Gotham: Knock Knock – Monsters Are Coming…They’re Here (Review)

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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.

Literally.

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.”

“O”

“Give me an N.”

“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.

Gotham: Season 2 Premiere – Perfect Opening

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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).

Transition to:

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.”

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The King of Gotham in his throne…

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.

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Bruce learning his “true calling.”

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.