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Thursday, 2 June 2016

Gotham S2 (Second Half).

This is probably going to be the last roll of the Dice of Disappointment this week, even though there's at least one more show written on it - partly because scheduling reasons means I have to stencil in a Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright review somewhere, and partly because I think four (five, if you count the most-likely negative review Kabaneri will get) of persistent, tired negativity might actually kill me.

It's really not been a good few months for television guys.

So today, the Dice has landed on Gotham, which is actually probably the best of the lot. There's a sentence I never thought I'd say.

Series 2
(Second Half)

Gotham is another one like Supernatural, in that I can't say I was disappointed in it, because it broadly exceeded all of my expectations. I expected it to be barely coherent, struggle deciding on whether any given scene was drama or comedy, to continue making Gordon the most corrupt cop in Gotham, and for the writers to always make the most ludicrous choice possible for any given situation. It was all these things.

Unlike Supernatural, though, it was actually watchable. In fact, it was one of the most fun, entertaining shows I've watched these past few months.

Picking up some time after Theo Galavan's death, Gordon is exonerated by a hearing and reinstated into the GCPD, just in time for everything to turn weird, as people start being attacked by a man wielding a freeze gun. Not long afterwards, Gordon is framed for murder by Nigma, and sent to Blackgate. Meanwhile, Bruce finds the man who killed his parents, only to learn that he was hired by another person - and his search for that person leads him to Hugo Strange, a doctor at Arkham who is experimenting with resurrecting the dead.

Also, he has a bomb, for reasons.

I talk a lot about the importance of villains on this blog, so let's start with Strange, the villain for this arc. He's not really intimidating or sinister, per se (although he has his moments, for the latter), nor is he really meant to be: We spend enough time following his viewpoint that he could easily be the tritagonist, and that's actually a pretty interesting route for the show to take. Despite the fact that he is objectively an irredeemably terrible person doing horrible things, I did find myself wanting him to succeed with his madcap schemes.

'Madcap' is a good way to describe Strange, as he comes off less like a scientist and more like a child in a candy, puppies, and fireworks store. He's hammy and eccentric, chewing the scenery in every scene he's in (and doing it without ever really raising his voice), making delighted remarks on stories and working overtime to apparently create Batman's entire rogues gallery. He comes off almost more as a comic relief villain than anything else (which is a particular feat, given that he's doing some truly horrendous things, like, every episode), and I'm fine with that. In a season of television filled with villains that try to be both funny and dramatically menacing and fail at both (looking at you, Damien Darhk), a villain that falls squarely on the funny side of that dichotomy is pretty refreshing.

Strange is also, actually, not all that far off from his depiction in comics. Comics Strange is a little less entertaining, sure, and he didn't make most of Batman's rogues by resurrecting the dead (although if he could have, he definitely would have), but they're not all that different as far as their characterisation goes.

Ed is looking very stylish.

Gordon's a lot more tolerable in this arc as well - the show tones down his casual brutality and has him leave the GCPD, thus scaling down how gratingly corrupt he's been in previous series - but as is ever the case, he's the least interesting character of the bunch. In the series' final episode, Ben McKenzie plays Clayface doing a terrible, terrible impression of Gordon (again, I couldn't figure out how much of that was being played for drama or comedy), and if I'm being honest, I would take three more series of Clayface Gordon over regular Gordon.

Oswald's whole storyline, meanwhile, is dizzying. He goes from being tormented at Arkham to basically stumbling into a gothic horror-comedy through the power of sheer coincidence, and then spends several episodes in what is basically his own self-enclosed story of an entirely different genre to everything else that's going on, before eventually making his return as a vengeance-obsessed crime lord (this time, it's vengeance again Strange, but I mean, the dude always wants vengeance on somebody). I'm not even complaining, it's just that there was the constant fear that if I looked away for five minutes he'd suddenly have transitioned into another genre.

Sometimes I think the writers pick Oswald's storylines by throwing a dart at a board.

Bruce's storyline, meanwhile, is basically more of the same, but the fact that Bruce is adorable does kind of make up for that somewhat. Also, I swear Alfred had significantly less screentime in this arc than he has done before, but I'm not sure if that's just because he hasn't really been doing anything this arc. 

All in all, I did actually enjoy this series, even though Gotham is a persistent source of bafflement and head-shaking for me. At the very least, the series hasn't been boring, not since it decided to go completely off the wall about halfway through its first series, and I'd rather watch an entertaining but probably terrible show that a boring and also probably terrible show (hi, Supernatural). The last few episodes introduced the Court of Owls, too, who I kind of adore as villains, so I'll be interested to see where the show goes with them.

Also, Fish Mooney's back, and I did like Fish Mooney.

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