Episode title: Knock, Knock
Original Airdate: 9-29-15
For the entire run of the first season, I have been very hit and miss with this show. There are enough people who enjoy it that it has gotten to a second season and has had mediocre ratings for the first two episodes in this arc that they’re referring to as “Rise of the Villains”, but for my part it seems like this episode has pushed me past “giving it another chance” into the realm of the hate-watching. There are so many decisions that this show makes that I completely disagree with. The characters feel wrong, and while I’m not one of those people who think that the show should slavishly follow the comics, for one thing there is no such thing as slavishly following the comics as the comics have had so many different variations that there is no singular vision anywhere. They are trying to make their own mythology in this show, but it just doesn’t feel like it’s a mythology that I’m interested in with the exception of just a couple stand out characters.
Last episode set up the Maniax and this episode has them let loose. Led by a combination of Jerome as the front-man and pseudo-Joker, and Theo as the man behind the scenes who is really calling the shots. For her part, Barbara… honestly I’m not sure exactly what role Barbara is supposed to be playing, which is the exact same thing that I said about her last season. Only instead of being the tossed aside character that doesn’t have anything to do, she is nearly front and center with no clear motivation. She’s not a part of the core Maniax gang, and I really dislike calling them the Maniax. It just feels so childish. Anyway, she seems to possibly have some sort of plan of her own, but she spends most of her time playing whip girl with mayor head-in-a-box. Or she is playing bait to Jim Gordon. It doesn’t make her feel empowered or interesting. I will give it the benefit of the doubt that it could flower into something that makes her into an entirely new character, I just really hope that she isn’t on the path to become Gotham’s version of Harley Quinn because it just doesn’t fit at this point.
Of course, I can’t talk about the Maniax without talking a little bit more about Jerome. He is very much playing the Joker role here, or I should say he is overplaying the Joker role here. Similar to the potential Harley Quinn, I do hope that this is a misdirect and he does not end up being this universe’s version of Batman’s the Joker. He is well on his way to being this season’s Fish Mooney as he feels like he’s in an entirely different show than the rest of the cast. His Joker boils down to a whole lot of changing vocal tones and eyebrow waggling with a little bit of head tilted down, eyes looking up to give that very standard menacing look. The rest of the gang are much more on the randomly crazy side of things, like the two who end up getting killed in this episode and the big brute who has the completely unrealistic moment where he gets hit in the face with a metal pipe and just says “ouch”. But unrealism doesn’t end there, the climax of the episode has the Maniax dressed like cops. They casually walk into the police station and even though they are outnumbered at least three to one, they manage to kill or incapacitate every single cop and their only apparent casualty is the cannibal and that’s because Jerome kills him for stealing his joke. The only bit of his performance that I did enjoy was the single line he has after Commissioner Essen spits on him and he replies “That was surprisingly pleasant.”
But as with most episodes of Gotham, it wasn’t entirely bad as there are still characters that I enjoy who managed to get a fair amount of screentime. Alfred is still one of my favorite characters and he gets quite a bit to do here. While I thought it was a bit of a stretch that he goes off on the pre-bat-computer before baby Bruce can see what’s on it, I absolutely loved the scene after he has been fired by Bruce and is obviously stalling to give him a chance to change his mind and ask Alfred to stay. On top of that, he gets to cap it off with a great scene at the bar with Lucius Fox where he has an extremely British story about trust and kippers. I did also enjoy the couple brief scenes involving Harvey Bullock. Before I wrap things up, I will comment on the big spoiler of the episode. Commissioner Essen gets killed by Jerome, which completely changes what little I knew about Gordon’s love life in the comics. So now, instead of marrying Barbara and cheating on her with Essen, he dated Barbara who is now a crazed, jilted lover, and is dating Leslie Thompkins. As I mentioned before, I don’t mind that they’re making their own canon, I would still be ok with an early theory I had that they’re grooming Gordon to become his own prototypical Batman. It is a little disappointing on another level that they killed off a strong Black woman, even while they added a strong Black man. I suppose the real reason that this happened for the arc of the story is twofold. One is that she was someone in charge on the police force that was in full support of Gordon. Since this series is ultimately about the failure of Gordon that makes sense, but this is only season two and it feels a little early for that just yet. Two is that it became an easy excuse to bring Bullock back to the force even though he has been off of the force for a whole episode. I would have been just as interested if they kept Bullock off the force for several more episodes acting as he did here in a consulting role for Gordon, it gives him a place outside of the precinct where he can go and still talk about his case. But now it’s just right back to the status quo with no real consequences of the last two episodes outside of the removal of both the antagonistic Commissioner Loeb and the helpful Captain-come-Commissioner Essen. Just a big waste in my personal opinion.