TV

Gotham: Season 2, Episode 6 - "By Fire"

Liz Medendorp

A few pivotal and frankly twisted moments energize Gotham in one of the second season's better episodes.


Gotham

Airtime: Mondays, 8pm
Cast: Ben McKenzie, Donal Logue, David Mazouz, Robin Lord Taylor, Erin Richards, Zabryna Guevara, Sean Pertwee, Camren Bicondova, Cory Michael Smith, James Frain, Victoria Cartagena, Andrew Stewart-Jones, John Doman, Morena Baccarin, Nicholas D'Agosto
Subtitle: Season 2, Episode 6 - "By Fire"
Network: Fox
Air date: 2015-10-26
Amazon

One of the better episodes of Gotham’s second season, “By Fire” finally gives some momentum that hearkens back to the excitement of the first few episodes. While there is still a fair amount of bland exposition, a few pivotal and frankly twisted moments energize the show and hopefully indicate that episode six is signaling the end of act one, and the beginning of the meat that the “Rise of the Villains” season openers promised. With an unremorseful teenage girl frying her abusive brothers to a crisp, a cop kicking the last bit of life out of a man who appeared to be dead because he “scared the hell” out of him, and a tragic lover’s quarrel turning into an unintended strangling, it seems that Gotham is embracing the macabre mood of Halloween, and finally returning to some of the horrific darkness that made the show so appealing in the first place.

Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) is still stomping around with his righteous anger, but at least some friction is growing between this idealistic but increasingly jaded detective and his new, straight-laced, by-the-books captain, Nathaniel Barnes (Michael Chiklis). The captain’s goody-goody Strike Force reports Jim for a minor infraction of “officer conduct regs” by roughing up a suspect. Captain Barnes responds with yet more pontification about the need for rules even in war, to which Gordon admirably retorts that in Gotham, “there are gray areas”, so sometimes the rules don’t apply.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about Jim at this point in his story is his level-headed and witty girlfriend, Dr. Leslie Thompkins (Morena Baccarin), who seems to liven things up every time she’s on screen. Lee handles herself expertly even when her home is invaded and she’s held at gunpoint by the young Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova). Returning home to the two staring each other down, Jim sighs, apologizing to Lee as if Selina’s threat is a minor inconvenience. Lee’s quip “Oh hey, no problem” extends the cheerful and bemused attitude toward Selina, helping to keep things light, but also reflecting the twisted humor of the situation and the city that could breed such a strange scene.

Not much is happening with Bruce (David Mazouz) other than some more of Alfred’s (Sean Pertwee) thankfully rigorous and unforgiving training, his trite teenage fascination with girls, and Galavan’s (James Frain) rather obvious attempts to ingratiate himself with the young boy and gain some leverage with Wayne Enterprises, but that leaves more room for the variegated proto-villains in this early version of Gotham City. Some of the distinctly human terrors of the seedy Gotham underbelly are revealed, with perhaps more realism than is be comfortable. Sure, the underground slave trade of women to the highest bidder is a bit exaggerated, but at the same time, all too real.

Pre-Catwoman Selina Kyle and Firefly Bridgit Pike (Michelle Veintimilla), two adolescent girls, are the ones to bust in and notify the “perverts” of this sex-slave auction that they’re about to rob them blind, complete with a bad-ass flamethrower. The striking contrast between the helpless women waiting to be auctioned off and the strength of these young girls, cultivated by their difficult childhoods on the streets of Gotham, reflects once again the need to embrace inner darkness in order to withstand the darkness of this shadowy city. The fact that the girls do not aid the women calling to them for help, and in the moment, only Bridgit briefly hesitates to consider the option, only confirms the cruel reality that, as Selina says, rule number one is to “look out for number one” in order to survive.

It has also become clear why Bridgit’s introduction as Firefly last week was so rushed -- she was only ever meant to stick around for a two-episode story arc. For that reason, the audience doesn’t feel too much other than awe at her fiery demise, brought about by her flamethrower literally backfiring on her in an apparently intentional suicide attempt. If viewers don’t care directly about Bridgit’s loss, they do through Selina, whose “street kid” dialogue is still somewhat contrived, but who seems to be maturing into a character to be taken seriously. Even though the friendship between these two girls has to be taken at face value, the closeness of their relationship introduced as a fait accompli, perhaps believing this girl, in whom Selina even admits, albeit jokingly, that she sees a lot of herself, to be dead is what will propel her character to greater depth.

In the episode’s particularly intriguing coda, however, we learn that Bridgit actually survived, and while badly scarred, this apparently “fireproof” young girl is being moved to Indian Hill, the parcel of land mysteriously acquired by Falcone (John Doman) last season, now developed into a testing facility labeled as “A Division of Wayne Enterprises” and apparently designed to house and study mutant monsters. Brief glimpses of unidentified subjects point to the potential introduction of additional villains. Let’s just hope the Gotham writers don’t get too overzealous and toss in as many familiar characters as possible, as they did last season, and instead give each the time needed to build into complex and compelling characters in their own right.

Penguin’s (Robin Lord Taylor) plot to have his faithful henchman Butch (Drew Powell) infiltrate Galavan’s inner circle pretty quickly fails, as the clever Galavan easily sees through Butch’s charade. This failure reflects the fact that Penguin seems to have lost his edge since “defeating” Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith), whose return was hinted at last week (and will hopefully happen sooner rather than later) to help Penguin regain his calculated manipulativeness. Currently, the threat to his mother (which has been drawn out for several weeks now) is making him far too emotional, which he himself acknowledged as a weakness. Perhaps what this character needs to push him over the edge is precisely what Theo and his even more brutal sister Tabitha (Jessica Lucas) are capable of: the death of Penguin's mother (Carol Kane). After the announcement that Paul Reubens is going to join the cast of Gotham as Oswald’s father only reconfirms suspicions of the impending upheaval of Penguin’s domestic life, which he cherishes so deeply as his last remaining tie to his own humanity.

One can’t help but feel for Butch, who has developed into a rather endearing character in the past several weeks. Galavan’s crew’s debate over what accessory would be the most amusing replacement for his hand, settling on a preposterously large mallet, creates a weird mixture of comical absurdity and disturbing cruelty that one could say perfectly encapsulates the twisted allure of Gotham City. One can only hope that the surprisingly rational Butch is growing tired of continually being used as a pawn to be tossed back and forth between the two major power players of Gotham’s underworld. Perhaps this new physical modification can prompt him to embrace the insanity of the city and become a villainous force to be reckoned.

Possibly the most dramatic and exciting moment of the episode finally puts a satisfying end to the largely unsatisfying and tedious relationship between Ed Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) and Kristen Kringle (Chelsea Spack). Kringle, while intended to be a cute, nerdy-shy love interest for Nygma, has become increasingly tiresome, initially because of her dismissiveness toward him and her attraction to “bad boys”, which comes full circle in “By Fire.” Overhearing her confiding in Lee that she finds him to be almost “too nice” because “a man needs to have a fire, a little danger”, Nygma steps it up and allows more of his confident yet dark alter ego rise to the surface.

After Nygma finally confesses that he murdered Kringle’s abusive ex, revealing some of his dangerous side and his well-intentioned but perhaps extreme desire to protect her, Kringle initially responds with disbelief and laughter, then a different kind of disbelief paired with horror. It’s surprising that Kringle, a woman who has a knack for liking men who are bad for her and returning to abusive relationships, would stand up for herself against Nygma like she does, calling him a freak and a psychopath as she tries to leave. Nygma’s reaction, however, is both unsurprising and tragic, physically pinning her down out of a fear of losing her, proclaiming “I would never do anything to hurt you” as he chokes her to death. Surely this loss and sense of guilt will trigger a downward spiral for Nygma, hopefully propelling him toward the path to becoming the villain he’s destined to be.

Overall, “By Fire” has sparked several exciting developments for many of our proto-villains, including Selina Kyle, Edward Nygma, and the Penguin. In the next couple of weeks, we will hopefully see those sparks fanned into flames rather than left to die down to embers.

7

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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