A couple weeks ago, when I found myself in another Batman craze, I decided, what the hell? Let’s give Gotham’s second season a watch. I had heard from other people that Season 2 was better than Season 1, but to be honest, I had no expectations going into it. After all, literally anything could be better than Season 1. Gotham’s first season felt long, drawn out, and boring—it didn’t help that it had no direction whatsoever and relied on offensive tropes with its characterizations. I am thankful to say, though, that Season 2 was much better, and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I actually binge-watched the whole thing in two days and now find myself somewhat excited for a third season. That said, being enjoyable is far from being good, and Gotham still has a ways to go.
Gotham Season 2 is an improvement on the first season in that it has a cohesive plot and believable character development, and this was probably why I found myself so enamored of it. James Gordon is also an active participant in the plot and as a result, the story didn’t feel as though it was being pulled in multiple directions at once. At the same time, though, saying that a story has a plot should not be a compliment. It’s like going into a restaurant and being surprised it serves food—it hardly means that the food will be good, and for Gotham, Season 2 might be an improvement, but it still had some really problematic material.
To start off, we have the show’s female representation to talk about. Season 2 has a pretty wide array of female characters—including Barbara Kean, Leslie Tompkins, Tabitha Galavan, Silver St. Cloud, Selena Kyle, Ivy Pepper, and even a female version of Firefly. I was pretty happy with such a huge cast. Some of these characters were only sidekicks to other prominent characters, but all of them had distinct personalities. Selena’s friendship with Firefly was probably my favorite part of it all. Their care for one another felt genuine and compelling, as well as the arguments they had when disagreeing on things—Selena thinks Firefly should look out only for herself, whereas this Firefly wants to help other people. This friendship ends tragically, with Firefly being burned nearly to death during an accident when she saves a bunch of women from the sex trade. While Selena and Firefly are reunited in the end, I don’t think it’ll take long before their relationship ends in tragedy once again.
I also really liked the relationship between Barbara and Tabitha and that we are getting more bisexual representation from both these characters. It’s nice that we have Tabitha, a queer woman of color, and it’s nice that she and Barbara support each other. It’s also nice that neither of these women are reduced to their sexualities and that there’s a lot more to their characterizations than that. Unfortunately, there’s nothing really groundbreaking about either of these characters, and having queer characters is really the least a show could do these days for representation, especially since neither character is particularly good representation. They both seem to express their sexualities in the exact same way. They might like each other, but both of them are either unfaithful or perfectly okay with open relationships, something they have never talked about with each other. Tabitha likes a mobster and Barbara still wants to rekindle her relationship with Gordon. In the earlier episodes it’s not hard to assume that the show wants us to think less of them for their sexual promiscuity. Bisexual people already have enough shit to put up with without a popular show turning their sexualities into a negative character trait.
All this also makes me wonder where the hell Montoya is, because if anything, Gotham could use her character back again, especially since she just disappeared without warning from the narrative in Season 1. It also doesn’t help matters that Sarah Essen, the new commissioner and a Black woman, gets killed off slowly within the first couple episodes so some white guy can come take over. Barring that, it would also have been nice if, outside the friendships I mentioned, all the female characters could stop calling each other bitches, being pitted against each other at every turn, and just generally giving into the “catty” woman stereotype.
Probably the strangest characterization this season was Penguin’s, who gets sent to Arkham, brainwashed by Hugo Strange to be a super nice person, released within a couple weeks, and then spontaneously ends up in a Cinderella story. Penguin just happens to run into his father, whom he’s never met before, and his father just happens to want to take him in and believe he’s his son without any kind of blood test or anything like that, and wants to give him his fortune when he dies. Unfortunately, Penguin’s evil stepmother and siblings poison his father to death before his will can be changed, and then Penguin actually ends up being their servant-slave and abused. It is literally the story of Cinderella, except with Penguin. This is probably the most rushed and weirdest plotline in the season, and I still don’t know if I’m put off by it or amused by it.
What I hate the most about this show, though, is James Gordon. The season starts with him being fired from the GCPD. In order to get his job back, Gordon makes a deal with Penguin—he collects an unpaid debt, and in the process murders someone. Penguin, in turn, then takes Zsasz to go threaten Loeb, the man who fired Gordon to begin with. They first decapitate Loeb’s bodyguard, and then almost kill Loeb as well. All of this is done so Gordon can keep his job and continue looking into the Wayne murders, because you know, murder is wrong.
Gordon is a horrible person who deserves to be in jail for police brutality and murder. At one point he does goes to jail for it and gets a sentence of forty years before being broken out so he can clear his name. But the thing is, he actually did commit murder. He does beat up suspects and abuse the law. And unfortunately, Gotham wants us to see Gordon as in the right. The replacement commissioner after Sarah Essen dies does things by the book, doesn’t put up with police corruption, and very clearly won’t cross the lines police are not allowed to cross. James Gordon responds by calling him a bad police officer because of this, and tells him that Gotham has the problems it does now because it doesn’t have police officers ready to do the bad things that need to be done.
Ummmmm…. Excuse me?
Wasn’t the exact opposite point made in Season 1? Gordon came to clean up the police, and instead, now he’s just as shitty as they are. Gordon crosses the line all the time, takes out his anger on people who don’t deserve it, and abuses his power. Gotham leaves me wondering, where the hell is the line that it thinks Gordon shouldn’t cross, since lack of basic human decency isn’t it? If Gordon is willing to murder and abuse people, how does the show justify his actions over the actions of the criminals he puts away?
In a time when police brutality is such a problem to anyone in a minority group, this was a bad message to send. I’m a white woman and police officers scare me, because I was harassed by one looking for sexual favors. I can’t imagine how horrifying they are to the Black community, who have spent the past couple years demanding that the rest of us start seeing them like people who matter, because that’s a thing we still haven’t managed. I can’t help but think that Gotham must be a horrifying show to any non-white audience member.
I’m glad that Gotham picked a direction for Season 2 and that it actually had a cohesive story for once, but now it needs to go the next step and pick a direction that doesn’t suck ass. If the show continues improving at the rate it’s going, Season 3 might actually be decent—but for the love of God, can we please stop justifying police brutality?