TV REVIEW: Gotham Season 2, Episode 18 – Pinewood
By Megan Wilde
Gotham episode 18 entitled “Pinewood” is an interesting one, for many reasons. It gives us some more information — not all good — about the Waynes; it shows us a new Barbara Kean; it introduces an interesting new character, only to take her away too soon; and it gives us some more information about Strange and what he’s up to.
This week starts right where last week left off: with Barbara on Jim’s doorstep. She says she’s changed, but Jim is cold to her, saying he doesn’t care and doesn’t forgive her. It is revealed that he’s not going back to GCPD until after he investigates the Waynes’ murders, and he has some info that Barbara sees: a file on his desk, on The Lady, who was hired to assassinate the Waynes — she sent Matches Malone. She offers to help him, but, understandably, he is skeptical. She seems contrite and repentant, but of course with Barbara we don’t really know. And then the show keeps us guessing, with later scenes where she acts like Crazy Barbara again — but then it seems THAT’S the ruse, because she gets Jim the information he wants (which is that someone who called himself The Philosopher is the one who put the hit on the Waynes). I’m a little tired of the guessing game with Barbara, BUT if they are evolving the character into something new, I could be on board with that. One thing this show could use more of is strong female characters, so if they are going to turn Barbara around and make her more complex and give her things to do, then that would be a change in the right direction.
Speaking of good female characters, Bruce’s digging in his father’s computer uncovers an appointment on his calendar a week before he died, to visit a Karen Jennings to talk about something called “Pinewood Farms.” (Alfred: “Oh, that sounds … quaint.”) Lucius is with them, and he tells them that “Pinewood Farms” most likely was a code name for one of Wayne Enterprises’ secret laboratories. So they go to the address Thomas Wayne had for her, and she is still there. It turns out she had a lame hand, which was replaced with a raptor-like claw by The Philosopher, who ran Pinewood — which anyone with half a brain can figure out is Professor Strange. He found her in Blackgate Penitentiary; she was there because her father was cruel to her, and she decided to stand up for herself one day and, as she puts it, he fell down some stairs. She’s such an interesting character in the short time we get to know her. She’s complex; she’s not the monster people see when they look at her, or that we might think she is at first. But she is capable of brutality if she is threatened. She had real respect for Thomas Wayne, who was kind to her and tried to make up for the things that were done to her by his organization, and she comes to think highly of Bruce as well. And that sharp claw has to be an asset sometimes, as it is when they’re being chased by Strange’s men and she slits one of their throats. Strange has gotten wind of Bruce’s interest in her, and sent Freeze — who’s now looking rather like Ric Flair — to take her out. So we get to see him in action, too, in a new suit. (And did you catch the Joker Easter egg? There was some graffiti on the wall, of cartoonish eyes, with “Ha Ha Ha Ha” where the mouth would be.) Karen gives herself up to him in order to protect Bruce, and we are torn up along with Bruce when she does. She was gone too soon. And Bruce experiences grief at her loss, still. He’s becoming Batman, but he isn’t inured to death yet.
Before she dies, Karen tells Bruce that Thomas Wayne started Pinewood Farms — with good intentions, but he still started it; it changed somewhere along the way and they ended up experimenting on people there, which led to people dying and suffering and being turned into unnatural things. Thomas found out and was trying to stop it — and that led to The Philosopher putting out a hit on him. So Bruce has that to wrestle with as well. They find out that The Philosopher is Strange, whom Jim has met. He was a friend of Thomas’, and that seems to cause Bruce the most pain: His father was betrayed by a friend. So we know that Strange has been experimenting on people, and in this episode we see that he and Peabody have been trying to reanimate dead people — at least a dozen, by Peabody’s count, in a line whose delivery Tonya Pinkins gets just right. Strange is expositing evilly about how if they can reanimate the dead, they can free people from the bonds of death, or some such, and she drily replies: “As you said the first dozen times we tried. And failed.” I do like her sass. But they have a breakthrough with Theo Galavan, who wakes up and kills all the guards in the room while shouting about Azrael. Azrael is an assassin in a group created by the Sacred Order of Saint Dumas (aka, those guys in robes in secret rooms below Theo Galavan’s — nee Dumas — mansion earlier in the season), so I’m going to say there’s the intro to the next new villain. And from the previews for next week, it’s a good bet that Theo will be Azrael — his mask looks very similar.
Another thing about “Pinewood” is that Jim is getting farther away from being the hero of the series that he was. When the show started, he was the good guy in a tough situation wanting to make good. But now he has done a fair amount of killing, and he thinks nothing of beating information out of people — like when he goes on a rampage trying to find out where The Lady is, beating up her former employees all over town. And then when he’s trying to get to The Lady herself and Barbara steps in, saying she has a plan, he says he has a plan too — and when asked what it is, he says he is going to hold a gun in her face till she gives him the information he wants and begs for her life. So this most definitely is not the Good Guy Jim we started out with, and if the show wants to keep him basically good and noble, they need to dial it back on things like this.
FBI SCORE: 9 out of 10. “Pinewood” is an interesting episode that focuses a lot on characters, and not just caricatures, which is a nice change. It packs in a lot of information and keeps stories moving along, and adds shades of grey to some characters, like the Waynes and Jim. But we lose an interesting character right after we meet her, and a previously annoying character returns — most likely changed, so that has potential.