“You’re part of the great endeavour, the great cleansing”
Well, why didn’t ‘Gotham’ begin its second season with an episode like ‘Knock Knock?’ This was ‘Gotham’ at its best; granted, that doesn’t mean the highest level of quality, but you settle for what you can get in ‘Gotham.’ Although I could have done without the Bruce Wayne/Alfred subplot, which felt like we’d been cheated yet again, the ‘Rise of the Villains’ certainly came to the fore, in an equally entertaining, brutal and shocking manner. At times, the brutality seemed too camp, diffusing the shock factor, but overall it was well done. It felt more like a mid-series cliffhanger than merely the second episode! Let’s hope they don’t peak too soon…
The villains under Theo Galavan have now created a nickname for their group: the Maniax! Or so we saw at the beginning of the episode, as they hurled people with a letter on their body off the top of a skyscraper. That they landed in perfect order to spell ‘Maniax!’ was silly, but it spelt out (in more ways than one) that the rise of the villains is at hand. In the first five minutes of the episode, we have Theo taking control of the Mayor through liberal use of a box on his head (which reminded me of the Lockbox enemy in ‘The Evil Within) and the Maniax hurling people to their death. It was a great start for a show that looked as if it hadn’t learned from its mistakes in the last episode.
The main player of the Maniax is clearly Jerome; I find it difficult to remember the names of the other guys! There’s the schizophrenic, the muscle man, and the cannibal. Of course, they play second fiddle to the man who appears to be a young Joker! In this episode, Cameron Monaghan does his very best to channel Heath Ledger’s Joker, which is no bad thing. Monaghan does a good job, but is be playing Ledger’s Joker in the campy atmosphere of Gotham. It means sometimes he works well, but others he comes off as a bit of a joker…Take, for example, the scene where he is spraying the cheerleaders with petrol. IT should be a terrifying scene, akin to The Joker grabbing Rachel in ‘The Dark Knight,’ but thanks to the circus-esque music, it turns into a carnival of sorts.
However, even with the clash of tones, it still makes for good entertainment. And an even more direct reference to ‘The Dark Knight’ occurs later on, when the Maniax invade Gotham Police Central and murder almost every cop in sight. Jerome gets a camera and films himself with Commissioner Essen (and later another random police officer). It’s threatening, scary, and reminiscent of Ledger’s homemade videos in ‘The Dark Knight.’ He comes off as insane, rather than buffoonish. He even kills another member of the Maniax in frustration, because the latter stole his line (“There’s nothing more contagious than laughter!”). Finally, we are receiving a great villain in Gotham (even if he doesn’t turn out to be The Joker!). Unfortunately, Jerome’s own rise came at the expense of Essen. Yes, he shot her dead. So now we have one less black female in an important role in a TV series. Well done, Gotham!
“I’m not sick. I’m free”
Another villain who has piqued my interest is Barbara. Yes, I disagree with the route they’ve taken with her, but she’s immeasurably more entertaining than the dull as dishwater Barbara of Season 1. She’s deliciously crazy, especially her confrontation with Gordon during the Gotham police massacre. It may be the muscle man who literally beats him down, but she psychologically brings him down. Gordon must feel partly responsible for Barbara’s downfall (he wasn’t there for her, etc), so their short conversation had a tangible air of importance to it. That happens rarely in Gotham!
I only felt short changed by Bruce’s dismissal of Alfred and quick readmission of him. True, it led to Alfred asking Lucius Fox for help (in a subtly homoerotic scene? Or was that just me?), but they could have dragged out the sub-plot for at least a few episodes. Make the drama of Bruce firing Alfred palpable. Let’s see Alfred working for someone else (Theo, perhaps?) before Bruce pleads with Alfred to come back. However, it gave us Alfred pouring his heart out to Bruce after destroying the computer that contains Thomas Wayne’s secrets, which was rather moving!
In ‘Knock Knock,’ ‘Gotham’ did what it failed to do in the premiere: entertain, enthral and seduce us into watching the next episode! It was packed full of revelations and occurrences that make us want to tune in next time. Instead of it being a chore, it will be a delight to see what happens. It’s probably the best episode of ‘Gotham’ yet. Let’s hope it isn’t an anomaly…
VERDICT: 8/10. ‘Gotham’ at its finest, which while still holding its share of flaws, strived to put on a great show. And it did!
(Click here for my review of Gotham, Season 2, Episode 1: Damned If You Do…)