'Gotham' Season 2: What to Expect

Not Batman.

Fox Networks

From start to finish, Gotham’s first season was a hot mess. It suffered an identity crisis that tonally flip-flopped each episode. To be an outrageous comic book TV show, or gritty crime serial? It was like the showrunners decided each day on set. On paper, there’s no terrible reason to explore the most corrupt city in all of comic books. But what we got on screen was every reason why they shouldn’t have bothered.

There was some reason to be optimistic as the credits rolled on the season one finale, however. Cobblepot, the eventual Penguin, finally grew into the top criminal kingpin we know he should be. Barbara Gordon, a shrieking blonde with a baffling place in the show, snapped into a murderer and became — ready for it? — interesting. And Bruce might actually become Batman.

Or maybe not. But what could we expect from this upcoming season of Gotham on Fox? A few things.

A “re-conceived” format.

“[T]here was the frustration that the procedural plot lines we ended up in were, I think, holding the show back from its potential,” said actor Ben McKenzie, who stars as Detective Jim Gordon in an interview with TV Guide. “I’m proud of our writers for taking on the challenge and re-conceiving the show. To do that, you have to take big risks, and they are absolutely doing that. I really believe it’s a fundamental re-conception of the show.”

He’s right. Gotham suffered from a nauseating format typical of broadcast television. Last night’s Emmy Award nominees were almost absent of broadcast dramas, indicating across the board that if you’re not a comedy, you need to compete with cable’s blockbuster mammoths. I wouldn’t expect Gotham to go full Game of Thrones, but smarter, fresher storytelling is possibly in store.

More of The Joker. Unfortunately.

Gotham’s biggest misstep last season was giving an origin to their Joker. While it did try to throw viewers off by hinting at other potential candidates, all signs point to the red-haired Cameron Monaghan becoming the Clown Prince of Crime.

Monaghan’s performance is great — spectacular perhaps. But the Joker has no place in Gotham. Doing so undercuts what makes the Joker a great, intense character to begin with: You don’t know what made him.

Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight did this exceptionally well. He’s a force of nature standing in the room and you don’t know how in the world he got there. He is a demon born out of Gotham’s hell spat back out. He is the worst nightmare because only an unspeakable nightmare created him, and how that happened can only be left to the imagination. Yeah, blah blah The Killing Joke. You do know that Alan Moore disowned The Killing Joke, right?

Season two is featuring Monaghan more prominently than the one-off episode from last season. Whether or not he actually becomes the Joker remains to be seen, but come on: It’s him and it shouldn’t be.

Gordon climbing his way back to the top of the GCPD food chain.

Detective Jim Gordon has been demoted to a traffic cop. This season will, predictably, have him rise back into golden boy status that he enjoyed last season.

Yay? Redemption stories can be fun, but for Gotham there’s risk of playing it way too predictably because we know he’ll be the top dog again sooner or later. He becomes Commissioner Gordon at some point in this mythos. Whether or not we’ll see him get that title is one thing, but we have no reason to fear for him for long. The drama of his journey is kind of over before it even starts.

Michael goddamn Chiklis.

Fox Networks

The Emmy-winning star of The Shield, Michael Chiklis, is taking his brutal, reckless cop swagger to Gotham, a city that could use him the most. Described by producer Bruno Heller as “fearless” and “powerful,” Chiklis will be portraying Capt. Nathaniel Barnes, a former Marine “willing to do what it takes to turn the department around.”

Barnes has a black and white moral compass, says Heller to TV Guide. “Barnes never breaks the law for any reason — otherwise you’re just a criminal. Gordon is on the fence between that attitude and what he has learned in Gotham, which is a much rougher and ready brand of justice.”

The ex-golden boy of the GCPD with a bleeding heart clashing with a morally rigid brute force might be the juiciest conflict this season on Gotham.

Batman back?

Nah. Bruce spends the first episode trying to get into the cave he stumbled upon in Wayne Manor. Instead of demonstrating the patience and maturity that will be required to be the Dark Knight, he tries to blow it up.

Although he’ll be doing that as Batman anyway, so maybe he is ready.

Gotham premieres tonight at 8 p.m. EST on Fox.

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