“Rise of the Villains: Scarification” – 10/19/2015 – **** stars
Written by Jordan Harper
Directed by Bill Eagles
*Spoilers are contained within this review of Gotham “Scarification”
This week’s episode of Gotham is another winning moment in the second season for the hit FOX show. “Scarification” fulfills yet another promise in that this season will primarily focus on the “Rise of the Villains.” We’ve been given a fantastic villain, played magnificently by the always great James Frain. When Frain isn’t used in a lesser capacity such as the way he was utilized in Reindeer Games, Tron Legacy, and this past year’s Agent Carter, he’s much fun to watch on-screen when given the time. Gotham season two is as much his show as it is Ben McKenzie’s! And, we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Before the first commercial break, Gotham ensures viewers that “Scarification” will not be lite on the body count nor will it be on the violence. After The Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) meets with Theo Galavan (James Frain), it’s revealed that Galavan has kidnapped Curtis Bunderslaw of Wayne Financial. It doesn’t take long before Theo has his sister Tabitha (Jessica Lucas) remove his eye in a scene garishly implied off camera. It’s still enough to make the squeamish squirm. The body count rises with The Penguin killing one of his men and this is shown. Complimenting the opening violence in an almost comical way, Lt. Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue) says “Welcome to Gotham” to Capt. Nathaniel Barnes (Michael Chiklis) after they raid a counterfeiting operation and are attacked by a thug with a rocket launcher. Yup, welcome to Gotham.
“Scarification” is the second episode featuring the Gotham City Police Department Strikeforce. They essentially serve the FOX series as a Gangster Squad of sorts and, in a few scenes, bring to mind the classic gangster movies of the 1940’s. The score by Graeme Revell, who is predominantly a composer who favors electronic sounds, delivers some of the series best tunes, especially with the Strikeforce Theme that brings to mind the heroic marching band sounds of a military outfit. After Theo Galavan arrives at the GCPD to ask for Gordon’s endorsement of his bid for mayor, he reminds the young officer of being a symbol of “hope and honor.” It’s a moment that also compliments the overall themes that Revell has built for this particular episode.
Gotham has grown quite adept at knowing when to introduce characters, places, and themes best known to fans through the DC Universe established through the comic book, video game, and film lore. “Scarification” doesn’t just acknowledge the presence of writer/director Christopher Nolan’s creation of The Narrows, a particularly unsafe area in Gotham, but also takes us there. It’s in The Narrows (now a commonly used place within the show and comics) to introduce us to a young woman named Bridgit Pike. Who is Pike? She’s the latest addition to Gotham and the one who will become the series version of Firefly. Her character works, despite not having ties to the comics, nor being written in a way that is somehow tied to the Garfield Lynns/Ted Carson versions of the Batman villain. It’s also necessary, to an extent, to create their own version of Firefly as the character has already been utilized within an early season of The CW series Arrow. Michelle Veintimilla is the young actress tasked with bringing Firefly to life and by the time she develops the costume, we’ve already looked well past the fact that she is not the comic book version (nor does she need to be.) Veintimilla’s best scenes come with her interacting and awkwardly developing a bond with Camren Bicondova’s Selina Kyle. It should be interesting to see how much time Gotham spends with Veintimlla’s Firefly and Bicondova’s Selina, considering Bicondova’s best work (up to now) has been her scenes in “Scarification.”
“Scarification” does begin what seems like it could be an end game for this first arc of season two. We discover the cursed history of the Wayne knife that Galavan desperately wants. The Penguin learns of the Old Gotham history of the five families, which could have been an easy set up for the Court of Owls, and of the 200 year blood feud the Galavan’s have had with the Wayne’s. We also learn through Ron Rifkin’s Father Kriel that warriors are crossing the ocean and that “Bruce Wayne will die.” Seems like just a lot of smoke and mirrors to us, though.
“Scarification” was another great episode in a great second season. We enjoyed “Scarification” and it worked in setting up an even greater mystery while continuing the “Rise of the Villains.” Next week should be fun as we see Gordon, Bullock, and the Strikeforce go after Firefly and Selina Kyle for the death of one of their own.
Gotham airs on FOX, Monday nights at 8 pm ET. Check your local listings.