Gotham – Season 2, Episode 3
“Rise of the Villains: The Last Laugh”
The third and final part of Gotham season two’s opening arc – ‘Rise of the Villains: The Last Laugh’ – shows me that I’m wrong on many fronts: turns out I shouldn’t have gone any further than “hotly tipped to be Joker”, there weren’t that many people killed in the attack on the GCPD and maybe Galavan isn’t Ra’s al Ghul…?
So, Jerome Valeska is dead. However, you’ll agree that his face in death was definitely that of the Joker? Also, when he said the words “just little old me” did you hear a channelled Mark Hamill in his voice? Perhaps then this Batman variation has no Joker or perhaps instead there’ll be a series of copy cats in future episodes or seasons, one of which will actually take the name. Perhaps the Joker will just be the name of the persona that many people take on in some form of hysteria?
Gotham has had an outing with this idea before with the Red Hood. I really liked that episode. It was easy to believe that people’s superstition allowed them to believe a mask was lucky, leading to several people picking it up and taking the identity. Will it work with the Joker though? Maybe. Clearly there’s a lot of madness in the city of Gotham already, as though laughter is infectious surely it would take some magic to make lunacy infectious with it? I think I might need something like that to explain why the street thug kills his mate for no reason after murdering the homeless person at the end.
My second mistake then: the GCPD. I really thought the whole precinct had been wiped out and that there would have to be some state or country level response. Turns out it was just 10 people killed though – bad certainly but unfortunately not something unheard of in today’s world. Gordon is effectively the commissioner now though. I know they haven’t given him the job but outside the hostage situation the senior uniform does say Gordon must be the one in charge because there just is no-one else. And the deputy mayor didn’t appoint a temporary replacement – too late to do that now of course.
And third: Ra’s al Ghul. though I’m not sure if this is a mistake or not, or whether I’m just doubting myself because I didn’t think Jerome would die. Galavan’s motivation doesn’t fit the Ra’s al Ghul I’ve known before: simple revenge for his family being betrayed? Ra’s ideals are usually much grander, and it’s not like we’re seeing the character in his early years so that there’s time to develop into that, as Ra’s early years would be from a previous century? Of course it could be a complete redesign of the character. Equally, he does always seem to use a baby-talk voice when he speaks to the other villains, so maybe that speaks of a serious age difference. Perhaps he’s just taking a break from world purification to catch up on that pesky Wayne family?
I’m just throwing that out there now in case I get to call something and save my ‘calling it’ honour. I was thinking that perhaps this is the reason that Bruce was specifically pulled up from the audience: Does Galavan want the Wayne family centre stage in his theatre? Was his father perhaps put down by Bruce’s father? Perhaps Galavan knows about Bruce’s father being a proto Batman. There must be a lot more to come out about this background plot though, so I should probably just wait for a bit more first. I’m thinking that Galavan is a fake name? As the businessman that speaks to Theo doesn’t recognise it? Is there a famous family name in the canon that might see the light here? And a connection to the Wayne family? That “great cape” line would fit so nicely if there was.
Whichever way the Galavan plot goes though, it was very entertaining to see the character’s plan unfold. Most amusing was his little display for the camera. For someone who puts such stock by theatrics he was a very poor performer – the character I must emphasise, not the actor, James Frain plays it very well.- Surely because of that though, Gordon will see through it? The on-cue turning to camera, the hammy voice and the line about the city’s children? Surely if Gordon can see through the attempt to frame Jerome’s father he can see through all that?
Either way, the charity event scenes were all pretty good. It’s definitely better to have these longer plots play out. During it there was still good space to show a little of Selina again. I’ve really liked the Selina-Bruce team ups as we’ve seen them before. We didn’t get much of it here but it was nice to see. Hopefully it allows for more of it in future episodes. Equally good to see a little more of Penguin. Again a little goes a long way, setting up for future plot, not getting in the way of what was centre stage at this time.
For a few characters though a little did probably need to be more for me. Tabitha was still pretty much just a minion. The little joke where she rolls her eyes at Jerome’s over the top story doesn’t make up for it. And Barbara’s back to being an assistant. It was easier to see the Harley Quinn parallel she’s been having with Jerome that I’ve been told to watch out for with her in the supporting role but it would have been more interesting with the role reversal that we saw a little of in the first episode. Admittedly I can see a reason why Galavan allows Gordon to be pulled out of the precinct before the attack now: It’s all part of a build up to plot Barbara will be getting later, where she’ll get to ‘utterly destroy’ Jim. For now though, neither woman really gets much to do. Even the proposed love triangle they get with Theo seems a bit tired before it even starts.
I think I’m happy that Leigh is getting a bit more to do. Still not much I admit but something. I couldn’t help think that a woman that confident and attractive would have easily brought up that she had a partner in her conversation with Alfred. I didn’t think she was so distracted that she couldn’t have gotten that in somewhere. Still, it did lead to nice little scene at the end where Bruce may or may not be teasing Alfred. The cost to the plot for having to leave something out just for a joke is sometimes too great for me but I was OK with it here.
I was less impressed with the cut scene where Bruce may or may not be cut in half! Yeah, that was never going to happen, just like the cheerleaders were never going to burn last episode. The masked kiss from Barbara to Leigh was more subtle and so much better. And I was more impressed to see some consequences of Gordon’s choice to help Penguin.
Bullock realises that Jim has avoided going to speak to Penguin – previously a source of easy information – and challenges Penguin in his lair. I definitely want to see more of this. Not only does it prove that there’s meaning in Gordon’s choice to go to the dark side it also potentially sets the scene for Galavan being able to challenge Penguin. If Bullock can so easily and confidently threaten Penguin on his home turf then we can more easily accept that Penguin’s control over Gotham’s underworld isn’t quite so complete that Galavan won’t be able to cause trouble for him.
All in all, “Rise of the Villains” has been a solid arc. Galavan is nicely set up as the villain for the series and Gordon is set up to have a troubled time after deciding he needs to cross that line to do the right thing. Whereas I think the female cast could use a bit more to do, as only Selina has really been given some good plot up until now (season 1 included) I have enjoyed the choice to focus on a smaller number of characters at once, so I’m hopeful that they’ll get their turn soon.
The “Rise of the Villains” arc has been fun – darkly comic to be exact. It seems that Gotham has settled on the black but comic-book humour of the Tim Burton movies and it’s worked well in my eyes. All three episodes of the arc have kept to the one theme and almost all the scenes in all three episodes have been left to play out much longer than we’d seen in season one.
I do wish the female cast would get a little more do to. Fish was great in season one and she’s found no replacement. Barbara and Tabitha are still pretty much just minions for the main villain. Selina might save the day but her season two plot hasn’t started yet, so we still have to wait and see there.
The characters that have seen focus so far have been very entertaining though. I was caught out by Jerome’s end. Didn’t see that coming. He had a great run, channelling Jack Nicholson in previous episodes and I think I heard a little Mark Hamill in there this week. Perhaps his “legacy of death and madness” will come in the form of the Red Hood idea being reused. The writers tried the idea of an identity rather than a person persisting with the red hood and that was a really good episode.
I can easily see the Joker idea fading away for a while now though, as Galavan is clearly set up to be the villain of this season. We’ve been given a little of his background now: he has a grudge against Gotham for damage done to his family. This simple revenge plot makes me wonder whether he is in fact Ra’s al Ghul or not, because I’m used to something grander from Ra’s. Nonetheless, there are enough open questions left to keep things interesting. Was that little line about a ‘good cape’ and Jerome’s specifically pulling up Bruce on stage supposed to hint that Whoever the Galavans really are they were brought down by the Wayne family?
Equally promising I think is Gordon’s future plot. We’ve been shown that the connection to the Penguin wasn’t just throw-away plot to get Gordon in the darker path. Bullock saw the danger and challenged Penguin on it and I take that to mean that the consequences of Gordon’s choices are going to be seen.
All taken together, season two has opened really well in my eyes and has solved many of the problems from season one.