Laying it all out on the table, I honestly turned away from “Gotham” halfway through it’s first season. While I liked a good portion of the cast and the Dick Tracy-esque tone, the writing was just all over the place and I gave up. After the first season ended, I came across many people (including some close friends) who stuck with it and claimed things got a lot better in the second half. Eventually curiosity got the better of me and a few weeks ago, I finally decided to catch up. Long story short? They were right.
While what came in the second half of the first season did not fully redeem the first half, things did indeed improve. The writers clearly got a better handle on their characters and what they were wanting to do with the overall concept of the show. Things fell in place quickly, extraneous elements were mostly eliminated, and by the end of the finale, the show was stripped down to its bare essentials. The first handful of episodes for this new season have continued that and have also amped up the camp factor in some extremely entertaining ways.
For instance, this week poor Butch lost a hand so that The Penguin could better convince our new big bad, Theo Galavan, to hire Butch into his organization, thereby allowing Penguin to have a spy within the employ of the latest thorn in his side. That’s a rather cliche turn of events, to be honest, but the cherry on top was a big mallet being attached to Butch’s stump. He literally has a huge hammer for a hand now and it makes for a wonderful juxtaposition against his nice suit and teddy bear demeanor. If you can roll with that kind of silly, you can roll with “Gotham“.
Last week introduced a ragtag arson-obsessed criminal family and gave us the origin of Firefly, here a female. This week continued that tale in some interesting ways, while also furthering many of Jim Gordon’s relationships with those around him. His connection to young Selina Kyle has become horribly strained, his new commission calls into question some of his tactics, and his demanding job continues to interfere with his love life (although not in any serious ways this week). Life is rough for Jim and there are no signs of things letting up.
So why get back on board with this show? Why catch up? The actors and their characters, more than anything, make it worth my time. Benjamin Mackenzie brings a young Russell Crowe-esque take on Detective James Gordon and Donal Logue is his usual gruff, but lovable self as seasoned veteran cop Harvey Bullock. The always-welcome Morena Baccarin brings a classic sense of both beauty and wisdom to Dr. Leslie Thompkins, Gotham PD’s chief medical examiner and Gordon’s current love interest. Michael Chiklis is a fun addition as the new no-nonsense Commissioner Nathaniel Barnes.
Robin Lord Taylor is always a delight as crime lord Oswald Cobblepot, aka The Penguin, and his confidant Butch Gilzean (Drew Powell) was an endearing character even before he ended up with a hammerhand. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss Jada Pinkett-Smith’s Fish Mooney, but whose to say she can’t return someday? Besides, there are more than enough fun new replacements in this new season, from the always-welcome character actor James Frain (as the aforementioned Theo Galavan) to the now-insane Barbara Kean (Erin Richards) to the sadly now-deceased Jerome Valeska (Cameron Monaghan). It’s a colorful group of characters and there are many more just like them in the series. Some are more engaging than others, but the nature of the show generally allows things to hop between subplots and subsets of characters often enough that one never gets bored.