“Gotham” – Episode Two (S2) Review

gotham_header_h_2015 season two banner
Knock, Knock
**Spoilers Throughout**

Keeping true to his promise to unleash chaos upon Gotham (or, in his words, use “monsters” to cleanse the city in “blood and fire”), Theo Galavan does exactly that by turning his gang of crazed criminals (led by Jerome) onto Gotham. This group goes by the moniker the Maniax (play on the word maniacs) and they commit heinous criminal acts all around Gotham. At first, Galavan’s motives seem a tad out of whack…okay, a big tad out of whack! But his end result appears to be to gain control of the city. Everything that drives him and the Maniax sounds good on the surface; but underneath, their aims are as thorny as a brier patch.

To start, Galavan’s view of “salvation” is subverted. In his mind, salvation isn’t brought on by trying to fight evil with good or redeeming others – it’s about fighting evil with evil, then coming in to sweep up the mess as the city’s savior. In just these two episodes, it’s clear that Theo is a force to be reckoned with, so it will be interesting to see how the other power-holders (namely Penguin) stand up to him.

Actually, this episode seemed to be about opposites – opposing viewpoints and counterpart characters. On the character front, we see Ed Nygma contending with his inner evil voice. I love, love, love what they are doing with his character as this sort of Gollum/Smeagol approach has been done before (obviously because I just referenced The Lord of the Rings!). But while I’ll never insult the written word (I am a writer after all), I do think visual media has a leg up on being able to seamlessly depict a character’s internal conflicts. In a story, usually the author has to resort to a different font, section/chapter breaks, or a split narrative in order to depict a character with a split personality. But in a visual medium, this conflict can actually be shown, usually as a doppelganger or a dual-sided nature that argues with itself.

gollum confused
Again, the best example of this would be what Peter Jackson did with Gollum in The Lord of the Rings films. In the novel, it’s Sam, Frodo’s traveling companion, who overhears Gollum arguing with himself and it’s Sam who relates what he’s seeing and hearing. But in the film, we get to witness Gollum war with himself as he converses both as his “good” side (Smeagol) and his “bad” side (Gollum).

Ed is getting the same treatment here as his “good” side (the glass-donning nerdy Ed we all know and love) battles his “bad” side (an image of him minus his glasses). This is a fun and fascinating technique and I hope it’s put into more use as the season progresses. Ed’s darker side keeps urging him that, by giving in, he can become confidant and charming, something that will endear him to others, particularly Kristen Kringle. But “good” Ed knows that’s a subterfuge. To his credit, “good” Ed wins the day here when he saves Kristen from the gun-totting Maniax. Thus, he proves to himself that he doesn’t need superficial charm or a cocky confidence as bravery and a genuine concern for others is far more attractive. Though let’s not be hasty here – just as Gollum ends up overruling Smeagol, so will “bad” Ed eventually overrule his good side as he becomes the Riddler.

Another good pairing was, as always, Bruce and Alfred. But their relationship seemingly comes to a halt when Alfred tries to destroy the computer in Bruce’s father’s bat/man cave. Bruce is devastated and fires Alfred even though Alfred maintains he did so to protect Bruce from knowledge that could get him killed. I love the dynamics here as Bruce is clearly warring with mixed emotions and doesn’t quite know how to properly vent them. This imperfection endears his character as it makes him realistic as well as reasonably immature. After all, you can’t expect young Bruce Wayne to act like a grownup Bruce Wayne, so by depicting him as flawed and sometimes a bit off the cuff and hasty causes Bruce to be a malleable young man who still needs guidance and wisdom from others who are older.

But all’s well that ends well as Bruce apologizes and admits he needs Alfred’s help – thus the Dream Team is reassembled.
Bruce and Alfred dream team

But secretly I suspect Bruce’s real reason was more like this…
Bruce and Alfred meme
Okay, maybe not.

But Alfred doesn’t make tracks back to Wayne Manor right away. Instead, he ropes in the help of Lucius Fox (played by Chris Chalk), whom we briefly met in season one. According to the comics, Lucius is the CEO of Wayne Enterprises and, more importantly, is responsible for funding and inventing the various gadgets and gear Bruce Wayne uses to fight crime with. I suppose you could say Lucius is a bit of a background figure yet his role is by no means less important. In a way, his name is a fun play on words: Lucius comes from the Latin and means “light,” and a fox, symbolically, is seen as a sly creature. By combining the element of light (which is traditionally seen as good) and the image of a fox, perhaps this paints a mini portrait of Lucius’ inner character – ultimately he is a good man but he has to be sneaky in the ways he helps Batman as you have to be shrewd when fighting equally shrewd foes, much like how Jesus instructed his followers to “be wise [or shrewd] as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). Alfred does his best to test Lucius to ensure he’s trustworthy and says there are two types of people in the world – those you can trust and those you can’t. Alfred’s observation is spot-on – people are either reliable and honest or they’re not. There’s no room for a middle ground. Lucius, as a canon good guy, will be the former, but it will be interesting to see how he proves himself to Bruce and Alfred as his intentions at this point remain unknown to our characters.

But one guy you’d trust about as much as you could pick him up and throw him is Jerome, who is definitely becoming more Joker-esque, especially during the climactic assault on the GCPD. The sheer level of cruelty here is utterly despicable though the police station makes for a logical target in Galavan’s grand scheme of things. (We’ll assume he’s the real shot-caller as Jerome hasn’t quite earned his stripes – but he’s certainly making an effort to earn them fast and soon.) By attacking the police, the Maniax (and Galavan, by proxy) are sending a message that nothing is sacred and no one is safe. If even the city’s protectors cannot protect themselves, then all is lost. Once we get to that point of total desperation and outrage, I sense Galavan will make his move to step in and offer to “help.”

But, again, Galavan’s plan of salvation (as it were) for Gotham is completely twisted, and his view isn’t the only thing that possesses a double-edge. Three other such backwards statements that stood out to me were:

jerome-cameron-monohan-gotham-season-2-trailer
What is courage? Grace under pressure.
Jerome utters this when he gleefully plays Russian roulette in Galavan’s penthouse. At first, this sounds okay. After all, courage is defined as both “the ability to do something that frightens one” and “strength in the face of grief or pain.” However, Jerome’s view of courage is marred by a showman’s recklessness. Holding a gun to your head and bragging about it doesn’t make you courageous – it makes you a careless showoff. The difference between courage and recklessness is that courage enters the fray with the head held high and isn’t self-serving, but recklessness is merely putting on an act to mask inner cowardice. In the same way, grace, as Jerome understands it, has nothing to do with elegance or unmerited favor – it means an ability to look brave and cool when doing something foolish, which, again, is not courage but cowardliness.

barbara-gotham
I’m not sick. I’m free.
Barbara proclaims this to Jim Gordon when she corners him in the alley. His pronouncing her as sick isn’t meant to be a jab but a true statement – Barbara is unwell in both mind and spirit and needs help and healing. But to her, her internal infirmities are marks of being unrestrained. This equating of internal problems (perhaps sin might be a better word for it) with freedom on the surface sounds like passable logic. But when you delve deeper, it’s simply a smokescreen so one doesn’t have to fix a deep, internal problem. As long as she stays “sick,” Barbara can do wrongful, hurtful things as her conscience resides on the mental back burner. If she were to get well, she wouldn’t be able to hurt others and, thus, would become a “slave” to morality (at least that’s how she sees it). Once again, Barbara’s “bad chick” persona seems forced to me, but at least now I see why she just doesn’t care – she enjoys being evil and I think she fears that any sort of rehabilitation might steal her new-found power, no matter how destructive it is.

Crazed Jerome
Sanity is a prison.
Much like Barbara’s observation, Jerome’s statement takes something negative and tries to make it positive. In this case, he equates a sound mind to a prison. Why? Because insanity gives one license to behave as one likes without fear of consequence or punishment. After all, if you don’t know something is wrong, how can you be held accountable for your actions (at least that’s his internal logic)? But just as Barbara’s “sickness” is not true freedom, so sanity is not a prison but a protective boundary intended to keep one safe from doing dangerous or crazy things. It’s a restraint that protects both the self and others, but just as Barbara relishes her sinful nature, so Jerome enjoys his lack of mental stability because it “frees” him from guilt and an obligation to behave morally.

Overall, these parallel themes make for some cool miniature philosophy moments and further prove that the evil plaguing Gotham isn’t without aim and purpose – it’s sneaky, sinister, and shows no desire for redemption and not a shred of remorse. And that can be the most insidious type of evil of all.

RIP Essen
In closing, one sad character death to make note of is Sarah Essen, former police captain and (for a brief time) commissioner of the GCPD. Though I never touched on her character in my reviews as her scenes were commonly brief, she remained a vital influence in the overall story and always seemed to have Gordon’s back. Here, though, she makes her last stand as she squares off against Jerome, showing true bravery in the face of deplorable evil. Granted, her departure is to make way for a new face (more on that in the next episode, I suspect), but I will still miss her strong presence and kind words of wisdom.

Rest in (Fictional) Peace, Commissioner Essen…
RIP honor died critic

But, hey, at least Harvey Bullock is back!
Dwight yes fist pump good cool

Until next time, fellow Gothamites!

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