Tonight the final season of Gotham premiered on Fox and honestly I was very excited to watch it. It’s hard to believe that this is the same show that just a few years ago had some of the absolute worst superhero writing on TV. When Gotham began, it was more or less a shittier Smallville, with proto-versions of Batman’s rogues gallery popping up each week for Ben McKenzie’s Jim Gordon to deal with. It was a shame because the show was very well cast and all the actors were perfect in their roles. Since the very first episode, Ben McKenzie has made a great Jim Gordon (he was also the voice of Batman in the animated film adaptation of Batman: Year One). Many of the great Batman stories are also great Jim Gordon stories, so it was very important for them to get this character right.
We even got to see a part of Bruce Wayne’s life that is very rarely explored, the years immediately following the murder of his parents. David Mazouz is easily one of the most compelling live action versions of Bruce Wayne we’ve seen. He conveys Bruce’s dark, brooding intelligence without ever sounding like a whiny brat. With excellent actors memorably playing classic Batman characters like Alfred, The Penguin, The Riddler, Selina Kyle and more, the series felt like a frustrating waste of great talent. Terrible writing hamstrung what could otherwise have been an excellent take on the Batman mythos.
About halfway through Season 3, specifically the mid-season finale, something fundamentally changed about the show for the better. I think there are two big reasons for this and one of them was how the series began to use Bruce Wayne. First of all, David Mazouz had grown up enough that he was just old enough to start becoming more crucial to the action going on in the story. Pretty much from the pilot on, Bruce has slowly been learning important skills that would become crucial on his journey to becoming Batman. Season 3’s mid-season finale saw Bruce being taken hostage at a circus by Jeremiah Valeska. If you’re not familiar with Gotham, Jeremiah (played by Cameron Monaghan) is basically their version of The Joker, and a damn good one too. The episode culminated with a show down in a hall of mirrors between Bruce and Jeremiah, where Bruce comes very close to killing Jeremiah. The whole episode was pretty great and I found myself watching the rest of the season once the show returned from it’s hiatus. You started to see Bruce take a more active role as a vigilante even though he wasn’t dressed like Batman.
The second reason the series changed for the better in my opinion, was because it stopped being a bad prequel series, building up to some day in the future where we get to see Bruce put on the Batman costume in the last 5 minutes of the final episode. In the same way that Smallville was entirely built around the show teasing Clark eventually putting on the Superman costume, that we only see him wear for about three seconds in the series finale. Instead, Gotham became more of an Elseworlds Batman story. I think it’s the smartest thing the show could’ve done because they took the mythology and made it their own. They were no longer slaves to the mythology of the Batman comic books. They allowed their story to be an alternate take on the mythos. This choice gave the show its own identity. It also made it more exciting for the audiences because things weren’t necessarily going to play out exactly as they had in the comic books. As a result the back half of Season 3 was a hell of a lot of fun and frankly I love Season 4. One of the reasons I love the show Krypton on Syfy is that the show isn’t a prequel, it’s more about the DC Universe’s past being changed by time travel. Changing Krypton‘s history, changes the history of the entire Superman story and by extension the entire DC Universe.
So coming into this final season, which was going to be drawing from classic Batman stories like No Man’ Land and Zero Year (In fact this episode’s title is “Year Zero”), I was pretty psyched to see what they were going to do. I’m happy to say I wasn’t disappointed.
After the events of last season, Gotham has been completely cut off from the outside world. The bridges are down in the city and it’s been 87 days since Gotham was officially declared a No Man’s Land by the US government. Unfortunately, not everyone who wanted to had the means to leave the city before it was cut off from the rest of the world. Children, families, innocent people have been trapped in a city that has become an almost post-apocalyptic dystopia. Gotham’s been carved up into territories, with different factions controlling different neighborhoods. Penguin Control City Hall and the surrounding area. He’s also the only person in the city manufacturing bullets for guns, which are more or less currency in the city. Scarecrow, Firefly, Mr. Freeze, Poison Ivy, and other villains have also carved up their own peace of the city. Somewhat ominously, Jerimiah Valeska hasn’t been seen since the beginning of No Man’s Land. I have a feeling he’s waiting to make his own suitably dramatic entrance.
The only part of Gotham City for the average citizen who’d been left behind is the area controlled by the GCPD. Gordon with Bullock and Lucius Fox by his side, are not only leading what’s left of the GCPD, they’re also protecting and feeding hundreds of refugees and supplies are running out. A lot of this is straight out of some iconic Batman storylines, so as a longtime Batman comic book fan this is cool to see.
Fortunately, Bruce Wayne and Alfred decided to stay behind as well and Bruce is doing everything he can to get supplies smuggled in. Not only to the people suffering in the city, but medicine for Selena Kyle as well. She was shot in the stomach at point-blank range by Jeremiah in the season finale last year and unless something drastic is done she could be paralyzed from the waist down for the rest of her life. Of course this heavily weighs on Bruce, who blames himself for her condition.
Part of the fun of this season is seeing how close Bruce is to becoming Batman, even though he isn’t ready yet. There’s an early scene where Bruce takes down a bunch of thugs trying to steal medical supplies. The power has gone out, so he uses night vision goggles courtesy of the Lucius Fox to take them out one by one, in very Batman fashion. However, just when it looks like he’s saved the day, the lights come back on, the night vision goggles blind him, and the thieves get away. This is an important scene because it shows us that while Bruce is well on his way to becoming The Batman that we know, who could’ve easily taken down a group of bad guys in a situation like this, but he’s not quite there yet. He’s still making crucial mistakes and he still has much to learn. It’s important the series didn’t just suddenly turn him into Batman over night. Bruce’s journey throughout the series has felt earned. Based on his training it makes perfect sense for him to be exactly at the level he’s at now.
The episode largely sets up the status quo for the season and puts the pieces in play for things to come. We know things are going to get a lot worse before they get better because the episode opens with a flash forward to No Mans Land Day 391 and shows Gordon, Bullock, The Penguin, The Riddler, and the rest of the GCPD fending off a full blown siege by… someone. For Penguin and The Riddler to be teaming up with Gordon, it must be a pretty serious common enemy.
All in all I really enjoyed this episode and considering that it was mostly set up, I have a feeling once the story really gets going this has the potential to be a fantastic final season for Gotham. I couldn’t help but love the scene when Gordon and Bruce were standing on the roof of the GCPD together. With Gordon shining a spotlight on the sky to give people hope, foreshadowing so many of their interactions in the years to come. As Bruce walks away at the end of the scene, Gordon ask him if he regrets staying behind in Gotham, Bruce replies “No. You?”. Jim Gordons smiles and says “Hell no”. Am I looking forward to the rest of Gotham’s Final Season? Hell, yes.
Gotham (Season 5) “Year Zero” – 8.5/10
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