TV

Gotham: Season 2 Episode 11 - "Worse Than a Crime"

Liz Medendorp

Despite a few delightful moments of sinister silliness, Gotham's uneven mid-season finale is mostly disappointingly bland and melodramatic, fizzling out much anticipation for the show's return in the spring.


Gotham

Airtime: Mondays, 8pm
Cast: Ben McKenzie, Donal Logue, David Mazouz, Robin Lord Taylor, Erin Richards, Sean Pertwee, Camren Bicondova, Cory Michael Smith, James Frain, Jessica Lucas, Morena Baccarin, Drew Powell, Michael Chiklis, Anthony Carrigan, Natalie Alyn Lind
Subtitle: Season 2 Episode 11 - "Worse Than a Crime"
Network: Fox
Air date: 2015-11-30
Amazon

Rounding out the first half of Gotham’s second season, “Worse Than a Crime” is almost criminally uneven, reflecting the unevenness that has plagued the “Rise of the Villains” season all fall. The episode is similarly punctuated by a few moments of brilliance -- Bullock’s (Donal Logue) cynically witty quips, Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) and Nygma’s (Cory Michael Smith) off-kilter Odd Couple relationship, Alfred’s (Sean Pertwee) almost slapstick physical comedy, getting buried under a heap of rubbish at the dump and getting tazed in the face -- but just like the season as a whole, it’s questionable whether these moments of delightfully dark dissonance between the sinister and the silly are enough to overcome the prevailing monotony and melodrama.

For example, one would hope that Theo Galavan (James Frain) would develop into a more complex character, particularly given that he’s the primary “villain” in a season titled “Rise of the Villains”; instead, he’s rather one-dimensional, with single-minded motivations grounded in revenge, or “atonement”, as he called it last week. Although he appeared to be an intriguingly mysterious figure at the beginning of the season, in this mid-season finale, Gotham has not been able to follow through on either that or on the many other promises set up over the past few months.

It's true that Galavan has been letting some of his ruthlessness crack through his polished politician’s exterior. He actually gets his hands dirty rather than letting his sister Tabitha (Jessica Lucas) do all the fighting for him; however, Theo’s apparent softness in contrast to his sister’s cruel actions in previous episodes (including an oddly pained expression in response to her callous execution of Penguin’s mother), hinting at some more complex emotions, has complete disappeared, leaving a flat, unemotional character. By contrast, Tabitha’s steely exterior seems to be softening a bit, as she rebukes her brother for being too hard on Silver (Natalie Alyn Lind), and ultimately turns on him and escapes with the girl.

The Order of Dumas also turns out to be a disappointing foe. Other than an impressive ability to withstand pain, the monks are physically weak and mentally unbalanced, and they could be pretty easily taken out even by little Selina (Camren Bicondova), who’s admittedly a badass in her own right, but she’s still a young girl. Their planned ritual sacrifice of the “Son of Gotham”, aka Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz), is rather cliché and underwhelming, too melodramatic to ever really feel like that much of a real threat, especially given that viewers know that any threat to Bruce’s life cannot ultimately succeed.

Selina is becoming more and more likeable, and it’s nice to see her and Alfred finally bury the hatchet, despite their mutual mistrust, Alfred suspecting Selina of working for Galavan, an accusation she swiftly denounces with an equally ridiculous and amusing allegation that Alfred could be a “Martian in a rubber suit”. Ultimately, the two discover that they are actually quite similar, bonding over their mutual affection for Bruce and exasperation at his increasingly risky shenanigans. Bruce is finally succeeding at some Batman-y manipulation and scheming, especially in tricking Silver into blowing her cover last week, but it’s important to note that his success is due in large part to Selina; her street-wise cleverness seems to be rubbing off on him.

Even though this week it’s his turn to be kidnapped (a plot device that Gotham has employed annoyingly often), and Silver is ordered to continue to trick the boy into thinking she’s on his side, Bruce seems to be developing superior emotional and mental strength. The many conversations between the two are tedious and largely unnecessary, taking up screen time that could have been more fruitfully spent on more intriguing events and characters, but they do at least reveal Bruce’s ability to keep a level head in the face of death. His decision to kiss Silver as he is led to his execution seems like an act of compassion, giving Theo his wish and thereby sparing Silver from Theo’s disappointment and resulting exile from the Galavan family. It could, however, also be something of an insult, showing Silver that even though he outright admitted to feeling nothing for her, he knows he still has power over her.

And what about good old Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie)? Over the course of the past 11 episodes, he’s been repeatedly struggling with (and periodically giving in to) the temptation to “cross the line”, which is yet again a theme in this episode. Even though Jim’s inner moral conflict is really starting to get old, I’ll never get sick of Jim/Penguin team-ups, and it’s telling that Penguin is the one who advises Jim to “forget revenge” and “think of the greater good” for Gotham by taking Galavan out rather than turning him over to the authorities. Hopefully, now that he's finally unquestionably crossed the line in killing Galavan, we can finally move on to something else.

Picking up on last week’s brief but exquisite treatment of the Odd Couple relationship between roommates Penguin and Nygma, the former apparently having a tendency to plug the latter’s toilet, possibly the best moment in the mid-season finale happens when Jim wakes up from a nightmare about Barbara’s (Erin Richards) fall from the cathedral (can she come out of that coma already?) to an off-kilter serenade from the two fiendish friends. Jim’s surprise at Nygma for consorting with the former crime King of Gotham is strangely modest, but his attention is quickly redirected to his own friendship with Penguin and their shared crusade against Galavan.

It’s unfortunate that Lee’s (Morena Baccarin) a considerably less feisty character this week with the announcement of her pregnancy, apparently turning her toward passive acceptance of Jim’s tomfoolery. Unlike her amusing perceptiveness of some of the sloppy narrative devices we’ve seen in past weeks, pointing out how weird it is that nobody had seen the monks before despite the fact that “A, they’re killing people and carrying them across town, and B, they’re monks”, Lee’s now reduced to simply going with Jim’s plan to ship her off until things aren’t quite so “unsettled” in Gotham, even biting her tongue instead of letting him know that he’s being an idiot, something for which she’s historically known and for which she’s been applauded. Jim’s proposal’s also an eye-rolling moment, even if it does come right after he coldly kills Galavan down by the river, but even though he's apparently come to terms with a darkness inside and seems ready to move on, he still doesn't deserve her.

The first half of the season concludes with some hints at Hugo Strange and Mr. Freeze, but these brief moments at the very end of the episode feel like afterthoughts, and don’t really build anticipation as would be hoped. This is perhaps because so many familiar characters have been introduced in Gotham’s one and a half seasons so far with very little payoff. Especially now that the season’s “Big Bad” Galavan is out of the picture, it’s hard to really care that it’s going to be months before we see what happens next. There’s no real sense of impending danger, and although the promise of some exciting possibilities has been set up throughout the season for Barbara, the Penguin/Nygma duo, and even Selina, if Gotham hasn’t been able to make good on those promises so far, it’s hard to keep hopes up that it ever will.

4

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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