Monday September 21st, Fox’s Gotham returns with season two’s opening salvo. This time around the villains are getting top billing in the town that’s defined by its crime. Here’s a little of what you can expect during the first hour:
Season one of Gotham came with far more pleasant surprises than mindless stumbles. Leading a very solid cast, Ben McKenzie and Donal Logue – Detectives Gordon and Bullock respectively – alone are more than reason enough to stay tuned and get invested. The city itself, too, is a strong and compelling character. A hodge-podge of modern noir and detective throwback, Gotham City oozes personality as the show’s characters navigate her streets and alleys in search of answers and redemption.
There were a few misses. Jada Pinkett Smith was one of the first to draw the internet’s ire as mob underboss Fish Mooney. Complaints of, “She’s not in the comics” headlined comment feeds written by the same trolls who complain there’s never any new characters. I actually enjoyed her portrayal despite the masses marginalization of something new. My biggest complaint – actually i’ve got two – was the character of Barbara Kean. Not actress Erin Richards mind you, but the character she played. Whiney and useless, when Barbara looked like she might get murdered, I rooted for Milo. Morena Baccarin as the love interest/medical examiner is written in a far more engaging manor. Number two – insert your own joke – is the absurd and nonsensical need for Catwoman to drop into a pose pretty much every time she stops walking. Camren Bicondova gives a spirited rendition of a young Pfeiffer-esque Selina Kyle, but loses me when vogueing on an ottoman. Not her fault. That one hangs on the directors.
Rounding out the good is the Bruce/Alfred dynamic. David Mazouz and Sean Pertwee kill as the heir and his butler. By season’s end, you can genuinely see the power in their relationship and the impact Alfred is having on a budding detective.
Who’s Who in Season 2
Minus Fish Mooney due to the departure of Pinkett Smith, the core remains intact. What’s new is the promised focus on the city’s villains. You already know show-stealer Robin Lord Taylor as Oswald Cobblepot – aka the Penguin – and the enigmatic Cory Michael Smith, but the new lineup boasts a potential who’s who of Gotham goonery. Just to name a few: Zsasz, “Joker,” Ivy, Two-Face and Scarecrow are all on the table in one form or another. And those are just some of the ones you already know about.
Getting things started
“You can’t have both happiness and the truth.”
The challenges of a show like Gotham are much more complicated than most realize. The dance between very steeped comic continuity – I use that last word loosely – and the need to feed the mainstream public something that makes sense in the here and now is daunting. The show’s producers have done a solid job walking a fine line where the new and the old can work together. But the more it draws from its page-and-panel counterpart, the series risks either delivering cardboard cutout characters or jumping the shark. Season two’s opening continues to walk that line quite well.
Among the introductions – and not yet connected to a character from the books – is Theo Galavan. Played by the always engaging James Frain, Galavan kicks things off with a Gotham style jailbreak. Arkham Asylum, an appropriately growing component, has its first organized breakout care of Theo. Once free, the crew he sprung finds they may have gone from pan to fire as Galavan’s benevolence fades. Join him or… you get it. Doesn’t sound like anything new, but the performances are what stick and the new questions posed already set this year up for some interesting outcomes.
The biggest moment, however, centers on McKenzie’s Det. Gordon. Ousted from the GCPD and forced to once again operate in the grey area between right and wrong, Jim zigs left when you’d expect him to go right. Ben’s portrayal of the show’s lead just gets better and better with each episode. Again, reason enough to watch the show. Still mixing monster of the week and long form storytelling, Gotham picks up where it left off and carries on with a bang!
Look and Feel
In a world where cell phones and pay phones exist simultaneously, nothing feels fake. Both interior and exterior sets look and feel like real locations populated by real people. Even when things get over the top or someone decides to chew the scenery, the well crafted backdrops keep things grounded. And while there isn’t much costuming going on in this particular comic book TV show, the costume department is spot on providing a consistent look for each and every character to cross the screen. I think it’s fair to say that the production design team are unsung heroes of the series.
Gotham Season Two kicks off September 21st on Fox.