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Published on October 22nd, 2015 | by Maggie

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The Story So Far: Gotham

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A look at the first three episodes of Fox’s Gotham Season Two.

Gotham’s first season was a rocky one. As the show worked to find its footing, stray away from a monster-of-the-week formula, and find its own identity in terms of canon, I cautiously entered season two with bated breath.

My qualms with season one had a lot to do with my own pre-judgements. I expected a certain Gotham, a certain Jim, and a certain Bruce. Whenever the show fell short of these expectations, I couldn’t help but feel alienated. The show had to juggle another burden: inform newcomers without lecturing loyal fans. Hearing references to the lore sounded like nails on a chalkboard. Any time Selina was compared to a cat was cringeworthy. The introduction of the chaotic, unpredictable Jerome could only mean one thing.

Right?

Season two so far has been a shamelessly fun game of bait and switch. Hands are changing at GCPD and the force is on its knees. Bruce and Alfred have made an important discovery at Wayne Manor. What appears to be the foundation of a Suicide Squad or a Red Hood Gang isn’t exactly how I pictured. The foundation of what looks like the Court of Owls could go either way. What appears to be Harley Quinn is up in the air. The show teases with familiarity and throws it back in our faces. It’s as if they know what they’re doing.

Gotham Maniaxt
By now, I think the show is finding an advantageous angle with fans and newcomers. By using familiar elements to throw us off, they do just that. We find ourselves rolling our eyes at something we deem predictable but are proven wrong. Episode Three foiled a great deal of my theories to my pleasure. I like being wrong and I’m glad Gotham plays to that.

The show’s environment is also beginning to define the show as a whole. Looking back, I realize we’re in a reality that has Dell computers but no cars newer than 1981. We’re living in a reality with gigantic film cameras but also broadcast cameras for television- a time where Bullock sports the classic fedora but Bruce is seen in a modern hoodie and jeans. These details work to create their own reality and characterize this version Gotham.

That said, the strangeness of the show, the theatrics of the characters, the fact that Arkham has custom-tailored striped jumpsuits doesn’t seem as absurd as it used to. I find myself asking less questions and allowing myself to be absorbed.

Robin Lord Taylor as Gotham's Penguin
Like any good bat story, Gotham is villain-driven. I’ll admit I enjoy the villains and find them more entertaining than the protagonists. Robin Lord Taylor’s performance is tense as ever. I loved the scene in Loeb’s kitchen. The nervous energy Taylor creates, his seething stares, and his quiet frustrations are captivating.

And Jerome. Jerome. How can you have a conversation about season two without him? Cameron Monaghan’s atmospheric portrayal of a young, charismatic lunatic is…well, inspiring. He has a way of making every frame he’s in belong to him. As campy as the show can be at times, Monaghan’s performance is one of the most serious things about the story. Gotham needed something to define the atmosphere of the show and present a reality that fits somewhere between the reasonable and the absurd. He roots many of the show’s elements onto more solid ground. Whether it’s too soon for a character like him or whether the pacing of his development is too much and too fast remains to be seen. The end of episode three sent a real message about its intentions.

Though it’s still early, I am beginning to sense Gordon’s loss of control. As the show continues, I hope he’s put in more difficult situations and finds himself absolutely backed into a corner with no choice but to play peacekeeper between good and bad, rendering him into somewhat of a gray area. I see this in motion and hope it only gets more complex from here.

If Gotham can take care of its protagonists and shape them as carefully as their villains while being unapologetically rooted in its own reality, season two may have a huge payoff for fans and newcomers alike.

Maggie
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Maggie

Graphic designer living in the US with a thing for time travel.
Maggie
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