It started, as the Batman legend does, with the murders of Thomas and Martha Wayne in front of their young son, Bruce.
What Gotham promised to viewers in the premiere was a story about Jim Gordon’s fight to bring order to a chaotic city, Oswald Cobblepot’s quest to become Gotham’s crime lord, and Bruce Wayne’s dedication to finding justice, if not for his parents, for his city.
The season finale brought these plotlines full circle, with Gordon desperately trying to save Gotham from being a war zone, with Penguin confronting his rivals, with Selina possibly taking a step away from Bruce and to the dark side, and with Bruce and Alfred discovering part of his father’s legacy.
Unfortunately, the season-long journey to this point meandered, sometimes into utter ridiculousness. Promising ideas, such as Gordon recruiting detectives Allen and Montoya as allies, fizzled. Penguin’s arc eventually stalled. Everyone but Bruce and Alfred forgot about solving the murders of Thomas and Martha Wayne.
I wondered if the finale could possibly be good enough to redeeme the season and bring me back next year.
The answer: No.
Despite this being the best episode of Gotham in a long time, its strengths only pointed out how much of a hot mess its become.
Take Gordon. We never learned why he’s so driven, except for a couple of handwaves concerning his late father. His one triumph before the finale was becoming the head of the police union by blackmailing the police commissioner. In the finale, he triumphs by saving Carmine Falcone from his mob enemies, not by any police work or by arresting anyone. Gordon calls Falcone controlling Gotham the “least bad option.” Happily for Gordon, Falcone gives up Gotham at the end, telling Gordon that the city needs a lawman now, not a criminal. It’s a terrific scene about the shifting the balance of power in the city but it feels distinctly unearned.Meanwhile, Fish, Maroni and Penguin all vie to replace Maroni via various gunfights. If it was this easy to get rid of Falcone or other mob rivals, why did it take so long for someone to make a move? No one on the mob side has done anything remotely interesting since Penguin revealed he was secretly working for Falcone.
Despite that, and I never thought I’d say this after the premiere, Fish owns the mob story in the finale.
She arrives ala George Washington on a boat across the harbor, and tells Selina “Good morning, child.” Fish has changed her look, reminiscent of Mohawk-style Storm of the X-Men. (Psst…do you think Fox could swap out Halle Berry for Jada Pinkett-Smith?) Fish temporarily joins forces with Maroni, who muffs that alliance immediately by calling her “babes” over and over and telling her to relax. She shoots him in the head, saying, “I am relaxed.”
This leads to yet another gun battle between Penguin and Fish. That ends with a final confrontation in which a brainwashed Butch shoots them both. Poor Butch! Fish comforts Butch but Penguin finally manages to toss her over the edge of a building into the harbor. Is Fish dead? Pinkett-Smith says she won’t be back next season but, hey, there’s no body, so I bet she’s not dead.
Penguin climbs up on the building’s ledge and proclaims himself King of Gotham. (I expected Butch to push him over too but, alas, no such luck.) Perhaps next season is a clash between Gordon and Penguin for control of Gotham’s show. That would be interesting if I had any expectations that Gotham’s writing will improve.
Meanwhile, Bruce and Alfred look through his father’s private study. Alfred thinks Bruce has gone off the deep end but, of course, they find something: the control to a hidden panel that reveals an entrance to the Batcave! Sadly, the control was not hidden in a Shakespeare statue, but inside a book about Marcus Aurelius. No poles either, just an ominous staircase. Nice, and it ties into the comic history of Wayne Manor having been used as a location on the Underground Railroad, but it felt like everything about Bruce’s story between the premiere and the finale was filler.
Oh, and Barbara Kean? This is where I need the double facepalm meme. Yes, the show is going there, and making her full-bore crazy. I would say “mentally ill” except the show isn’t that subtle. First, it turns out that the only doctor available to treat Barbara’s injuries from the Ogre is Leslie, Gordon’s new girlfriend. No hospitals in Gotham? (Apparently the only one available is being shot up by the mob.) Second, Barbara insists that Leslie be her trauma counselor. I’m pretty sure that’s a conflict of interest. Third, of course, Barbara goes over the edge at the Clocktower and attacks Leslie with a meat cleaver, leading to a Shining-like moment with the bathroom door before Leslie knocks her out.
Will Barbara be back in Gordon’s life next season? Not if the writers can’t find anything interesting to do with her, though Erin Richards, finally given something to play, does this best she can with this. “Aren’t all the best guys a little dangerous?” she purrs, clearly still fixated on Gordon. Maybe she and Penguin could hook up next year. Or maybe she becomes a version of a familiar Batman villain. More on that below.
There’s one last character unaccounted for: Edward Nygma, the proto-Riddler. I’ve enjoyed him as a competent crime scene. Unfortunately, poor Eddie’s gone over the edge after murdering Miss Kringle’s abusive boyfriend. Miss Kringle realizes out that her supposed Dear John note from her boyfriend was instead sent by Nygma and confronts him, a move which sends Nygma over the edge into Riddler-land. Out of all the character arcs this season, Nygma’s is one that completely works.
Final Gotham Notes:
Yes, the Batcave existed in the comics before Bruce Wayne. The Waynes have always been a bit secretive. DC Comics even connected the family to the Revolutionary War Hero, “Mad” Anthony Wayne. However, Bruce went over-the-top decorating the cave once he found it. The Atlantic has a great history of the cave.
Donal Logue as Harvey Bullock is always a bright spot, even more so in the finale where he reluctantly saves Gordon, Falcone, Penguin and Butch by commandeering an ambulance.
There’s a callback to the premiere in the finale where Gordon, Bullock, Falcone and Penguin are all tied up to meat hooks, at Fish’s mercy. This time, though, she decides Bullock should live.
Selina goes full punk in supporting Fish. There’s no particular reason she does this, and her allegiances remain uncertain. I suspect the writers just wanted her in the finale doing something. Overall, I was the most skeptical about including young Selina in this show and she’s turned into yet another bright spot, save for this weirdness with Fish.
Remember that episode where Bullock and Alfred teamed up? Good times.
I was oddly touched as Fish comforted Butch after he shot her.
Next year: Gotham needs to decide what it wants to be: either an over-the-top examination of Bat-villains or a crime show about an honest man making compromises to clean up a city.
There are reports that a “big” villain is coming next year, which can only mean the Joker. Perhaps they’ll use the now-insane Barbara Kean in the role. There is comic precedence for a female Joker, as one alternate Earth Martha Wayne became the Joker after the fateful night where her young son Bruce was killed. (Thomas, naturally, became Batman.)
Either way, this show has a long way to go before even reaching the heights of Netflix’s Daredevil, which showed how awesome this premise could be when well-executed.
Corrina Lawson is a writer, mom, geek and superhero, though not always all four on the same day. She is a senior editor of the GeekMom blog at Wired and the author of a superhero romance series and an alternate history series featuring Romans and Vikings in ancient North America. She has been a comic book geek all her life and often dreamed of growing up to be Lois Lane.