I had a luke warm feeling about Fox’s Gotham after its first season, so I waited a week to jump back into it. Season 2 is going under the moniker, “Rise of the Villain”. It’s first two episodes take the show in a bit of different direction with “Damned if You Do…” and “Knock Knock”.
After the fallout of the season 1 finale things have settled down a bit. Penguin is trying to establish his control of Gotham’s criminal after the removal of Don Falcone and Don Maroni, he’s been joined by Cat. Commissioner Loeb has busted Jim Gordon down to working the traffic beat and Bullock’s left the force to be a bartender, but at least Jim and Leslie are still together. Bullock’s actually happy now too. He’s sober and engaged to Scottie (Maria Thayer), the red-headed woman they saved during their run in with the Scarecrow predecessor. Meanwhile, Barbara finds herself being welcomed to Arkham Asylum with some of the other criminals the GCPD has put away. Most notably, she immediately befriends Jerome (Cameron Monaghan), the circus boy who killed his mother during the last season. Bruce is still trying to break into his father’s secret room that’s hidden behind the fireplace. Bruce and Alfred create a bomb to get into his dad’s pseudo Batcave. When they do, Bruce finds a letter from his father telling him to live a happy life or follow the calling he feels. Alfred is opposed to the idea but Bruce threatens to fire him if he doesn’t go along with him. Alfred allies himself with Bruce and goes to see Lucius Fox to see if he can trust him with helping Bruce recover information from his dad’s computer.
The biggest shakeup of the first episode comes when Gordon goes to the Penguin to get Loeb removed from his position. In exchange for his help, Penguin asks Jim to go collect some money from a particularly troublesome criminal on his behalf. Jim declines at first but, after Loeb fires him completely, it becomes apparent that he needs the Penguin’s help. Jim agrees to collect the money. Predictably, things go wrong and the guy tries to kill Jim. Jim puts the man down in self defense, but he’s no longer a cop so it’s not a good look for him. Even so, the incident is hidden and Penguin (along with Zasz) convinces Loeb to step down, which allows Gordon to rejoin the force. It’s also a big load off for the rest of the police force, who’re glad to have Loeb gone. Even though he got the job done Jim is distraught and tells ‘Lie that he “did a bad thing”. With Loeb out, Essen is promoted to be the new commissioner.
There’s no time to wallow in regret for Gordon because the city soon finds itself under siege from a new threat. Six inmates are broken out of Arkham Asylum with the help of “philanthropist” Theo Galavan (James Frain) and his sister Tabitha (Jessica Lucas). However, when one of them doesn’t want to go along with Theo’s plan, Tabitha beats him to death in front of the rest of the group. Not being of particularly sound mind, the rest of the group is on board with Theo’s plan. He turns them into a new group and they dub themselves the “Maniax”. The group consists of:
- Theo Galavan, their behind the scenes leader.
- Tabitha Galavan, Theo’s sister and the comic book character known as Tigress.
- Jerome Veleska, our stand in for the Joker.
- Arnold Dobkins, a rapist, with no comic book ties.
- Aaron Helzinger, a big dumb galoot, who is destined to become the villain Amygdala.
- Robert Greenwood, a cannibal with no comic book roots exposed as of yet.
- Barbara Kean, who seems more like she’s more likely to be Harley Quinn than Mrs. Gordon at this point.
Theo wants the group to announce themselves to the city. Jerome starts by dropping a bunch of reporters off the roof of the Gotham Gazette. That gets Gordon and the rest of the GCPD on their case. So, when they try to set a bus full of cheerleaders on fire, their plan is thwarted and Dobkins is captured. Before he can give up any information, Tigress takes him out with a sniper rifle. Not taking their failure lying down, the Maniax launch an attack directly on the police precinct. Barbara lures Jim outside while Jerome and the rest of the guys proceed to slaughter the uniformed officers. Jerome even ends up killing Greenwood after the invasion is over for stealing his line while talking to the Commissioner. During the gunfire, Leslie hides in her office and Nygma saves Mrs. Kringle from being shot, while being wounded himself. After being beaten up by Helzinger, Gordon returns to find the precinct in ruins and the new commissioner ripped apart by Jerome. Essen dies in Gordon’s arms, after uttering the phrase, “It’s a new day”. When news of the attack gets out Bruce and Alfred rush to the station in order to check on Jim. They’re followed by Bullock, who’s back in his detective gear. Gordon tells him that he doesn’t need to come back, but the death of Commissioner Essen is enough incentive for Bullock to re-enter the fray. As the two partners are reunited, another officer alerts them to a broadcast of Jerome being played on the news. In the video, taken from inside the station, he promises Gotham that they ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
- Edward Nygma now seems to be full on fighting with his split personality. His other side also has eyes on Mrs. Kringle
- Barbara has a message for ‘Lie, “I hope you die screaming, B*tch”.
Compared to what I saw last season, I love the way that Gotham opened up this season. First of all, there’s a decidedly more camp/zany element to the villains this time around. They’re not so over the top that they’re like the villains from the 60’s, but they feel a lot more like Batman villains. They’re objectively ridiculous and ultimately pretty simple characters that are broken people creating chaos. Those are the types of characters that have always shined in the world of Batman and the streets of Gotham. What makes them truly stick is what we saw at the end of episode 2. For all of their silliness and brokenness, they are legitimately dangerous. The body count is rising with Jerome leading the Maniacs and the death of Commissioner Essen so soon in the season should plant the seed that almost no one is safe. Granted, we know that certain characters have to survive, but this basically leaves the door open to killing anyone that doesn’t have to live to see Bruce Wayne don the cape and cowl. However, even if there is a cap on the mortality of certain characters, it can still be a fun ride.
Jerome (Monaghan) was easily the standout of the combined first two episodes. Soon it won’t matter if he’s the Joker or not. The point is clearly that he’s Gordon’s Joker. Much like the Heath Ledger Joker from the Dark Knight movie series, Jerome represents an escalation in the criminal element of Gotham. The show has set the stage for a great ongoing battle between the GCPD and a quickly emerging new class of villains. I’m hoping that they don’t get sidetracked by trying to bounce back and forth between Penguin and Jerome but, instead, show us how an old villain like Penguin adjusts to this newer crazier Gotham. I’m also hoping that Barbara and Jim continue in the direction that they’re going. Not to say that they’re moving toward a certain type of character, but that they continue down consequential paths. Through two episodes, the revamping of Barbara’s character from fragile and lost to confident and crazy may be one of the greatest turnarounds for a character I’ve seen in a show. Now it feels like what she does actually matters. Jim had a similar turnaround at the beginning of this season, not because he was a bad character before, but because his actions now have a different weight. For example, when he was dancing back and forth with Penguin the previous season would’ve played with that plot line and nothing of consequence would’ve happened. In this new environment something happened very quickly. Jim killed a guy and that’s going to have consequences for him.
I’m almost surprised to say that I’m actually looking forward to seeing how things play out this season on Gotham.