A Who's Who and What's What of 'Gotham's' Second Season + Harley Quinn

by Andrew A. Smith

Tribune News Service (TNS)

25 September 2015

Harley Quinn 

Now that the second season of Gotham has premiered, it’s time to spin up the Speculatron machine and figure out which comics characters all the new folks are supposed to be — if, indeed, they are anyone at all.

Gotham Season 2 is subtitled “Rise of the Villains”, as if the first season didn’t give us enough whacked-out baddies. Evidently not, though, because this season is even more chock full o’ nuts. Poor ol’ Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) is going to feel mighty lonely on the white-hat side of the street.

One reason for Gordon’s heavy sads is that his former squeeze Barbara Kean (Erin Richards) has gone over to the dark side. (Dear Internet: There is no “e” on the end of Kean. So stop spelling it “Keane”, OK? OK.) Last season a serial killer named the Ogre introduced Babs to the simple joys of murder — of her parents, no less. Barbara proved to be an eager pupil, and begins Season Two in Arkham Asylum, acting very Harley Quinn-ish. In the comics Harley began life as Harleen Quinzel, a psychiatrist at Arkham, but is it possible the Maniac in Motley has just had a new, Gotham-specific origin?

Add to that the presence of Jerome Valeska (Cameron Monaghan), whose name sounds like “Joker” if you say it real fast, and whose laugh is reminiscent of a certain Clown Prince of Crime. He shares a day room with Barbara in Arkham and seems to have a romantic interest in the debutante psychopath. In the comics, the Joker has so many possible origins that no one knows what the real one is. But is it possible that “Gotham” has provided the Ace of Knaves his first official origin story?

Well, no, speculates the Speculatron — not if the show plans to hang on to its overarching, comic-based premise. Despite the actor playing Bruce Wayne now being as tall as Alfred (David Mazouz enjoyed quite a growth spurt between seasons), the character isn’t even a teenager yet. Unless the future Batman is going to be knocking around senior citizens, Jerome and Barbara can’t possibly be Joker and Harley, but instead some kind of prototype couple who will inspire the real Joker and Harley, who will likely come along later.

Hmm. That sounds a bit much, doesn’t it? OK, Speculatron says the deadly duo really are Joker and Harley … unless they’re not.

Now add to the mix “the Secret Six”. That name has been used by at least three different teams in DC Comics history, the last and most successful being a team of supervillains, a team that at one point included Harley Quinn. They are also related a little bit to the Suicide Squad, which is not only enjoying some lethal fun and games over in “Arrow”, but is also slated for its own movie in 2016 — and also has included Harley as a member.

Why bring that up? Because a new baddie has broken Barbara, Jerome and four other mixed nuts out of Arkham to form a team of homicidal looney tunes called the Maniax. Given that Harley Quinn was a member of both the Secret Six and the Suicide Squad, could this be that very DC squad with a different name? Or is it another prototype, meant to stand in until an age-appropriate Secret Six/Suicide Squad shows up to fight the grown-up Batman?

Speculatron sez: We’ve leaped beyond the available facts here. Let’s just call them the Maniax until somebody actually says “Secret Six” or “Suicide Squad.” (And go see them in action in the Red Band Trailer on fox.com.)

Who are our Arkham all-stars? In addition to Jerome-maybe-Joker and Barbara-maybe-Harley, we have three new guys. One is Aaron Helzinger, who bears a slight resemblance to Bat-villain Amygdala — a big, strong guy driven by rage and fear. Another is Dustin Greenwood (Dustin Ybarra), who looks a little Mad Hatter-y. (And Mad Hatter is supposed to appear this season.) A third is Arnold Dobkins (Will Brill), who doesn’t really look like anybody.

But, whoa! The Speculatron just went crazy! Because there’s another semi-major villain who appeared in both “Secret Six” and “Suicide Squad”, one who is appropriately demented (he has a death wish) and one who is going to be pretty popular when the Suicide Squad movie premieres. That would be Floyd Lawton, the sniper known as Deadshot. The Speculatron would blow a fuse if this Dobkins fellow took to wearing a telescopic eyepiece, because that would say Deadshot to us.

That is only five characters, and six were broken out of Arkham. The sixth, though, doesn’t survive the season premiere. (Oops, spoiler.) That would be Richard Sionis, who is related in some way — probably an uncle — to the Bat-villain Roman “Black Mask” Sionis. But he’s dead, so forget him.

His place on the team will be taken by a whip-wielding killer named Tabitha Galavan (Jessica Lucas), who goes by the name Tigress. Which, once again, sets the Speculatron ringing bells and blowing steam.

Tigress is a name used by at least three different characters in DC Comics history, although none of them were named Tabitha. However, one of the Tigresses also called herself Huntress, a name used by at least three DC characters as well. Unfortunately, none of them were named Tabitha, either.

So what is the significance of Tigress? Speculatron says: Probably none. Let’s just call her a new character — a fourth Tigress for the history books. Plus, she just might be a prototype or inspiration for a younger character already on “Gotham,” one who is destined to crack a mean whip and use a feline theme in her name and outfit when she grows up. (Hint: “Meow.”)

But wait! What about the Big Bad who set up this Maniax gig? His name is Theo Galavan — yes, he’s Tabitha’s brother — and he’s played by True Blood and True Detective veteran James Frain. In the premiere he’s introduced as the new chairman of development for the Gotham City Chamber of Commerce!

Don’t let that fool you, though, because he’s evil through and through. When we first see him he’s wearing a purple suit, and that means trouble. You know who wears secondary colors? Villains. You know who leaps to mind as being fond of purple suits? The Joker. Mr. Glass in Unbreakable. Bruce Banner.

OK, that last one stretches things a bit, like Banner’s pants do when he Hulks out. Still, Speculatron would like to remind everyone that “purple” nearly always means “bad guy” in comics.

So is he anyone specific? Well, he does reference a “centuries-long vendetta” against “those who wronged us.” Could that mean he’s the immortal Ra’s al Ghul? Could it mean he’s the equally immortal Vandal Savage? Could it mean he’s a member of the incredibly evil, incredibly old, incredibly secret Court of Owls, which has been running Gotham from the shadows since the city was founded, an organization only recently discovered by Batman in an epic story by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo?

Speculatron sez: Boy, the Court of Owls would really be something. But it’s probably Ra’s al Ghul again.

In addition to the villains above, the Gotham producers promise us Bat-villains Clayface, Firefly and Mr. Freeze. Plus, a love interest for Bruce from 1970s Detective Comics named Silver St. Cloud (Natalie Alyn Lind) will appear, along with a new character, a tough-guy cop played by (of course) Michael Chiklis.

What else? Oh, yeah, Bruce and Alfred have discovered a stairwell carved out of stone that leads beneath Wayne Manor to some sort of underground hideaway built by Thomas Wayne. This caused the Speculatron to short out from sheer electronic joy, as that stairwell looks exactly like the one that has led to the Batcave in the comics since the 1940s.

* * *

(Contact Captain Comics at [email protected] For more comics news, reviews and commentary, visit his website: comicsroundtable.com.)

Topics: gotham
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