Monday, August 27, 2018

Gotham Season 2

New in Season 2 to the already huge ensemble cast of this DC Comics Batman-backstory series are James Frain (familiar to viewers of Grimm and Star Trek: Discovery) as a kooky villain named Theo Galavan who gets himself elected mayor of Gotham, all while planning the occult murder of Bruce Wayne; Jessica Lucas (star of several short-lived CW series) as his "Tigress" sister Tabitha; Ron Rifkin as the high priest of Galavan's spooky personal cult; Natalie Alyn Lind as Galavan's cute teenage ward, who captivates young Bruce; Michael Chiklis (who previously played superheroes in The Fantastic Four and No Ordinary Family, and cops on The Commish and The Shield) as the Gotham PD's hard-headed new captain; Michelle Veintimilla as a street urchin who turns into the Firefly; BD Wong (the mad scientist who survives all of the Jurassic Park/World movies) as mad scientist Prof. Strange; Tonya Pinkins as Strange's sidekick and sounding-board Mrs. Peabody; Nathan Darrow as a cryogenics expert whose desperation to save his dying wife turns him into Mr. Freeze; Paul Reubens (you know him as PeeWee Herman) as the Penguin's biological father; Melinda Clarke as Penguin's wicked stepmother; Raúl Castillo as a cannibalistic hitman named Flamingo; and more, more, more.

Meantime, continuing Season 1's theme of listing as members of the "regular cast" people who are hardly seen again after about the fourth episode, Nicholas D'Agosto (as the future Two-Face) gets promoted to a series regular just in time to pretty much disappear off the show. Oh, well.

For those struggling to keep up with this series' never-ending reversals and flip-flops as to who is aligned with whom, this is the season in which a secretly evil zillionaire, who secretly has an evil vendetta against the city and especially the Wayne family, kidnaps and tortures the mayor and, while he is missing, gets elected to replace him. Supporting Galavan's grab for power are a shadowy monastic order with twisted ideas about atonement, Jim Gordon's former fiancee Barbara (who, after having her head messed with by the Ogre in Season 1, continues to develop into a hellacious villainess), Butch Gilzean (who, after being conditioned by Victor Zsasz to do whatever Penguin says, gets set free by whip-wielding Tabitha), and a Suicide Squad-esque team of criminally insane Arkham inmates who escape with a little help and perish, one by one, in the commission of crimes designed to position Theo as the savior of Gotham. Some of these are kooks you've met before, including the kid I thought was going to grow up to be the Joker but who (surprise!) suffers an ingeniously timed death at Theo's treacherous hands. Unfortunately for him, Galavan makes two key enemies: Gordon (who, as head of the police union, endorses Theo for mayor before realizing he is a big-time murderer) and Penguin (whose mother dies in his arms after being kidnapped, tortured and finally stabbed by the Galavans). Eventually, they team up to rub him out; but Theo doesn't stay dead (more on this later).

Meantime, back at the asylum, the nefarious Professor Strange (not to be confused with Doctor Strange) is running experiments in resurrection at a secret basement-level facility called Indian Hill, answering to a shadowy group that likes to wear owl masks and has its hands on Gotham's behind-the-scenes strings. Combining the DNA of dead (or at least severely maimed) villains with such exotic creatures as octopuses and cuttlefish, Hugo Strange more or less creates Firefly (who likes it hot), Mr. Freeze (who likes it cold), a guy who can shape-change into anyone you want to impersonate, etc. The formerly dead monsters tend to lose their memories of their past life, such as when he brings back Theo as Azrael, the angel of death. Bruce's chances of surviving to adulthood dip during this interlude. Strange's big breakthrough, however, is bringing back a version of Fish Mooney who not only remembers who she is, but can persuade people to do her bidding just by touching them. Her breakout from Arkham sets a lot of gears in motion leading to the complex and dangerous climax of the season.

I haven't had time to mention what happens to Jim Gordon while he has a murder on his conscience, or what happens when he gets framed for a completely different murder, or how things go between him and his beloved Dr. Lee Thompkins, or the direction his career takes while he's out of favor with Capt. Barnes, or the progress of Ed Nygma's evolution into the villainous Riddler, or Penguin's psychiatric treatment, release, discovery of his father, and the various ways he deals with losing both of his parents in quick succession, and so soon after meeting his father. There's a lot packed into this season, and what happened in what order is already hard to keep straight in my mind.

But as for the Three Scenes That Made It For Me, let me first go back to Season 1 and correct my omission (or rather, my error in going with three Things instead of Scenes). The moments I liked best in Season 1 were, in no particular order, (1) when Bruce fought back against his school bully, (2) Jerome's insane giggle revealing him as the possible future Joker, and (3) the way Sal Marone provoked Fish Mooney to kill him. In Season 2, the Three Scenes That Made It For Me were: (1) Bruce's Zen-like calm during his captivity while waiting to be sacrificed (not to mention seeing right through Silver St. Cloud), (2) The "grilled cheese sandwich" scene in which Fish realizes she has a super power, and (3) when Penguin and Nygma get together for the first time, foreshadowing a later and more fateful partnership.

Things really get moving in this season, with over-the-top gangsters increasingly giving way to seriously messed-up monsters in human form - people returning from the dead with supernatural abilities, "Maniax" on the loose raising Cain, religious cultists preparing for a human sacrifice, masked conspirators plotting who-knows-what. Bruce finds out who killed his parents (that is to say, who pulled the trigger), but is still a ways from knowing who sent him or why. Gordon takes a stroll on the dark side, leading one to wonder how he ever gets back to being Commissioner Do-Right. Harvey Bullock spends a good deal of time acting as police captain. And the tragedy of Gordon's relationship with Lee begins to open up, like a big black flower. If you can't believe that Gotham can get any darker than this, wait till Season 3.

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