Two episodes were provided prior to broadcast.
The first season of Gotham was very hit and miss. For everything the Batman prequel did right, it made some major missteps, either alienating comic-book fans or frustrating viewers in general. It was still a mostly entertaining and enjoyable debut year for the series, but the finale made it very clear there was room for improvement in season 2.
And while the first two episodes of Gotham‘s sophomore run certainly point to the quality of the show having increased (certainly in terms of correcting the uneven tone of the first), it hasn’t really undergone a radical-enough shift to win back those who may have given up on it for issues that existed last season. For loyal fans of Gotham or those considering checking it out for the first time, though, season 2 gets off to a great start and sets up a lot of promising and exciting story arcs for the year, ensuring that those who do tune in will likely stick around for the long haul.
After picking up immediately where season 1 ended, the show then jumps a month ahead in a move designed to shake up the status quo for many of the lead characters. Unfortunately, that trick feels forced when it quickly becomes apparent that the majority of these changes aren’t going to stick (similar to when Gordon ended up being demoted to working in Arkham Asylum for only an episode or two). Still, the premiere works in the sense that it establishes new threats and new situations for characters like the Penguin (Robin Lord-Taylor).
Additionally, the interactions between most of the heroes and villains of Gotham remain as satisfactory as ever. Those which worked in season one continue to do so here, while there are also some new ones which hold a lot of promise. However, as well-handled as the relationships between characters like Jim and Harvey and Bruce and Alfred continue to be, there are some which just don’t work at all.
The young Selina Kyle suddenly being under the employ of The Penguin feels like a ridiculous leap as she goes from teenage pickpocket to being on the inside of the city’s criminal empire, and also leads to perhaps the most excruciatingly cringe-worthy line in the series to date, as Oswald points out that having Selina close by is “like having a cat around the house.”
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Unfortunately, much of the cheesiness which plagued Gotham‘s first season remains, and too often rears its ugly head and distracts from the dark and realistic reality the show is striving to portray. It quickly becomes apparent that Jerome is going to be a major part of the series moving forwards as it looks set to reveal the origin story of The Joker, whether comic book fans like it or not.
For the most part, Cameron Monaghan does a great job and delivers a very strong performance at times. At others though, he comes across as a poor man’s Heath Ledger, offering almost an imitation of that version of the Clown Prince of Crime and coming off as simply trying too hard to be The Joker. It’s acceptable that he may have been mad before becoming Batman’s greatest foe, but it just feels like Gotham is trying to hard to make it clear that, yes, this is the man who will one day be known as The Joker. Forgetting the fact that this is a relatively forced origin story though, and he is at least an enjoyable enough presence who helps to freshen things up somewhat.
Another big problem for season two looks set to be The Riddler. Gotham is incorporating a tired and clichéd approach of having him talk to a much smoother and cooler version of himself in mirrors and the like, and the whole things comes over as both lame and tired. It’s hard to say where they’re going with this, as they look to turn Edward Nygma into The Riddler, but his descent into madness is so far boring and certainly drags the show down.
Thankfully, the Penguin remains easily watchable, with his journey feeling far more natural and believable as he establishes himself as Gotham’s new crime lord (for someone who couldn’t even manage a bar the month before, he’s doing surprisingly well).