Gotham premiere recap: Rise of the Villains: Damned If You Do... | EW.com

TV Recaps | Gotham

'Rise of the Villains: Damned If You Do...'

Theo Galavan begins his nefarious plans as James Gordon turns dark to get justice.

(Nicole Rivelli/Fox)

Gotham

Season 2, Ep. 1 | Aired Sep 21

“Sometimes the right way is also the ugly way.”

Gotham and its citizens are in a state of transition, which leaves room for weakness and vulnerability, even among the strongest and most morally secure characters we know and love. And with the series’ new tagline for season 2, “Rise of the Villains,” it seems pretty clear that this vulnerability is about to become a huge asset for anyone with a nefarious enough plan. The quote above goes hand-in-hand with how quickly the virtuous characters on Gotham can fall into darkness to get justice, but once that line is crossed how easy is it to keep falling down the rabbit hole? That’s the question I’m hoping the series will attempt to answer as the season progresses. Unfortunately right now I’m slowly coming to a similar (though not as confident) conclusion as my colleague Jeff Jensen’s assessment of Gotham season 2 thus far: It’s all a bit redundant.

The season 2 premiere wastes no time in picking back up exactly where the season 1 finale left off, with Bruce and Alfred discovering a secret staircase to Thomas Wayne’s big secret. But of course, all Bruce finds is a giant door with a password lock. Bruce tries all kinds of combinations and walks back in frustration after Alfred plays Captain Obvious by telling him that there are a million different combos they could try. While that’s very true, what child in his right mind wouldn’t try his own name when attempting to crack a parents’ password? Isn’t that almost always the right answer, aside from actually using the word “password”?

Flash-forward to one month later and Detective James Gordon has now been relegated to traffic duty. It’s a thankless, degrading job for someone who is so determined to clean up the city, but as a diehard cop, Gordon would never be able to live with not being in the law enforcement, no matter how thankless the job. Silver lining: Gordon is still with Leslie and things seem to be chugging along strong in that front despite Gordon’s obvious frustration with his current career situation. Unlike Gordon, Bullock has no real fire to continue fighting his way back onto the force. Instead he has quit and become a bartender as the scene cuts to someone who has gotten their greatest wish in life: Oswald “Penguin” Cobblepot. The man who so loudly and confidently shouted he was the “King of Gotham” in the season 1 finale was accurate; he really is the king of crime, with Butch and Victor firmly by his side as number 2 lackeys. Penguin clearly could not be happier with his new position, and he’s certainly going to milk it for all it’s worth.

We also see Barbara settling into her new home among her fellow criminally insane inmates at Arkham Asylum including Jerome and Richard Sionis, a story line so far from her role in the DC universe that I have to wonder if the writers are trying to turn Gordon’s old flame into a Harley Quinn-type villain just to pull one over on Batman comics fans (aside from the whole loving Joker thing). Unfortunately for Barbara her arc in season 1 was to service the plot progression and nothing has really changed so far in season 2. But crazy is an interesting color on her, so I’m intrigued at the present.

Just three minutes or so in, we already get a glimpse of our Big Bad for the season: James Frain’s Theo Galavan. Now the billionaire’s name is not plastered all over the comics, but it’s likely safe to assume that his plans for Gotham will appear similar to some other villain of his stature from the source material. For now we see Galavan begin his sinister program. He gives a lowly, rather ridiculous villain, Zaardon the Soul Reaper, a vial of blue liquid to drink and go off to conquer some souls, or whatever he wants to do. It’s all rather ridiculous, but that’s the point. Zaardon encounters Gordon at a traffic stop to wreak havoc on unsuspecting victims, but Gordon rather easily disarms the man without any excess violence. If you’re thinking this quick of an arrest is obviously suspect, you are absolutely correct. But of course, no one wants to suspect the makings of an evil master plan over the likelihood of just some crazy guy with a lot of random weapons, so Zaardon is taken into custody and awaits a shift to Arkham.

Unfortunately Gordon’s quick thinking and lack of needless violence doesn’t get him a commendation as Essen believes he deserves. No, he pushed a fellow officer when the guy showed up late for work and Commissioner Loeb seizes this opportunity to give Gordon the punishment he’s been waiting to give for months. Essen stands against Loeb (in a moment that made my blood boil as Loeb silences her with the utmost disrespect, “That’s enough young lady”), but it’s too late. Gordon is fired. Loeb is clearly having trouble hiding his glee and relief here, but that doesn’t last long as Gordon gets in Loeb’s face and threatens him. “I told you I’d break you. I will.” Oh my Ben McKenzie, is that a little Ryan Atwood I see? You can take the man out of Chino and stick him in Gotham, but you can’t take the Chino out of the man.

NEXT: Edward Nygma continues his descent into madness

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