[This is a review of Gotham season 2, episode 2. There will be SPOILERS.]
Thus far, Gotham has remained almost singularly focused on its "Rise of the Villains" storyline. Granted, only one week has passed since the season 2 premiere, but already the show has made major headway into spurring along the villainous presence on the show, especially with regard to one fan-favorite character. In this week's episode, "Knock Knock", all hell breaks loose in Gotham, with the series likely laying the groundwork for bigger things to come. Let's discuss.
THE MANIAX HIT THE ROAD
Following a brief moment in which we get a glimpse into Theo Galavan's (James Frain) manipulation of Mayor James (Richard Kind), we find Jerome (Cameron Monaghan) and the other escaped Arkham inmates tossing bodies off of a nearby rooftop, spelling out their gang's name: Maniax. The team is part of Galavan's scheme to "cleanse [Gotham] with blood and fire", though his motives remain undeveloped so far. Jerome soon establishes himself as the leader of the bunch, thanks to an effective Russian Roulette scene in which he proves his calm in the face of chaos. In particular, Jerome's mention that "everybody has to start somewhere" in relation to his fledgling criminal career seems directed at fans hesitant to give the Joker a clearcut origin story.
Whether or not Jerome (Cameron Monaghan) turns out to be the Joker, there's no denying his behavior this episode was incredibly reminiscent of several versions of the character. His natural theatricality, consistent discussions of laughter and comedy as well as his gleeful attitude at death and destruction (especially while attempting to burn a schoolbus of cheerleaders alive) make a strong case for his development into the Clown Prince of Crime. At this point, Gotham may do well to simply establish that Jerome is Joker, since at this point the character is likely among fans' favorite new additions to the show. Certainly, Monaghan's performance style is fun to watch and fits well alongside previous Joker interpretations. In fact, the episode-ending video footage seems like a direct callback to The Dark Knight.
GORDON IN CHARGE
Now back on the force, Gordon (Ben McKenzie) finds himself leading the investigation into the Maniax, even though the case puts him in the awkward position of tracking down Barbara (Erin Richards). The gang presents an intense threat to the city, and it's no surprise that Gordon ended up trying to recruit Bullock (Donal Logue) to return to the GCPD. Ultimately, Gordon and newly minted Commissioner Essen manage to track down the Maniax as they attempt to slaughter a group of cheerleaders, saving them but failing to catch Jerome. Later on, Barbara draws Gordon away from the police station, as Jerome and his men invade the GCPD. Many cops are killed in the process, including Essen, who is brutally attacked by Jerome on-camera. As she dies, Essen tells Gordon that it's a new day.
Despite the fact that Essen's time as commissioner was incredibly short-lived, her death was a smart way for the show to establish just how in over his head Gordon is in dealing with the Maniax. As the threat escalates, he will need more allies to fight the city's rising criminal element. It's a good thing that Bullock is back where he belongs and that some new blood is on its way to the GCPD. As it stands, the police presence on the show needs to be beefed up to match the intensity of the villains, who are still stealing every scene they're in. Oh, and the entire Barbara plotline is still among the weakest aspects of the show, despite the fact that Richards is fun to watch. Early in the episode, even the character herself seems confused about her purpose when she asks Galavan how she can contribute to their cause.
Bruce (David Mazouz) and Alfred (Sean Pertwee) continue their investigation into Thomas Wayne's secret room, but when Alfred smashes the computer, Bruce rashly lashes out and fires him. Of course, the young master Wayne tracks down his surrogate father at the train station and asks him to come back and help him. Alfred agrees to train Bruce for what's coming and teach him to survive, if he obeys him going forward. Bruce agrees, and Alfred recruits Lucius Fox (Chris Chalk) to help them repair the computer. Lucius confesses to Bruce that he didn't know everything about his father's activities but offered technical assistance as needed.
Bringing Lucius in on their mission nicely establishes the alliance between him and the duo of Bruce and Alfred. After all, the character historically is a close confidante to Bruce Wayne and lends a hand to him on his missions as the Dark Knight. So it makes sense to establish the root of that trust between them, even if the temporary rift between Bruce and Alfred that got the show to that point was contrived. Like so much in this episode, this subplot seems designed to set up more substantive developments down the line. As such, it served its purpose well without detracting too much from the main plot, serving as a quieter counterpoint to all the mayhem going on elsewhere.
What did you think of "Knock Knock"? Share your thoughts on the episode in the comments section below.
Gotham returns with "The Last Laugh" next Monday at 8pm on FOX.