Season One of the show was just like the eponymous city. Full of promise and potential, but on the edge of becoming something terrible, a complete cesspool. Some elements were really strong – Robin Lord Taylor’s Penguin is delightful. However, the Batman prequel tried to be too much. A police procedural, a mafia thriller, a superhero prequel, a psychological tale (and the list goes on) – the threads didn’t tie together properly, they were too different tonally.
Furthermore, Gotham juggled two different portrayals of the Batman mythos – the gritty, moralistic tone of Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy and the camper, more comical tone of the Batman films that preceded it. Season one wasn’t proof that this worked, in fact, it was quite the opposite. I’m not saying that it was terrible, some episodes and plotlines were really good, but overall the show didn’t seem to know how it felt about itself – and that being the case, what are we as the audience meant to make of it?
When I started season two, I expected the season to be weaker than it could be, because of the reluctance that the show has to commit to one style. However, I was shocked to discover that Gotham seems to have learned from its mistakes and reached a happy medium between the two styles I mentioned earlier. Comical, over the top villains do brutal, horrible things – the characters are camp and comic while their actions are anything but. And it’s the best decision that’s been made in regards to the show’s tone. It fits characters like The Penguin, The Riddler and Victor Zsasz perfectly, and these are the strongest villains, the strongest assets, that the show has. And of course, it sets the mood perfectly for Batman’s most vibrant, deadly and iconic enemy – The Joker.
More than ever, Gotham is engaging and intense, wheeling out great episodes one after another. Season two has been electrifying so far, with shock twists and interesting plotlines. Cameron Monaghan’s excellent performance as Jerome (a possible Joker) has helped to set up this new atmosphere, and James Frain’s Theo Galavan makes an interesting big bad – he’s ruthless, intelligent and playing a long game. In a way, he’s reminiscent of The Penguin last series, but that’s no bad thing. Villains are the core of Gotham, and this series, they’ve upped the ante.
When these characters commit their atrocities, it has an effect on the whole city. There are ripples through each story thread, so it feels like everyone’s a fish in the same pond. The show knows what it is now, it makes jokes at its own expense (watch for Zaardon, then you’ll know what I mean). Whether or not Gotham will revert to its old habits remains to be seen, but three episodes in, I remain hopeful that it’s a better show. Whether or not it made the changes we deserve, it’s made the changes it needs. Or to take a quote from the show itself – it’s a new day.