Some­thing’s changed in the neigh­bour­hood...

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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.

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