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August 2016

Gotham - season 2

cast: Ben McKenzie, David Mazouz, Sean Pertwee, Robin Lord Taylor, and Camren Bicondova

creator: Bruno Heller

961 minutes (15) 2015
widescreen ratio 16:9
Warner blu-ray region B

RATING: 7/10
review by Christopher Geary

Gotham - The Complete Second Season

Having established in Gotham - Season One that, long before Batman, Jim Gordon was the hero of his city, this TV crime drama continues to dramatise how the demands of total loyalty and sincerity are just as toxic to any honest and stable relationship as betrayal. Season two begins with a themed sequence promoted as 'Rise Of The Villains', and then switches mid-season to 'Wrath Of The Villains'.

From the start, Detective Gordon is sacked, but his dismissal is only temporarily. The Penguin asserts himself as the city's new crime lord, but in his paranoid fits he enjoys killing the messengers that bring him bad news, so things look grim for Gotham now, but it seems okay, and business-as-usual to have an underworld, as long as somebody is running it. While the young Bruce breaks into the Wayne vaults behind his manor's fireplace. Psycho-freaks escape from Arkham asylum to promote operatic mayhem as the Maniax gang, led by Jerome the Joker. Even when Gordon regains his badge and gun, the immediate present and the long-term future seems unfathomably bleak.

Although the series struggles, at times, to balance its stylised cop show elements with more outlandish comicbook antics, crooked routines are booming, and there is plenty of sub-Bond action and X-Files intrigues going on/ off in most episodes, and Gotham always looks stunning in hi-def. Following a slaughter of cops in the precinct, Gordon and his new boss create a strike force Unit Alpha of uniformed untouchables.

Forensic specialist, nervous Eddie Nygma still talks to his mirror but now he is losing arguments with his socially confident doppelganger. Penguin's team-up with Nygma's brittle sanity cooks up a new level of conspiratorial madness. There's also an amusing moment when Wayne Enterprise's resident tech expert Lucius Fox quickly and easily solves Nygma's riddles. Mr Freeze livens up Gotham nights with his patent cryogenic experiments in the most gruesome episode so far. Newly ambitious Nygma now starts leaving question-mark clues at his terrorist performance artworks. In a surprise twist, Gordon is convicted of murder and sent down to Blackgate - which cues up a prisoner montage that is hideously depressing and unfortunately predictable.

In the Machiavellian story-arc that holds this season together, the rival campaigns for mayor coincide with an arson spree, bio-engineered freaks and psych lab victims soon make their presence known, legal attempts to solve problems result in tragedy, we get a video glimpse of the Secret Council, and nobody tells the truth. Typically, the down-side to all this is that actors are usually at the mercy of plotting, forced into deceptive role-playing that's often in conflict with their characters. The loyalty that often comes with a bloody curse, feeds into the Batman clichés with tilted camera angles signalling the onset of crazy behaviour.

After his faulty brain-washing, the convicted Penguin gets a 'certificate of sanity' from Arkham, a madhouse that offers layers of black comedy borrowed from classic movies like One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest (1975) and Shock Corridor (1963). Below the asylum's upper levels are dank bowels where monsters lurk, re-animation becomes possible, and, for a frightening season-climax, it's the source of a Legion Of Horribles unleashed during a breakout. At well-timed intervals throughout the season, it's great fun to see various archenemies, wannabe heroes, anti-heroes, and compromised do-gooders assembling like Avengers for some rough justice.

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