Darkness saturates Gotham in its triumphant Second Season as the city's villains continue to rise from the shadows, each more ambitious and depraved than the last. As Penguin continues to solidify his control over Gotham's underworld, the battle for power in the city has become a game of interesting alliances on both sides of the law...with detectives Jim Gordon and Harvey Bullock at the forefront of the fight against crime in the dangerously corrupt city. Season Two witnesses Gordon's moral compass wavering as he confronts Gotham City's most notorious criminals while simultaneously attempting to gain the trust of young Bruce Wayne, a boy now clearly on the path toward the man he is destined to be. And all the while, Gotham follows the intriguing origin stories and evolution of some of the city's most infamous personalities, including Edward Nygma/The Riddler, Selina Kyle/Catwoman, Hugo Strange and Mr. Freeze.
I can still remember all the apprehension I felt going into the first season of Gotham. I wasn't sure it was the best idea for a TV series, and I was worried it would just be a darker version of every other superhero TV series currently on the air. That first season surpassed my expectations in almost every way, but sadly, this second season too often veers into the type of territory I originally feared the show might cover. It's not a complete disaster, but it's a huge disappointment and a big drop off in quality.
Those of you who have been loyal viewers know what I'm talking about. Let me try to give the short version for everyone else. The first season of 'Gotham', while set in the formative years of the Batman Universe, tried to be as gritty and realistic as a show of this sort could have possibly been. While it did showcase a number of Batman's up and coming rogues gallery of baddies, it was primarily a crime-drama, with young cop James Gordon (Ben McKenzie) squaring off against both the mob and the man who wanted to be the heir apparent, Oswald Cobblepot (aka, the "Penguin", played by Robin Lloyd Taylor). It also set up a fantastic mentor relationship between Alfred Pennyworth (Sean Pertwee) and young Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) that was perhaps the best onscreen performance of Wayne Manor's chief staff member and young Bruce's primary caregiver that has even been captured, both on-screen and in the pages of the comics themselves.
Sadly, most of what made Season 1 so great is gone in Season 2, replaced with the showrunners' desire to cram as many villains as they can into this latest season – thinking that's what the fans want to see. The result is a big mess, with not enough screen time or attention paid to some of fans' favorite characters, many of whom do not even appear in episodes along the way. Season 1 only had about a half dozen episodes that I would consider "dismissible" That same number is about how many episodes we get in Season 2 that are truly worth watching.
Season 2 starts off strong enough, with Jim Gordon having to deal with the higher-ups at the police station and with Season 2's best villain: Jerome Valeska (Cameron Monaghan), the maybe-he-is/maybe-he-isn't "you know who" baddie who is an absolute blast to watch in the first handful of episodes in this second season. For whatever reason, the creators made the decision to dispose of Valeska (I won't ruin how) early on, turning instead to the primary antagonist of the first-half of the season: Theo Galavan (James Frain) – and a more boring villain you won't find...except perhaps in the second half of Season 2, when the focus shifts from Galavan to the equally dull Hugo Strange (BD Wong). Rest assured, the criminal development of both Oswald Cobblepot and Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) are still present, but they're not quite on the front burner the way they were back in Season 1.
Which is not to say Season 2 of 'Gotham' is a complete train wreck. There are a number of plotlines that I enjoyed quite a bit. In addition to the Jerome storyline early on, there's a great arc towards the end of the season that actually has Gordon being convicted of murder and spending time in jail. In other series, that kind of storyline would unfold over the entire season, but 'Gotham' does it in just a few episodes (despite the fact that a huge chunk of time passes over the course of those shows). And that's the biggest problem with 'Gotham' in Season 2 – not that the creators don't have some interesting ideas, but there's no room for character development...they just jump from one story to another, one villain to another (or, more frequently, one group of villains to another group), not realizing that slowing things down and taking time to delve into each of these stories over the course of a number of episodes would be much more impactful (one of the reasons both the Jerome and Gordon in prison stories work so well is because they are spread out over multiple shows).
My biggest worry from all this is that, by all accounts, Season 3 of 'Gotham' is going to be more of the same. The Season 2 cliffhanger (which, honestly, isn't much of one) implies that a whole bunch of baddies are going to be overrunning the city, and all the press we've gotten to this point for Season 3 is teasing viewers by saying they're going to be introducing this comic-book villain or that comic-book villain. 'Gotham' was a much better show when it tried to be a grounded crime-drama. 'Gotham' as it stands now is still certainly watchable, but not to the point that I can recommend it beyond loyal fans of the series.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
Season 2 of 'Gotham' arrives on Blu-ray in packaging pretty much identical to the first season's release. The four 50GB Blu-rays are held on a pair of plastic hubs inside a slightly larger-than-average Elite keepcase, which slides inside a sturdy cardboard slipcase (with matching artwork). The case also contains a tri-fold listing all the episodes and special features of this release, along with a short synopsis for each entry. There's also an additional insert with a digital code for an UltraViolet copy of Season 2. Surprisingly, Warners has not front-loaded any trailers on any of the discs, whose main menu is the standard studio design – a still of the box cover image with menu selections horizontally along the bottom of the screen.
The Blu-rays in this release are region-free.
Each episode of 'Gotham' was shot digitally with Arri Alexa equipment at the 1.78:1 aspect ratio. As with the first season, Season 2 continues to feature a very film noir look to each episode (there's even a bonus feature on this set about it). Also like the first season, this set once again comes with a pretty impressive video transfer.
Despite a great number of scenes having a dark or darker look to them, details and clarity are pretty fantastic overall. In those few moments when 'Gotham' does wander out into the daylight, the level of depth is simply gorgeous. Black levels need to be strong for a series like this, and they are...with very little in terms of murkiness. Facial features are well defined in almost every shot, and despite the darker tone, 'Gotham' does make use of lots of different colors (to give the series that comic-book vibe), all of which come across as impressive without being over-saturated.
I was most impressed, however, by the apparent lack of any aliasing on this set – something that I thought I would most certainly see with all the city establishing shots and pans that take place on the show (where something like aliasing is usually the most obvious, should it exist). There's none to be found here, and no issues with banding or noticeable noise, either.
The featured audio for each episode are English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio tracks, and I'm happy to report that Season 2 of 'Gotham' maintains the outstanding audio that was so appealing in Season 1. This remains one of the best-sounding shows on network TV.
The lossless tracks on these episodes retain the aggressiveness, immersiveness, and occasional directionality that we heard on the Season 1 set. LFE use is frequent, and the bass is low and booming without sounding disproportional to the rest of the mix. Dialogue is crisp and distinctive throughout. 'Gotham' is one of those rare TV series where I think the audio is on par with a lot of feature films, and audiophiles should certainly be pleased with what they get here.
I detected no glitches or issues with any of the tracks – which appear to be clear of any dropouts or other technical problems.
In addition to the English lossless tracks, each episode also has 2.0 Dolby Digital tracks in Portuguese. Subtitles are available in English SDH, French, Dutch, Korean, Spanish (Latin), Portuguese, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, and Swedish.
At first glance, it appears Warner Bros. has been quite generous with the bonus materials. However, once viewers start diving into them, they'll realize that the vast majority of extras are nothing more than TV and online promo pieces that were created for the series. There's very little of substance here, and unlike the first season set, we get no deleted scenes or a gag reel this time around. It's like Warners just looked around to see what they already had available to slap onto this set, instead of really taking the time to provide us with some meaningful content.
Overloaded with too many villains, too many subplots, and not enough focus on many of the main characters, Season 2 of 'Gotham' is a big letdown from the entertaining first season. These episodes of 'Gotham' aren't horrible, but the series has changed its theme from a crime-drama set in a comic-book world to just another comic-book TV series. Despite having a handful of good story arcs along the way, I'm sorry to say that this season is for fans only.