TV Review: Gotham, Season 2 (USA, 2016)

The first season of Gotham had a lot of potential but it’s hard not to call it out for being the mess it is. Characters were too one-dimensional and its convoluted plotting left a lot to be desired. By the mid-season finale, I wasn’t really watching Gotham because I wanted to know what happened next as much as I wanted to know what happened with the series’ own creative direction.

I wanted to know which villain’s origin story they would butcher next, what unequivocally-uninteresting character arcs they would throw at audiences next and how painfully obvious they would continue to be about foreshadowing Bruce Wayne’s crime-fighting future.  Season 2 is, all things considered, a slightly-less predictable venture but still one possessed of these same problems.

It’s clear the writers are trying a lot harder this time around- and the season’s early highs reflect that, but a lot of the core problems are still here. Episodes are still too convoluted, the montages are still absurdly tonedeaf and the acting still too campy and cartoonish. David Mazous’ Bruce Wayne is still too young and Ben McKenzie‘s James Gordon is still too boring. It’s all very familiar.

Branded as “Wrath of the Villains”, Season 2 does a good job of continuing Gotham’s bad habit of rapidly introducing, then tossing aside, iconic Batman villains – the whole progress just takes one or two episodes longer now.  If there are any highlights here, it’s Cameron Monaghan‘s Young Joker, who steals more than a few scenes during all-too-brief his guest role.

Meanwhile, Robin Lord Taylor’s Penguin again finds himself sidelined to bizarre subplots rather than a central player. Penguin was the standout of the first season and it’s a shame to see Taylor’s talented wasted put to waste.

Another carryover from Season 1, Gotham still struggles a lot when it comes to tone. One episode might see the series embrace the twisted and cartoonish nature of its material, the next it’ll act like the series has been a “serious crime drama” all along. However, when it chooses to embrace the former, this version of the show is a lot stronger than it was last year.

Hopefully, the trend continues and Season 3 sees “serious Gotham” eliminated entirely. Treated as a serious drama, Gotham is a mess. Treated as a live-action cartoon that messiness can become a lot of fun. Gotham remains trashy and flawed but the potential of the series’ premise (and casting) occasionally shines through.

Review Score: TWO AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

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