TV Recap: Gotham, ‘Damned if you Do’ (Season 2 Premiere)

Gotham2

Damed If You Do Plot:

One month after discovering a secret room in Wayne Manor, Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) struggles to open the door to his father’s past. Gordon (Ben McKenzie) deals with the fallout from challenging Commissioner Loeb (Peter Scolari) with a demotion, Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) begins his reign as Gotham’s crime boss, and Barbara (Erin Richards) gets locked up in Arkham Asylum for her crimes.

The first five minutes into Gotham’s second season had me shaking in my bat boots. It was a rough start out of the gate. Clunky transitions, a return to bad Nygma (Cory Michael Smith), and a cringe-worthy campy villain that was tough to watch. I was mortified. After the initial shock though, Gotham settled into a damn good episode. For all the summer long promotions of “Rise of the Villains” and “GET READY FOR BAT VILLAINS, OMFG,” Gotham reminded us all that this is Jim Gordon’s show, and Gordo’s first episode thrust him right into a moral dilemma, just as the pilot did.

Photo Credit: Nicole Rivelli/FOX
Photo Credit: Nicole Rivelli/FOX

The premiere delivered right away on the battle between Gordon and Commissioner Loeb that was teased at the end of season one. We see Gordon down and out, not even a detective anymore. This leads to Gordon having to make a pretty tough call, and he even gets advice from Bruce Wayne. I suppose the naysayers will shout, “Oh, he’s only like 13! He’s already acting like Batman!” This is how they wrote him in season one, and it’s consistent. Get over it. Gordon also gets advice from his good pal, Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue), who also begins the episode in a very peculiar place. Bullock is only in one scene, but it was a great one. The Gordon/Bullock relationship didn’t miss a beat, great as always. Gordon’s situation also put a lot of tension between him and Leslie Thompkins (Morena Baccarin), who’s still getting over that whole “your ex-fiancé tried to kill me” thing. Even with this whole villains theme they pushed on us, it’s refreshing to know that Gordon is still front and center. He drove the episode, as he should.

The other big storyline was Bruce, piggybacking off the very last scene from the season finale. When I saw Bruce and Alfred (Sean Pertwee) discover the Bat Cave, I was pretty wait and see on the whole idea, but this played out nicely throughout the episode. It gave us several great Bruce and Alfred moments, which were sorely lacking in the second half of last year. I’m interested to see how the cave plays into what Thomas Wayne was up too. When the episode ended, I got the sense there was some real meat to the cave, and not just some lame excuse to grab more viewers. This was another example of the writers not being afraid to screw with Batman Mythology. You either accept this is an alternate interpretation, or you don’t watch the show.

Photo Credit: Nicole Rivelli/FOX
Photo Credit: Nicole Rivelli/FOX

As much as we’ve talked about Gordon and Bruce, the villains certainly made their presence known. Robin Lord Taylor picks up right where he left off. With Penguin running shit, it’s just a cleaner show now. The mob war was great, but we don’t need to retread that ground. It’s Penguin’s city, and that’s it. Taylor was great throughout the episode, but his scene with Loeb in particular was chilling. I mentioned it at the top, but unfortunately this was not a good episode for Nygma, who also started out rough last year. I’m not feeling this Spider-Man Norman Osborn talking to an alternate personality crap. Ugh. Is this really what Nygma is going to be like for several episodes? I pray we get over this rather quickly.

Other than the usual suspects, we got a better glimpse into the crazies at Arkham Asylum. Cameron Monaghan returns as Jerome, our possible Joker. He was fine here, but didn’t do much for me. I’m sure we’ll get better material down the road. Coming off the Most Improved Award from last season is Erin Richards as Barbara Kean, now in full on psycho mode. Overall, very good. I’m on board. My only request is that they tone down the camp. I want to see her more serious crazy like Milo Ventimiglia’s character was. Some of her dialogue such as “I hope you die screaming, bitch” felt way too CW-ish. They can do better. We’re also introduced to a couple new villains, Theo Galavan (James Frain), and his sister, Tabitha (Jessica Lucas). Not much from them this week, but definitely show potential as season long nemesis.

While there were some warts here and there, this was a strong return for Gotham. The last ten minutes in particular were fantastic, and captured the true essence of what Batman is, and especially mirrored Gordon and Bruce’s story arcs nicely. The pace was also quick. I was shocked at where some of the characters ended up at the end. I only hope they speed up Nygma’s mirror talking.

Rating: 8 out of 10 (Great)

Gotham airs Monday nights on FOX

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Daniel Cohen is the Film Editor for Pop-Break. Aside from reviews, Daniel does a weekly box office predictions column, and also contributes monthly Top Tens and Op-Ed’s on all things film. Daniel is a graduate of Bates College with a degree in English, and also studied Screenwriting at UCLA. He can also be read on www.movieshenanigans.com. His movie crush is Jessica Rabbit. Follow him on Twitter @dcohenwriter.
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Daniel Cohen is the hard-boiled Film Editor for the Pop Break. Besides reviews, Daniel writes box office predictions, Gotham reviews and Oscar coverage. He can also be found on the Breakcast. If Daniel was sprayed by Scarecrow's fear toxin, it would be watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on a non-stop loop.

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