*****WARNING!!!! THERE ARE SPOILERS BELOW*****
(Please take a moment to check out How FOX's GOTHAM Can Get It Right In Season 2)
So after a thrilling and mostly pleasing season 1 debut, FOX's second season of GOTHAM sprang upon fans with the promise of even more intrigue and drama. What with the world building completed, audience seemed ready for new exploits to feed an ever expanding desire for all things Batman related. And from the subtitle, RISE OF THE VILLAINS, there was no doubting just in which direction the the show would go.
Here are some of the first half season highs and lows from GOTHAM:
-The subjugation of the entire mob-underworld themes deliberately undercut the foundation the series had built in the first season. With the apparent exits of Falcone, Fish and the other mob-lings, a significant portion of Gotham's crime mythology was exercised from the series. The show without the pre-Batman crime elements just becomes a revolving door of supervillain origin stories, which the subtitle RISE OF THE VILLAINS points to. Hopefully, the second half of the season will see the return of the mob (Fish?) to cage rattle the current Boss.
-The introduction of MICHAEL CHIKLIS as Gotham police Captain Nathaniel Barnes, a gung-ho anti-crime crusader, seemed rushed and unnecessary. The character is flat and undeveloped and feels like a bid to gain the show some gravitas from the Chiklis name and previous works (tough-guy cop THE COMMISH and the Thing from 2005's FANTASTIC FOUR). He is by far the weakest character this season.
-For some reason, the writer's decided to bail on one of the strongest aspects of the first season, namely the GORDON/BULLOCK "bromance." With season 2 it should have been built upon, the chemistry between BEN MCKENZIE and DONAL LOGUE highlighted, and a deepening of the characters as partners, but instead we were given Cpt. Barnes and his "supercops." Lets hope that the partnership of Bullock and Gordon will be explored and expanded upon in the second half of seaon 2.
-By reducing the prominence of the Penguin (ROBIN LORD TAYLOR) it allowed other characters to gain some much needed shine, like Edward Nygma (CORY MICHAEL SMITH). The crafting of his psychosis and envitable break with reality was handled well (though the mirror double touched on cliche). The "accidental" death of MS. KRINGLE (Chelsea Spack) created a touch of tragic empathy and enriched the "riddle me this" one-dimensionality of the man who would be the Riddler. Also, teaming him with Penguin was a nice touch, a comic book Odd Couple and counterpoint to buddy cops Gordon/Bullock (Buddy-villains?)
-The other character tha stepped into Penguin's vacated spotlight THEO GALAVAN (James Frain) was a mixed bag. While his storyline introduced some interesting Bat-mythology (ORDER OF ST. DUMAS) and characters (Tabitha and Silver), the meatiest parts of it, the scheme to take over City Hall and Wayne Enterprises, was trumped by the hackneyed "blood of he last Wayne" angle. The machinations of trying to swindle Boy Wayne was far more compelling.
-BARBARA KEAN. The writers wholeheartedly corrected argueably the weakest element of season 1. By shattering her identity and sanity at the close of that season, and repurposing her as one of Galavan's "Maniax", Erin Richards was given a far more intertesting character to portray. Shifting Barbara into a warped version of the established mythology was a bold and ingenius way to set the show apart. Seeing her serve as a pre- Harley Quinn stand in with a certain Maniax was a pleasant nod to the future.
-The build up of JEROME VALESKA (Cameron Monaghan) as a "psuedo-Joker" was a magnificant red herring. Providing a faux origin of Gotham's most anticpated villain took guts, but it paid off in such a wonderful twist. Kudos to the writers and producers for NOT giving fans what they think they want. With each Joker-esque laugh fans were drawn in and left wondering if this could be the answer to the most enduring question in comics, "who was he before the Joker?" Maybe the second half can muddy the water even more.
GOTHAM: RISE OF THE VILLAINS has been largely successful in continuing the momentum of last season. There are some rough spots, but all in all a solid half season.