GOTHAM: SEASON 2 – EPISODES 1-3 – AFJ REVIEW

Gotham is now a few episodes into its sophomore season and if possible, it is even darker than its maiden season. I pretty much love anything Batman related and have always been crazy about origin stories. So when I heard that GOTHAM was debuting last year, I was very excited. I kept every episode on my DVR and re-watched them over the summer to get a better feel for the characters and the multiple narratives that the show was weaving for the future.

At the end of the first season, we saw the demise of Fish Mooney in a mob showdown that placed Oswald Cobblepot as the top crime boss in Gotham. When you think about it, he certainly moved up the ladder of crime fast through his master manipulation and playing both sides against the other. Because of the corrupt Commissioner Loeb's dislike for Jim Gordon's boy scout ways, he has been demoted to a traffic beat and after a minor infraction is fired from the force. Bullock has also left the force and started tending bar at a local haunt when Gordon comes in asking for assistance. Harvey is now on the wagon with a steady dame that does not want him to go back to police life. Stuck in a seemingly untenable position, Jim goes to visit Cobblepot to make a deal to get rid of Loeb as Commissioner so that he can be reinstated to the force. However, Cobblebot is a master strategist and does not do anything without getting something in return. In order for Cobblepot to get Gordon reinstated, he asks Gordon to collect a sizable debt from a strip club owner. However, when Jim comes to collect, he winds up putting a few rounds into the strip club owners chest killing him. Clearly, Jim has changed quite a bit from his first year in Gotham City.

Since recovering the debt was successful, Loeb is displaced by Essen as Commissioner and given his walking papers. Jim is back on the force and all seems to be right for just a brief moment. Billionaire criminal brother and sister Theo and Tabitha Galavan bust out some notable inmates from Arkham Asylum including Barbara Kean (Jim's ex), Aaron Helzinger, Jerome Valeska, Richard Sionis, Robert Greenwood and Arnold Dobbins. Save for Sionis, all of the criminals agree to work for the Galavan's so they quickly off him. Apparently, the Galavan's feel that they are owed for their family building up Gotham City from the bedrock up and never getting due credit. At least that is what we are meant to think for now but I have a feeling that their end game is far more than restitution.

If you remember the cliffhanger from the end of Season 1, Alfred and Bruce discover a secret chamber in Wayne Manor before fading to black. Inside the chamber, there is a note for Bruce from his father Thomas that alludes to Bruce having to go after his real calling and that the secrets within the chamber could alter his life. Excited at the prospect of what the hard drive in the secret chamber holds for Bruce, Alfred quickly tries to destroy the computer to protect his ward from anything dangerous that may be in the files. Outraged that Alfred would do that, young Bruce fires Alfred on the spot. However, the sacking of Alfred does not last long once he agrees to train Bruce both physically and mentally to track down his parents killer the proper way. Smart as a whip, Alfred reaches out to the young Wayne Enterprises executive Lucius Fox to bring him into their circle and of course, fix the smashed hard drive that could contain key secrets for Bruce's future.

Meanwhile, the Arkham escapees now known as "The Maniacs" manage to easily enter the GCPD dressed as cops and a massacre ensues. They kill a total of ten cops including Commissioner Essen. They continue to focus on young Jerome as the leader making the audience believe that he is most definitely the young Joker. He has the look and the same characteristics and there is even a scene where he tells a story ending it with "HA HA HA." After the massacre, Bullock is back on the job against his fiancé wishes. The GCPD begin a manhunt for members of The Maniacs with Gordon and Harvey reunited specifically going after Jerome who they believe to be the ringleader.

Jerome

At a children's hospital charity event that Lee is running, the Galavan's play the part of wealthy philanthropists introducing themselves to high society. Disguised as a magician named "The Great Rodolfo," Jerome is on stage pretending to be the evening's entertainment. His assistant is Barbara who is wearing a cape and mask and they need a volunteer from the audience. Naturally Jerome picks young Bruce to come up on stage to participate in the trick and it goes off without a hitch. It was a little unclear to me if Jerome was not following Theo's orders when it looks like he is going to kill Bruce, but Theo eventually saves the day killing Jerome on stage with a knife to the throat. The production goes out of their way to make Jerome look exactly like the Joker as the blood circles around his seemingly permanent smile while he is being taken away. Theo plays the part of concerned citizen perfectly and is now seen as a hero and ally by Gotham's good guys. The ending is a little unusual as there are scattered shots of random Gotham citizens watching the actions of Jerome from the charity event and all of them start laughing hysterically while watching the footage. It reminded me very much of the 1989 BATMAN where Gotham's citizens fall under the power of "Smilex." I am most curious to see what exactly that was all about and how random citizens could have been affected by an event that they were far away from.

So far, the second season known as "Rise of the Villains" is paying off for me and it continues to weave several interesting narratives for us to follow. I failed to mention that Edward Nygma has gone totally schizo and is spiraling into madness. One of the things I like so much about Gotham is what I liked so much about the '89 Batman movie. That is that you cannot tell what era the events are actually taking part in. There is no sign of new cars or smartphones or anything high tech. If anything it looks like they are stuck in the 1950's and that goes for the production design as well. It is as if the sun has never shined in Gotham City, not even for a few minutes. I like that the events Jim deals with during each episode are all big events and that each episode chugs the main narrative along. They had me fooled with Jerome being the young Joker. He had the perfect look of the Clown Prince of Crime and he seemed to be channeling Nicholson's Joker. Harvey does fall off the wagon at the end of the episode when he pays Cobblepot a visit telling him to stay away from Gordon and to never ask him for a favor again. All in all, the first three episodes of Season 2 have been very solid even though we lost some of my favorite characters from the freshman season. I do hope that they delve a little deeper into the secret chamber that Bruce and Alfred found now that Lucius is helping them recover the computer files. Check back in a few days to see episode four's review. Same Bat-time, same Bat-channel!

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