Monday, June 8, 2015

Case Study No. 2009: Kristen Kringle

GOTHAM - Nygma/Kristen Kringle
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Tags: Gotham (TV Program) gotham Edward Nygma nygma The Riddler Kristen Kringle Comics (Comic Book Genre) My Morning Jacket Librarian
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"Spirit Of The Goat"
Season 1, Episode 6

Harvey Bullock takes the spotlight in "Spirit Of The Goat," and Gotham is all the better for it. I've mentioned quite a few times in these reviews that the series needs to spend more time fleshing out the history of its characters, and this week's episode takes a break from the overarching mob war storyline to focus on Bullock's character and how he's changed from his early days on the GCPD. The result is a considerable improvement over the last few weeks, although this episode still has its fair share of problems.

"Spirit Of The Goat" begins with a flashback to 10 years ago, with Detectives Bullock and Dix (the always welcome Dan Hedaya, playing the type of curmudgeon he's typically cast as) investigating the last killing by Randall Milke, a serial killer that believes he's been possessed by an ancient murdering goat spirit. We learn that back then, Bullock was a valiant young cop much like Jim Gordon, eager to charge into battle without back-up if it means saving a life. Dix plays the part of the present-day Harvey Bullock, telling his partner to tone it down and teaching him Gotham's golden rule: "No. Heroes."

Yes, it's all very on the nose and yet another wink to Gotham's vigilante-laden future, but at least it gives the audience some context for why Harvey Bullock acts the way he does with Jim. Bullock's eagerness does help him stop a killer, but it also puts his partner in a wheelchair when the Goat (I'm not going to disrespect Will Eisner by calling this guy the Spirit) opens a trap door underneath Dix that sends him crashing to the ground, breaking his legs and putting him in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. Bullock endures the negative consequences of his heroic actions, setting him on a path that will eventually lead to the slovenly, lackadaisical person he is today.

Thankfully, Bullock's personal connection to the Goat puts a fire under his ass when he discovers a new body that fits the M.O. of the past killer, right down to the Liberty Penny sewn into the head of his victims. Bullock is hungry to track down this new killer, and he finally starts acting like a real detective in order to accomplish his goal. That's important, because it shows that Bullock's former hero self still exists somewhere inside of him. When Gordon and Bullock meet up with Dix for information, Dix tells Jim that Harvey is a white knight, always jumping into the breach. Jim is surprised, but we see that Bullock hasn't completely given up on that old character thanks to his dedication to solving the case this week. (He's also paying for Dix's living arrangements, which includes a regular supply of dirty magazines. That Harvey Bullock is a swell guy when he wants to be.)

After Bullock and Gordon arrest the new Goat by going to the same abandoned theater used by the original serial killer 10 years ago, Bullock is able to piece together the rest of this mystery by observing the perp's behavior in the interrogation room. Bullock realizes that the man's repetitive clenching and unclenching of his fist suggests that he's been conditioned to act on his compulsions with this motion, which leads Bullock to believe that the man has been hypnotized by the therapist that treats Gotham's elite as well as less fortunate people thanks to her pro bono work.

The conclusion of the story is rushed and Dr. Marks (Susan Misner) confesses awfully quickly to Bullock's accusations, but it's nice to see Bullock score a win and the plot does ultimately tie in to the larger narrative. Dr. Marks believes that killing Gotham's wealthy children is a kind of therapy for the city, which, combined with Dix's comments about some sort of conspiracy in Gotham, makes me think that there's a secret group of people trying to heal the city through less than admirable means. Perhaps we can expect to see the Court Of Owls from Scott Snyder's current Batman run show up on this series at some point, which could be cool if the writers don't mess it up.

The tonal shifts of this series are still very jarring. One on end you have a villain whose design evokes memories of torture porn horror films like Saw and Hostel and who strings up his victims in a way that will be very familiar to fans of True Detective and Hannibal. (All of those victims are female, even though the character hunts down the oldest child of Gotham's wealthy families, so there's no reason for every victim to be a woman. This show is not very kind to the ladies.) On the other end you have goofy scenes of Edward Nygma trying and failing to flirt with a coworker whose name is Kristen Kringle, complete with whimsical music in the background to make sure the audience doesn't take these moments too seriously.



In the darkened world of Gotham, the line between creepy and charming can be quite thin. No one knows this better than Kristen Kringle, the often-on-edge GCPD records room attendant who has captured Edward Nygma's eye. Last week, Nygma tried winning her affection with-no surprise here-a riddle. That really didn't work out so well, but it's easy to see that Kristen isn't quite so cold to Edward as she'd maybe like to believe. Could there be romance in the cards for Gotham's Riddler-to-be?

While Nygma may enjoy being cryptic about such things, we much prefer answers, so we went straight to the source-Chelsea Spack, the Rutgers-trained actress who plays Kringle on Gotham. Just in time for her appearance in tonight's new episode, "Welcome Back, Jim Gordon," we spoke with Spack about riddles, how she feels about romancing future super-villains, and whether there may be a bit more to her character's name than simple alliteration.


Q: Kristen was in last week's episode and she's in tonight's as well. Will we be seeing her again before the end of the season?

She's coming back very soon. The writers are so brilliant. They like to keep us on the edge of our seats. Thankfully, they've really responded to the chemistry between us and our storyline is developing more and more. We'll have to see where things go, but she's definitely coming back very soon. There's more to see.

Q: Your character has a name like something from a comic book, but she's original to the show. How would you describe her?

I love how she's a woman of great intelligence and mystery. She takes her job really seriously, just like Edward Nygma. She's on her way up in the world. She's a very private person. She's in charge of information, and I think that information is power. She works in the records room. She's a fierce, brilliant woman that like everybody has a lot of secrets.

Q: Do you find the fact that you're portraying an original character rather than one from the comics is a little more freeing? Fans don't have the same expectations for you that they have for Jim Gordon or Edward Nygma.

Yeah, I find it so exciting. It's like a blank slate and there's so much potential. And then working opposite a character from the comics who's so beloved, it's exciting. Seeing how our storyline develops is fascinating. So in a way it is freeing that it's kind of a blank slate and we get to create and see how things pan out.

Q: Gotham has such a large cast and so many of the characters are flamboyant and really stand out. However, Kristen has managed to stand out despite having appeared in only a few episodes. How have you managed that?

I think that mystery is always intriguing, and she's a mysterious woman. She works in a very private world. I think that's something Nygma is very intrigued by. Kristen's focused and brilliant, and she doesn't let people get in her way. She's a private person and I think that he responds to her intelligence and her drive. Maybe the glasses help a little bit too!

But yeah, I think she stands out partially because she's mysterious. There's a lot to her that isn't so obvious, but it's there.

Q: How does Kristen feel about Nygma? It's hard to tell at times!

The human heart is so complicated. If only things were black and white, it would be so much easier. All I have to say is Edward Nygma drives her crazy. He frustrates her, but there's something about him that she is intrigued by. I think that it's something she doesn't want to admit, and I think she doesn't quite understand it. You don't want to tell the cool kids at school that you think the nerdy guy is intriguing, and I don't think she quite understands it herself. There's something there that she can't put her finger on.

Q: When I think of Nygma on the show, he's the sort of person that would probably be pretty creepy and kind of disturbing in real life. You wouldn't want to have to work with a guy like him. But he's actually pretty endearing on Gotham. I know it's partly the writing, but do you think a lot of it also has to do with Cory Michael Smith's performance?

Absolutely! He is brilliant in that he understands that there's so much more to a person than one thing. Instead of going with the label that he's weird, or creepy, or nerdy, [he realizes] there's so much underneath that.

I think that part of why Edward's so endearing is because he cares so much. He truly cares for Kristen Kringle, and he takes things so seriously. I think that's why he's so beloved, because he's created a really complex character.

Q: Yes, I realized that of all the characters that we know will one day become super villains, he's the one that I'm dreading the most. He's such a fun supporting character on the show, and you see him just trying to connect with people. You kind of want him to get a happy ending, yet you know he's not going to get one!

I know, I know! That's the most interesting when you see what it is that causes somebody to snap. The motivations that they come up with make it more relatable. More human.

Q: As we touched on, Kristen Kringle has a real comic book-skewing name. You've also mentioned secrets a few times. Could she potentially have a villainous future ahead of her?

We're all on the edge of our seats to see how she develops. I have no knowledge of the large picture. But I have my ideas of what I think makes her tick, what her secrets are and what she hopes to achieve. I think having a name like Kristen Kringle, there's obviously so much potential there. And of course it's the kind of name that Edward Nygma would find incredibly endearing, amusing and attractive. We're just excited to see all the ways that Kristen can unfold and how she can develop.

Q: So, how do you feel about riddles in real life? Would the bullet in the cupcake thing have worked for you?

I love riddles! I love subtext and how you can say something to a person when what you're really saying is completely different. I think that riddles are a way of expressing two things at one time and playing with somebody's mind, while also exercising your intelligence to communicate. I think it's so awesome and intriguing. I love riddles.



The other Gotham regular upon which new light is cast this week is Cory Michael Smith's Edward Nygma. The character's riddles have returned - lest we forget for even a second he'll one day become the Riddler - and there's a ridiculous question mark emblazoned on his coffee mug, just in case any four-year-olds watching this saga of crime and political corruption miss every other reference to the future supervillain. But, lo and behold, Ed gets a love interest! Though she's saddled with the unfortunate name Kristen Kringle (Gotham's attempts at Dickensian nomenclature have mixed results), the bespectacled file clerk gives the forensics expert something to do other than titter gleefully in the background. With her blonde ponytail, could Ms. Kringle be a vessel through which Gotham's writers hope to channel the spirit of Harley Quinn? The beloved Doctor Quinzel is most likely beyond the range of the show, unless the producers want to introduce yet another young nemesis-in-training.



With Lil Wayne and Selina reduced to cameos and Fish absent altogether, "Spirit of The Goat" also got to finally let us know Nygma as more than just the guy who loves riddles and hates that no one else cares about them. We're obviously heading down a path where he turns to crime as a way to get people to notice him, but in the meantime we're seeing that his social awkwardness isn't just confined to his dealings with the cops, but to his inept wooing of records clerk Kristen Kringle (played by Chelsea Spack, who's styled more retro than any other "Gotham" person we've met to date). With Cobblepot clearly foregrounded, the show's probably going to take its time with Nygma, but allowing him to appear for more than 30-second cameos that wink to his future was a necessary and welcome move.



Kristen Kringle is the record keeper of the Gotham City Police Department.

Hair: Blonde
Eye: Blue
Affiliation: Gotham City Police Department
Occupation: Librarian
Status: Alive
First appearance: Spirit of the Goat
Portrayed by: Chelsea Spack

As the official record keeper of the Gotham City Police Department, Kristen encountered Edward Nygma when he went searching for any files the GCPD had on the past Spirit of the Goat killings. She later became frustrated with him when he re-organized all of the files in the records annex, with the intention of "helping her".

Nygma continued his pursuit of Kristen, leaving her a "riddle" cupcake with an apparently live bullet in it on her desk. Kristen returned the token in no uncertain terms. When Nygma later approached her and told her he thought she was beautiful, Kristen was flustered and didn't know how to respond. Detective Arnold Flass, however, instructed Nygma, in those words to "back off" and stop "bugging" her. As Nygma left, but was still in earshot, Kristen thanked Flass and said, "He is so weird."

Nygma gives Kristen a poem that is later found by Flass and his coworkers. They have a good laugh at Nygma's expense. Nygma happens by where Flass and his friends tease him. Humiliated, Nygma leaves. Kristen later goes to see Nygma at his office and apologizes. She says Flass found the poem. Nygma attempts to compliment Kristen, but she stops him and then leaves.

Despite her initial repulsion, when Nygma is reinstated she points out that he owes her a pencil, giving him cause to seek her out again.

* "Spirit of the Goat"
* "What The Little Bird Told Him"
* "Welcome Back, Jim Gordon"
* "The Fearsome Dr. Crane"
* "Everyone Has a Cobblepot"




KRINGLE: Mr. Nygma.

NYGMA: Hello, Miss Kringle.

NYGMA: So, I'm just looking for all the information you have on the Goat murders from ten years ago.

NYGMA: Don't you find it curious?

NYGMA: Why someone would resurrect the myth of a centuries-old bogeyman.

NYGMA: And what is it about the Goat that has made two separate people decide to kill in his name?

KRINGLE: No, I-I don't find it curious.

NYGMA: I think I would like your parents.

KRINGLE: Excuse me?

NYGMA: Kringle, such a rare surname.

NYGMA: Most people changed it generations ago, out of embarrassment.

NYGMA: Not only did your parents keep it; they called you "Kristen."

NYGMA: "Kristen Kringle." (laughs)

NYGMA: They must be very humorous people.

NYGMA: Humor is so important, don't you think?

KRINGLE: Remember you have to sign out any evidence you pull.

NYGMA: How do you find anything at all in here?

NYGMA: I mean, organizationally speaking, this place is a shambles.

KRINGLE: I am warning you, Nygma.

KRINGLE: I have this exactly as I want it.

KRINGLE: I know where everything is.

KRINGLE: Understand?

NYGMA: Preternaturally.

NYGMA: But...

NYGMA: I can help you, Kristin Kringle.

KRINGLE: I doubt that very much.

NYGMA: There's a much better way to do this.


KRINGLE: Oh, my God.

NYGMA: I'm improving your system.

NYGMA: Implementing a rhizomatic cross-index, with your case files classified by subject, but arranged more like the way a peat moss organism grows.

NYGMA: You know, laterally.

KRINGLE: I had this entire room organized.

NYGMA: Yes, but now it will be rhizomatic.

NYGMA: Laterally.

KRINGLE: What did I ever do to you, Nygma?

KRINGLE: What did I do that compels you to come here with your endless notes and suggestions and riddles?

KRINGLE: My God, the riddles!

KRINGLE: Are you trying to get me to quit?

KRINGLE: You can't want my job.

NYGMA: No, no, no! I want you.

NYGMA: To... keep your job and to have it. Here.

NYGMA: For working.

NYGMA: Okay, I'm getting the sense that this was somehow inappropriate.

KRINGLE: You are so odd.

NYGMA: I'll just take my non-hierarchical data paradigms out of your hair... and leave you to your work.

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