After having such a strong opening that quickly squandered its potential, GOTHAM’s first season was more misses than hits for me. Too many directionless subplots clamoring for my attention, too much emphasis on useless characters (please stay dead, Fish) and the show prematurely shooting off its “future Bat-villain” load instead of giving its main characters anything interesting to do other than react to the antics of Victor Zsasz, Scarecrow’s dad and a possible teenaged Joker. You have a great assembly of character actors, show. Give them story lines that just don’t start and stop, but actually provide them opportunities to grow and develop. And for the love of God, take your time. Needless to say, I went into the 2nd season’s premiere with my fair share of trepidation. Now that I’ve come out the other end of the tunnel, all I have to say is this: don’t screw the pooch this time around, GOTHAM.
Following the events of last season, things have shifted quite a bit in our crime-ridden hamlet. Jim Gordon has been reduced to a beat cop due to incurring the wrath of dirty Police Commissioner Loeb while his partner Harvey Bullock has quit the force, quit the drink and taken up a job as a bartender. Penguin is the top crime boss with folks like Selina Kyle and Zsasz in his employ. Gordon’s ex-fiancée Barbara is now an inmate at Arkham Asylum after murdering her parents and trying to kill Jim’s new girlfriend Dr. Leslie Thompkins. And young Bruce Wayne and Alfred have discovered a secret locked room hidden behind the fireplace in Wayne Manor. The fact that I can cover the main plot points in just four sentences is a miracle compared to what a chore it was last season.
That’s not to say that the show isn’t without its fair share of busy work taking place in the background. Edward Nygma is still sputtering around the GCPD having conversations about how to court the thoroughly bland Ms. Kringle with his suave split personality (a character trait typically not associated with the Riddler, but fine. Whatever). There’s romantic tension (isn’t there always?) between Jim and Leslie because the lesson of being honest with your loved ones wasn’t hammered into his head enough last season. And with the announcement of even more characters waiting in the wings like Azrael, Hugo Strange, Victor Fries, Calendar Man and one of Bruce’s future girlfriends Silver St. Cloud, I fear it’s gonna get crowded and chaotic real fast.
Yes, I know the show is about Gotham and that eventually a lot of Batman mythology will have to be addressed, but it still feels like the creators can’t wait to jump to next big Bat-reference without providing enough satisfying story arcs for their established stable of characters. Within the span of just this premiere, Gordon goes from beat cop to getting fired to being an enforcer for the Penguin to getting rehired as a detective. The idea of the always-virtuous and honest Jim Gordon being directionless without his badge and having to compromise his morals by being under the Penguin’s thumb for a bit is an interesting dynamic that you could stretch over quite a few episodes. But now that payoff is immediately on the horizon and will probably be resolved just as quickly as it was presented with little-to-no consequence. That could have been the first half of your season with that character, GOTHAM! What is your rush?
At least there is some semblance of promise for properly-paced drama with the other characters. Bruce ends the episode with something of a mission statement from his late father. Hopefully, the show will take its time with the concept of Bruce finding out what his “higher calling” may be, but knowing how GOTHAM loves to jump the gun he’ll probably be in a prototype Batsuit by the end of the season with absolutely no training and still not old enough to shave. I’m holding out equal hope that the show can properly pace out the machinations of the alleged “big bad” of the season: billionaire Theo Galavan. He presents a noble public persona, but is secretly planning to cause chaos in the city by employing the skills of some of Arkham’s deadliest such as possible-Joker/Jerome, Amygdala and…sigh…Barbara? Really? Anyways, the chaos that is sure to follow coupled with Gordon and company unraveling Galavan’s true intentions should be enough to sustain 20-some episodes, right? Right???
The theme “Rise of the Villains” is being hyped as this season’s focus and, I’ll admit, they did kind of steal the show for me now that GOTHAM has struck a good balance between the grit and the camp. I may have ragged on Barbara just now, but honestly, actress Erin Richards is more interesting to watch now that she is in full-on “nutball femme fatale” mode. Robin Lord Taylor’s Penguin being openly shrewd and malicious towards everyone now that he is top dog is fun to see. And you can tell that actor Cameron Monaghan is having a ball playing the sadistic Jerome. There most likely will be a huge upset in the fan base if all this build up results in him being just another red herring for the Joker. Though to be honest, as good as he is at playing lunatic, I’m secretly hoping it isn’t him as I personally feel that the Joker’s full madness shouldn’t be shown until he is physically transformed into him. Monaghan is almost there, just minus green hair and a purple suit. Again, it just feels like it’s too much too soon.
And ultimately, that is the lesson I am hoping this show has learned even though it most likely hasn’t. Though the villains being spotlighted somewhat salvaged the episode for me, I still have the feeling that this season is going to burn through multiple arcs and a breakneck speed with no regard for tension or suspense and it doesn’t help knowing that even more characters are on the way. The show has always struggled with bombarding its viewers with too much all at once. With this premiere, it felt a little lighter with only about three story lines taking center stage for a majority of the episode. It’s a start in the right direction, GOTHAM. Just take your goddamn time and actually pace yourself with the players you already have on the board.
Final Score: 6.5 out of 10