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Gotham Recap: “Rise of the Villains: Damned If You Do…”

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Is Gotham even worth watching without Fish Mooney? Possibly not. But the gooftastic teasers for this season, featuring Barbara in a fetching prison-dress and the proto-Joker laughing a lot, seem to indicate that maybe this season will be … memorable. But perhaps not enjoyable, at least not in the usual sense of the word. I’m just hoping for “so bad it’s good.”

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If you can’t actually stand to watch Gotham anymore, then I hope this recap will still entertain you. Spoilers ahead, of course!


Bruce Wayne speculates about his father's secrets on Gotham.

Let’s assume you stopped watching Gotham ages ago, like a normal person with “good taste” and “not enough free time” to continue giving this weird show another chance. I got you: here’s a recap for your recap.

The season premiere opens by reminding us that at the end of last season, baby Bruce Wayne was at the top of the Batcave steps of finding his Dad’s secret Batcave … I mean, uh, his dad didn’t have a Batcave, he wasn’t also Batman (or was he???). Bruce’s Dad did have a secret underground room that he accessed from his library, though, and that spot will eventually become the Batcave.

gotham - 2 - loeb jim gordon

How many times do you think Harvey has told Jim Gordon that going after some entrenched corrupt dude is “suicide”? Like, a billion? Let’s just go ahead and start the clock on that for season two now. I’m counting this as the first one even though it’s in the “Previously On” section.

More moments in the “Previously On” section include: quick flashes to the Riddler’s panic attack upon realizing that his Nice Guy persona is falling apart, a reminder that baby Joker (whose name is Jerome) killed his parents, and then a reminder that Barbara also killed her parents. Well, technically, a serial killer helped Barbara get that job done, but she’s taking all the credit. Fair enough; women’s work is so often undervalued.

gotham - 3 - fish dying

Here’s Fish falling right out of Gotham into her own demise … or so we assume, given that Jada didn’t sign on for season two. The Penguin did the pushing for this textbook Disney Villain Death.

gotham - 4 - bloody hell it's the batcave

Okay, here we go.

We’re back to the Batcave steps. Well, it’s not yet a Batcave. Baby Batcave?

After Bruce and Alfred run up against a locked door that requires an access code, baby Bruce uselessly throws his shoulder against it, then guesses a few combinations, all of which are wrong. Get ready for a lifetime of staring wide-eyed at Bruce’s inexplicable stubbornness, Alfred.

After this scene, we get a brief wordless musical montage of what’s been going on around town in Gotham. Leslie adjusts Jim’s tie; Jim looks less than enthused about the affection. Penguin assassinates one of Fish’s baddies in front of the rest to prove a point, like ya do. A decked-out Barbara walks down the halls of Arkham Asylum, causing a whole row of fellow male inmates to give her the ol’ up-and-down. Yeah, Arkham Asylum is co-ed, don’t worry about it.

gotham - 5 - blue gatorade

A large man in a costume that looks like all-black hockey gear kneels in front of another blurry guy in a suit who looks a little bit like Barbara’s serial killer frenemy from the previous season, but it’s probably not him (we’ve got a lot of suit-clad villains to keep track of on this show). Suit-man hands hockey-man a fancy vial of glowing Gatorade and tells him to drink it. He does and he seems to like it. This is a very touching scene about male friendship.

Gatorade Man goes on to shoot up a city street where Jim Gordon just so happens to be directing traffic (he says his name is Zaardon, but Gatorade Man seems fine). Wait, directing traffic? Oh, right, he got another demotion last season for being a annoying, right? Or … am I just assuming that would happen because it makes sense? Nothing needs to make sense here. Speaking of not making sense, there’s a moment in this fight in which Jim puts away his gun for no reason in order to engage in hand-to-hand combat with Gatorade. And it works.

gotham - 6 - jim wins

Then another cop shows up, literally eating a donut, and accepts the cuffed offender while making fun of Jim for taking his job so seriously. Then, a split second later, Jim turns around and busts some teens for looting a nearby street cart. Jim Gordon, the only cop in Gotham.

After writing up “Zaardon,” Jim runs into Ed (a.k.a. Baby Riddler) in the bathroom. He looks really cute without his glasses, but murderers aren’t my type.

gotham - 7 - riddler no glasses

Then our proto-Riddler starts talking to himself in the mirror. He apparently has “multiple personalities” now, which … well, I’m pretty sure that isn’t how Disassociative Identity Disorder works, and also, I’m not sure why Gotham felt the need to give the Riddler such a stereotypical case of “crazy.” It would have been fine – terrifying, even – if he’d been a cold, calculating murderer with a smart head on his shoulders. He doesn’t need to have a “split personality,” too. So, anyway, this scene is bad and it can only go to bad places. Yayyyy!

This scene also ends with the implication that the “bad” half of the Riddler might try to assault Miss Kringle, who is the Riddler’s crush – the gal he killed a guy over. Ohhhh, friends, I don’t like where this storyline is going.

gotham - 8 - loeb dom

Jim’s back in the doghouse again, getting a talking-to just for doing his job. Loeb, a Bad Guy In Power, reminds Jim that he got demoted (oh, okay) and that his partner, Harvey, quit (did we already know that? Eh, Harvey’s bailed before, Jim’s been demoted before, who remembers). Captain Sarah Essen steps up to defend Jim from getting the axe, also for the billionth time on this show. But this time, she doesn’t win. Jim turns in his badge and gun. Wait, I feel like this has happened before, too. Please don’t make me look it up, Gotham.

gotham - 9 - cellmates

Anyway, remember Gatorade? He’s still in his cell. And check out the casting choice for his three mis-matched cellmates here. Do you think this foursome is going to team up and become the police force Gotham deserves? Nah. They never come back. But, hey … good job, costume department.

gotham - 10 - jim in bed

Can you even imagine dating Jim Gordon? “Honey, I got fired today. [heavy sigh] Why am I still unable to feel anything other than tortured detachment? Anyway, I’ve decided I’m going to start breaking the law. So you’re an accomplice to that by dating me. That’s cool, right? Ooh, is that coffee?”

gotham - 11 - you'll never quit

Leslie, the person who needs to quit is you. Quit dating Jim Gordon, I mean. He’s the worst boyfriend ever and it’s not going to get better! Get out of there! Oh, also, move out of this city. It’s bad. And you seem too emotionally stable for this shit.

Next up, it’s the scene from the teaser, in which Jerome and Barbara hang out in the co-ed Arkham play-room. Apparently inmates get to read magazines together, chill out, and talk unsupervised about whatever they want. That seems fine. Anyway, Jerome tells Barbara that the guards will let “bad things happen to bad people” if she doesn’t start making some friends in here. In other words, he’s saying she needs to become … well-aquainted with some of the powerful men in the asylum so they’ll protect her from the others. Um, okay, I guess that’s how a prison situation would work if it were co-ed, but that never happens. Why didn’t we have a scene where Barbara got to have some prison chemistry with women inmates? Because Gotham does what it wants, that’s why.

Jim goes to visit the Penguin, because he’s all about “bending the law” now. Baby Catwoman is there, along with a host of other nameless baddies, to work for the new King in town. Jim wants a private chat with the Penguin, but when Cat sticks around, no one seems to mind. Like every other woman on this show, though, she’s given next to nothing to do in the scene itself.

gotham - 13 - penguin real talk

I’m not a huge fan of the Penguin on this show, or at least I wasn’t up until now. In this scene with Jim, Oswald seems comfortable at last – he’s the most powerful guy in the room, like he wanted, but this story isn’t one of hubris. Unlike last season’s Penguin, who would rise to power and then fuck it up almost immediately, this Oswald seems mature, wise, and even accommodating.

In this scene, the Penguin talks to Jim like a friend – not in quite the way the two talked in previous seasons, when Oswald’s affectations often came across as creepy rather than caring. In this scene, Oswald actually seems to give a crap about Jim, and it’s surprisingly sweet. Of course, the Penguin still tries to squeeze a favor out of Jim at the end, and that’s what ruins it all and Jim walks. Jim’s never going to be a corrupt cop who works with the Penguin … except that’s exactly what he already has been doing in almost every episode up to the point. Sigh.

Jim goes to visit a bar in town, and that’s apparently where his former partner Harvey works now. Harvey actually appeared in the montage at the beginning of the show, but I didn’t recognize him because his beard’s so much more intense now.

gotham - 14 - harvey

Like every other person Jim knows, Harvey tells him he already knows Jim is never going to quit, even though he should. But Harvey is apparently happy as a bartender. Also, he’s sober now. Gotham is going to ruin all of that for him shortly, I’m sure. No one gets to stay happy in this city.

After visiting Harvey, Jim visit Bruce, who gives him a pep talk about going back and working with the Penguin after all. Why is everyone acting like Jim hasn’t done every single one of these things before, beat for beat? Jim’s always having to make weird compromises and work with bad people in order to eventually make Gotham a better place. That’s the whole show. Damn it, is this entire premiere just an extended recap on the conflicted feelings of Jim Gordon?

Anyway, Baby Bruce keeps trying to guess that Batcave combination and he can’t figure it out. What happened to the World’s Greatest Detective? Shouldn’t he be able to crack this code? This is child’s play! Or, uh, I guess it must not be. Anyway, Bruce decides to take a hammer to the keypad, because he’s a mature young man who doesn’t have a single raging hormone in his body.

gotham - 16 - ogden

Anyway, Jim circles back around to fulfill Penguin’s request: haranging Ogden Barker for an unpaid debt. Barker calls Oswald a “fruitcake leprechaun,” which is quite rude. Anyway, Jim gets the money using his impeccable hand-to-hand combat skills. As he’s running away with the money, Gotham cops start chasing him. This is a real turn of events, eh, Jim? Some people commit crimes because they’re desperate!

This chase ends with Jim killing Ogden, admittedly in self-defense, but Jim seems pretty bent out of shape about it.

gotham - 17 - bomb the door

Alfred catches Baby Bruce trying to make a bomb to open up that door to the Batcave. He tries to stop him, but there’s no stopping Baby Bruce when he sets his mind to something. And, of course, Alfred knows a lot more than Bruce about how to make a bomb, since Gotham‘s version of Alfred is a stone-cold badass.

gotham - 18 - daydreaming

“What? Oh, nothing, honey. I was just thinking about that time when I stole from a criminal and then murdered him so that I could get back my job as the only non-corrupt cop in Gotham. I’m fine. Oh, also, this is the second time I’ve done this. You’d think I’d be used to it by now, but I’m really not, and no, I haven’t considered a different line of work, nor will I ever, thank you very much.”

gotham - 19 - barbara

Meanwhile, apparently Barbara’s new friends in Arkham got her a phone. (And you thought Orange Is the New Black was unrealistic about what people could get in prison!) So now she’s calling Jim, and he isn’t telling Lee that it’s Barbara on the phone, because Jim is a great partner and a healthy person. Barbara tells Jim that she totally didn’t kill her parents or try to attack Lee, and that Lee set her up. Jim doesn’t believe it.

Speaking of not believing stuff, Lee can tell Jim is lying when he gets off the phone, because she’s a smart one. Meanwhile, Barbara starts calling Lee’s landline. (Wow, Lee still has a landline?) Anyway, at least the old school answering machine forces Jim to be honest with Lee about who called them. It’s great to see how Jim will only be honest with people when they force his hand.

Anyway, then Victor Zsasz and the Penguin break into Loeb’s house in the dead of night, kill his guards, and threaten him until he agrees to leave his post. I guess that’s one way to ensure Jim gets his job back …

At the ceremony where Loeb announces his retirement, we also meet a guy in a suit named Theo Galavan. He looks like the same guy who helped out Gatorade Man at the beginning of the episode.

Happily, Sarah Essen gets a promotion to Commissioner in Loeb’s stead. Except this is Gotham so that probably isn’t happy news.

gotham - 20 - arkham braggarts

Back at Arkham, Barbara is reclining on one guy who’s bragging about his college polo team, while another guy paints her toenails. She’s the only woman in the room and all the guys are in her clutches. Um … okay … why isn’t she in a women’s prison? I’m going to keep asking this until it starts making sense. So, probably for the rest of the season, then.

Gatorade Man shows up in the Arkham common room, then explodes into a pile of blue gas. Then a beautiful woman in a leather jacket shows up, shoots the guards, and coils a loving finger around the bars of the Arkham common room area. Somehow, Barbara and five other inmates manage to escape shortly after, presumably thanks to this new lady’s help. She’s Tabitha, a.k.a. Tigress, played by Jessica Lucas:

gotham - 21 - tigress

Tigress takes the gang of escapees to Theo Galavan, who is apparently her brother. It’s … very weird to see all of the inmates start catcalling Tigress, by the way. Don’t they live in a co-ed lock-up? I guess painting Barbara’s toes wasn’t enough for these guys.

gotham - 22 - synergy

Theo’s trying to found an Evil League of Evil with his new collection of kidnapped friends. When one of the inmates says he wants no part of it, Theo unties him and has Tabitha kill him. Everybody seems way too excited about murder in this crowd.

gotham - 23 - batcave entrance

The bomb Alfred and Baby Bruce made did the trick. The Batcave is open! Bruce finds a very kind letter inside from his father, who congratulates his son for figuring out that the entry code was “BRUCE.” (The, uh, the entry code was “BOMB,” too, actually.)

The conclusion of the letter reads, “You can’t have both happiness and the truth. You have to choose.” I think we know which one Baby Bruce will choose …


So that was the first episode of Season 2! I found this premiere to be a bit of a rehash of past themes, but that isn’t too bad a choice to make for a premiere. It’s strange to watch this show without Fish Mooney; I’m not sure Barbara and Tigress will be enough to round out that male-dominated Evil League, given how little they’ve had to do so far. Tigress doesn’t even get a line to read in this premiere, for example, but maybe once she starts talking, she’ll capture our hearts. (It’s too late for Barbara to capture anyone’s heart, I think. The show’s writers have seen to that.)

Overall, it seems like this season premiere is playing it safe: Jim’s struggling with the exact same decisions as before, and the city of Gotham seems a long way away from rehabilitation.

What did you think? And for those of you who didn’t watch the show and read my recap instead, how’d I do?

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Maddy Myers
Maddy Myers, journalist and arts critic, has written for the Boston Phoenix, Paste Magazine, MIT Technology Review, and tons more. She is a host on a videogame podcast called Isometric (, and she plays the keytar in a band called the Robot Knights (

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