'The Maniax' make their big debut with lots of blood and a particularly upsetting death.

By Keertana Sastry
September 29, 2015 at 01:06 AM EDT
Credit: Nicole Rivelli/Fox
S2 E2
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It’s already happened. Gotham has already claimed its first major victim of season 2 in the second episode alone. Now, I understand the purpose of killing off Commissioner Essen: Gordon has to become the Commissioner himself at some point — but of course before that we also need to see the arrival of Captain Nathaniel Barnes, played by Michael Chiklis. But there are already so few female characters on Gotham, especially strong ones in powerful roles like Essen. Plus she just got her new title. Seems a bit rushed, no? Nevertheless, the action of Gotham season 2 is moving along at a lightning pace, and there has never been a better time for this to happen.

We pick up in Gotham City with Theo and Tabitha at Mayor James’ home, having fastened a box to his head reminiscent of a Saw film — clearly that franchise’s penchant for death and insanity is running rampant on Gotham this season in the first few episodes alone. Theo tells Mayor James that he is “an ardent student of human nature” then gives the guy two options on how this whole horrifying scenario will play out: Theo can either put a big, hairy spider (which Theo doesn’t actually have in his possession at the moment) in the box or the Mayor can tell his secretary that he has run off with a mistress and will leave specific instructions. Given what we have seen from Mayor James, the choice to run away rather than let the possible bluff play out is obvious. Mayor James asks why Theo is doing all of this and we finally get our first taste of villainous monologuing this season, all of which deserves to be quoted thanks to James Frain chewing the scenery with pure, brazenly evil joy:

“You’re part of a great endeavor, a great cleansing. Monsters are coming Mr. Mayor. Monsters who will cleanse this city in blood and fire.”

Clearly Theo is making way for his own mayoral run by getting James out of the way, but there is still much to do before the Galavan’s come out into the Gotham City spotlight. The fake story of Mayor James and his fake mistress hits the Gotham Gazette, and the editor is none too keen on the front page featuring gossip and celebrity hogwash. He wants real, hard-hitting news, and unfortunately he’s about to get exactly that right outside his window (morbid pun intended). As the editor is lecturing his staffers, Theo’s new band of merry crazymen are eagerly pushing hostages off the roof of the Gazette so they hit the pavement in the exact spelling of their new villain group name: Maniax! (The exclamation point is an afterthought but one that is quite in keeping with Jerome’s disposition).

Because the GCPD is behind on everything, the newly instated Commissioner Essen and Gordon are finally filling in their officers with information about the escaped Arkham inmates, a.k.a. the Maniax. There’s of course Jerome and Barbara, but we’re also joined by Robert Greenwood the cannibal, Arnold Dobkins the schizophrenic rapist, and Aaron Helzinger, the man who murdered his entire family with his bare hands. The GCPD seem to already know that Richard Sionis is dead as he’s not featured in the bunch (and now I’m wondering if Theo and Tabitha disposed of his body in a no doubt public way). Detective Alvarez gets his first shout-out of the season as he’s appointed as Gordon’s coordinating officer, and we’re on our way with the investigation. But of course Gordon doesn’t realize just how out of his depth he is with this one.

As Gordon begins looking into the shipyard victims who were kidnapped and killed, Theo congratulates his Maniax on their “Overture.” Now it’s on to a bigger and bolder opening number, a grand entrance as he explains. Jerome is clearly becoming the leader and showman of the group and it’s not sitting well with Robert Greenwood, a.k.a. the cannibal. The two get in a tussle over who should take control of the Maniax, with Robert taunting Jerome for only having killed his mother while Robert has killed and eaten a dozen women. Clearly the “We’re all in this together” mentality isn’t working with Theo’s team, so he suggests they settle this the deadliest way possible: Through a little game of Russian Roulette (because duh, right?). Jerome takes the opportunity to overpower Robert and officially be crowned the Captain of the Maniax.

Meanwhile, Bruce is still in his dad’s bat secret cave trying to make his bat secret computer work. When it finally does, Alfred smashes it out of fear for Bruce’s safety. Despite eventually becoming Batman, Bruce is still a child and throws a dignified temper tantrum ending in Alfred’s termination. Of course firing Alfred only lasts about a day as Bruce later seeks out Alfred at the train station and asks him to return under Alfred’s condition that Bruce resumes training and does everything he says, and Bruce’s condition that Alfred find someone to fix his computer. Enter once again Chris Chalk’s Lucius Fox. Now is it just me or is he doing his best Morgan Freeman impression in this episode? Perhaps I just can’t get that interpretation out of my head. He is Morgan Freeman after all. Alfred metaphors the crap out of Lucius — basically telling him he has to be able to trust him if they’re going to help Bruce together.

NEXT: More Maniax

Now you may be asking yourself: “But what about psycho Barbara?” Gordon’s former squeeze is busy bonding with Tabitha over whips and waiting impatiently for her important involvement in Theo’s opening plan. While this episode overall had me way more excited for Gotham season 2 than its premiere, I still find myself feeling slightly irritated by the fact that Barbara’s specialty only revolves around Gordon at the moment. Why can’t she train with Tabitha and become a marksman? Why can’t she take part in a little bloody fun, as she asks herself in the episode? Hopefully that’s coming soon because I need even more from Barb than just her embracing the true psycho within her. And I thought Jess Mariano did a number on Rory.

As the Maniax continue their quest for violence, Gordon goes to Harvey with the intention of getting him back on the force. But unfortunately, Harvey’s fiancée Scottie won’t even allow Harvey to listen to the pitch let alone entertain it. At first Harvey agrees with Scottie, but he still gives Gordon a tip for his investigation as a consolation. Gordon later tells Essen that considering Harvey’s new status as a family man, he didn’t have the heart to push him out of retirement. Gordon and Essen also chat about whether or not either of them had ever considered getting out the game like Harvey. While Gordon said he never wavered, Essen stated she had thought about quitting before. This chat was clearly an indicator of the tragic events that happen later in the episode.

Gordon finds that the Maniax kidnapped their victims from the shipyard and also made off with a service vehicle filled with gasoline, the very tanker that’s about to fill up a school bus full of teenagers with gasoline that the Maniax intend to set on fire. Jerome gets his taunts in to the cheerleader and jocks on the bus (What are the chances he knew some of them?) and pours the gas all over them. Fortunately for the kids, his lighter doesn’t work and Gordon arrives with the GCPD in tow. A shootout ensues where Jerome, Robert, and Aaron escape while Arnold is left behind to finally set the bus on fire. Gordon of course drives the bus away from the fire and saves the kids. But when he begins questioning Arnold about who sprung him from Arkham, Arnold gets a bullet straight in the head, courtesy of Tabitha’s sniper skills. Does anyone else hope this version of the Tigress will show off some archery skills like her other comic book versions? I think an arrow to Arnold’s head would have been a bit too much to handle, but I am hoping for some crossbow action in the near future.

It’s important to note that while all this is occurring, we do get a short but important scene involving Edward Nygma’s continued descent into Riddler-dom. Edward encounters Kristen in the records annex and attempts to ask her out, instead he goes with another random fun fact. As she leaves, Edward begins talking to his smoother, badder alter-ego who wants to take a crack at seducing Miss Kringle, but Edward screams at the personality to leave him alone. Things are moving slowly but surely in the creepiest of directions, folks! We’ll get there soon enough!

And now we arrive at the Maniax main event. Gordon gets a phone call from Barbara and does his usual best to try and talk her off the psychopath ledge. She makes it known that she’s in the precinct and Gordon follows her as she runs off. He tries to stop Barbara, but of course she’s brought back up in the form of Aaron, who beats Gordon to a bloody pulp. Barbara stops him and starts to leave, but not without explaining to Gordon that she doesn’t need help. She’s free, and it’s an idea that the Maniax seem to adopt with glee.

As Gordon is off getting duped by Barbara the diversion, Jerome and Robert enter the GCPD with cronies and begin massacring Gotham’s finest left and right. Edward dives to save Kristen from the ensuing carnage and Lee hides under her medical examiner table, but all that’s really left of the cops is Essen herself. And of course Jerome wouldn’t kill her without having some fun first. He starts a monologue just like his dear friend Theo, telling Essen that his team will “leave a mark on this city” and spread like a virus. After Robert steps on his line, Jerome shoots him dead and takes the video camera into his own hands to record the ending of his bloody rampage. Essen fights back, but it’s obvious that her time has ended in Gotham.

When Gordon finally makes his way back to the precinct, he sees the massacre. Bruce arrives as well to make sure Gordon is alive, which he is, but that’s about it. When Gordon goes into Essen’s office, Harvey arrives back on duty. “We are who we are right? No use fighting it,” Harvey says.

Gordon and Harvey watch the videotape left by Jerome. His monologue ends with him telling the townspeople that they are prisoners, cogs in a machine, and that they should all be free like him. He leaves but not without the threat of his return, though is it bad that I’m more excited for the oncoming carnage than frightened? It is “Rise of the Villains” this season after all.

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