Fox’s “Batman-without-Batman” soap opera is the most amazingly weird show on television. For every episode this season, Deadshirt’s own Sarah Register, Kayleigh Hearn and Max Robinson discuss the good, the bad..the beginning? of little Bruce Wayne, skinny Oswald Cobblepot, and Jim Gordon sans ‘stache as they try to find their way in the misery-soaked, work-a-day world of…GOTHAM.
ALL SHOWS SHOULD OPEN WITH A MONTAGE SET TO A LOU REED SONG
Kayleigh: No joke, last Sunday’s Fear the Walking Dead also began with “Perfect Day”.
Max: After a freshman season full of filicide, Balloon Men, and Fish “Can I Call You Queen, Queen?” Mooney (R.I.P.), Gotham’s finally back, and GREAT NEWS, it’s somehow more insane and fun than ever.
Sarah: Lou Reed is great for a dose of cheery irony set against the backdrop of a city where people are getting murdered and/or eaten (although, to be fair, I think Penguin really was cheery as Zsasz shot a man in the head). I thought I’d really be missing the dons this season, but the tone is already noticeably different with more of the Arkham-type villains at the forefront.
Max: Gotham is not a subtle show, but boy howdy did I like that montage and how it tells us everything we need to know. Bullock’s a bartender now? Penguin’s running thangs? Barbara is the new It Girl of Arkham Asylum? Love it. Love it love it love it. Gotham went on Summer Vacation and it came back all tan and sexy with a neck tattoo that says “haha oh man GET him.”
Sarah: From THE ACTUAL WORST who gets bullied by ten-year-olds to queen of Arkham and possibly the best part of the show so far.
Max: Kudos to Bruno Heller and co. for turning last season’s biggest problem into potentially its greatest asset? Barbara’s amazing this entire episode, start to finish. I like how weirdly competent she is inside Arkham, but then we get her super clumsy attempt to get Gordon and new girlfriend Leslie to turn on each other? Barbara, at her core, is a mean child trapped in an adult woman’s body, and Gotham is finally embracing that.
Kayleigh: Erin Richards is pretty great now that she has material she can actually sink her teeth into, instead of just being the bland, worried girlfriend who inexplicably never leaves her apartment. Everything in Arkham made me cackle, including “Make me a sandwich,” and Black Mask and Barbara acting like bored rich kids in study hall when “Zaardon the Soul Ripper” walked in. The only thing that would have made the phone call scene better would be if the camera panned down to reveal Barbara was just talking into a toy Flintstones Phone.
GORDON’S WHOLE DEAL. WHAT’S UP WITH THAT?
Max: This premiere is all about one thing, and that’s that Jim Gordon is Going Through A Dark Fuckin’ Period. What makes McKenzie’s version of Gordon work for me is how manic and intense he is about fighting crime. The GCPD top brass kicked him and Harvey down to mundane patrol duty at some point in between seasons and so Gordon’s been reduced to babysitting fat mental patients and waving a gun at dudes stealing iPhone covers.
Kayleigh: Gordon’s visit to Wayne Manor continued Gotham’s fine tradition of grown-ass adults getting verbally disemboweled by twelve-year-olds. I worry that the show is getting a bit repetitive with Gordon’s character arcs—remember the last time he was demoted and guarded Arkham for a hot minute? I suppose I should sit and think about the wider implications of the show’s “One Good Cop™ descending into murderous mob ties, but Gotham is also so far removed from our reality it might as well be Earth-Z42, where the Justice League are all talking sea mammals. Anyway, Ben McKenzie is hot.
Sarah: I think Ben McKenzie bulked up during the break. But yeah, he’s always kind of been that good cop on the edge, but I like that his blatant disgust for the GCPD is now coming out in ways like shoving his partner.
Max: I really really like that this season appears to be all about taking Gordon’s stoic “the only good cop in Gotham City” schtick from last season to its logical conclusion. Gordon unambiguously breaks the law so he can get his cop job back. He straight up shoots a guy to death, SO HE CAN BE A POLICE OFFICER. Suggesting that Gordon is intrinsically maybe not a nice guy is a pretty bold beat for this show. I hope they don’t flake out on this.
Sarah: You can tell that he’s punishing himself too, though—I mean, he WALKED to Wayne Manor from the city. How long of a walk do you think that is, really? Of course, he may have just been drunk, having just visited Bullock the Bartender.
Max: Straight up, the way they flip the script in the Gordon/Bullock scene where Gordon is like drunk and surly and Harvey’s like “I honor and respect your choices, my brother :)” was really clever. Can’t wait to see what horrible thing happens to bring Harvey The White back to the sandwich-devouring human black hole we all know and love.
Sarah: Maybe it will have something to do with Harvey’s new lady (who I hope turns out to be that woman he saved from the pool last season).
Kayleigh: I want Gordon and Harvey to kiss.
Sarah: On the mouth.
Max: I was expecting pure incandescent light to emanate from their tender forehead bump.
BABY BRUCE AND ALFRED, WHY ARE YOU SWEATING AND FILTHY?
Max: This episode’s C plot was Bruce getting extremely teen mad about his dad’s Batcave study/panic room and, in true Bat- fashion, blowing up a reinforced steel door with improvised explosives. David Mazouz’s baby Bruce Wayne is best when he’s just acting like a tiny, hyper-emotional version of Batman, and I like that he takes Gotham’s equivalent of a Gordian Knot solution. Sean Pertwee’s Alfred was one of my favorite parts of last season, and it’s nice to see him get a funny comedy bit where he’s roped into helping Bruce do this super stupid, super dangerous thing.
Sarah: I haaated that the future greatest detective in the entire world couldn’t figure out that his dad’s code was “Bruce.” Come on, buddy.
Max: That was so good. The “aw, man” timber of Bruce’s voice when he realized he missed this super obvious thing. Little Bruce is obsessed with solving the death of his parents the way little kids are obsessed with, like, Bakugan.
Kayleigh: I love that Alfred is such a horrible enabler? Bruce announces he’s making a bomb, and Alfred’s like, “Well, you’re twelve, and I’m your legal guardian, so there’s nothing I can do to stop you.” (Okay, it was more like “OY, MASTER BRUCE, ARE YOU ‘AVIN A LAFF,” but you get me.)
I can easily see David Mazouz’s Bruce Wayne growing up into Michael Keaton’s Bruce Wayne—the lonely, strange (but at times, strangely funny) billionaire driven by a dark calling. The kid’s great.
Sarah: The show borrows heavily from the Tim Burton movies and The Animated Series as far as tone and aesthetic, so that makes total sense. And even though I’d rather the show focus on Gordon, I mind baby Spock-Bruce a lot less this season.
WILL GORDON SENPAI GIVE PENGUIN-KUN THE TOTALLY HETERO LOVE HE CRAVES?
Kayleigh: Despite my previous worries about the show becoming repetitive, I live, LIVE for the scenes where Gordon has to grudgingly ask Penguin for a favor and Penguin thinks they’re on a date.
Sarah: Penguin’s face LIT UP when his crony announced Jim’s visit. I love that he continually pins Jim down with debts so that they have to keep visiting each other.
Max: I love the totally one-sided friendship between Penguin and Gordon. There’s some really fun tension in this scene, too, I thought. (Robin Lord Taylor suddenly slamming his hands on the table making Selina jump was a nice touch.) I’m pretty sure Penguin’s whole arc this season is going to be biting off way more than he can chew, getting kicked out of Gotham AGAIN and then killing some passerby for a sandwich AGAIN.
Kayleigh: The “when Penguin eats a sandwich, people die” running joke continuing with Penguin and Victor Zsasz (a.k.a. Dark Billy Corgan) terrorizing Loeb is so fucking inspired.
Max: Oh god, I didn’t even notice that.
Sarah: Can we agree that Penguin went above and beyond what was asked of him? He just loves Jim so gosh darn much. Zsasz using an actual severed head as a puppet aside, he guaranteed that Jim would not only get his job back (which was really all the deal required) but also threatened Loeb into stepping down so that he posed no threat to Gordon down the road. And that transition to Loeb’s bewildered face at his own retirement ceremony had me cackling.
Max: Gotham, the Batman TV show that uses a literal barbershop quartet for dramatic irony.
Sarah: Do you think Penguin will be jealous if he knew that Jim and Harvey cuddle each other’s faces? Do you think Penguin fantasizes kissing Jim on the forehead just like that guy he had Zsasz kill in the opening montage?
Kayleigh: If Harvey is the slovenly angel on Gordon’s shoulder, reminding him of his innate goodness and showing him the respectable life he could have if he walked away from the GCPD, then Penguin is the smirking devil on the other shoulder who can get Gordon back on the force—but only if Gordon crawls into the gutter with him. Curious to see which of the two men will have had the greater influence on Gordon by season’s end.
THE EVIL GUY FROM THE CAPE? AND HIS SISTER? WHAT’S THEIR DEAL?
Sarah: TIGRESS HAS A WHIP. Maybe she’ll take on a certain tween criminal apprentice and teach her…the ropes.
Max: I was bummed that this episode’s “show the audience we’re serious” surprise death was the delightful yuppie scum version of Black Mask and not obvious Joker red herring Jerome, but I got CHILLS when Galavan started pitching Barbara and co. on being his own personal Injustice Gang or whatever. This is what we all want Gotham to be, right? Insane cartoon supervillain schemes set against the backdrop of a heavily CGI-ed New York City. The Galavan Twins are a nice original creation for this show.
Kayleigh: Every episode of Gotham is like a series of escalating dares. Victor Zsasz plays with a guy’s severed head? Okay, but how about a human smoke bomb planted inside Arkham Asylum? Not batshit insane enough? How about a millionaire ordering his sister to kill Black Mask with a whip and a knife, in front of a bunch of supervillains tied up and dressed like the Hamburglar? I love this show for constantly pulling the rug out from under my feet. Such a strange, surreal superhero show. Gotham is back, y’all. It’s such a perfect day.
Gotham airs Monday at 8pm eastern on FOX.