“Mr. Nice Guy”
Written by Ken Woodruff
Directed by Rob Bailey
The second week of FOX’s Gotham is upon us and it’s clear that the series has a renewed sense of vision and vigor. While season one was great fun and produced several outstanding episodes, it did have its flaws along with consistent issues for certain viewers and fans. No doubt that with it being a television series concerning itself with the world and characters appearing in DC Comics, most particularly Batman, the fan enthusiasm and voice will always be resonant. Following the second season premiere episode – “Rise of the Villains: Damned If You Do”, episode two – “Mr. Nice Guy” has managed to keep a focus on the rise of the villains. There is no question that they are the focal point of the thematic material and contents that make up this second season. “Mr. Nice Guy”, if critiqued alone on the merit of how much of a role the villains play, it would be a near perfect five star episode. It should be no surprise that the second episode of Gotham season two is a solid one with a steady increase of character drama and cold hearted violence for the 8 pm hour.
While I did enjoy season one, there were several times that it felt as if the writers believed themselves to be handcuffed to the greater mythology of DC Comics while knowing that they had the keys all along. For a show only in its freshman year at the time, it was not necessary to keep reminding fans that many of the characters will eventually grow into the characters most of us already know. As fun as it was and as much as we love a good tease, it’s exactly that dynamic that could easily help a series lose its momentum. You could only tease Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) and his journey to Batman so much before you need to remember that he is still only 14 years old. It’s characterizations like this that have been corrected for season two as Gotham has now focused on the villains. There is a stronger sense of focus for season two and it has shined greatly in these past two episodes.
Theo Galavan (James Frain) is the big bad this season of Gotham and in keeping up the tradition of using a villain not found within the comics such as season one’s Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett-Smith), Galavan feels closer in lines with an Arkham game villain and even one from Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy. “Mr. Nice Guy” opens with James Frain’s Galavan speaking with the Gotham mayor played by Richard Kind. He threatens him using fear while having the mayor’s head locked in a box. Galavan speaks of a “great cleansing” and we see his newly assembled squad throwing seven bodies off the roof of the Gotham Gazette. The squad called the “Maniax” is led by none other than Jerome (Cameron Monaghan). It’s strongly suggested and understood by fans that Jerome is going to grow up to be the Joker and in the past two episodes he’s been one of the best aspects of the show. I’ve made mention that before Heath Ledger’s the Joker in The Dark Knight, I never found his villainy to be all that interesting nor was he ever a favored member of Batman’s rogues gallery for myself. Cameron Monaghan, while appearing in one episode of Gotham season one, has a whole lot more to do here and his performance is completely nuanced with tones that feather in and out of Nicholson and Ledger’s performances.
“Mr. Nice Guy” depicts a city being plunged into chaos with a Gotham City High School bus being taken hostage, doused in gasoline, and almost set ablaze along with a massacre at the G.C.P.D. led by Jerome and the Maniax. It’s quite shocking to see this much level of violence depicted in the 8 pm hour as the content shown would normally be depicted later on at 9 or even 10. I must applaud FOX and Gotham as this level of commitment to programming is essential in communicating the language and heartbeat of a city that has been established on film and steadily evolved since the 60’s. New York doubles for Gotham City and through clever usage of CGI, certain buildings are edited out to give it a slightly different look. But even more so this season, the usage of more on location work makes Gotham stand out chief among all other DC Comics shows.
There are many surprises found within the second episode of Gotham with *SPOILER* Sarah Essen being killed by Jerome near the finale of “Mr. Nice Guy.” I greatly enjoyed Zabryna Guevara’s Captain/Commissioner Essen as we’ve never seen the character depicted in a live-action way before. Personally, I believe she was killed too quickly especially considering we now will never see a relationship between her and Gordon happen as depicted in the comic books, particularly Frank Miller’s “Year One.” But, the Essen of Gotham was much different than her comic book counterpart and does help reinforce that no one is exempt from possibly being killed off on a series where the body count is high, if even for subsidiary characters.
“Mr. Nice Guy” is a four star episode with an extreme knack for style and character drama. The cast is top-notch and, as I like to say, never betray the spirit of the characters they represent. The Rise of the Villains looks to be one of the more intriguing aspects of the second season of Gotham and should definitely have fans returning for more.
Gotham airs Monday nights on FOX at 8 pm ET. Check your local listings.