‘Batman Bad Blood’: Beware the Nunja

by Agent Alicia Glass (a.k.a. Pandora the Punctuation Horror)

So Batman, the real Batman (Jason O’Mara) has gone missing. Of course this new chick running around in what looks like Terry McGinnis’ Bat colors — we eventually learn she’s called Batwoman — is trying to both patrol the streets in his absence and look for Batman without arousing suspicion, too. Because well, it’s kind of her fault Batsy went missing in the first place – Katherine (Yvonne Strahovski) tried to take on Killer Moth, Firefly, Electrocutioner, Blockbuster, and some new masked dude who’s a badass, all on her lonesome. Batman had to wing in to save the day and disappeared in the ensuing explosion.

Now, what? Nightwing (Sean Maher) gets a distress call to the Batcave, Damien Wayne (Stuart Allen) ducked out of his temple hideout to come see what’s up, and, of course, Batwoman herself is out and about, looking for Batman and trying to pick up the slack. Dear butler Alfred (James Garrett) is covering for Bruce Wayne as best he can, but people are beginning to take notice, both of the missing millionaire and the lack of his super-secret alter ego. Lucius Fox (Ernie Hudson) and his son Luke (Gaius Charles) are having their suspicions, too. With no other real option, Dick Grayson very reluctantly dons the mantle of the Bat, and, of course, Damien has to take on Dick’s original Robin costume, to go out and prove that, hey man, everything’s fine, really.

This new villainous man that seemed so eerily familiar to Bruce Wayne apparently goes by the name Heretic and, of course, he’s near-impossible to track down, let alone beat to a standstill. Katherine meets with her father Colonel Jacob Kane to ask for some help finding Heretic, revealing her backstory about the time she was saved and redeemed by Batman, leading her to become Batwoman. Meanwhile Luke Fox, a soldier returned from Afghanistan no less, is trying to get his dad to open up about Wayne secrets, when there’s a raid on the Wayne enterprises vault! Heretic and his goons strike again! But why are they assaulting the Wayne vault in particular?

Spoilers winging at you!

Everyone knows who Talia al Ghul is, right? League of Assassins, daughter of Ra’s al Ghul and inheritor of that whole Lazarus Pit problem, mother of Damien Wayne and all-around problem psychopath, Talia al Ghul (Morena Baccarin) has never shied from thinking big and using every last bit of League resources to accomplish her goals. This time, they’re astronomical: build a rapidly-grown clone from Damien’s DNA, but the Jarvis Tetch version of the brain program left him with those pesky things like consciousness and free will. Because that never caused problems in similar situations, noooo. This inevitably leads to Heretic (Travis Willingham) wanting to kidnap Bruce Wayne and empty his head of all memories and experiences for his own, which makes an insane kind of sense, like a masochistic Pinnochio. Make me a real boy, Daddy, or I’ll take it from you.

All of what happens in the final confrontation isn’t exactly what you might expect, given the insanity that has a tendency to run in the al Ghul family. Hell, Bruce Wayne and all the rest of his chosen “Bat-family” aren’t the most stable, mentally speaking. And it looks like the family gets a new “brother,” when Luke decides the others need his help and has his fathers machine makers design a whole new bat suit for fighting, dubbing himself the highly original moniker “Batwing.” Despite Heretic’s avowed hatred and Talia’s everlasting ambition, neither can escape the ties of bad blood that bind them to each-other, reminding all of us why you should never do business with family.

There are lots of enjoyable nods to the ongoing history of the Bat family and Batman in the DC comics-verse in general. The nuns armed with katanas and AK-47s guarding the place where Talia has Bruce locked up – hence the “nunjas” as Nightwing points out – are hilarious, and right up the League’s alley for over-the-top-ness. Luke Fox becoming Batwing was interesting, we just knew it was inevitable that someone from the Fox line would eventually join the Bat family in an actual costume. And I still think it’s awesome that Talia would hire the Mad Hatter as a brain doctor for her rapidly-grown cloned super-soldier’s mind control!

Score your very own nunja fighting bats at Amazon!

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‘Gotham’ Season 1 Finale: Long Live the Bat-verse!

by Agent Alicia Glass (a.k.a. Pandora the Punctuation Horror) 

I am a Batman fan and have been since the movie gods and Tim Burton graced us with the madness that is generally known as the first Batman film. I’ve devoured comic books, worshipped at the shrine of Batman films and TV shows large, small, and cartoon. I’ve admired friends’ dedication to the cosplay of ‘correct’ Harley Quinns, Jokers, and the Dark Knight himself. I’ve even loaded myself down with everything from t-shirts to jewelry because it carried the batsign. So, when I heard they were coming out with a TV show that was to be a prequel setting of the city of Gotham, featuring a younger Detective Jim Gordon and a boy-shaped Bruce Wayne, I was skeptical and leery.

By Penguin’s distinctive limp, was I flat-footed wrong. Last night (May 4 2015), we were treated to the season finale of Gotham season one, and what a season it has been! Now I grant, the season finale itself may have been a tad rushed, they tried to throw every last thing in there, but we’re talking about the television show as a whole here. On with the show!

Shot in a style that is distinctly reminiscent of Tim Burton’s original opus, way back when I was a kid, Gotham has that gritty feel of a city with a bit of everything, all crumbling around the edges. The GCPD, forced to work with the mafia elements of the city or be crushed into dust, doesn’t meekly bow before their mob masters, but rather, most of them demand the perks of being in bed with the bad guys. That is, until rookie good-man Detective Jim Gordon shows up and gets assigned to Harvey Bullock as his new partner.

I loved me some Harvey on this show. Donal Logue is a terrific choice for the hard-bitten world-weary visage of Bullock, very similar to the beloved ’90s cartoon version. Often, Harvey will utterly despair that Gordon’s determination to do the right thing, especially in the face of cop corruption, will get them both killed, and yet Harvey almost always goes along anyway, and in the end, does the right thing, too: Just with more complaints, perhaps a smidge of dirt on his nose, and a whiff of the stiff drink we need after that last shootout.

Detective Gordon’s first major case was, inevitably, to investigate the murder of the Waynes, a do-gooding couple with far too much money and not enough self-preservation instincts, who left behind a young boy (David Mazouz) with no one but his determined butler to shield him from the harsh realities of the world.

The role of butler Alfred Pennyworth has been lauded by the performances of many different actors, but of course, the amazing Sean Pertwee gives it his own unique spunky spin. This Alfred is former military man with plenty of secrets, who shoulders the mantle of teaching a precocious young boy to be a good man in a highly corrupt city, with grace and amused exasperation. Bruce’s insistence on things like the fact that his father hid secrets somewhere in his locked office, or his almost hypnotic attraction to mini-thief Selina Kyle, is forever a source of trouble to Alfred, but the show never fails to catch the bemused twinkle in Pertwee’s eye, even as he yells at young Wayne yet again.

And then there’s Selina Kyle! Camren Bicondova is practically the perfect mini-version of Catwoman, right down to her distinctive ’80s goggles-and-hood look. We’ve seen this young girl in many of her notable later-villain guises already: roof-jumping cat burglar, high-society maven thief, would-be gangster under a woman of apparent determination, even murderess, if the situation truly calls for it, because, you know, boy-Wayne couldn’t do it himself.

The budding romance between mini-Selina and Bruce is adorable and lovely to watch, especially when they come to loggerheads over the one thing that kept the adults apart over long years of battled hearts: the act of killing. Selina already demonstrated clearly that she’s willing to kill, and that was the one thing Batman could never condone. To portray it in the show, and at such a young age as well, is a great gift of storytelling Gotham creator Bruno Heller and his writers gave us.

The GCPD has its share of oddities it has to deal with, some of which are right inside the precinct. Our current most-beloved favorite is, of course, Edward Nygma, forensic scientist who works with the Gotham Police and loves his, you guessed it, riddles. Cory Michael Smith is adorably modest and almost shy in real life, astounded by the success of Gotham and in particular the popularity of his character, he who grows up to be the iconic villain, the Riddler. Smith plays the hell out of Edward and we come to adore and even sympathize with the nerdy, riddle-spouting, love-starved Nygma. Right up until he takes a knife to the jock-type cop who was abusing the secretary Ed was admiring from afar. Though I have to say, as Ed stood there and scream-laughed over the bastard’s corpse, I adored him even more.

Of course, the various mob syndicates of Gotham all get at least a mention and a story in their own right: David Zayas as Maroni, the hot-head who wants it all under his name and right now; Jada Pinkett Smith as the token female mobster, Fish Mooney, who’s perhaps crazier and more ruthless than all the men; and John Doman as Godfather Carmine Falcone, the boss everyone is trying to replace.

None of these characters, except perhaps Falcone himself, is as well-known or as bat-shit-nuts (see what I did there?) as a young up-and-coming mobster with a distinctive walk, we all worship him, his name is Oswald Cobblepot, but he inevitably ends up with the disturbing nickname of Penguin. Robin Lord Taylor is an absolute sweetie in real life, playing up his newfound fame in this most well-known role with class, always happy to answer fan questions and joyously share out whatever tidbits he’s allowed to spoil from the showrunners. Taylor pulls off the human side of Cobblepot, the young man who loves his addled mother and only wants her to be proud of him, with the same aplomb as he does the psycho side of Penguin, the character who gets pushed too far one too many times, and just goes gloriously knife-happy on his fellow bad guys. We’re all well aware that no matter how well one writes a character, if the actor playing him doesn’t throw his whole heart into the role it just won’t be as believable. Taylor is Penguin and Cobblepot, with absolute gusto, and it is exhilarating to watch.

So we come full circle to the good man trying to do good in a bad world, Ben McKenzie as Detective James Gordon. At least one of McKenzie’s previous known roles wasn’t exactly hugely dramatic, although his stint on Southland most likely aided greatly in his preparation for this most iconic role of Gordon. Throughout the show, Jim gets crushed by his supposed police superiors (most of whom are financially in league with the mob), laughed at or even attacked, both indirectly and directly, by his fellow officers, and in general, it’s made well-known to him that he is the last bastion of light in a very dark city. After being busted down to a security guard in Arkham Asylum, having a fellow officer sic the psycho known as The Ogre (Milo Ventimiglia) on him and his loved ones and — oh, yeah — being forced to make deals with the lesser of evils of the mob elements of Gotham, it’s no wonder Gordon’s light is a tad strained by now. Still, as we watch Gordon lock and load for bear in yet another dark confrontation, we all cheer, and in our hearts, we wish him well, because it always looks like this is, indeed, the end.

Jim’s love life is no picnic either, what with a former-lesbian (*boggle*) Barbara (Erin Richards) who left him because she couldn’t stand him keeping secrets, there was an irony not lost on me. I do like that Jim took up with the coroner, Dr. Leslie Thompkins (Morena Baccarin); that seems more appropriate, at least for now, and Lee is a feisty firecracker who’s good for Jim.

And that doesn’t even mention all the other amazing things the show has offered to us: a veritable feast of the Batman-verse! We were treated to Nicholas D’Agosto as young and hungry district attorney Harvey Dent, determined to use whatever means necessary to catch the bad guys inside the law even if that meant breaking a few laws himself. For a few precious moments, we saw echoes of the villain that Harvey becomes, already known as a lawyer as Two-Face, when he’s threatening a bad guy with prosecution under Jim’s supervision, his face contorts and he shrieks over the desk. It was one of the best scenes Gotham Season One had to offer.

The whole Scarecrow intro storyline of the Cranes, father Gerald (Julian Sands) and son Jonathon (Charlie Tahan), was beautifully crafted and great fun-in-evil for the whole family. And then, there was the episode titled The Blind Fortune Teller, in which the audience were absolutely captivated by a young man named Jerome, with red hair and a truly iconic laugh. Yes, the rest of the episode had the Flying Graysons and their family feuds, which was cool and all, but Cameron Monaghan as Jerome just stole the freaking show!

Gotham has stayed true to its original roots in the Batman-verse and, at the same time, given us a truly unique show, created in their own vision of what the history of Gotham could very well be. We absolutely love this show. After that epic season finale, who will take over the Gotham underworld, with or without Jim’s support? What will Bruce Wayne discover in that hidden cave with the bat rustles? You can bet visions of Dark Knights will be dancing in my head until we’re gifted with Gotham Season two!

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https://youtu.be/NUnvGgeGTFw

Wondercon 2015: ‘Gotham’ Brings you all the Villains

by Agent Alicia Glass (a.k.a. Pandora the Punctuation Horror)

Wondercon 2015 was a hotbed for DC comics lovers, with double showings of Batman vs. Robin, a DC Villains and Heroes photo shoot and, of course, a panel for everyone’s favorite prequel show, Gotham!

Full of villains and heroes all on its own, Gotham centers on the early days of Detective Jim Gordon and his crusade (there’s that word again!) to clean up the gritty city, and the extraordinary journey of young Bruce Wayne becoming Batman after witnessing the death of his parents at the hands of random violence. Or was it?

The panel was moderated by TV Guide’s Damien Hollbrook, and featured Executive Producer John Stevens, Ben McKenzie (Jim Gordon), Robin Lord Taylor (Oswald Cobblepot/Penguin), and Cory Michael Smith (Edward Nigma/Riddler)!

Gotham writer Bruno Heller said he wanted to do an origin story centered around Jim Gordon in the Batman universe. Heller told McKenzie, “I wrote this with you in mind,” which must have been incredibly flattering, given that one of McKenzie’s former acting jobs was on The O.C.

McKenzie talked about meeting with the legendary Jeffrey Catherine Jones of the DC universe to talk about the best way to play Jim Gordon, and Jones told him, “You’ve got to make it your own.”

McKenzie spoke about his belief (shared by just about everyone) that Gordon and Wayne form the emotional core of the show, the salvation of a city tearing itself apart, and how the younger and elder dynamic set each other off: “The adults on the show are screwed, but there’s hope for the children.” And, of course, he addressed the internal struggle of Gordon’s own heart, and how far he’s willing to peer into the darkness: “How much bad will Gordon do, to do good?”

Robin Lord Taylor, who was cast to be the progenitor of the major villain, Penguin, is adorable in real life. Taylor laughingly talked about the “untitled Warner Brothers project” he was auditioning for, and how he discovered it was for Gotham the night before the audition itself! He immediately dove into Penguin’s backstory and found much to empathize with, as he explained, since every single last one of us has had to deal with bullies somewhere in our lives. Taylor spoke eloquently of the preparations for each and every character on the show: “Every character is given a distinct language all their own, so much thought goes into hair and makeup and especially wardrobe, it gives me the Penguin mindset.” And yes, Taylor admitted he does indeed put a bottlecap in his shoe to get that distinctive Penguin walk.

Cory Michael Smith, a.k.a. everyone’s favorite awkward coroner’s assistant, Edward Nigma, seemed overwhelmed by the positively loving response he got from the cheering crowd. Loosening up, Smith pointed accusingly at McKenzie and stated, “This is all your fault! If you would’ve thanked me just once!” Cory talked about the glorification of the early bad guys on the show, too: “All of us have an inner creep we can’t let out, so the show is kind of therapy in that regard.”

The cast discussed making the show with Jada Pinkett Smith, who plays the hell out of mobster character Fish Mooney. Taylor said, “Jada is so down to earth, almost no ego to speak of, despite what you hear, you know, and when we met for the first time I was like ‘…Hi?’ and she was all, ‘Oh no, come give us hugs!’”

Producer Stevens laughed about Pinkett Smith’s ability and absolute willingness to go way over the top for everything to do with her character, right down to the wardrobe and makeup.

When asked to describe what each character looked like at the end of season one, each cast member gave a great teaser: McKenzie said, “I look like Commissioner Gordon.”

Taylor grinned. “I look like a banker!”

Smith happily proclaimed, “Uh, I look great!”

And finally, to the delighted cheers of the entire audience and the now-knowledgeable cast, Producer Stevens announced that yes, the progenitors of DC villains in the Batman-verse Clayface, Mad Hatter, and even Mr. Freeze will be on Gotham!

Gotham can be drooled over on Fox, Mondays at 8/7c!

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