TV Review: Gotham - Season 2 Episode 1 "Damned If You Do..."
Season 2 Episode 1: "Damned If You Do..."
Synopsis: Penguin is King of Gotham and after a shakeup at the GCPD, Detective James Gordon’s moral compass wavers, as he seeks help from Penguin. Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne continues to explore the secrets from his father’s office, while GOTHAM newcomers Theo Galavan (James Frain) and his sister, Tabitha (Jessica Lucas), make friends with some unlikely allies, a group of dangerous inmates from Arkham.
Recap: Last season, Gotham underwhelmed viewers everywhere. Over the course of it's freshman run, Bruno Heller's DC origin series swerved wildly between decent comic book show and beyond cheesy police procedural. The material deserved more than it was getting which was a series comprised of a half dozen plot arcs that barely connected in a coherent fashion. With the summer off to reset expectations, Gotham is back and finally has found itself heading in the right direction. Gone is Jada Pinkett-Smith's Fish Mooney and the competing crime bosses of Falcone and Maroni. Now, the show is focusing on what it was trying to do from the very beginning: showcase the villains.
Make not mistake, this is still the Jim Gordon show with Ben McKenzie at the forefront as the eventual head cop of Gotham, but one month after the events of last season's finale, Gordon finds himself a traffic cop who is forced off the force by Commissioner Loeb. He then takes solace with his girlfriend, Lee, as he decides whether he can go beyond the law to set things right in the city. His partner, Harvey Bullock, has retired from the force and now runs a bar. Edward Nygma still works for the GCPD and in his lone scene we see him talking to his crazy side in the locker room mirror. Penguin is the new king of crime in the city with Mr. Zsasz and Butch by his side along with new recruit Selina Kyle. Edward NygmaBruce Wayne is still obsessed with opening his father's vault he discovered in the first season finale and the main criminals are all locked up in Arkham Asylum. There we find Gordon's former fiance Barbara who is now as batshit crazy as anyone else, including season one foes Jerome, the potential Joker, and Richard Sionis (aka Black Mask).
The crux of the season premiere falls on whether or not Jim Gordon can sacrifice his pride at being a good and upstanding cop to take an offer from The Penguin who can make things right with Gordon and the GCPD. McKenzie is given some good scenes here and doesn't have to smile awkwardly for an entire episode, a record for Gotham. But, we are introduced to a new original character, Theo Galavan. James Frain, an expert at playing bad guys, comes in as the mysterious scientist and philanthropist who has high hopes for Gotham. Secretly, he engineers the breakout of six inmates from Arkham, including Barbara Kean and Jerome, to assemble as some sort of villain team at his disposal. Frain is not as over-the-top as Pinkett was last season which could be good for the show.
While this is only one episode, it is a telling one compared to last year. When reviewing the Gotham pilot, I wanted to quit the show right then and there. This premiere is much more inline with what viewers were expecting from last season and that is a good thing. There are still too many characters to juggle but I am hoping that things will balance themselves over the next few hours. We have yet to meet Michael Chiklis' character, the replacement for the departed Captain Essen who was promoted this episode, and have only glimpsed Tabitha Galavan (Jessica Lucas) as the future Tigress.
The biggest shift this season is the darkness of the show. The goofy elements are much milder as the focus seems to be on making this more like The Flash or Arrow than it was last year. There is a lot of violence in this first hour including stabbings, head shots, and decapitated henchmen. Every scene with the Penguin is brimming with menace and an evil aura that furthers why Robin Lord Taylor's performance as Oswald Cobblepot was the best part of last season. Everyone involved seems to be aiming for an improved sophomore season and that makes this reviewer very happy. There is still a long way to go before I can have full faith that Gotham is the series we hoped it would be, but this first episode is absolutely on the right track.
Episode Final Verdict:
Next Episode: "Knock Knock" airs September 28th - Following his reinstatement, Gordon is thrust onto the high-profile case tracking the deadly inmate escape from Arkham Asylum. Meanwhile, Galavan plans his next move, while Bruce enlists the help of his father’s old friend to unlock the secrets in his office, and Nygma attempts to ask out Kristin Kringle (guest star Chelsea Spack) on a date