beats seven shades of crap out of Gotham’s underbelly to Sid Vicious’s version of “My Way”. IT IS GLORIOUS. Finally, he gets a lead that the Lady is hiding out at the Artemis Club. Jim rolls up and is immediately and politely told by the armed guard that it’s women only.
  • Then Barbara appears.
  • Strange and Peabody are attempting to resurrect their latest “subject”. Peabody has doubts but Strange is totally positive.

• Karen's hand

  • Bruce and Alfred break in and Karen, hiding behind a curtain, stabs Alfred in the arm. Bruce talks her down and they realise that Karen isn’t holding a weapon – she’s fused with one. A raptor-like claw is in place of one of her hands.
  • Bruce tries to talk to her but Karen insists they should leave. She relents, reluctantly, and explains she was in Blackgate for the murder of her abusive father when men visited her and explained that they could give her a full arm back. The project gave her the raptor hand instead and was led by a man she saw but knew only as “The Philosopher”. Thomas Wayne eventually found out, shut Pinewood down and helped them all start new lives.

• Barbara makes her pitch

  • Barbara persuades Jim to let her go in to talk to the Lady. He does so, reluctantly.
  • What follows is an amazing few minutes of Barbara and the Lady being fabulous and dangerous at one another. Vigilante Jerkface, of course, doesn’t wait and tries to sneak back in. Barbara captures him for the Lady having told her that Jim is exactly what she needs to get her rep back.

• Barbara pleads with Jim

  • Jim, who’s Jerkfaceness was a little understandable at the start of the episode but now is pretty much just being mean, still refuses to trust Barbara. Then, Bruce calls and he leaves her on the street. Which, given the Lady is now hunting them both, really is a jerk move.

• Nicked

  • Bruce calls because he, Alfred and Karen have been arrested. They get arrested by going to Pinewood, breaking in and immediately being chased out by both a kill team sent by Strange and the local guard.
  • Picking them up from the station, Jim does the sensible thing and pulls them together for a strategy meeting. The good news is Karen saw the face of the Pinewood project head. The bad news is she’s being transferred back to Blackgate for the murder of a member of the kill team.
  • The other good news? Billionaire teenager with a problem to solve.

• back of the van

  • Bruce, Harv and Jim use a bag of money in the street to simultaneously hijack the prison transport and apologise to, and compensate, the staff they assault. They get more information from Karen, who admits that Thomas was like a father to her and admitted to her that he started Pinewood with the best of intentions.

• Victor

  • They’re interrupted by Victor Fries, sent by Strange to kill Karen when he hears she’s in custody. Jim and Alfred try to hold him off but he overpowers them through the power of them being terrible, TERRIBLE shots. Karen, realising it’s her he wants, sacrifices himself. Victor kills her and, as Bruce screams in rage, presumably thumbs a ride back to Arkham to listen to more Goatwhore and complain how no one understands him.
  • Butch returns home to find Tabby comforting a sleepy Barbara. With nowhere else to go, she’s come “home”.
  • Bruce is distraught at Karen’s death. Jim tries to console him and the kid points out he knows how much Jim has sacrificed and is grateful. Alfred, who’s really getting good at this tough love thing, reminds Bruce that Karen won’t be the first to die as a result of his actions and he needs to make his peace with it.
  • Lucius arrives, having let himself in, and tells them they may have a lead after all. While Karen isn’t around to describe the Project Chief at Pinewood, Lucius discovered a photo of Thomas with several friends. One of them is Hugo Strange.
    He’s listed as “The Philosopher”.
  • As Bruce absorbs the news that one of his father’s most trusted friends ordered his death…

• Alfred and Lucius

  • Strange and Peabody are bemoaning the death of Karen when an alarm goes off. They rush down to their latest subject to find him awake, super strong and very angry.
  • It’s Galavan. And he’s repeating the name Azrael over and over…

• Galavan


Okay now we’re really getting somewhere. This episode we get massive, immense leaps on the Wayne Murder plot and it dovetails neatly with two others. Well, neatly with one, not so much with the other.

First off, to the immense relief of everyone anticipating a pile-up of awful last week, the new Barbara is actually really interesting and well-written. Hull and Mostyn-Brown give her stuff to do which is absolutely in keeping with every version of Barbara we’ve seen but finally unifies them. She gets to be crazy, dangerous, unpredictable and crippled with guilt at everything she’s done and suffered. She’s that thing Gotham keeps trying and has only just worked out how to do: an actual point of chaos. You buy into her wide-eyed gregarious psychopath routine. So does she because it’s easy and simple and FUN and even a half season ago this show would have left her there.

Instead, we see her do everything right and still be told it’s not enough. Her return to Tabby and Butch (whose domestic bliss is super adorable) is less a regression and more the last place she can turn. It’s within sight of “Harley’s Holiday” a classic Batman The Animated Series episode that used Harley to explore just how difficult it is to go straight once you’ve walked the crooked path. That stands as one of the best episodes of one of the best cartoons of all time. The fact this episode comes within sight of it let alone close to matching it shows just how far this show has come. Her presence feels like a natural counterpoint to the Bruce plot and when Jim literally leaves her on the street to go to it, it’s heart-breaking.

Karen gets snatched

That structural genius is almost matched by folding in Hugo Strange and his amazing monsters legion but there are a few problems in the execution. It’s nice to see Victor again certainly, but his reinvention as an angry sub-zero adolescent takes the charm off really quickly. Plus Karen was a really fun, interesting character – she deserved to live a little longer.

That being said, the Karen/Pinewood/OH GOD WHAT IS STRANGE DOING? plot is smartly handled. Again the revelations come thick and fast as we find out just why Thomas was so concerned with what was going on and just how close Strange is to the Waynes. There’s a neat echo of Galavan’s plan too with Strange already being in control of exactly what he wants. Where Theo failed, in fact, Strange won years ago. He’s a perfect embodiment of Gotham; corrupt to the core and uniquely equipped to defend himself. And that’s even before we get to Azrael.

So, Mr Freeze’s bad new outlook aside, this was another really fun episode. Next week, undead former mayor turned ninja!

The Good:

The Lady

  • Michelle Gomez.
  • “Do I smell sausage?”
    “Chipolatas to you Mr Fox. I prepared a full English upstairs.”
    “I have no idea ifbreakfast enthusiast!
  • “Be careful out there.” Harv with the Hill Street Blues callback! Nicely done!
  • “These are merely technical skills. Morally neutral.” David Mazouz continues to be one of the best things on this show. Bruce’s new-found, coldly analytical approach to his work is a big part of that.
  • “Growing up my father liked two things. Booze and beating up his crippled daughter.” Julie Taylor Ross is phenomenally good but this scene is the one that really lands.
  • “What do you have to offer?”
    “I’m rich, fabulous and in your case I may have just the thing to restore your reputation.” I’m honestly a little sorry Barbara isn’t still full evil. Teaming up with the Lady would have been epic.
  • “…HONESTLY!” Every Alfred line this episode is golden. God bless Sean Pertwee.
  • “What if I’d stayed outside?”
    “…Really?” Barbara with the self-awareness!
  • “How much money can you put together quickly?”
    “How much do you need?” Always bet on the teen billionaire with unresolved anger issues, folks.
  • Absolute top marks for this episode making clear Barbara wants herself, not Jim, back. It would have been so easy to have this be the worst kind of stalker-y nonsense and, so far at least, it isn’t.
  • Yet again the direction is absolutely cracking. John Stephens turns in what’s arguably the best-looking episode to date in a series that doesn’t know how to look bad. The ice grenade going off in particular is excellent, as is the conversation in the back of the prison transport.
  • David Mazouz. That kid is getting better week on week and he didn’t start off as a slouch. More and more you can see the man Bruce is going to be coming to the fore.

• Barbara captures Jim

  • Erin Richards. One of the worst-served cast members in the past gets a massive emotional arc here and she runs at every single part of it, nailing every scene
  • Progression! Serious progression no less.
  • Embracing the inherent mercuriality of the adaptation process! Or to put it another way, TOP marks for putting a character who previously had nothing to do with the Wayne Murders front and centre as a person of interest. I have no idea if it’ll end with Strange but him being in the frame is the exact kick in the pants that plot needed.

• The Lady on the hunt

  • The amazing outfit the Lady changes into after being tasered to go hunting Barbara and Jim.
  • Some epic Alfred shenanigans this week. I especially loved him referring to scouting round Pinewood as, “Havin” a shuftie”.

The Bad

  • So Karen’s seen The Philosopher and at no point at all does anyone go, “Could you draw him?” Even a terrible artist could have a decent attempt at Strange.
  • Or ask, “Any distinguishing features?” to which the answer would presumably be “Aside from the excellent suits, medical manner, awesome chinstrap beard and tiny glasses? No not so much.”
  • Alfred and Jim shoot at Victor’s suit which has no helmet and seems to be largely, well, cloth. They empty a shotgun and a couple of sidearms at him and don’t even hit him once. ONCE.

The Random:

  • Julia Taylor Ross, who’s great as Karen this week, is currently a season regular on Saving Hope. She also had a memorable turn on the excellent and much-missed Republic Of Doyle and appeared on Rookie Blue.
  • Another sequence of the week. The world’s angriest death metal fan and Jim and Alfred’s total firearms incompetence notwithstanding the attack on the van is a brilliantly tense, emotional piece of action.

• Shot of the week

Review by Alasdair Stuart

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