Gotham Season Two Highlights the Rise of the Villains

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Gotham Season 2 on Blu-ray

The pre-Batman stories of Gotham City continue in the second season of GOTHAM, now on Blu-ray and DVD.

Ben McKenzie (SOUTHLAND) continues his role as Gotham City Police icon James Gordon, now busted down to traffic cop after his stint last season taking down corruption within the ranks. But when he is finally ousted by the crooked Police Commissioner Loeb (Peter Scolari -- in an outstanding dramatic contrast to BOSOM BUDDIES and NEWHART), Gordon makes a deal with the devil in the form of the Penguin, Oswald Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor), who now finds himself with a tenuous hold on the throne of all Gotham City crime. All Gordon has to do is collect a debt for Penguin and he'll see that Commissioner Loeb is fired and he gets his old job back. But things go horribly wrong in a way that will haunt Jim forever.

With Loeb gone, the precinct gets a new captain to run the show: Captain Nathaniel Barnes (Michael Chiklis, THE COMMISH, NO ORDINARY FAMILY). Barnes instantly makes his presence known by firing the most corrupt cops on the spot, earning Jim's respect. He then sets about recruiting the best from the academy to flesh out his Strike Force, an elite police unit to deal with the somewhat specialized crime that exists in Gotham.

And the crime is indeed getting worse. Socialite Theo Galavan (James Frain, TRUE DETECTIVE, ORPHAN BLACK) may be the darling of the media during the day, but he and his sister Tabitha Galavan (Jessica Lucas, CULT, GRACEPOINT) are working to make Gotham truly chaotic so that he can step into the role of Mayor -- which is but the first step in his crusade to avenge an ancient family grudge by eliminating the last remaining member of the family that disgraced his: young Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz)! The first step of Galavan's plan is to break out some of the worst criminals of Arkham Asylum, including Gordon's psychotic ex-girlfriend, Barbara Kean (Erin Richards, MERLIN, MISFITS) and could-he-be-the-Joker Jerome Valeska (Cameron Monaghan, SHAMELESS) as part of his chaos-inducing team, the Maniax. While the Maniax terrorize Gotham, Galavan uses a more subtle means to get to Bruce, using the wiles of his young daughter -- Silver St. Cloud (Natalie Alyn Lind, THE GOLDBERGS), who enchants Bruce but never succeeds in fooling the other lady in Bruce's life, Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova).

The fun thing about GOTHAM is that there are so many separate storylines that intertwine. As Galavan is taking over the city -- making both a servant and an enemy out of the Penguin in bold, shocking move -- the GCPD Forensic Scientist Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) is fighting his battle with his sadistic other half who wants to take over, and ultimately does as he finally gets what he wanted -- a date with Kristin Kringle (Chelsea Spack). But as things start looking up for awkward Ed, his more forceful personality continues to bubble up to the surface until tragically altering Nygma's life. And at Wayne Manor, Bruce and Alfred (Sean Pertwee, ELEMENTARY) have discovered Thomas Wayne's secret office which might hold the clues to why he and Martha Wayne were killed. But to crack those secrets, the two will have to put their confidence in another Wayne Enterprises employee: Lucius Fox (Chris Chalk).

The Galavan storyline seems to wrap up halfway through the season, paving the way for a new storyline that further elevates the "Rise of the Villains" (as Season Two touted itself to be). Here we are introduced to the man who runs Arkham Asylum -- Hugo Strange (BD Wong, MR ROBOT) and his assistant, Ethel Peabody (Tonya Pinkins, ARMY WIVES). This is where GOTHAM probably has its greatest weakness, plot-wise, because it sets itself up to fall into the SMALLVILLE "freak of the weak" trap, where all the villains sprang from a single fount. In this case, it's Arkham, and Strange's experiments -- experiments funded by Wayne Foundation, nonetheless! -- into genetic manipulation and tissue revitalization. He's literally trying to raise the dead, while at the same time treating the psychoses of the various inmates to bend them to his own ends. However, most of the villains at least come to him already mostly-formed, such as Victor Fries (Nathan Darrow) or Bridgit Pike (Michelle Veintimilla) -- aka Mr. Freeze and Firefly; Strange just gives them a "story" to go with their twisted abilities, an idea inspired by a passing comment from Edward Nygma. (We see the first hints here of next season's Mad Hatter.)

Strange's experiments in the second half bring us right back to the first half, as he rejuvenates the body of Theo Galavan and releases him upon Gotham as Azrael, the avenging knight of St. Dumas. It's a bit of a twist on the Azrael of the comics, and he doesn't last all that long. However, it's worth seeing him in action, because the actions look very familiar -- and we can see them planting a seed in the mind of Bruce Wayne as he watches Azrael take on the GCPD, leaping from windows and climbing walls with a flowing cape behind him. Galavan's resurrection also gives an opportunity to the Penguin, now reeling from the loss of yet another parent (Paul Reubens), to finally get his revenge. However, Penguin's problems are truly just beginning, as the season wraps with a mass exodus of super-powered psychotics, led by none other than a resurrected Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith).

GOTHAM succeeds on so many levels, thanks to the scripting from Bruno Heller (and just about anyone in the industry who ever wrote a Batman story, apparently), as well as an excellent cast of main and supporting characters. It has a few low points -- how anybody, especially Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue, COMIC BOOK VILLAINS), couldn't detect the Clayface Jim Gordon wasn't the real one, with Ben's radical departure and intentional over-acting, just didn't pass the suspension bridge of my disbelief. But for the most part, GOTHAM is exactly what it sets out to be: a dark yet enjoyable look at the world of Batman before he came to be. The message is that the villains were always there before Batman, not the reactive product to his presence, and they're not so much older than Bruce that they would be decrepit by the time he puts on the cape and cowl.

This four-disc Blu-ray release includes a handful of bonus content, with features on each disc. Many of the features are collections of very short vignettes -- teasers for the season -- and the things labeled "A Look Forward" are actually to us now a look back as they all revolve around the season presented. I'd have really enjoyed something that was a true look forward, that teased some upcoming bits planned for season three, but that was not here. However, there were a few decent bits that had some meat on them, and I particularly appreciated the uncut presentation of the GOTHAM SDCC 2016 panel, as well as the documentaries on how film noir impacts the visual representation of Gotham and the rundown on Alfred Pennyworth, GOTHAM's bad-ass butler with a dark violent past.


Gotham, Season Two

Disc One Disc Two
01. Damned If You Do
02. Knock Knock
03. The Last Laugh
04. Strike Force
05. Scarification
06. By Fire
Special Features:
- Aftermath: How Season One ended for Oswald, Nygma, Barbara and Detective James Gordon
- Father's Office: discovering Thomas Wayne's secret
- A Look Back: Donal Logue, Robin Lord Taylor, and Sean Pertwee about their characters
- Maniax Jerome: very small clip
- Strike Force: Captain Barnes' answer to crime
- He Who Laughs Last: the mental virus Jerome unleashes on Gotham
07. Mommy's Little Monster
08. Tonight's The Night
09. A Bitter Pill to Swallow
10. The Son of Gotham
11. Worse Than a Crime
12. Mr. Freeze
Special Features:
- New Day, Dark Nights: Jim Gordon's deal with the Penguin
- A Look Ahead: How Bruce & Alfred, Oswald, Edward Nygma, and Gordon will evolve in this second season
Disc Three Disc Four
13. A Dead Man Feels No Cold
14. This Ball of Mud and Meanness
15. Mad Grey Dawn
16. Prisoners
17. Into the Woods
18. Pinewood
Special Features:
- The King: Penguin's problems holding onto power
- Gotham 2015 Comic-Con Panel: uncut, full-length panel of full cast and creatives
19. Azrael
20. Unleashed
21. A Legion of Horribles
22. Transference
Special Features:
- Gotham by Noir Light: John Doman (Falcone) and other sinterviewed about classic noir and its influence on the look and feel of GOTHAM
- Alfred: Batman's Greatest Ally: a look at GOTHAM's interpretation of Alfred as the scary, bad-ass Alfred with a dark violent past and a present role as Bruce's enabler
- Cold-Hearted, The Tale of Victor Fries: The tragic love story of Victor and Nora Fries





4.5 / 5.0