Welcome to the month of September and all the glorious television premieres that it brings. One such premiere is, of course, Gotham. The show managed to impress audiences (and the television execs) enough to get renewed for a second run and this season the writers appear to be concentrating on the thing that many people last season considered to be the best aspect of the show – the villains. When last we left off, little Bruce Wayne was delving into his father’s secrets, the Penguin had become the baddest apple in Gotham, Edward Nygma was about ready to fall over the edge of the cliff and into crazy town and Jim Gordon was making his way steadily toward the position of commissioner, although he was paying a price for his altruistic ambitions. Will the season 2 premiere, ‘Damned If You Do…”, impress enough to keep us watching? Read on for the details.
Things have a changed a bit since last season and Gotham takes little time in setting up the variety of new situations. James Gordon has been demoted to a beat cop, although he’s still dating Dr. Thompkins. Harvey Bullock quit the force outright, instead choosing to live out his days as a bartender. The Penguin is sitting pretty at the top of the food chain, doling out punishments to those who refuse to obey. And the now-crazy Barbara Kean is locked away in Arkham, though not without the company of some familiar and villainous faces.
When the story finally begins, we see a new face (who later turns out to be known as Theo Galavan), giving some crazy guy a dose of a glow-in-the-dark drug. Said lunatic then hits the streets and begins to cause havoc. Gordon is there, of course, stopping the baddie and sending him off to Arkham Asylum. Unfortunately, the consequence of doing his job is to lose it and Gordon finds himself without employment. So how to deal with this little problem? Why, make a visit to the Penguin!
Kingpin Cobblepot is all-too-happy to help Gordon out, offering to get rid of the troublesome Commissioner Loeb and reinstate Jim as a fully fledged detective once more. But the price of the deal is that James must go be a thug and collect some cash for The Penguin. At first he is resistant to the idea, the act itself grating his altruistic nature, but a short talk with Bruce Wayne shows Gordon that sometimes a small evil must be committed in order to help preserve the greater good. Gordon thus takes this questionable advice and, after a bloody shoot-out, secures The Penguin’s favor. And, as if the day isn’t bad enough, he gets a late-night call from his crazy ex-girlfriend. She’s pissed off, jealous and intent on killing his new lady.
All the moral compromises eventually work out for the best, however. The Penguin pays a visit to Commissioner Loeb and convinces him that retiring from the job is the best course of action. Not only that, but Gordon gets his position back as well as acquiring a new ally in the form of Sarah Essen – former Captain and now the new Commissioner. This should, in theory, make Jim’s job a little easier. But we shall have to see for sure exactly how well she manages while under The Penguin’s thumb.
Meanwhile, over at Arkham, Barbara is making friends, including one guy by the name of Jerome who may or may not be the future Joker. When a captured Zaardon arrives, however, things take a turn. He spits out some knock-out gas which facilitates the liberation of six inmates, including Barbara and Jerome. The rescue was staged by Galavan and it appears as if he’s putting together his own team of super villains with which to terrorize an unsuspecting Gotham.
We also see little Bruce Wayne digging deeper into the mysteries which lie beneath Wayne Manor. After a failed attempt at getting through a pass-code on a rather hefty door, he finally blows the thing right out of the wall. Behind said door, Bruce finds his father’s secret lair along with a note written to him from his deceased dad. And we also get a little bit of Edward Nygma, talking to his own reflection and slowly slipping down into the dark well of crazy.
All-in-all, this was a very fine introduction to Gotham’s season 2. We saw some conflict, some development, some set-up and met the season’s cast of characters, both new faces and old. It didn’t go overboard on feeding us information, providing just enough to wet the whistle and give structure to the conflicts to come. The interim between seasons 1 and 2 provided them with an opportunity to evolve many of the character arcs without spending precious screen time to do it. Thus, we walk into a familiar yet unknown version of Gotham and the writers are freed up to throw new and exciting things our way without being strictly beholden to the past season.
As far as the good stuff goes, I’m actually beginning to like Barbara this season. She was a giant pile of suck all throughout season 1 and easily one of the worst-written female characters of any show anywhere, but since she’s hit crazy-town, we begin to see her limited acting skills being put to use. Sure, they’ve completely butchered Jim and Barbara’s original storyline, but at least we’re spared the crap-tastic mess they made of their relationship for the majority of season 1.
And, though we’ve seen little of it thus far, I really like the evolution of Gordon and Bullock’s friendship. You can, in the brief scene they have this episode, see that the two have been to hell and back and greatly respect each other, no matter what life decisions the other has made. I’m really looking forward to seeing how they develop this relationship in future episodes.
Finally, there’s Gordon’s downward spiral. We saw a brief glimpse into what Jim was willing to do during season 1, but here we find him working for The Penguin and even putting bullets into people. Why does he sink so low? Because he believes he can still save Gotham. Because he wants to keep his promise to Bruce. And because he is beginning to feel that small transgressions are okay as long as they work toward the greater good. We’ll see how that works out for him…
Next week, ‘Knock, Knock’ sets the show on a path toward conflict. Galavan’s super-villain team is roaming the city and making a mess and Gordon has to figure out a way to stop them. Plus, Bruce and Selina must decide whether their relationship is one that makes them allies or enemies. It also looks like we’ll be getting a face-full of Jerome, the maybe-Joker. Check out the trailer for that one below.