Gotham is a weird one.
The first season of Fox's Batman prequel series was an uneven mess with the odd clever moment or likeable performance here and there. What should have been a simple detective show focusing on a young Jim Gordon trying to bring the person who killed Bruce Wayne's parents to justice turned out to be packed with over-the-top obscure and familiar villains all entangled in conflicting subplots.
For my review of Season 1, you can check it out HERE.
Season 2 promised the "Rise Of The Villains" and we certainly got a few more key baddies including the likes of Hugo Strange, Mr Freeze, Clayface and Azrael. The first half of the season is focused on Theo Galavan (James Frain), a member of the Dumas family out for revenge against the Waynes who supposedly disgraced his ancestors: he hires the help of Jerome (this season's Joker), his niece Silver St. Cloud (Natalie Alyn Lind), his sister Tabitha (Jessica Lucas) and the newly unhinged Barbara Keane (Erin Richards) to threaten Gordon as well as Bruce Wayne and the whole thing builds up to Galavan becoming Mayor, a wholly unconvincing Satanist-style ceremony and the death of the aforementioned baddie at the hands of Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) and Gordon.
This first half holds up alright but it never really goes anywhere exciting. The best parts are early on when you think Jerome (Cameron Managhan) is going to become the actual Joker of the series and things start resembling a Batman movie but then he is inexplicably discarded. The second half of the season is devoted to Hugo Strange, played by B.D. Wong who is clearly having a grand old time quietly hamming it up. Professor Strange is used as a convenient Dr Frankenstein presence who is secretly creating monsters in the basement of Arkham Asylum, bringing people back to life and so forth. By the end of the season, his freakish creations are unleashed upon the city and we are left to digest a perplexing cliffhanger.
You could have probably cut Firefly and Penguin out of the season entirely as their subplots hardly matter at all and some characters are brought back for absolutely no reason (Barbara, Fish Mooney). At least turning Galavan into Azrael led to some cool Batman-esque imagery and an amusingly ridiculous denouement. This is easily a better season than the previous one since, at least we got to see Mr Freeze in action, Bruce Wayne find his parents' killer and Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) basically become The Riddler, minus the fancy costume, of course.
David Mazouz makes a very good Bruce Wayne throughout and Camren Bicondova proves to be the perfect young Catwoman while Ben McKenzie, Sean Pertwee and Donal Logue continue to offer solid performances. The fact that literally everyone else is hammy as hell makes the show both very silly and rather entertaining. There's a fun cameo from Paul Reubens as Penguin's estranged father to look out for plus you might be able to spot Killer Croc in Arkham as well as a few Easter Eggs linked to the foreshadowing of The Court Of Owls. The finale raises some interesting questions but it also ends things on a cartoonish, clumsy note.
Gotham still has a long way to go to become the Batman prequel show we all want it to be but Season 2 is a step in the right direction. It's still a mess and it's still reluctant to focus on what's important and throw away pointless characters but at least it provides enough Batman lore and enough madness to remain watchable.
Bat-s**t, in a good way.