Season two of Gotham continues to go darker and episode two, Knock Knock gives us the Maniax (!) run by Jerone, the soon to be Joker. The episode was a brilliant mix of horror, dark humor, pathos and some tear-inducing bonding moments between Alfred and Bruce. Last week’s season opening set up the “new” Gotham City PD and this episode shot it to pieces.
In short order, the Maniax explode into the news in Gotham and create havoc. A group of victims thrown off the roof of the newspaper building, a school bus full of cheerleaders doused in gasoline and almost set on fire and the Gotham police department shot to rag doll ribbons by Jerome and the rest of the Maniax, sans Barbara ensures some massive media coverage.
Away from the death and mayhem going on in the city, Alfred and young Bruce have a massive falling out after the butler busts up the computer in the secret office. Wayne fires Alfred, although they do later reconcile and things shift between the two. Pennyworth will now train Bruce, in earnest, and he must also repair the computer.
Once Wayne and Alfred “make up” the butler then convinces Bruce to put him in charge. Pennyworth then approaches Lucius Fox, first to warn him, then to request that the man fix the broken computer.
*Sidenote* The bar scene contained the most awkward sounding dialogue ever to come from actor Sean Pertwee. The whole “tuck you up like a kipper” scene sounded stilted and, to be honest, is not a phrase heard by this reviewer once in over 32 years in England. Whoever came up with this whole scene should do their homework on how former soldiers actually talk. Just saying…me old sausage.
After Lucius and Alfred reach an understanding, the butler buys a drink for Mr. Fox (Chris Chalk) and the bartender, a touch of jolly old English “pub etiquette.”
Nygma continues his transition into The Riddler and while his two halves fight for control, he is still in love with Kristen (Chelsea Spack). Later he manages to impress Miss Kringle by saving her life in the Gotham City Police Department massacre.
Jerome (played with gleeful gusto by Cameron Monaghan, who appears to be channeling all of the prior screen jokers into his version of the wonderfully catchy criminal) gets all the best lines of the show, and some of the best (blackly) comic moments.
The moment on the school bus where Jerome “leads” the cheerleaders in a very short chant:
“Give me an O.”
Jerome fires his gun.
“I said, give me an O.”
“Give me an N.”
“Give me another O.”
“What does that spell?”
Jerome starts spraying gas all over the bus, “Oh No!”
The little question on “N” is comedic magic, albeit very dark comedic magic.
Knock Knock gives us an insight on many characters. The almost orgasmic interest in the Russian Roulette scene by Theo Galavan (James Frain), Barbara’s sense of sadism (who knew that Erin Richards could be so much more fun as “Bad Barbara?”), Harvey’s realization that he really is a cop regardless of what he tells himself.
Overall, the dark humor in this episode was well done: Tabitha and Barbara are whipping the Mayor (who still has the “box” over his head) with cat-o-nine tail whips. They run him into a wall and he falls down and lays still. After telling the girls to leave the “poor mayor along” Galavan continues.
Theo: “You haven’t killed him have you?”
Tabitha: “No I don’t think so.”
She hits the prone mayor on the stomach with her whip and he groans.
Tabitha: “Nope, hanging in there.”
Season two is rolling out the mythos of Gotham nicely. On top of all the infamous baddies and their origin stories, the series is setting up the Pennyworth/Wayne dynamic beautifully. It may be a little schmaltzy but these two performers, Pertwee and young David Mazouz have a great chemistry together and do feel a little like surrogate father and son.
The death of Essen was grim, but what a fighter! Her seated head-butt to Jerome was worth a cheer and then she tops it with the “That’s gonna leave a mark” quip. Major kudos to actress Zabryna Guevara who just killed it in her scene with the future Joker. Effortlessly.
By the time end credits rolled, Kringle brought Nygma an aspirin, Bullock put back on the badge and gun, the Maniax are down by two and Jerome has his first public broadcast. As the madman says, “Hang on to your hats folks cause you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet.”
Gotham airs Mondays on FOX, miss this and miss some of the darkest and exciting television on offer.