This Gotham review contains spoilers.
Gotham: Season 2, Episode 2
Tonight’s Gotham delved further into The Rise of the Villains, giving us all a chance to experience just what the Maniax dynamic looks like. The answer: unhinged. “Knock, Knock” was another solid edition to Gotham’s second season. This show is still one of the campiest things you can watch on TV right now — but that it isn’t a bad thing (with the exception of some of the more horrific scenes). Plus, this show has committed to a more serialized storyline this season that makes tuning in from week-to-week that much more rewarding.
The Maniax take over Gotham
Why would anyone ever work at the GCPD at this point? Seriously, Harvey: run. Jim is obviously a lost cause, but there’s still hope for you. Selfishly, I’m glad that Bullock decided to make his return, but it probably spells the end of his relative happiness. And his sobriety.
Though I appreciated Gotham’s ballsiness in having the Maniax take on the GCPD so thoroughly, Jerome’s murder of Commissioner Essen was not cool. Essen was not only a badass, distinguishable, good guy character in a sea of police people whom I could care less about, she also represented a female character of color on a show short on both female and characters of color. Furthermore, she was the only heroic female character whose storyline is not dependent on her romantic relationship with one of the main male protagonists. It’s a bummer that Gotham killed her off to prove Jerome’s instability. He was throwing people off of a newspaper building earlier this episode. His instability was already proven. Gotham didn’t need to sacrifice Essen to the cause. “I’ve sat back and watched old, corrupt, lazy men buy their way into this job and waste it. Not me, Jim.” Ugh.
For the most part, the Maniax’s interaction with one another was the most entertaining part of this episode, but, at times, it bordered on the uncomfortable. When Gotham plays scenes like the Maniax throwing people off of a skyscraper to their deaths as straight campy humor without so much as a cut-away to some horrified passersby (and, no, the newspaper employees don’t count because that was also played for laughs), it lowers the stakes of this world. If we don’t care about the people of this city, then why should we be invested in Jim and Bruce’s quest to save it?
Because Gotham seems to think it can’t upset canon, it often overcompensates by making its villains that much more brutal. The ubiquitous, frustrating storytelling notion being: brutality equals shocking. Of course, shock isn’t the same thing as surprise; the latter falls much closer to novelty than this show typically dares to venture.
What did work in this storyline of Gotham slowly succumbing to Maniax madness? Barbara continues to be 1,000 percent more interesting this season than she ever was in season 2. “I’m not sick. I’m free,” she tells Jim, before watching him get the crap beat out of him by another one of the Maniax gang. We viewers are also free of Boring Season 1 Barbara and have been blessed with this unpredictably angry one. I love Jim, but it’s not hard to imagine anyone who knows him getting annoyed with his holier-than-thou characterization. Now that Barbara has been freed of her position as his love interest, she gets to do other stuff. Gotham doesn’t seem to be able to handle characters being both Jim’s love interest and compelling. Exhibit B: Leslie Thompkins. This is frustrating, but at least Barbara has made the transition to useful character.
Lucius Fox joins Team Good Guy
Elsewhere in the episode, Bruce and Alfred have a serious spat when the latter intentionally destroys Thomas Wayne’s not-Batcave computer so that Bruce won’t fall further into his quest for justice/vengeance. Fair enough. On both sides. I would have liked to see their estrangement last longer than the span of one episode (commit to your serialization, Gotham), but can’t stay too angry given that this episode also gave us Alfred threatening Lucius in the most British was possible. It was funny, kind of intimidating, and — most importantly — gives Alfred a new dynamic to work with.
As much fun as the Bruce and Alfred stuff can be, the storyline is suffering from the lack of a third recurring character to play off of. Let’s hope this is the start of more Lucius Fox and a fast burn on the What Was Thomas Wayne Up To storyline. Though I wouldn’t hold your breath on that latter wishlist item.
Nygma is losing it
Speaking of slow-burn storylines, Ed’s spiral into madness continues to somehow go unnoticed by his co-workers. Ed’s storyline is the closest Gotham gets to engendering (or even trying to engender) sympathy for its villains. Obviously, not a tip priority for this show. But it’s hard not to feel for Ed, who is trying so hard to ignore the evil split personality that has sprung up inside of him. Gotham doesn’t do nuance when it comes to its depiction of mental illness. It’s actually extremely problematic. Ed may be our only hope. Or, better yet, maybe a character who isn’t a villain could also suffer from mental illness? Yeah, that’s probably even less likely than the Thomas Wayne Mystery picking up speed.