Gotham 2.2: “Knock, Knock” Review

Gotham

Gotham 2.2 “Knock, Knock” Review

When, by the end of watching the latest episode of Gotham (”Knock, Knock”), you almost forget that this week’s villains decided to drop seven or so people from top of the building onto the pavement below during the show’s opening teaser, the the episode must have been something to behold.

As promised, this season will focus on a group of villains that promise to turn the city upside down. It’s one thing to get that vibe from all the promotional spots and trailers, but it’s another thing to get so much of that in one episode. Yes, Gotham City itself is turned fully upside down by the end of this very episode.

This episode is one of the most violent and sinister episodes of this series that I’ve seen from a show that has never been afraid to display those traits week after week. Watching this week’s episode, I kept thinking of the line (yeah, I know it’s cliche) that “these go to eleven” from This is Spinal Tap. Yes, this episode pushes the envelope so far beyond the breaking point that I have to wonder how it all still felt like an episode of Gotham when it was all over. Turns out that it did.

So, the inmates of Arkham that were set free last time are now collectively called the Maniax, and their goal seems to cause the kind of chaos in the city that Heath Ledger’s Joker wanted to cleanse the city with in the film The Dark Knight, only this time the team is guided by the public official/ criminal mastermind (in pretty much every version of the Batman mythos that I have seen, these two titles are often taken together) Theo Galavan. The real mouthpiece of the Maniax is Jerome, who first appeared in last season’s “The Blind Fortune Teller” and everything about his performance seems to suggest that he will become (or that, just maybe, he already is, save for the clown makeup) this show’s Joker. There’s a really cool scene where Jerome plays a game of Russian Roulette that seems to be obvious homage to the hospital scene in The Dark Knight where the Joker allows his head to be placed at the working end of a revolver.

I like the Jerome character, and Cameron Monaghan is reveling in the chance to play a version of the character that seems to draw traits from every incarnation of the Joker that has ever been done. Yet, there is something rehearsed about his zaniness that doesn’t quite work for me. What made Ledger work so well as the Joker was that he didn’t really seem to be trying to act crazy.. he just was, and, as a result many of his mannerisms (like the whipping tongue) seemed natural. Maybe it’s because Jerome’s face looks so much like the Joker’s even without makeup that he seems too generic in my eyes to actually be the Joker, because something more special is called for, but maybe that’s just a quibble. If he is indeed, the Joker, I won’t complain much. He’s fine. In  the show”s final scene, he has a scene that reminds me so much of the “Then why do you dress up like him?” scene from The Dark Knight, yet Monoghan makes it work on his own.

Gotham
Is Jerome the Joker? He might as well be.

Jerome and his companions actually are more cruel than the Joker ever was before, The Dark Knight included. One of the real set-pieces of this episode is the scene where he takes a busload of high school cheerleaders hostage. He gets as far as dousing all of the girls and the rest of the bus in gasoline. As it turns out, he wasn’t able to actually kill these teenagers before Gordon arrives, but seeing young girls doused in gasoline and ready to be set on ablaze is an image that likely won’t leave the viewer’s mind any time soon.

Things don’t end there. Later, the Maniax use Barbara to lure Gordon away from GCPD headquarters, and while he falls into her trap and his beaten pretty badly by one of the Maniax, the rest of the gang move in, dressed like cops, and do away with anyone who isn’t a recurring character on the show, as well as as one who is. The episode ends with Gordon trying to figure out how to move forward from here. Turns out, he will get a little help, in the person of Bullock.

I love how Gotham isn’t afraid to embrace the fact that it is, at its core, a hard-boiled cop show, unafraid to use of the cliches of that genre as well as those of the comic book genre at the same time. Knowing that, Bullock’s return the fold became less and less surprising the more scenes we saw in the early acts of this episode that insisted that he wouldn’t come back. Some critics might call this bad writing, but I think the writers just want to embrace the simplicity of how cop shows are just that, cop shows. I knew a full fifteen seconds before he came back that the only way to punctuate this episode and give it a satisfying ending was to have him standing that office door, looking not like the bartender he became, but the beat cop that he is to the core. I drank my, uh, beverage, in celebration. Sometimes, it’s good to know exactly where it’s all going ahead of time.

The episode’s subplot involved Bruce’s determination to unlock the secrets in his father’s hidden office. This doesn’t turn out to be so easy when Alfred smashes up the computer. Yes, any writer will recognize that this action was simply to stretch out this subplot a few more episodes so that Bruce doesn’t learn too much about his father at one time, but the good thing is that it also worked in the context of the story and the characters as well: Alfred feels that, as Bruce’s sworn protector, the boy would be safer not knowing what was on those hard drives.

Bruce fires Alfred, but it doesn’t take them long to reconcile with each other. Alfred understands that Bruce is going to find out what he needs to know, regardless of whether Alfred is there or not.  Alfred accepts the responsibility of protecting Bruce as he moves forward into uncharted waters, and he promises to repair the computer he helped destroy. This leads to one of Gotham’s most subtle and well-acted scenes in a while: Alfred “finds” Lucious Fox at a bar and coerces him to help him and Bruce find what they need. There’s more to this scene than Alfred asking this man for help: Alfred has his own means of coercion.

Gotham
Blackmail.. neat.

The only part of this episode that didn’t really belong was the first scene, involving the mayor. This bit could have waited until.. whenever the show’s producers actually feel like paying off that part of the plot.

As much as I enjoyed “Knock, Knock” and as much as I’m glad it pushed as many boundaries as it did, I am seeing the show drifting away from the “deranged case of week” we had in the first season. I guess the makers of the show got wind that a lot of their audience was a little impatient with how they mixed a recurring the story-lines with the “villain of the week” but I kind of liked that format: It really brought the hard-boiled cop show aspect to the forefront. With Bullock back, I’m hoping that we get some more of that rather dry humor and style back.Make no mistake, “Knock, Knock” was another game-changing episode for the series, even more than the season premier was.

My Rating: 4.5/ 5

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