It’s not a stretch to say that fans of Batman have very mixed feelings about the TV show Gotham. While it draws upon elements from the Bat’s many onscreen incarnations: the gothic quirkiness of Tim Burton’s Batman films, the campy nature of the 60’s Batman TV show and the (for-lack-of-a-better-term) darkness of Chris Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, it is an often frustrating take on the Batman lore. The quality of episodes seem to range from good to bad to why-do- I-bother-watching-this-f***ing-stupid-show.
To be fair season 1 ended on quite a strong note and the premiere episode of season 2 , titled “Damned If You Do”, manages to follow suit. It starts straight where last season ended with Bruce (David Mazouz) and Alfred (Sean Pertwee) discovering Bruce’s father’s secret underground lair – which we know will one day become the Batcave.
There’s then a one month time jump which lets us catch up with our favourite residents of Gotham. When we revisit each character we learn that Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) has been relegated to a traffic cop by corrupt Commissioner Loeb (Peter Scolari), his partner Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue) has quit the force to become a barman, The Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) is now the top dog of Gotham’s criminal while employing Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova), Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) is starting to lose his mind, Barbara (Erin Richards) is locked up in Arkham Asylum and Bruce and Alfred still can’t get that damn underground lair door open.
It’s rare that I have so many positive thoughts on a Gotham episode so I’ll get the negative ones out of the way first. There’s a couple of silly scenes in Arkham Aslyum involving Barbara and Jerome (Cameron Monaghan), who is maybe/maybe not Gotham’s version of The Joker. These scenes feel somewhat silly, but of course what do you expect from a show like Gotham. Still, there’s hope that Monaghan can recreate some of the scene-stealing magic he showed from his one other previous appearance as Jerome throughout the rest of this season.
There’s also a couple of annoyingly brief cameos by Edward Nygma, who’s just crazily talking to himself in the mirror, and Selina Kyle, who’s just sitting down on a table, which feel too short and shoved in to remind the audience of their presence. Of course, they’ll later get more screen time as the season goes on.
Now to the good stuff. Gordon has an interesting and intriguing dilemma as he’s forced to question whether or not he should cross a particular line. Does he get his hands dirty to get what wants in the end? Or does he keep them clean in order to avoid the inevitable trouble further down the road? It’s a storyline that’s appeared numerous times throughout season 1 but it’s handled better in this episode than it ever has been before.
There’s some spine-tingling (if you’re a Batman geek) foreshadowing of Bruce’s vigilante future as young Mr Wayne’s dark side – or should I say Dark Knight-side – is slightly more revealed as he ponders on the idea of doing bad things for the greater good. In the episode, Bruce shows the steel and grit that we expect from his older self and none of the whiney melodrama he exhibited in the previous season.
It’s fun seeing The Penguin at the top of the criminal ladder in the episode as the once bumbling, nervous wreck is now a fully confident crime boss with a swagger in his step. He still walks like a bird though.
We’re also introduced to the shady and sinister Theo Galvin (played by James Frain – who may recognise from True Blood, True Detective and Agent Carter) and his whip-waving sister Tabitha. It appears that Galvin will be the season’s big bad and I’m cautiously optimistic about his future on the show.
And, to top it all off, there’s no sign of Fish Mooney. Yes you read right, there’s no Fish – who for me is one of the most irritating OTT characters ever! No offence to Jada Pinkett Smith, but I sincerely hope she never returns to the show.
All in all, season 2 of Gotham starts off in a wholly satisfying fashion. It still has some eye-rolling moments, but these are mostly overshadowed by scenes of relative quality. Hopefully the season continues as strongly as it started. A good episode by Gotham’s standards, “Damned If You Do” scores a: