GOTHAM: (L-R) Butch Gilzean (Drew Powell) and Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) in the “Damned if you Do,… ” Season Two premiere of GOTHAM airing Monday, Sept. 21 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2015 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Nicole Rivelli/FOX
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Villains Rise as GOTHAM Falls

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GOTHAM: Logo.
Episode 201 “Damned If You Do…”

 

At the end of season one, young Bruce Wayne had discovered the secret door behind the fireplace. Penguin had come out on top of the crime syndicate. Barbara Kean had gone ’round the bend. And James Gordon was in a bit of trouble. Now a month passes …

Spoilers_GothamBatman

…with a montage set to Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day” showing Jim Gordon living the simple life with his girlfriend Lee. He’s been reduced to a uniformed traffic cop as a result of his clash with Commissioner Loeb in season one. Bullock is tending bar, Barbara Kean arrives at Arkham, presumably after her trial during the season break, catching the eye of the Arkham inmates, especially Jerome (Joker Jr or is it Sr?) and Penguin solidifies his criminal empire through manipulation and violence. Robin Lord Taylor continues to deliver his unique sniveling sociopathic version of the dapper criminal mastermind. He is one of the most promising villains of the series.

GOTHAM: Theo Galavan (James Frain) in the “Damned if you Do,… ” Season Two premiere of GOTHAM airing Monday, Sept. 21 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2015 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Nicole Rivelli/FOX
Zaardon meets Theo Galavan (James Frain). ©2015 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Nicole Rivelli/FOX

Next, a shadowy figure instructs a rotund man donned in hockey pads, later revealed as Zaardon the Soul Reaper, to drink a strange blue elixir. Downing the concoction he trembles with anticipation.

Gordon is on duty directing traffic when Zaardon descends from the El platform packing samurai swords and a pistol. Stepping into a small street market he begins firing into the air and demands tribute. This scene frustrates me, is the show serious or campy? The Soul Reaper is straight out of a Saturday morning serial and proceeds to morph the show (for me) into a comedic joke.   The encounter lacks impact, no one is in danger and Gordon easily takes him down. A boisterous patsy, Zaardon’s minute of fame does however lay the groundwork for a significant character reveal later in the episode.

Edward Nygma is still crazy. Cory Smith’s first scenes this season are among a rare few in the entire series of any quality. The actor is tasked with acting opposite himself as we see Edward plunge further into madness.   The acting and editing are in perfect sync showing us a man frightened and empowered by his fragmenting mind.

Bullock has retired after the zany end of the crime lords Fish, Falcone and Maroni last season. He tells Jim that he is happy and building a life with his flame haired fling from the support group from season one. Flush with the serenity of his new situation Bullock urges Jim to get out while he still can, to leave the force and enjoy life with Lee.

GOTHAM: Bruce (David Mazouz) in the “Damned if you Do,… ” Season Two premiere of GOTHAM airing Monday, Sept. 21 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2015 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Nicole Rivelli/FOX
Bruce (David Mazouz) finds the Batcave. ©2015 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Nicole Rivelli/FOX

Back at the mansion, Bruce determined to open the mysterious door behind the fireplace that was revealed at the end of season one. Batman’s early deduction skills are severely lacking leading him to smash the keypad frustration. Realizing his mistake he hatches a new plan. Build a homemade bomb and hopefully not blow up the entire mansion in the process. Alfred is alarmed by his young masters choice, but recognizes his determination and joins the effort to ensure the best result.

As Kean (Erin Richards) lounges in the Arkham common room, Jerome introduces himself and warns that within the walls of Arkham having friends is paramount to survival. We see Richard Sionis (Todd Stashwick), the Mask from season one, eyeing Kean. Using her beauty and fearlessness she floats over to the largest male in the room and secures his undying loyalty with a bit of flirtation. Jerome is impressed.

Not having seen any of Richards prior work, I can only assume she is a talented actor. Between the writing, directing and her performance there is a disconnect that leaves her character without depth. While it’s natural in new series for character to take time to mature, Barbara Kean has had a significant portion of season one with some truly shocking moments to develop. Sadly we are greeted in this opener with an empty marginalized character that might have had potential.

The overall tone of the first portion of this episode is devoid of sensation not the engaging genre TV we want.

GOTHAM: Gordon (Benjamin McKenzie) in the “Damned if you Do,… ” Season Two premiere of GOTHAM airing Monday, Sept. 21 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2015 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Nicole Rivelli/FOX
Gordon (Benjamin McKenzie) reflects. ©2015 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Nicole Rivelli/FOX

Returning to the precinct Zaardon is thrown in a holding sell where he promptly burps blue gas much to the dislike of his cellmates.  Jim is confronted by Commissioner Loeb and fired for assaulting (actually shoving) a fellow officer. With Captain Essen urging compliance Gordon avoids an altercation, surrendering his badge and gun he simply restates his threat to break Loeb. Jim visits the Penguin and pressures him for help getting reinstated. In return for his help Penguin asks Jim to collect an outstanding debt. Initially Jim refuses, but after another visit to the Harvey’s bar and a few drinks he reconsiders.   He is unable to let Loeb win, his drive to see justice upheld is insatiable. He is willing to do just about anything even if it means breaking the law.

GOTHAM: (L-R) Butch Gilzean (Drew Powell) and Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) in the “Damned if you Do,… ” Season Two premiere of GOTHAM airing Monday, Sept. 21 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2015 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Nicole Rivelli/FOX
Butch Gilzean (Drew Powell) and Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor). ©2015 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Nicole Rivelli/FOX

Zaardon arrives in Arkham, and his purpose is revealed. Demanding an audience, he is comically ignored. Collapsing onto his back he spews a familiar blue gas. The Soul Reaper is a gas grenade. With the inmates (including Kean and Jerome) knocked out, a mysterious woman in a gas mask shows up with a few thugs in tow.  What is her purpose? Is she connected to the Zaardon’s shadowy benefactor?

Meanwhile, the debt collection goes awry and Jim ends up shooting the errant bookie.   This scene should have had more emotional impact on me than it did. It tries to present it self as a dramatic character moment for Gordon but falls flat. Gordon was in more peril in the first episode of season one pretending to kill the Penguin. There is no doubt it will fester in later episodes; however, it could have been better executed.

Penguin lives up to his word and pays Loeb a visit with Zazz in tow. The commissioner, under the threat of death, agrees to reinstate Gordon to detective and step down as commissioner. Captain Essen is promoted to commissioner as Lee and Gordon nervously look on.   Without the details, Gordon has confesses to Lee that he has done a bad thing, understanding the implications she simply says, “I hope it was worth it.” Essen takes the two a side and informs them that Keen has escaped from Arkham.

GOTHAM: Theo Galavan (James Frain) in the “Damned if you Do,… ” Season Two premiere of GOTHAM airing Monday, Sept. 21 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2015 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Nicole Rivelli/FOX
GOTHAM: Theo Galavan (James Frain) in the “Damned if you Do,… ” Season Two premiere of GOTHAM airing Monday, Sept. 21 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2015 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Nicole Rivelli/FOX

Kean and the others awake from their gas-induced slumber strapped to dollies in luxurious high-rise apartment. Theo Galvin (James Frain), Zaardon’s benefactor, welcomes him to his home. The mysterious gas masked liberator is revealed to be Tabitha, his sister. Theo offers them the opportunity to become a villainous band that, with his support, will bring Gotham to its knees.

Kean, ever the spitfire, says she works better alone. Sionis refuses to bow to Theo’s authority and to his surprise if freed. Before he can leave, Tabitha brutally stabs him to death.   Theo then asks if anyone else would like to leave. At this point the rest, including Kean, appear eager to accept Theo’s offer.

Bruce, at this point, has convinced Alfred to help him blow up the house.   They detonate the bomb, blowing the only the door off with neatly stacked pile of ACME TNT. Inside they find a proto-Batcave, complete with a multi-monitor computer and some misc. equipment. Bruce finds a letter from his deceased father that informs him – much to his embarrassment – that the door code was simply BRUCE. The mildly touching scene continues as the letter goes on to ask Bruce to ignore anything his father was investigating and instead choose to live a full life, unless…he feels a true calling.

At last we roll credits.

GOTHAM: Gordon (Benjamin McKenzie) in the “Damned if you Do,… ” Season Two premiere of GOTHAM airing Monday, Sept. 21 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2015 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Nicole Rivelli/FOX
Gordon (Benjamin McKenzie). ©2015 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Nicole Rivelli/FOX

Overall, the episode lacked real direction and was a hodgepodge of loose ends tied up from season one. Aside from the lackluster scene of Gordon selfishly killing for his own gain and Bruce’s misty-eyed letter read, the opening of season two fell flat. Kean’s time in Arkham was mind-bogglingly short and missed great opportunities to develop her character. The flavor-of-the-week villains with their glaze of 60s camp make it hard to take the show seriously. I mourn the fact that the writers and producers cannot see the wealth of material and tone available to them.

Cory Smith’s Nygma continues to develop and is the only bright spot, brief as it is, in this episode. Well, 22 episodes to go. Let’s hope the creative team wakes up before it’s over.

 

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Christopher Jensen

Christopher Jensen grew up surrounded by fandom. Sharing a love of comics with his father and movies & TV with his mother there was no shortage entertainment. Now based in Kansas City he has taken the next step, entering the world of independent film production.

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