Gotham, Season 2, Episode 2, “Knock, Knock”
Written by Ken Woodruff
Directed by Rob Bailey
Airs Mondays at 8pm (ET) on FOX
On this Gotham, the villains take the stage as they begin their reign of terror on the city. Continuing the season’s Rise of the Villains theme, this episode puts the spotlight on Jerome as the indisputable leader of the Arkham Asylum Escapees known as The Maniax!, as he stands to be, perhaps, the most terrifying villain that Gotham City has ever faced.
As we all know, Jerome is meant to be a precursor to Batman’s greatest villain, The Joker, and in this episode we are privy to him beginning his rise to evil prominence. As a villain, Jerome is eager to leave his mark on Gotham and this episode showcases the extent of his heinous actions, a benchmark being his murder of the newly instated Commissioner Essen. From the opening sequence, Jerome and his crew are without any regard for human life as they toss live citizens to their deaths as a way to announce their group’s name, a scene that is comical yet gruesome. Their terrorizing continues as they take over a bus full of young cheerleaders, dousing them in gasoline for what would’ve been a truly ghastly death. This entire sequence is tension-inducing as Jerome’s showman-like jocularity accentuates his cruelty. There is an effective relief when Gordon is able to thwart the group’s violence, but it is short-lived, as the gang takes the threat to the GCPD offices and inflicts a deadly shootout that leaves behind a bloodbath in their wake, another set piece that illustrates the evils that these monsters are capable of.
“Knock, Knock” raises the stakes—and the death count—of last week’s premiere with an episode that is steeped with dark humor, senseless deaths, and intense dread. This episode finds the right balance of theatrics, grim noir action, and crime drama, even more so than in the first season. This is very promising for Gotham‘s upcoming episodes, as Jerome is a truly worthy villain for Gordon and company to test their mettle with.
Bruce and Alfred have a falling out this week after learning what’s in Thomas Wayne’s secret lair. This conflict is very significant for the direction that Gotham is taking Bruce and it’s quite intriguing. Inside the secret lair they discover a computer, along with a stockpile of weapons and liters of blood. This appears to be Gotham’s way of establishing that Thomas Wayne was preparing a vigilant act against Wayne Corporation, one which would require weapons and a ready supply of his own blood. This may very well be the path that Bruce will go down in order to fulfill his father’s work. If this is true then this may be why Alfred attempted to destroy the computer, as he, much like the audience, can already see where this path would lead Bruce. As much as we would like to see Bruce protected from going there, it is the path we know he must go down in order to become the hero of legend. This leads us to Alfred’s agreeing to train Bruce, with a promise of a much more consistent effort. This agreement will also send Bruce back to school; it will be nice to see him interact with other kids his age. This is where one hopes that Gotham will begin to create the image of Bruce Wayne as a playboy millionaire; that would be fun to see.
We also get the return of Lucius Fox, who was last seen in “The Anvil or the Hammer”, where he told Bruce about Thomas Wayne’s being a stoic. It was he that started Bruce down the path to uncovering his father’s secrets and it makes sense that it would be him that would aid Bruce somewhat on his journey. Chris Chalk’s portrayal of Lucius is that of a man with integrity and ingenuity, but it appears that Gotham wants to treat him as a wild card whose allegiance is uncertain. In Batman mythology, Lucius is a trustworthy person, but Gotham could easily change that role at any time; with this episode they have already taken liberties to veer away from some of the source material. Particularly with Sarah Essen.
One of Gordon’s most notable allies in season one was Captain Sarah Essen, who has had a nice arc throughout the series, starting from berating Gordon for not going along with the program (as corrupt as it was) to becoming one of GCPD’s most vocal and loyal Gordon supporters, who had been recently promoted to Commissioner. The role that she played throughout the first season has been significant and well-established, which is mostly due to the strong performance by Zabryna Guevara, who has great chemistry with Ben McKenzie and has been great at presenting her character as someone with authority and principles. Guevara’s scene as Essen stares down Jerome and tells him off is an excellent moment. She is especially fiery when she spits in Jerome’s face and then head-butts him on his nose before remarking on his wound. Even with the odds against her, Essen will not go down without a fight. This episode marks a milestone for the TV series and a turning point. Gotham has taken liberties with the characters it uses from the source material, mostly pushing forward the timeline of events, but with this death the series puts its foot down on the peddle into a direction where almost anything is possible. This episode also serves as a fair send off for Essen, who would’ve been essential in Gordon’s war against corruption. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case. Sarah Essen was indeed a good woman, nay, she was a good cop.
This season began by portraying Harvey Bullock in a different light, having him walk away from the GCPD and into the sunset to live a happy life with Scottie (Maria Thayer). It’s nice to see that his attraction towards her wasn’t purely driven by lust. As comforting as it would’ve been to see Bullock remain off of the police force, the show just wouldn’t be Gotham without him by Gordon’s side, so it was a given that he would return. The question was, what would be the catalyst of Bullock’s reinstatement? The answer comes with the villains’ attack on the precinct and the murder of Essen. Bullock can’t just stand by when he knows he’s needed, especially when the stakes hit home that hard. Like he says, “We are what we are, right?” The return of Bullock is an excellent moment, as Gordon mourns the loss of Essen and looks over her photo. We hear Bullock’s voice first. Then we see him, all dressed up and standing in hero’s pose, ready to get back to work. It’s been nice seeing Donal Logue in domestic mode in these early episodes, but where this series shines is when Bullock is doing detective work, and doing it damn well. It’s going to be great to see him back in action again.
The escaped Arkham convicts are deployed in this week’s case, putting a lot on Gordon’s plate, especially since one of the convicts is his ex-girlfriend (Ex-fiancée! Right. Ex-fiancée) Barbara. The goal of the villain team is made clear by Theo Galavan: He wants them to make headlines and to instill fear into the citizens of Gotham City. It’s difficult to see what Galvan’s endgame is here, if he plans to turn against these villains at some point in order to appear as a hero, or maybe he just wants to let these lunatics destroy Gotham. James Frain plays Galavan with his cards close to his chest but he’s clearly having fun with the role. The team members are expendable to Galavan; the previous episode proved that he is willing to kill anyone in the group that will not follow him. Although this reckless disregard for his own group of bad guys seems a bit odd, it shows that Galavan’s plans are much bigger picture, and allowing Jerome to let loose his psychopathic tendencies helps his plan of making a big splash.
Indeed, a big splash is made in this episode and that is due in great part to the spotlighting of Jerome, as portrayed by Cameron Monaghan. Monaghan made a big impression in his first appearance in “The Blind Fortune Teller”. It was clear that this precursor to the infamous Joker character was one to be excited about and see flourish. Jerome is an outstandingly sadistic, whimsical, and terrifying character. Gotham has done well with the writing for the character, as well as with their casting. Monaghan plays Jerome with devilish glee and theatrical physicality, with a maniacal stare that chills to the bone. The scene where he plays Russian roulette with Greenwood is a standout moment for him that proves that Jerome has what it takes to be the boss of the group.
Ken Woodruff is one of the more predominant writers of Gotham with now five episodes under his belt, and “Knock, Knock” is one of his best yet. There are two main plots here, which are Gordon’s pursuit of the “Maniax!” group and Bruce’s fallout with Alfred. The “Maniax!” plot is incredible, intense, and immersive, while the Bruce story does well in setting up his new direction. Although there are some corny and trope-y moments with Essen’s last words, the episode is mostly effective due to the excellent direction, making it a solid hour of fine television. Rob Bailey directed “Penguin’s Umbrella” prior to this and he’s an excellent director, particularly of action scenes and set pieces. The shots are beautifully composed and utilize amazing camera work that both creates tension and livens up the pacing. The scene when Gordon wakes up after his beat down from Helzinger is incredibly shot and the blood and bruise makeup looks absolutely brutal. “Knock, Knock” is one of the finest episodes yet and it certainly raises the standard of what Gotham is capable of. Hopefully the show will keep up the standard in episodes to come.
- “Monsters will cleanse this city in blood and fire.”—Theo Galavan
- After saving Ms. Kringle from getting shot, it seems like Nygma may be on his way to getting that date he’s been shooting for.
- Great work costume department, again! The Maniax! uniforms look amazing. They appear to be re-purposed full body straitjackets with black belts and boots, a costume design which brings to mind the uniforms of Alex and his gang from Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. I’d say the association is quite fitting.
- So Thomas Wayne was keeping liters of blood, huh? Sounds like he had the work ethic and patience of Gone Girl’s Amy Eliot-Dunne. That’s pretty disturbing.
- “Why do the boys get to have all the fun?”—Barbara. Hopefully she’ll get more to do next time than just look amazing in a trench coat with red gloves.
- It’s nice to see Detective Alvarez show up again in the GCPD. Hopefully he survived the shootout.
- The assassin Tabitha (Jessica Lucas) is meant to be Gotham‘s take on Tigress. There have been many different versions of the character but perhaps the most significant in Batman lore is the Batman Beyond iteration.
- In the comic books, Aaron Helzinger (Stink Fisher) is known as the villain Amygdala.