Gotham – Season 2 Episode 2
“Rise of the Villains – Knock, Knock”
Season 2 of Gotham continues its ‘Rise of the Villains’ arc with “Knock, Knock”, here comes the Joker. In truth it continues with Maniax, a motley crew of psychopaths lead by Jerome Valeska, but ‘hotly tipped to be Joker’ just doesn’t really cut it anymore, we might as well just call him Joker now, surely?
Also not really hiding is Ra’s Al Ghul, the villain that Theo Galavan just has to be. Fans of Arrow will know their take on him but this version -if that’s who he is- is a criminal mastermind with the money and resources to openly threaten the mayor; he speaks of stagecraft and overtures; numerous leather-clad minions; katanas left strewn around his base… Need we go on? The new, fully-committed-to comic-book style though, probably doesn’t need hidden villains; and I think better this way than us trying to figure out why on Earth he’s being so evil, bent on grim plans of destruction. Better perhaps that he’s openly declared he intends to let loose monsters to cleanse the city in blood and fire.
Fully the first quarter of the episode goes to villain style. To be fair though, it is very stylish. The whole episode has a theatrical feel to it with a black, mostly-uninhibited humour (did anyone really believe they’d burn pretty teenagers?) And a humour reminiscent of the Tim Burton Batman, which I link to purposefully: There are three notably different Jokers I’ve seen or heard alone (Nicolson, Ledger and Hamill) that each have their own style but probably there’s got to be a limit to the number of interpretations that are possible. I’m definitely getting a Nicolson vibe from Cameron Monaghan’s version: His dancing around on the school bus? The line: “that was strangely pleasant; do it again”?
Is this bad? Not for me. In the Russian roulette scene I believed his dominance and the light heartedness of the performance is a perfect match to the humour of the script. The only thing it leaves me wondering about it is how long Valeska can really keep on working for Galavan. If the whole feel of the show is aligned to the Joker, what place is there for Ra’s Al Ghul? Still, if they do come to blows that would be an interesting piece to play out. The two of them fighting could level Gotham by what we’ve seen so far.
…But then, where will Penguin fit in? There doesn’t seem much room left. Hopefully he manages to hold his own when he shares their stage. Could be a difficult role to play though, shown I think by the much smaller impression made on by all the other villains in “Knock, Knock”. Most of the Maniax are really just there to be shot at and Galavan’s female minions just don’t really get much to do. Barabara Kean still seems only to exist to be a problem for Gordon and Tabitha Galavan – the Tigress (Jessica Lucas)– is only around to look attractive?
Is she the new Fish by the way? She has the sex appeal for it but the character is – so far – much less interesting. And I just do not believe for a second that someone in those heels could escape as fast as a hitman in that circumstance would need to.
Despite all this, I found the focus on Jerome and Galavan quite welcome. The constant switching of scenes between numerous characters in episode 1 was too distracting. In episode 2, by the half way point we’d only seen Gordon, Galavan and his Maniax, and Bruce and Alfred. Admittedly then the second half opens with Nigma but his and Bullock’s scenes are very short and Penguin and Selina are not in the episode at all. And there’s plenty of season left for them. Reducing the number of characters this episode removed that scene switching problem.
Just thinking of Harvey Bullock: What would the season have been like if he’d had more time as the barman? It was a bit weird but with it a bit interesting. I think I would have liked to have seen more of it actually but when I first thought of that during the episode I wasn’t sure how it could play out. Then the episode showed me: he was to be the wise barman giving out teasingly-useful information.
Gotham has always moved pretty fast though and Bullock is back by the end of the episode. Also by which point, is Gordon now commissioner of the GCPD already? It wasn’t quite confirmed but he was shown in the office and, let’s face it, there aren’t many other people left. For a while I thought Commissioner Essen was going to be the person I was looking for in episode 1 that was still walking the better path, stepping up into the role of the incorruptible. But then she died, so I really am going to have to let that go.
Also, whilst on the subject of fast moving, and bringing in the issue of increasing power levels: I appreciate that there was a message of strength shown in the killing of all the GCPD officers but can you really so easily get into a police department like that, let alone kill an entire police precinct’s officers? And surely the government now has to respond to this? Maybe the FBI? Surely at least the entire state sends in an army of policemen? Well, comic-book level plot, so OK, fine.
The last of the three big focuses was Alfred agreeing to train Batman. Gotham had started this earlier in season 1 and starting it out through a school-bullying incident was nice – perfectly reasonable. Throw in a drunkard ex-SAS friend of Alfred’s and the danger level goes up; again, I’m still on board. But wait, speed it up: Bruce’s father was on the verge of being Batman already and Bruce just has to unlock his father’s secrets to unlock the mantle. Comic-book… yes, fine.
Even so, did anyone else find the scenes with Alfred and Bruce a little… well, creepy this episode? They virtually had a rom-com break up scene in Bruce’s office. I half wondered if Bruce was going to call after Alfred, relenting and tearfully asking him to come back. And then they have a rendezvous at the station just before Alfred catches the train? And then, and then by the way, the music playing in the bar where Alfred catches Lucius is cool, smooth jazz. They make an intentional joke of that one at least.
To be fair I quite enjoyed that scene. I liked the humour. Sean Pertwee has always brought that gritty-British-film element to the show that has you believe he’s ex-SAS and a force to be reckoned with. Mix that in with a “what is a kipper” quip and you’ve got a great scene with two characters we’re probably going to see a lot more of this season. It all made so much sense when Alfred pointed out that Lucius had pretty much recruited himself by approaching Bruce in Wayne Industries.
So, the style of Gotham is now fixed then? Black humour, slightly exaggerated beyond real life. It certainly fits the Joker and hopefully a theatrical Ra’s Al Ghul. Bruce training to be Batman could fit in too, I should think. Not sure how Gordon will fit it though. The look of his scenes sometimes still lean occasionally more towards a noir style – in this episode I’m thinking the last scene in the commissioner’s office – that’s not really a match to the humour? And I have no idea why Galavan should have chosen to save him using Barbara?
Either way, “Knock, Knock” is a much more focused episode than Gotham has shown us previously. There’s a clear style, consistent humour and all scenes were long enough to get interested in.
Gotham season 2’s “Knock, Knock” continues the ‘rise of the villains’ by giving us a clear Joker and we have to assume Ra’s Al Ghul. I couldn’t help but get a Jack Nicolson vibe from Cameron Monaghan but didn’t find it unwelcome. His dancing on the school bus and “that was strangely pleasant; do it again” line fitted well with the black humour of the whole episode. So far, Theo Galavan plays nice accompaniment to the Joker’s theatricality, encouraging it as Ra’s Al Ghul would?
It’s a bit of a shame that Barbara Kean and Tabitha Galavan don’t seem to have as much to offer as the lead villains at the moment but perhaps their time is still to come. I definitely want to see Barbara have more to do than annoy Gordon and Tabitha have more to do than walk off in a cool, sensual manner.
They’re not the only ones in this episode to have reduced screen time. Penguin and Selina don’t appear and Bullock and Nigma get only a few scenes. However, this is a good thing. There’s plenty of season left to bring them back in that the episode 2 had none of the too rapid scene-change problem that the some of the previous episode and much of season 1 suffered from. The plot is still moving really, really, fast but it’s not like they’re going to run out of Batman lore anytime soon.
Settled into a black-humoured, slightly exaggerated beyond real life style, “Knock, Knock” is a much more focused episode than Gotham has shown us previously. There’s a clear style, consistent humour and all scenes were long enough to get interested in.