Thursday, September 17, 2015

Gotham Season Two

What's bad for the city of Gotham is good for the viewers of Gotham, as bullied nerds, budding bad girls, and psycho killers who promise to develop into the supervillains of DC's Batman franchise loom into ascendancy. The villains have always provided most of the pathos in this prequel: The show's ostensible main character, future police commissioner Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) as a youngish and stubbornly honest cop, feels like a minor character in his own story, while charismatic criminals like Penguin-in-the-making Oswald Copperpot (Robin Lord Taylor) and his former boss turned nemesis Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith) dream, scheme, and commit outrageous acts. The villains are surprisingly relatable, a vivid illustration of Jean Renoir's observation that "The real hell of life is everyone has his reasons." Watching Oswald, a cheekily passive-aggressive geek with a suffocating and delusional mother (Carol Kane), dig his way out of trap after trap in season one to triumph over his tormentors and become the unlikely new king of underground Gotham, it was impossible not to root, at least a little, for this resourceful, sardonic outsider.

Oswald may have made it to the top, but nobody stays there long in this urban dystopia. His main competitor in season two is Theo Galavan (James Frain), a smoothly psychotic businessman who's assembling a supervillain franchise, bringing together the worst and the brightest of the city's young criminals to make his power grab. Oswald, Theo, and Theo's murderous troupe don't appear to have a single scruple between them, and the city's always ineffectual authority figures are losing even more ground.

The good guys are getting a little more interesting too. The evolution of poor little rich boy Bruce Wayne (a somewhat wooden David Mazouz) into Batman has been the least engaging part of the story so far; he's had little to do but fret about who killed his parents and why, or pine for Catwoman-to-be Selina (Camren Bicondova). But Bruce is coming into his own this season, gaining access to his father's secret files and taking the lead in his relationship with Alfred (Sean Pertwee), who is becoming less Bruce’s housekeeper and guardian and more his devoted and handily multitalented sidekick.

In this gorgeously grim noir of muted greens, blues, and blacks, every lamp and overhead light appears to be stuck at the low end of a dimmer switch, creating a sense of a city weighed down by dark forces. Read the rest in Slant Magazine

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