Gotham “Damned If You Do” Review (Season 2 Episode 1)

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As to be expected, the “Gotham” premiere was mostly set-up, but it was a solid set-up at that. In the aptly-titled “Damned If You Do,” we picked up right where we left off, with Bruce descending into what will eventually be the Batcave for the first time…and finding it locked and secured with a code. To the show’s credit, though, they didn’t drag things out, with Bruce and Alfred rigging up a bomb to blow the door to his father’s lair off, where he discovered a letter waiting for him that declared: “You can’t have happiness and the truth- you have to choose one.” I guess it goes without saying which one Bruce chose.

However, as affecting as that moment was, we all know where that’s all heading. To me, MUCH more exciting was where another particular subplot was headed, and I think you all know the one I mean. The minute that new character gathered together various crazies from Arkham and started talking about forming a team, I think it’s safe to say we all thought the same thing, but this one I did NOT see coming, personally. Could this be the show’s version of the Suicide Squad?

And if so, does that make Barbara Kean (Erin Richards) not the future Batgirl or Oracle, as we were all thinking, but instead, potentially Harley Quinn herself? She is pretty crazy, after all, and we definitely know that the current Jerome Valeska (Cameron Monaghan) is the future Joker. The season is called “Rise of the Villains” after all. However, I won’t get ahead of myself, as it could be any number of other teams, and there are plenty in the Batverse, to be sure. Also, we don’t know who any of the others are for sure, either. (Or I don’t at least.)

We do know, however, that Tabitha Galavan (Jessica Lucas, “Cloverfield,” “Evil Dead”) is none other than Tigress, so there’s that. She’s technically not part of the recruited team, though, being the brother of new heavy Theo (James Frain, “True Detective,” “Grimm”), a governmental liaison type/billionaire of shadowy origins, means obviously he’s going to be someone, too. Ra’s al Ghul, perhaps? That might lead some to think “League of Villains,” but they’re already doing them on “Arrow,” so that seems unlikely.

I know, I know, they’re also doing a “Suicide Squad” movie, so that may well mean it’s not them either, but given that “Arrow” had no problem doing Ra’s al Ghul despite Nolan doing it in the movies, I don’t think that’s as much of an issue. Doing the same characters in movies and television separately isn’t as big of a deal as doing it on two different shows on television, where it might be a bit redundant.

Thus, “The Flash” will reportedly be in “Batman v. Superman” next year, but will not be played by the same actor as the one on TV in the show of the same name, and obviously “The Joker” is played by a different actor on “Gotham,” which I suspect would be the case even if it weren’t for Heath Ledger’s untimely passing. However, being as they already did Ra’s al Ghul on “Arrow” as well, they might not go there on “Gotham,” too, for that reason alone, but we’ll see. Really, though, with Theo Galavan being an unknown entity, he could really be anyone, so I’ll hold off any more speculation on that one until we have a bit more information.

Whatever the case, I am keeping my fingers crossed for the whole “Suicide Squad” thing, as it would be awesome to have two Harley Quinns running around, causing mischief. As long as we’ve waited for a real-life version of the character, I think the world can handle two for the price of one. Also, it would explain why Barbara is such a nut-job and completely erratic as a character: she really is crazy! Part of me wondered if she might be lying about the whole killing her parents thing, but I think she’s on the level about that one after her behavior in this episode, and it would certainly be in keeping with Harley Quinn’s crazy self. Here’s hoping. I might have had my problems with Barbara’s character in the first season, but if they go there, all is forgiven, and then some, because I love me some Harley Quinn.

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Beyond that, we had Jim getting fired, then rehired after going to Penguin yet again for yet another “favor,” which ultimately ended up with him killing someone in the act of doing said favor, which was to collect some money owed from a local gangster that refused to honor Penguin’s newly-minted position as the Big Bad in town. I like that they went there on both counts. Jim needed to get his hands dirty a little bit- it’ll make his character that much more interesting- and it certainly would be a little unbelievable if all the gangsters in town just up and let Penguin take over without any friction whatsoever.

I also liked that the show itself got its hands a little dirty, too, between the Mob-style execution of another uncooperative gangster, to Victor Zsasz (Anthony Carrigan) decapitating someone and using their head as an impromptu puppet! Dark, to be sure, but also perversely funny. It’s like the show wants to have its cake and eat it, too, by keeping one foot in the style of the original cartoonish “Batman” show from the 60s and the other in a Nolan-style universe. I’m actually good with that, and I wasn’t sure I was in the first season, as the tone of the show was all over the place. Now, it seems to have come back knowing exactly what it wants to be, and I’m good with that decision- so far, at least.

So, all in all, a solid start to what will hopefully be a great sophomore season. I like the whole “Rise of the Villains” gambit, and that they seem to be fully embracing the whole notion of having a “Rogue’s Gallery” to call their own. Now, the only thing that remains is to see what they will do with it because it could still go either way.

After all, the shifts in tone on the first season were all over the place, and not in a good way. The writing was inconsistent and the behavior of the main characters was as well. It seems like they have a game plan to rectify it this season, so I’m more than happy to give them the benefit of the doubt, especially since, despite how erratic it could be, I still enjoyed the first season overall, and this season has all the potential ingredients to be even better.

What did you think of the “Gotham” premiere? Are you excited at the prospect of a TV-based “Suicide Squad”? Or do you think it’s something else? Who do you think Theo Galavan is, villain-wise? Or is he just a new character altogether, like they’d have us believe? Is Barbara Harley Quinn? What will Penguin get up to? How will Jim handle the repercussions of his actions? Any other predictions for the season? Sound off below and see you next week!