Martin Carr reviews the second episode of Gotham season 5…
What a difference a day makes or in this case seven. After that sense of lethargy and stasis which came with forty minutes of exposition and no narrative progress, episode two feels like a a different beast. Darkness in tone, darkness in motivation and obviously inky pitch black colour palettes present Gotham as a war zone. With elements of the retrofitted Mad Max Miller driven reboot coming through in costume design, steampunk touchstones and splashes of child labour this isolated dystopia flourishes.
With whispers of a Dark Zone, journeys into vine infested public places and talk of witches things are being pulled into focus. Bruce has been given something to do and his moments alone with this supernatural denizen prove compelling as standalone exchanges, or more importantly as part of the whole. Ed and his sleepwalking continues while Smith is able to make the plight comedic and engaging whilst injecting light relief despite the crowbar. There is a confidence that seemed strangely lacking from last week and a sense of narrative sense which episode one had to forego in favour of exposition.
Injecting threat through heavily armoured trucks, misguided maternal instincts and body parts served up on silver salvers brings that excitement back. Through the censor baiting inclusion of violence and its aftermath Gotham is thankfully pushing levels of network propriety, which is both welcome and contextual. Gordon and Bullock thrive in this environment where as protagonists they work best under fire with limited options and few avenues of escape. Similarly Selena gets her moment in the sun in the final moments as we see a fully fledged transformation stand front and centre. Only Barbara is at odds with the progressive tone of Trespassers as her grieving in light of last week turns to an alliance, a rescue and then sun drenched exit. This felt more convenient than in keeping with the emotional reaction you would expect, which is why it felt awkward.
With a light at the end of this particular episodic tunnel represented through the establishment of a safe haven, Gotham seems to have found its feet again. There is more than enough double dealing, character based friction and scores to settle which will provide the requisite legs for ten more episodes. If they have planned this right, which has proven the case previously, Cannon and company should go out in style. With a mainland isolationist attitude, our resident one man Judge Dredd in Jim Gordon and the GCPD substituted for Mega City One, the show creator might get to right his Sylvester Stallone sized wrong committed all those years ago.