Something’s changed in the neighbourhood...
UK Broadcast Channel 5, airing now
US Broadcast Fox, returns 29 February
Episodes Reviewed 2.01- 2.11
While Gotham’s first year favoured a gritty, urban tone, one rooted in the streetwise stylings of such ’ 70s fare as Taxi Driver and Serpico, the opening half of season two has seen a radical tonal switch. Whisper it in the alleyways but this Bat- prequel finally seems to be having fun with the Dark Knight’s world…
Tim Burton’s big- screen take feels like a key inspiration here, particularly 1992’ s Batman Returns. These episodes have tapped some of that movie’s deliciously macabre vein of black comedy, nowhere more so than in a grisly story arc for proto- Riddler Edward Nygma that’s played like the darkest of serial killer farces.
Burton’s eye for the theatrical has clearly inspired some of the show’s visuals, too, from the stripy Arkham inmates’ uniforms to the gargoyles roosting outside Theo Galavan’s penthouse lair. And there aren’t only echoes of the Burtonverse: the camera frequently tilts into the kind of Dutch angles that gave the ’ 60s show so much of its kooky comic- strip flavour. This is a more heightened, outsized reality, a change symbolised by Barbara’s transformation from the dreariest character in season one to the gloriously deranged psycho- ex of season two.
Early episodes revelled in Cameron Monaghan’s Jerome, only to reveal he wasn’t the Joker- in- waiting after all – brave of the show to play that bait- and- switch, given what a perfect piece of casting he was – and so Galavan, played with relish by James Frain as a lounge lizard demon, has emerged as the key antagonist, the threat who’s brought Jim Gordon to his darkest place yet by the end of this “Rise Of The Villains” arc.
It all feels closer in spirit to the comic books – the lore surrounding Gotham’s founding families certainly owes a debt to Scott Snyder’s recent run – but there’s still something missing. Young Bruce may be well on his path to destiny but when Jerome and Barbara stage their deadly magic show in “The Last Laugh” you can’t help but crave a caped crusader to come crashing through the skylight… There’s still an inescapably Batman- shaped hole in this city. Nick Setchfield
Looks like the Joker, laughs like the Joker… isn’t the Joker.