“Gotham” Season 2 – A Slow Start, Great Villains and the Ending Doesn’t Work

Gotham Season 2

    “Gotham” Season 2 has moments that really stand out and could have made this season great overall if what we’d been shown and had been consistent and if the story had been more focused. There are so many threads that are brought out and I felt the end of the season didn’t really resolve many of them and only left us with more questions, which I hope Season 3 can answer but it hurts the overall performance of Season 2. There are some great characters though and those are the ones that keep this show good rather than okay or bad.

This review will contain SPOILERS

       This season’s arc involves the continuing mystery of who killed the Waynes and finding out who set up the killer to kill the Waynes along with Theo Galavan’s attempt to destroy Gotham and the plots of Hugo Strange in Arkham Asylum.

The Pros: The Cinematography – The cinematography continues to be great on this show. Certain shots are presented like a comic book panel and it gives it a great feel and makes the world feel lived in.

The World – The world is fantastic, the story doesn’t really work all the time…but the conspiracies, the crazy people and the characters who make this world possible is great to see. I like this world and it is really what keeps me coming back.

Blackgate Prison – At one point in the story Jim is sent to Blackgate Prison for a murder Nygma framed him for. It is really cool seeing him make friends with another innocent trapped in there and how dangerous it feels. There is a reason this is high security while Arkham is technically a hospital.

Arkham Asylum – Arkham is awesome in this. Whether is Hugo Strange (the best villain in this series so far) or the different people in Arkham being transformed into their later Batman counterparts…this is a place where so much is always happening, and Thomas Wayne was tied to it all. Even if he didn’t know about Indian Hill he must have known about Strange’s experiments.

The Characters – The characters are the strongest part of this series, even though there are more characters I’d only consider okay or cons than last season, the stronger characters really make up for it.

The Maniax – These are 7 Crazies that Theo Galavan breaks out of Arkham to cause chaos in Gotham so he’ll be elected Mayor. The most memorable one is the Jokeresque one who starts a movement when he dies as his laughter and Joker like look become a symbol of resistance in Gotham in the underground…the Maniax’s influence stays long after they are all defeated.

Nathaniel Barnes – Barnes is the new Commissioner after the Maniax kill the old one. He’s all business and militarizes the GPD. He also doesn’t trust Gordon but grows to respect him over time. Michael Chiklis really puts in an amazing performance.

Leslie Thompkins – Leslie is the stability for Gordon that he can’t accept because of his guilt. She is a fantastic character and it is sad when she eventually leaves to escape the war against Galavan. We learn she was pregnant but the child died. Baccerin continues to put some of the best performances in all she is in. I like how she is the clear headed one in the relationship  and a fighter in her own right.

Butch – Butch is back and hooks with one of the Galavan’s and breaks free of the mind control Penguin put on him. No idea where he is at the end of the season though after Fish Mooney is resurrected by Strange as he runs away after she knocks out Penguin.

Elijah van Dahl – Elijah is Penguin’s father and the actor who played him (Paul Reubens) played Penguin’s father in “Batman Returns.” He is a great character and he is there to help Penguin after Penguin’s reconditioning in Gotham and point him on a path to goodness. He is killed by his wife though when she tries to poison Penguin.

Miss Peabody – Miss Peabody is amazing! She is Strange’s second in command and is a threat, we see her take out people much larger or unhinger then herself and strike fear in them. She is the one who reminds Strange that maybe he shouldn’t take things so far as it could back to bite them…she is the calm to his recklessness.

Edward Nygma / The Riddler – Nygma becomes the Riddler this season as he kills his girlfriend when she finds out he killed her ex and becomes paranoid. This leads to him framing Gordon for her murder, though after Gordon breaks out of Blackgate he forces Nygma’s hand with Bullock to reveal the truth. After Nygma is in Arkham his intelligence is on full display as he manipulates the inmates into calmness. It is implied he escapes at the end when Mooney escapes in the bus carrying all the inmates. He also helps put Penguin back together after Galavan kills Mrs. Cobblepot in the first half of the season. I didn’t like Nygma all that much last season but I’m sold on the character after this season.

Oswald Cobblepot / Penguin – Penguin goes through the ringer this season. He is the King of Gotham, loses it all to Galavan including his mother and sanity. Riddler puts him back together, he gets sent to Arkham where he again loses his mind and has the violence conditioned out of him and ends up with his father and step-family…his step-family kills his father and he goes bad again. He then gets revenge on Galavan when Galavan is resurrected into Azrael and Fish Mooney gets revenge on him, leaving his future up in the air. This was his season, even more so than last season and his rise.

Hugo Strange – BD Wong’s Hugo Strange is the best character to come out of this show! From his mad scientist bent of messing with people’s minds to turn them into characters, to his outsmarting the Riddler and GPD and his insistence in releasing unstable people out into Gotham for the kicks. He’s mad but has empathy too as we see he cared about Thomas Wayne even though he called in the hit. This is a character with depth who I hope we see more of. He blows all the other villains out of the water and the full extent of what he knows will hopefully come to light next season. I’d love it if he takes out the Court of Owls as they make him look like a Saint.

Alfred – Sean Pertwee continues to be one of the best parts of the show! In this season we see him further teach Bruce Wayne as well as search for him at different points and see some of his former military skill in action. Seriously, I want to learn more about this character and his backstory.

Harvey Bullock – Bullock becomes Commissioner in this! His arc goes from working with Jim even when it is against the law Jim’s a fugitive…to leading the police after Azrael mortally wounds the Police Commissioner. This character really is fantastic and seeing him become responsible is a lot of fun.

Jim Gordon – Gordon continues to show why the show is based around him. He’s conflicted, corrupt (kills Galavan and goes rogue) and is the heart of the show as he’s very much a proto-Batman as guilt runs everything he does and it is getting through that guilt that brings us to the end of the Season so he can have a life outside of Gotham with Leslie (before getting pulled back in).

Okay: Mr. Freeze – When he puts on the suit he is good but before that and his resurrection he has too much of the crazy already. He is killing, which makes him unsympathetic. He should have stole not killed. He makes a great minion for Strange at least.

The Galavans – Theo is great when he becomes Azrael, but as the Mayor I just got tired of his plots. In regards to his sister and adopted daughter, I never got what they wanted so they were just kind of there.

Barbara Kean – She is okay, I thought I’d hate them bringing her back but her going from one of the Maniax to a somewhat ally is actually handled really well. I also like that she figures out Clayface is Gordon because she knows Gordon love Leslie.

Selena Kyle – Selena Kyle is okay but suffers from the same problem as Bruce. She like Bruce would work as “Batman: Year One” versions of themselves. Them being kids makes it so there aren’t any real stakes.

Bruce Wayne – Bruce Wayne is okay, he isn’t as bad as last season, but little kids solving mysteries doesn’t work well in anything not directed by Spielberg. He does alright with what he’s given but he’s Bruce Wayne and has to become Batman so lots of plot armor so no real stakes.

Okay/Con: The Ending – Fish is back which was a terrible narrative decision unless they do something interesting with it, Penguin is dead or knocked out and Strange is in prison. Seriously the most interesting villain is gone. Also a Bruce Wayne clone? gets out of the bus too.

The Cons: The van Dahls – I wish they hadn’t been blatant villains. There is nothing good about them. They are pointless violence and stupidity.

Firefly – This character is annoying. I hated the episodes and her family and nothing that is done with feels real. Her friendship with Selena feels contrived and her fighting Mr. Freeze at the end feels corny in all the wrong ways.

Fish Mooney – Fish is back and I wish she’d stayed dead. If she was going to be brought back it should have been related to Penguin and a civil war to take control of the gang. When she’s back the city is going back into chaos with all the inmates of Arkham freed and now her wants role seem moot. Did she kill Penguin, if she didn’t…why? Minus character popularity, bringing her back at the end serves zero purpose.

Cluttered Narrative – The narrative in both the first and second half of this season is really cluttered. First season had the Barbara, Galavan and Maniax storylines going on along with everything related to the Penguin and the Riddler…while the second season had Azrael, Hugo Strange, the hidden Council, Penguin, Riddler and bringing back Fish Mooney…where last season felt like it was leading to something…this narrative felt cluttered and unfocused.

  Hugo Strange is the biggest reason to watch this season. The Maniax are great in the first half and help make up for the sometimes weak Galavan narrative while Strange makes up for how uninteresting some of his minions are and how uninteresting the Council of Owls so far appears to be. Seriously, watch this show for the villains. Most of the heroes are okay, with the exception of Bullock and Alfred whose performances I’d consider great. The rest are either good or okay. I hated that this season ended with a cliffhanger and Strange in prison, but there isn’t much to be done along those lines. I plan to keep on watching as there is enough here to keep me coming back and this show is overall good. If you like the world of Batman and enjoyed the first season of “Gotham,” you will probably enjoy this season.

Final Score: 8 / 10 (would be rated lower if not for BD Wong as Hugo Strange).

Hugo Strange Gotham

Batman: The Animated Series – Season 1, Episode 51 – The Man Who Killed Batman – A World Without Batman

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“The Man Who Killed Batman,” is a fantastic episode. The premise is what would happen if a nobody killed Batman. How would Gotham react? What would be the fallout? In the super hero world these premises are always fascinating and usually handled well since the folks writing know how serious taking out a major character is, even if it is only for an episode or movie.

The premise of this episode is Syndey (Syd the Squid) wants to get in on a drug ring and over the course of the operation he manages to have Batman accidentally fall into an explosion. From here everyone thinks he killed Batman since he is holding his cowl…even though it was Batman who saved his life. From here the story unfolds.

Pros: The music – Captures the feel of intense mourning and bleakness. Batman is such a major part of Gotham city that the question of how would the city feel without Batman is answered pretty quick. A lot of folks would be lost who are both good and bad.

The Underworld – Things start out good and the thugs celebrate him, until a large thug tries to kill him so he’ll be the toughest guy in town. This is the first time Syd realizes he is in over his head.

Gotham Police – We see Bullock and Rene mourning the death of Batman and here how cut up Commissioner Gordon is after what happened. Their hatred becomes directed at Syd once they hear he is the one who did it. The scene is great because we see how much Bullock admires Batman.

The Joker and Harley Quinn – It is in this episode we see how abusive the Joker can be and that he has no love for Harley at all. She is a means to an end, a person to stroke his ego and cheer for his victories…even though she is the one still smart. She wants to steal the jewels but the Joker doesn’t care because his punch line of Batman is gone.

Batman’s Funeral – The Joker throws a funeral for Batman that expresses how incomplete he feels without him and how much he hates Syd for stealing his kill. It ends with Syd being burning alive in a vat of acid only being saved by Batman’s intervention.

Rupert Thorne – The man who set all the wheels in motion again. It was he who had the drug operation that lead to the “death” of Batman and who is so ruled by fear he is not able to believe that Syd did it all by accident and tries to kill Syd. He is once again established as the most dangerous crime boss who isn’t a rogue.

Batman – Batman is great in this episode in that he uses being undercover to finally take out Rupert Thorne…who had been putting the drugs on the street in the first place. He also gives Syd what he wants by playing dead after Thorne is taken in so that Syd will be respected in prison.

Syd – Syd is great as a Woody Allen type of guy. He’s a nervous wreck who manages to be lucky and unlucky to the extreme. Like a Woody Allen character he also wins in the end…getting the respect and recognition he craved. He is a funny and interesting character. He actually manages to carry the episode.

This episode was perfect and deals with the question of “What would Gotham be without Batman?” in this animated universe really well. I kind of wish it was longer so we could see more reactions from other rogues and actually see Gordon…but from the limited point of view we get through Syd’s perspective it is brilliant and a must see.

10 / 10.

 

 

Batman: The Animated Series – Season 1, Episode 49 – I Am The Night – Is Being Batman Worth the Cost?

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“I Am The Night,” is one of the more reflective Batman episodes that explores the cons of Batman and the guilt that Bruce Wayne lives with everyday. The story’s premise is that Batman is visiting Crime Alley where his parents are killed which leaves Commissioner Gordon in a setup against the Jazzman that leads to him getting mortally wounded…from here the story unfolds.

Here is the assessment of the episode:

Pros: Bullock – Bullock is the voice against Batman. He blames Batman for not showing up (basically admitting the police force hasn’t advanced at all because of it’s dependence on the vigilanty) and that he plans to take Batman on for the injury of Gordon.

Barbara Gordon – Defends Batman and her father from the Jazzman. The set-up to become Batgirl continues.

Robin/Dick Grayson – Is there to remind Bruce Wayne of why he became Batman in the first place. Also is there for Barbara Gordon.

Commissioner Gordon – Explains to Batman how he admires him and would have liked to be him if he was younger. It is a touching scene. “You are already a hero.” Is what Batman tells him.

Batman/Bruce Wayne – Actually postulates some good questions. Why don’t I move on? Am I actually helping this city? Do I do any good in the end? (Paper had Penguin getting free). He brings up how Gotham has become a tourist attraction because of him and in a way that he has inspired some of the way the crazy is expressed in Gotham. In the end it is a “Yes,” because he recognizes the role he plays and how others depend on him (from the small time criminal who reforms after Batman saves him) to the Gordons and Robin.

The Music – Catches the reflectiveness of events since when the drama goes down it is on the anniversary of Bruce Wayne’s parents’ death.

Cons: The Jazzman – He is just a crook with a personal grudge. I’m surprised one of the bigger fish wasn’t used. Like the Joker to do a callback to the 1989 “Batman” movie.

This was a great episode that begins to explore the cons of vigilantism and also personal responsibility. It would have been better with a bigger rogue and more time to explore Batman’s morose but it still works and is a favorite. Definitely recommend this episode.

Final score is 9.75 / 10.

 

Batman: The Animated Series – Season 1, Episode 34 – The Laughing Fish – Joker the Survivor

The Laughing Fish

“The Laughing Fish,” is a Joker centric episode that focuses around his scheme to get fish that he has poisoned with the Joker Venom sold in stores. He begins by targeting copyright folks which in turns lures out Batman and the Police who were the point of his scheme in the first place. Harley Quinn also appears in this episode again as his assistant.

Here is the assessment:

The Pros: The Joker – This episode is good at showing just how psychotic and uncaring he is about anyone but himself. Where before his minions were robots but meant nothing, here they are people who mean nothing…even Harley Quinn who loves him. In this episode we see how creative (In a James Bond villain with a Shark Tank kind of way – Yes he has a Shark Tank in this episode) can be. He would have killed all his targets too if not for Batman having the Joker venom antidote. We also see his a survivor given everything he goes through before being attacked by his shark and presumed dead (He’s obviously not).

Harley Quinn – Is fantastic as Joker’s second in command. She promotes his plan throughout the episode and leads in her own way in regards to the schemes. We also see her demented unhealthy relationship with the Joker revealed in full when Bullock points out he’s a psychotic abusive and she says that is why she misses him.

Bullock – Is fantastic in this episode. He actually manages to find Joker first when he realizes the second fish that is used in the poisoning isn’t native to the region leading him to the Aquarium.

Batman – He fights a shark and wins as well as proves to Bullock he can be counted on. This is a great episode to see Batman as protector and detective.

The Animation – Once again is amazing, more so than the usual amazing. I like the large flowing drawings.

Okay: The story – The Laughing Fish is a very Joker story but not the best one. His intentions aren’t really clear (Which I guess is part of the point), but because of it the episode doesn’t seem to know what tone it wants.

The Music – Not all that memorable. Like the episode it didn’t know what tone it wanted.

This was a solid episode that I would diffidently recommend. Seeing the Joker and Harley in action is usually always a good thing since the schemes are always interesting and Joker is the anti-thesis to the Batman.

My score for this episode is 8.5 / 10.

Batman: The Animated Series – Season 1, Episode 23 – Vendetta – The Arrival of Killer Croc

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“Vendetta,” is a Bullock Centric episode that introduces us to Killer Croc who is getting revenge against Bullock for putting him away years ago. It is a solid episode and visually Killer Croc is a great thug.

Here is my assessment of the episode:

Pros: Killer Croc – He isn’t the brightest of the rogues gallery, but he is a threat in his own way. He is street smarts and muscle mixed with an unbridled savagery. We get to see this in this episode with his framing of Bullock and kidnapping other criminals in order to frame Bullock. He is a great baddie and it takes a while for Batman to finally defeat him. He even gets Batman to think Bullock is guilty at one point.

Detective Bullock – This is a great Bullock episode. It helps develop his relationship with Batman and how they both believe in the law and in a way go about it wrong in different ways…Bullock is corrupt and Batman is a vigilant…unlawful by default.

Batman – His relationship with Bullock is explored in this one and he gets some great character moments, both as a detective discovering Killer Croc and Bullock’s innocence and his intelligence at beating Croc in his own territory.

This is a solid episode. It isn’t perfect, but it is good. The main things that bring it down is Killer Croc isn’t all that complex, and he is never given the chance to be complex. Storywise it is an enjoyable episode though.

My rating for this episode is 8 / 10.

Batman: The Animated Series – Season 1, Episode 7 – P.O.V. – The Scene of the Crime

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“P.O.V.” is the episode that provides many different perspectives the scene of a crime. Think “Rashomon” by Kurosawa…in which different people provide their thoughts on what occurred as a higher authority seeks to get the truth out of it. The episode is a perfect character exploration episode that shows us more of Gotham beyond the usual Batman and his rogues gallery character episodes.

Here is the assessment:

The Pros: Story style – Is wonderful! It is like a Noir crime mystery, but time only related to the cops and Batman. It reveals the pros and cons of each of the characters as they share their perspective…and shows that Gotham PD isn’t entirely incompetent.

The characters – Are wonderful! Even Bullock is handled well, where he reckless and corrupt..but like a Orson Welles character has his heart in the right place. The rookie cop is green but not stupid and Renee Montoya is the primary protagonist this episode which is awesome! It is something that isn’t common in most animated movies (She is female and a woman of color.) It is great seeing the character dynamic between them, as well as Batman.

Batman – Mysterious and doing his things. Not a bad Batman episode, though I’m sure there might be one out there.

Okay – The music again, was okay…but not amazing.

Cons: The gang – Their leader is nameless and they get no exploration, which is a shame. They are there for the cops and Batman to defeat…would’ve like a little exploration of their motivations at least.

Great episode! I would give it 9 / 10.