Gotham season 2 premiere, once it gets past the Bruce Wayne access code “blockage,” dives into the most perfect opening ever. With Lou Reed’s It’s Just a Perfect Day overlaying a montage titled “One Month Later” director Danny Cannon and creator Bruno Heller give us sheer bliss on screen. All before the opening credits.
As the episode opens, Bruce and Alfred go down the steps behind the fireplace and see the door to the “bat cave” complete with access keypad. Alfred tells Wayne that there must be a million possible combinations and the “One Month Later” montage begins.
We see Jim Gordon getting dressed with Leslie “Lee” Thompkins helping, Harvey Bullock is tending bar (comically lifting a drunk’s head off the bar so he can wipe it and letting the appendage slam back down to the bar top), Penguin now wearing the metaphorical crown as King of Gotham and dooming an underling to death and Barbara Kean arrives at Arkham Asylum complete with luggage.
Jerome Valeska (who is destined to become The Joker) clocks the arrival of Ms Kean and is instantly interested. The montage, and the music, ends and we are introduced to Zaardon, the soul reaper, who drinks a beaker of blue liquid handed to him by Theo Galavan (James Frain).
Jim Gordon in a uniform directing traffic and Zaardon runs into Gordon who, in short order, overpowers the “soul reaper” pushes an overweight and late fellow cop back and gets fired by Commissioner Loeb.
Through the course of this season premiere opening episode: Jim is fired and reinstated. Penguin does Gordon a favor and receives one from the future commissioner in return. Bruce gets that door open, with some major help from Alfred. Barbara shows what she is really made of and the Riddler (Nygma played with a glorious schizophrenic desperation by Cory Michael Smith) proves that he really is ready to make his criminal presence known.
This whole opening episode works like a well oiled machine. Each part coming together perfectly, seamlessly, to become a major signpost of both who is whom and why. Several important things happen. One scene, however, is a turning point which changes the direction of three characters.
Wayne and Alfred (The brilliant Sean Pertwee who commands scenes almost effortlessly by his ability to be both sternly in-charge and instantly turn domestic “I’ll put the kettle on.”) have just rushed to clean up after finding the hidden door behind the fireplace. Jim Gordon shows up to announce he has been fired from the Gotham police force.
The former cop wants to apologize for not being able to keep his promise and he reveals that there is a way to get back his job, but it, “it’s too ugly.” He implies that he cannot pursue this avenue of reinstatement. Young Wayne, after a short Q&A session then asks if Gordon is not sacrificing the greater good for his own code of vain ethics.
Bruce makes a harsh point:
“Surely, sometimes, the right way is also the ugly way.”
Alfred rebukes Bruce, who then apologizes to Jim. This little meeting results in Jim doing the favor for Penguin (collecting from Ogden Barker) and the new King of Gotham then gets Loeb out of the commissioner position and Jim is taken back as a detective. Later, Bruce takes his own advice and blows up the entrance to his father’s secret “lair.”
This event is the main thrust of the episode. The tiny “cameo” of Nygma talking to himself in the mirror and the parallel storyline of Galavan’s beginning of the “super criminals” he is designing all work together perfectly. As does the story thread of Harvey Bullock working as bartender while staying sober for “32 days.”
Bruce Wayne’s continued journey toward manhood and “becoming” Batman is still wonderfully paced. Bruce (David Mazouz) and Alfred are the “odd couple” to match Jim Gordon and Bullock’s version. The young Wayne is slowly leaving his boyhood behind him although we know that it is still there. The scene where Alfred brings the wire behind the end of the sofa where Bruce waits shows that both the butler and Wayne are “childishly” excited to blow open the door.
After the “ugly” scene, Jim takes that final step, Alfred becomes more advisor and less guardian, and Bruce takes another purposeful stride toward becoming the adult who becomes the “caped crusader.” (Three major characters all taking a particular fork in the road to fulfill their destinies.)
Once Alfred and Bruce enter the secret office, after Wayne decides to take the “ugly way” to get past that locked door, he learns the truth of his father. Bruce’s dad has left him a letter explaining what he was doing and the final line of the note reveals something very important:
“You can’t have both happiness and the truth. You have to choose. I beg of you, my son, please choose happiness. Unless… Unless you feel a calling. A true calling.”
This final line, which Bruce alludes to earlier in his conversation with Jim Gordon, is the crux of the series, all the more so in season two. All the players have a “true calling.” From Theo Galavan and his new band of villains to Jim Gordon and his relentless quest for justice in Gotham.
From the mouths of babes, as they say, comes some pretty in-depth wisdom. Wayne’s own true calling is still coming to fruition but the “child,” as Alfred repeatedly refers to Master Bruce, knows that truth is not pretty, not in Gotham.
Robin Lord Taylor is killing it as Oswald Cobblepot, aka the Penguin and Ben McKenzie as Jim “I did a bad thing” Gordon is magnificent as the square-jawed hero. Anthony Carrigan is back as the terrifying enforcer Victor and new female bad-a** character Tabitha Galavan, played by Jessica Lucas, looks to be a great addition to the baddie ranks. As does James Frain as brother Theo.
Gotham airs Mondays on Fox, even if you are not a fan of the comic verse, this is compelling television and features some great performances from all concerned. Tune in and enjoy.