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Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Gotham S2 (First Half)

Series 2 (First Half).

I actually avoided watching Gotham until last week (when I was bereft of non-anime television to watch), for a couple of reasons: A busy schedule, everyday life stresses getting in the way, and the fact that Gotham is always unremittingly terrible. Stuff like that. Little things.

In this series of Gotham, a wealthy entrepeneur, Theo Galavan, breaks a gang of inmates out of Arkham to wreak havoc on Gotham. As Galavan's master plan begins to reach fruition and the bodies keep piling up, Jim Gordon, the dirtiest cop in the continental US, must protect Bruce Wayne and stop Galavan's evil, diabolical machinations.

Okay, sorry. Sorry, I know that synopsis sounds like I'm not taking this seriously, and if I'm being entirely honest with all of you, I'm not, because around three episodes into this series of Gotham, when a televised hijacking of a charity gala caused random people around the city to start laughing maniacally and stabbing people for no adequately explained reason, I stopped taking any of this seriously. If I'm being entirely truthful, I stopped having any kind of emotional or intellectual reaction to the series at all. I was watching it, and taking it all in, but nothing prompted any emotion more meaningful or any thought more complicated than "Well, that's definitely an event that took place in this show."

Will you please close your mouth, Gordon, it feels like it's always just drooping open.

If you'll remember, in my last review of Gotham I described it as being overall very bland, but with a finale that was so surreal that it was dreamlike, and in the second series, it started at the level of surreality that the finale was at, and then got progressively and incrementally odder with every subsequent episode, before culminating in a midseason finale that I can honestly say that I'm still totally baffled by.

To describe it briefly: Killer monks had kidnapped Bruce Wayne for a ritual that will, in some nondescript fashion, cleanse Gotham. While preparations for the ritual are made, Galavan orders his niece, Silver, to make Bruce fall in love with her - this is supposed to test her commitment to the cause, despite the fact that there are about a million more efficient ways to do this. Meanwhile, Gordon wakes up in the care of Nygma and Penguin, and barely questions why the two of them are living together, and after Alfred (who has been stabbed twice, but the writers apparently didn't remember that in this episode, as no reference is made to it) shows up they and a bunch of other people besiege Galavan's home and rescue Bruce - a rescue which involves an elderly monk screaming and flying through the air at the end. Then Penguin bludgeons Gordon's new police captain unconscious, and they take Galavan and kill him on the docks.

Throughout all of this, everybody is acting in the most hammy way possible, except Ben McKenzie, who plays Gordon. He is playing every single absurd scene absolutely straight, like it is the most serious, dramatic role of his career - and, in fairness, it might be.

I'm still not sure why this scene happened.

Whether intentionally or just because the writers are terrible - and I could not venture a guess as to which - every single plot thread, character arc, or scene in Gotham always goes the most ludicrous and baffling route possible. 

Which is all well and good, and believe me, it makes for a much more interesting show than we had last series, but there is rather a key problem, which is that none of these characters resemble, even remotely, the characters they're meant to be.

Bruce is non-committal and helpless, protesting constantly that he wants to find his parents' killer but constantly trying to foist the responsibility for that off onto other people; Alfred hits children (multiple times), berates everyone he encounters, makes very odd overtures at Lucius Fox where he compares him several times over to a kipper (and apparently Americans don't know what kippers are, which is news to me); and James Gordon, instead of being the one good cop in a city of bad ones (which I will remind you is not just the basis of his character in the comics, but also the entire premise of Gotham) is the dirtiest, most corrupt, murderous police officer in the world.

It's not just that he's constantly murdering suspects or that all of his interrogation techniques involve police brutality. It's that the very first episode of the series has him working as a debt collector and assassin for Gotham's biggest crime lord, in exchange for having the duly appointed police commissioner blackmailed into giving him his job back and then forced into retirement. You really don't get more dirty than that. That's the first episode of the second series.

Gordon is literally so evil that if Batman actually existed in this universe, they'd be enemies.

This terrible, terrible picture is an official promo image.

The weird thing is, this doesn't seem to affect anybody's view of him in any way. Bullock and Penguin, both of whom know just how dirty he is, both make reference to him being clean and law-abiding. Lea, his love interest, makes reference to him having a dark side (as does every single character in every single episode), but it's always framed as a kind of cool, nice dark side where he's reckless with his life but in an awesome way, and not just being a dirty cop.

The series will be resuming next year, with Mr. Freeze and Hugo Strange showing up as the main villains, and to be honest, I am entirely here for that. Give me random people frozen around Gotham. Give me ice puns. Give me Hugo Strange psychoanalysing everyone, but in the most absurd, hamfisted fashion possible. Give me the show treating all of these things absolutely, stone-facedly seriously. Give it to me.

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