Gotham: The Complete Second Season hit the shelves on August 16, 2016 and is an essential piece for collectors, Batman fans, and folks who overall have good taste. The cinematic quality that Gotham has delivered on the small screen on FOX carries over in its Blu-Ray release which includes both a Blu-Ray and Digital HD.
As someone who watches the show as it airs, I thoroughly enjoyed reliving the second season because it was so packed with intertwining storylines that I had forgotten a lot of what had happened. By watching the season again, I am itching for the next season and was able to get back into a Gotham state of mind!
The first season set up the premise and some of the back story for Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) and James Gordon (Ben McKenzie), but the second season, while still exploring Wayne’s and Gordon’s storylines was all about the villains! Fan favorite, Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) returns and, even though his character is given much more depth, we also meet Theo Galavan (James Frain), Victor Fries/Mr. Freeze (Nathan Darrow), Professor Hugo Strange (BD Wong), and a maniacal sociopath named Jerome (Cameron Monaghan) who steals the show.
The second season is divided into two sections: “Rise of the Villains” and “Wrath of the Villains.” Gotham could easily be assumed to be just about Bruce Wayne’s transition into Batman, but it focuses also on the transition of James Gordon into eventually becoming Commissioner Gordon while this season further focuses on the criminals becoming mega-villains.
“Rise of the Villains” focuses on Penguin, who proclaimed himself “King of Gotham” in the Season 1 finale, and the rise of Theo Galavan, who rises quickly as a Gotham socialite and eventual mayor, but also becomes a powerful crime lord in his own right as he becomes fixated on avenging his family which was shamed and betrayed by Wayne ancestors. Galavan frees a gang from Arkham Asylum that includes Barbara Kean (Erin Richards) and a red-haired psychopath named Jerome.
Jerome is the breakout character of this season and, at the time it was originally aired, was rumored to be a young version of The Joker. Although he does not survive this season, the writers have included much foreshadowing that his theatrical and over the top crimes and televised (planned by Galavan who appears as the hero) death has planted the seed among those in Gotham who find their grip on morality and sanity loosening. Personally, I found this to be an extremely clever move for Gotham. Jerome teased fans with a slight glimpse of what could have inspired The Joker, but did not reveal the infamous character too early in the series’ run. It provided just enough teasing before slamming the door on The Joker that will keep viewers coming back.
Batman has always toyed with the concept that not everyone is 100% bad or 100% good all of the time. Gotham continues to blur the lines between good and bad by presenting a very complex and strange relationship between Gordon, Penguin, and Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith). Nygma, who works for the Gotham City Police Dept., devolves from a strange genius to an insane strange genius while Penguin and Gordon share a quid pro quo relationship from time to time. Every character has two sides to their personality and manages to help an enemy if they profit from it in the end.
“Wrath of the Villians” focuses on the touching origin/love story of Mr. Freeze which is straight from Batman: The Animated Series (1992). I must admit, when Nora Fries’s (Kristen Hager) frozen body shattered, I totally “girled.” When Victor decided to kill himself to be with his wife, it was a much better love story than Rose letting go of frozen Jack and letting him sink to the ocean’s floor!
If anyone in Gotham IS 100% evil, it is Professor Strange. Recognizing BD Wong as a compassionate psychiatrist from Law & Order (1999) it is delightful to see him embody evil. His deep, smooth voice is the audible equivalent of the Cheshire Cat’s grin as he brings Galavan and Mr. Freeze back to life and turns them into super villains.
The shining moment of this season is when Penguin meets his father, Elijah Van Dahl (Paul Reubens) who embraces his son. The Penguin has become reformed and docile due to treatments and terrors at the hands of Professor Strange and his assistant, Mrs. Peabody (Tonya Pinkins) at Indian Hill. As an ‘80’s kid, not only am I a HUGE Pee Wee Herman fan, but it was great to see the same actor play the Penguin’s father in both Gotham and oh so briefly in Batman Returns (1992). Elijah embodies everything you would expect the Penguin’s father to sound, look like, and act like. It is also nice to see the Penguin have some good luck in this series. Just when you think it is a happy ending for Penguin, his father is murdered and the Penguin is back and as evil as ever!
The Blu-Ray set boasts a host of special features, some of which are good quality must-sees and others seem to be just padding and filler.
Aftermath: Incredibly short character featurettes in which cast members discuss their characters’ dilemmas and positions. This provides no insight into any of the characters. These are just the cast giving a few blurbs/teasers about their characters with clips from the first and second seasons.
Father’s Office: Bruce and Alfred discover the hidden door in Wayne Manor. It is literally a shot of them looking at the door. It has taken longer to type this sentence than the actual scene lasted.
A Look Back: Cast members reveal their characters’ origins. Once again, there is nothing new or exciting revealed. It may be a nice piece for someone who has only hit and missed watching the show.
Maniax Jerome: It is almost a highlight reel of Jerome.
Strike Force: A look at Captain Barnes and his agenda to clean up Gotham, starting with the GCPD!
He Who Laughs Last: Is there more chaos to come when a virus attacks Gotham?
New Day, Dark Nights: This could have been a nice feature discussing the multiple aspects of Gordon’s personality and the complexity of his actions versus his attempt to help the greater good. Instead, it is just a teaser that compares Gordon from Season 1 to Gordon in Season 2.
A Look Ahead: Teases at the future of the main characters.
The King: Is Penguin really the king of Gotham or is he just a new target for other criminals to take down?
Gotham: 2015 Comic-Con Panel: This is a neat addition, but serves more as a commercial and schmooze fest where the MC talks about how great the creators and actors are. I would rather hear just from the actors and creators, but this is a fun one-time viewing.
The meat and potatoes of the special features are on the last disc. If you skip the other ones, you aren’t missing much. They become redundant and are so short that they become annoying. The following are actually insightful and left me wanting more.
Gotham by Noir Light: This explains how the film noir traditions are present in Gotham, but are given a modern look.
Alfred: Batman’s Greatest Ally: This focuses on the father/son bond that exists between Alfred and Bruce. It briefly brushes on the comics, but mainly analyzes Alfred from Gotham. I would have loved if this feature were expanded upon and looked more at the comics and previous television shows and movies.
Cold-Hearted: The Tale of Victor Fries: Victor Fries melts down as he tries to cure his wife. This feature is another take it or leave it. If you watched Gotham, you already know the origin story of Mr. Freeze. The quality of it is okay, but it is redundant and does not provide much more than what we have already seen on the show. Resources and space could have been used better.