In one of the longer gaps between the actual airing of the series and getting this review up, let’s take a look at the final season of Gotham. The series as a whole has been an unexpected hit for me, but the villains often way overshadow the character that was supposed to be the lead, does this change in the final season? Does the rather unlikely-even-for-a-comic plot get in the way of this fact? Let’s find out!
Due to the bridges being bombed, the government has declared Gotham off-limits from the mainland, allowing criminals to control entire boroughs and neighborhoods. Gordon and the remaining GCPD officers gather refugees into the precinct for safety, while Bruce and Gordon work together to rid the city of crime.
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
A happy ending… Well, given they’re in Gotham and one of them is the future Commissioner Gordon, more like “a brief happy reprieve”.
To answer my first question from the opening paragraph: Yes, the villains do once again overshadow the lead. Penguin / Oswald Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor) is a good laugh as the leader of a criminal empire during the crisis, and then of course slowly seeing his group disintegrate over the course of the series, leaving him having to reunite with the likes of Barbara Kean (Erin Richards) and, my personal highlight of the series as a whole, The Riddler / Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith). Ed is going through a cycle of waking up in the morning and not knowing what he’d done the previous night, eventually finding out that he used a rocket launcher on a building full of refugees and out of panic silences an old woman who saw him in a darkly funny “will he, won’t he” moment.
Turns out that good old Hugo Strange had implanted a chip in him that made him subservient to a corrupt branch of the military who wish to maintain the city as a write-off that only needs destroying (or something, more on that later…) but James Gordon (Ben McKenzie) and his handy tech man Lucius Fox (Chris Chalk) manage to get rid of it. Nygma then tries to escape the city with the previously mentioned uneasy faction of Cobblepot and Barbara. They try and build a submarine, but their plans come to naught thanks to the aforementioned military force. In the end they all team up with the GCPD to fight off the corrupt invaders in the big finale to the storyline, though Penguin and Riddler plan to take over the city once again, rather than turn over a new leaf. The trio bounce off each other well though, and were definitely the highlight of the series for me.
Another strong point was David Mazouz as Bruce Wayne, doing his best to help the GCPD during the crisis and also helping nurse Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova) back to health. I mean, he eventually uses a dodgy plant remedy created by Poison Ivy (Peyton List), so maybe not the most responsible thing ever, but hey. Selina soon finds and seemingly kills future Joker Jeremiah Valeska (Cameron Monaghan) out of revenge, which upsets Bruce’s newly emerging “no kill” policy. It turns out Valeska is alive, and he soon uses an Ace Chemicals lab for his latest “kidnapping someone and forcing other people to become like him” scheme, though it ends with him taking a dip in a large vat of chemicals, because of course it did! Once again I was impressed with the acting of Mazouz, Bicondova and Monaghan, they made a convincing young version of Batman, Catwoman and Joker, respectively.
The two standouts of the entire series, back for one last ride…
I’ll also mention that although his character is often quite boring, Ben McKenzie is still good in the role of James Gordon, likewise Donal Logue still nails the role of Harvey Bullock, and Sean Pertwee as Alfred Pennyworth is still top-notch. Just because they didn’t really standout this season doesn’t mean I want to skip over what are still some great performances.
All these things lead to a great finale titled “The Beginning…”, which is set 10 years after the previous 11 episodes. In it, Commissioner Gordon (he was promoted at the end of the previous episode) is considering retirement, but the escape of Edward Nygma from Arkham on the same day Oswald Cobblepot is released from prison has him worried. Nygma, now back under the nickname of “The Riddler”, fakes a bomb threat at the reopening of Wayne Tower but is found out and the real bomb is defused. Turns out Jeremiah Valeska was the mastermind and is not as braindead at he’d been pretending to be in Arkham for the last 10 years, soon kidnapping Gordon’s daughter Barbara (who the other Barbara was pregnant with during the course of the season). All things seem lost when Bruce, back from a decade of training and self-discovery, appears in full Batman regalia (though off-screen) and saves the day.
Bruce meets back up with the now fully Catwoman-ised Selina before meeting Gordon on the roof of the GCPD, where we get an actual look at the batsuit before the credits role. Now you could argue that because the series was originally pitched as “see Commissioner Gordon when he was just a member of the force” that ending with Bruce becoming Batman wasn’t what the series was supposed to be about, but frankly, it’s what it ended up being about, that and how some of his more famous foes became the villains we know. Gotham became far more a “Batman and his foes” prequel than anything specifically to do with Gordon, and so this ending made sense, and was really good too!
Bruce and Selina do their best to not look at the weird Bane iteration behind them.
Even though it’s a comic book adaptation, I just couldn’t get on with the main plot. At least in the comic an earthquake destroyed the city and the US government evacuated all the civilians who wanted to leave before cutting off the city and declaring it a no-go zone, in this the bridges to and from the city get destroyed and the government not only quarantines the whole city immediately but actively stops and kills civilians trying to leave via boat or the like. This goes on for months, and I just couldn’t help think how unlikely it all was as Gordon pleads over the radio that he has a whole bunch of civilians cowering in his police station and asking why they can’t be picked up via a helicopter or something, or just roll in the military.
Of course, as I’ve already alluded to, the military are in on it and the unit that does get sent in wants to see the city further fall into ruin so they can eventually sanction an airstrike to destroy it entirely. No idea why, really, but they do. The lead soldier is one of Gordon’s old war buddies named Eduardo Dorrance (Shane West) who eventually ends up impaled during a fight between the two, but his shadowy superior officer brings him back from the brink of death. His injuries are so severe that he has to wear a breathing mask and, yep, he’s Bane. Sadly unlike all the other origins of great Batman villains, this Bane fails to be remotely interesting, and doesn’t have the intelligence to pull off the character. It really falls flat, which is rare for the Gotham team when it comes to creating an origin for the Batman villain! Hell, they introduced Penguin’s suffering sidekick Arthur Penn (Andrew Sellon) as a version of the little-known villain the Ventriloquist and it worked far better…
I always want to quickly mention Episode 9, where Jim is shot and goes into a coma dream where he is put on trial… man I hate trial episodes, and despite being a dreamscape, this was just as dull, and the ending just a predictable. Seemed like a waste of their smaller episode count.
Aww, he looks so happy.
So Gotham’s final season ends like the last few: the standouts are the classic villains and Bruce himself, with Gordon just being a lynchpin that gives them a reason to appear on screen. Sadly the new villains for the story were a bit naff, and the general plotline a little too silly for me, even for a comic book series, but overall I still enjoyed myself, and the final episode was extremely satisfying.