Reviewed by Alicia Glass
Season Two of the grittiest and arguably the darkest DC show on tv, our beloved Gotham, gave us the rise of so many villains, and answered so many burning (sometimes literally) questions, while of course bringing up brand new ways to put the laughter back in the slaughter our familiar Batman bad guys are doing. We met the legacy of the Joker in Jerome, we explored Arkham, took on the Court of Owls and Azreal himself, and that’s only the beginning. The casino, hell the fun park carnival ride of your deepest nightmares is coming to life in the underbelly of Gotham’s streets, and Jim Gordon, plus you know a forever exasperated Harvey Bullock and some cops too, are the only ones who can stop them!
I loved me some Penguin this season, but then, I am biased. Robin Lord Taylor is a giant sweetheart in real life, at least at Cons he goes to, yet he does great justice to the character Penguin. He kept trying to find himself, and nothing ever quite seemed to fit just right. We only knew him for an episode or two, but an amazing Paul Reubens, yes that guy, as Penguin’s long-lost father this season was epic. For me, it rather felt like we had been given a gift, a mini backstory from those few moments of Tim Burton’s Batman Returns where the Cobblepots (and a younger Paul Reubens as Father again) attempt to murder their monstrous son. If Father and son had known each-other a little bit longer, oh the mischief they could have gotten up to. As it stands, Penguin got his spirit back in the end, and in an enduring legacy from his graceful Father, a sense of fashion and dress unlike any other Gotham villain, clearly iconic and marking him as the Penguin Godfather we all know and love.
Oddly, as much as I adore Cory Michael Smith in the role, Riddler seemed relegated to a move-the-story-along character this season, and that’s unfortunate. Ed has always been presented as being at least potentially smarter than all of them, at least in his own mind, but too often this season he laughs maniacally and oh, just does whatever and mostly the right (for the bad guys) thing happens to, or because of, him. I got that when Ed killed his girlfriend and buried her, he went a little Mr. Happy psycho nuts for awhile, but then he decided to frame Jim Gordon and get him off the police force and off his case. Right? Why? Jim is clearly distracted by this other villainous nonsense, why does Ed keep reminding him? Because Jim needed to be outside the law when things really started to pop off and by then, Ed’s in Arkham along with the rest of them. Ed got found out, completely plausible, trooped off to Arkham, okay, and now he makes friends with Hugo Strange and plots his escape. I suppose I buy it, we just thought perhaps Ed’s smarts outweighed his crazy. Not this time. This season has been marketed as The Rise of the Villains and The Wrath of the Villains later on, but poor Ed’s part of the story struck me as a descent. His wrath wasn’t quite up to par either, but Ed only just became a villain, and so he gets some slack.
We’ve come round to Hugo Strange and oh the many twisted things he’s done. If you thought Arkham Asylum was bad, Indian Hill, where the real monsters live, is worse hell. Awful experiments go on down there, human/animal splicing and modern necromancy just for openers. A poor young girl, Selena’s friend in fact, nearly died from all those burns she took. Yet here she is reborn as the goddess Firefly in all her scarred and flame-throwing glory. Strange raised Victor Friez, that poor frozen dead man and his frosty wife story, from the dead and weaponized him, which worked for me and looked quite cool, but kind of relegated that whole epic tale to a side jaunt. Strange even brought Fish Mooney, you know you just heard Jada Pinkett Smith snarl her name in that voice too, back from the dead, memories intact and as unique as ever. Wong does well with iconic Hugo Strange mannerisms, somehow even the pinkish Lennon shades work too. Though his assistant, Ms. Peabody in her improbable purple lipstick glory, makes me distinctly uncomfortable. Which I assume is the whole point of her.
So, what do we know? We know most of the iconic characters of the show have managed, by means both fair and foul, to get into Arkham and even into Indian Hill. Where Hugo Strange is currently being told by his Masters to transfer all the patients and blow up the damned facility. Who’s the lady in the white owl mask? Oh that’s a very big can of worms, just go look up DC’s Court of Owls and prepare to be astounded. They want Strange to be able to resurrect the dead with their full memories and personality intact, no small job. Yet Fish Mooney lives, commands, hell she escapes and takes the bus-full of crazies with her. Fish survived the crash, took Butch and company, and let Penguin live after he fainted at the sight of her – it’s a very scary Fish Mooney return. We know Bruce Wayne and Lucius Fox are now playing the quiz game with a maniacal Ed Nygma; from them we know Wayne Industries runs Indian Hill, and that boring little board of directors does not run Wayne Enterprises. It’s a secret society thing apparently.
We know that holy cow, Harvey Bullock can’t make speeches to save his life, and yet somehow he’s going to make a great GCPD Captain anyway. Heart you forever Harvey Bullock, especially when played by Donal Logue in all his rumpled glory. We know that Bruce Wayne will never be a boy again, he is now a little man capable of great acting and subterfuge, violence, even poverty. We know that Alfred Pennyworth forever and always kicks so much ass, Sean Pertwee just rocks that part so bloody hard.
I’d like to state for the record that we missed Morena Baccarin as Lee for most of this season, she was much better at grounding Jim Gordon than anyone else. Then again, some of the things he had to do in the fight against the freaking Mayor, Theo Galavant, or when he resurrected as Azrael (super-cool DC comics nod) or against Hugo Strange too, Lee didn’t need to be around for that. I was sorry she and Jim’s would-be child suffered the absentee cutting room floor treatment though. It is worth noting that we the audience didn’t actually see Lee disappear or suffer a miscarriage, so it’s entirely possible for a Baby Gordon problem out there in the next season.
Where do we end the Rise and the Wrath of oh so many beloved Batman villains? With yet more villains spilling out of that crashed forgotten bus, that’s where. Let the speculations begin, place your bets! Was it Killer Croc, certainly plausible with monster genes and non-aging involved; was that Man-Bat, that poor misguided scientist type who experimented so wrongly on himself; how about even a Jerome-infected laugh? And let us not forget the Bruce Wayne lookalike, whom we could lay wage is Lincoln March (don’t click unless you like major spoilage). Oh Gotham, you do justice to my love of Batman bad guy mythos. You’ve set the stage for a danse macabre of mobsters and real monsters in season 3 and I cannot wait.
It’s already been confirmed by the show that season 3 will have the Mad Hatter and the Tweedle brothers, presumably working with him; plus one of my personal favorite villains, Solomon Grundy, in what I sincerely hope will be the Halloween episode; and in keeping with the groundwork for mythology already laid for the Court of Owls, Talon should make an appearance as well.
There is literally nothing else like Gotham on TV right now, mixing the gritty cop drama with the magically psycho world of pre-Batman DC comics. It will be far too long a wait for season three, but I’m betting it will pay off in the end. Season one built the mob-laden world of Gotham’s underbelly, and season two absolutely reveled in the monstrous mayhem of legendary Arkham Asylum, so the mixing of crazypants mcstabby over here and armed-to-the-teeth gangsters over there virtually guarantee a hell of a badass heroes journey for James Gordon in season three. Seriously, if nothing else, mini-Catwoman Selina (Camren Bicondova) is the most wonderful little cat-burglar-in-training toughie we love as an adult; her scenes of mini-romance with Bruce Wayne this season gave long-reaching echo to the epic push-pull love between a certain thief and a be-costumed dark knight.