This review contains spoilers.
5.12 The Beginning…
Here we are, at the end of our Gotham journey. Gotham has been many different shows over the years: a messy panoply of styles that sometimes frustrated, sometimes delighted, but almost always entertained. Last week, the end of the No Man’s Land arc and the end of our present day Gotham excursion could have been a suitable final episode.
The denouement was strong, Gordon and the GCPD victorious over Bane and Nyssa Al Ghul, Riddler and Penguin swearing to become criminal anarchists, Bruce Wayne leaving Gotham City to begin his dark destiny, and Selina Kyle tragically abandoned by the young man she had grown to love. The episode put a nice bow on all the current Gotham arcs, but this week, we have a Bat-centric epilogue that dots all the Is and crosses all the Ts, but seems too dutiful to a paint by numbers agenda to really be as effective as last week’s ‘shoulda been coulda been’ finale.
Things kick off with Bruce on his voyage. This is the only time we see the young Mazouz all episode as we are forced to say goodbye to the perfect young Bruce without a by-your-leave. Young Bruce says, “When Gotham needs me, I will return,” as Bruce begins his training in some Ra’s Al Ghul-looking country. Bruce is sure to have an adventure we are not privy to but would make for a heck of a spin-off. Are you listening, DC Universe?
From there, things transition to ten years after the end of No Man’s Land as we greet Jim Gordon and his moustache. Through some clunky exposition we learn that Bruce Wayne is returning to Gotham and Wayne Towers is set to reopen after its reconstruction – and how is Mayor James still in office? Anyway, Gordon is getting ready to quit now that the true scum of Gotham has been taken off the streets and red tape and politics have become the order of the day. And oh, that moustache. It’s divine.
Speaking of the scum of Gotham, Penguin is getting out of Blackgate as Gotham City prepares to welcome Bruce Wayne home. The Penguin stuff is where this finale truly shines; there’s just not enough of it. The first Penguin sequence features Oswald gearing up in his traditional Penguin garb complete with World War I era top hat and jaunty monocle. True to the comic, Oswald has put on some weight and looks like he stepped right out of a Jerry Robinson drawing. I think we’ve all been waiting for Oswald to go full Penguin, and man, does the look just make him worthy of the Burgess Meredith legacy.
While Penguin is released from Blackgate, Riddler is in Arkham, sharing a day room with a still comatose Jeremiah. Jeremiah must endure the abuses of guards and inmates and even gets stabbed in the leg by Riddler. The tongue-in-cheek way Gotham has portrayed mental health in general has always been questionable and here we are going out on a low note. Somehow, Riddler is abducted and Jeremiah is rescued by Ecco Harley as things set up for our villainous finale.
Everything is just kind of going through the motions at this point, but wait, there’s some good a-coming. We are introduced to a hero of tomorrow, the purple-clad, brown-haired, ten year-old Barbara Gordon! Hey look, another spin-off idea! I would watch the bejeezus out of a show starring a young Babs Gordon and her brainy pals solving crime in a pre-Batman Gotham City.
Along with the future Batgirl, we are reintroduced to a seemingly legit, red-headed Barbara Kean. She is now a tycoon and building up the old Sirens clock tower into a high rise to rival Wayne Enterprises. It’s funny; when Gotham first began, I couldn’t stand Barbara Kean. Everything she did (including the affair with Renee Montoya, remember that?) seemed forced. Barbara was like a shell-shocked cat just plodding through forced scene after forced scene. Now, Barbara Kean is really the biggest and best contribution that Gotham made to the Bat mythos. I would love to see criminal mastermind turned entrepreneur Barbara introduced into the comics as a love interest and foil to both Jim Gordon and Batgirl. She’s that damn cool. And now, in this finale, Barbara Kean has luxurious long red hair, a look that daughter Babs will rock while fighting crime in the future. A very nice touch.
Things seem healthy between Gordon, Barbara Kean, and little Barbara, and things also seem healthy between Lee and Gordon. Man, little Babs has two awesome mothers, huh? No wonder she grows up into a heroic icon! Sadly, the moustache is gone as Jimbo shaves the lip caterpillar, but Lee hasn’t aged a minute. Wouldn’t it be awesome if Lee also had a moustache and no one mentioned it?
Gordon, Lee, and both Barbaras seem very happy in this ten-years-later Gotham, but Selina Kyle, now played by Lili Simmons is still reeling from being abandoned by Bruce Wayne. And my God, does Simmons look like an adult Camren Bicondova! I know it was Bicondova’s choice not to play the adult Selina, but after all these years, I wish we’d had a final moment with the brilliant young actor. Replacing Bicondova in the finale would be like replacing Maisie Williams as Arya Stark in the final installment of Game Of Thrones. That’s not to take anything away from Simmons who is full on Catwoman in the Gotham finale, doing the whole ‘avoid the lasers and steal the diamond’ bit. Again, I would love to see more of Simmons’ Selina Kyle somewhere. Batwoman? Hello? CW?
There really is no A-plot this week as we are treated to little final vignettes showing us where our cast has landed. But there is an attempt at one as Harvey is on the case trying to find the recently on-the-lamb Riddler. Bullock stumbles into a trap as a cop is forced into committing suicide, framing Bullock for his murder. With Riddler seemingly out and about, Penguin suits up in the classic Penguin garb. And boy, does he look good. I really need to see both Robin Taylor and Cory Michael Smith as proper rogues somewhere as the fully realised villains. Once again I plead to the talents behind the coming Batwoman? Which all brings us to our first encounter between Gordon and a certain Caped Crusader; it’s all very reminiscent of Batman’s smoky appearances in Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman. And if I’m all over the place, so is the episode.
From first encounters to callbacks as Gordon and Penguin end up back at that fateful pier where Gordon failed to kill Penguin so long ago. Now we’re getting to something! If Gotham has been anything it has been a long form look into the stories of Oswald Cobblepot and Jim Gordon. The show truly began with the confrontation between the future Penguin and Gordon on that pier, when Carmine Falcone ordered Gordon to kill Oswald, then, just the umbrella boy for Fish Mooney. Now, we’re back on that pier as Penguin has the gun on Gordon. Now, both men have transformed into their iconic selves and the contrast between the not yet evolved season one is striking. Gordon escapes Penguin as the top-hatted villain screams his dismay, but that sequence was fun and reminds one how far we and the show has come.
Riddler has plans of his own as he tries to blow up Wayne Tower and the Mayor but he is stopped. It becomes clear that he had nothing to do with the Bullock framing. We also have our first instance of Alfred making excuses for disappearing from a function, which is in one way cute as heck but in another way, it reduces Alfred (and Lucius Fox) to background characters in Gordon’s drama. We’ve spent too much time with Alfred not to get a check in on what his life is like without Bruce. There’s just too much Bat service in lieu of character service happening in this finale and we’ve been with these characters too long for this.
And as we all figured, it all comes down to Jeremiah, who still isn’t called Joker! So Jeremiah’s existence in Arkham consisted of being beaten, stabbed, burned, abused, and humiliated while he was in a vegetative state. And it was all part of his plan. Jeremiah was faking and when he hears that Bruce is back, Jeremiah simply stands up and puts his plan into action. Okay, that’s kind of badass. Not flinching while being stabbed in the leg so he can enact his long game. That’s very Jeremiah. That’s very Joker.
Not only does this episode serve as a precursor to Batman, but the Birds of Prey as well as the ending sees Jeremiah shooting (not fatally) Barbara Kean and abducting Barbara Gordon from the clock tower. First off, comic fans know the clock tower becomes the future HQ of Batgirl and her Birds of Prey, but in this finale, the future Batgirl witnesses the arrival of Batman. Jeremiah takes little Babs to Ace Chemical, the place where the Joker was born. A confrontation with Gordon follows where Batman easily makes the save. And little Barbara witnesses it all. She sees the birth of heroism and you can almost palpably feel the Bat legacy pass to little Babs. It’s very appropriate that Barbara represents the heroic linage of Bruce Wayne, Jim Gordon, Lee Thompkins, and Barbara Kean and those legacies will make her into a legend. Really, this finale does not succeed on many levels, but boy would it work as the intro to Batgirl.
As all this plays out, we have our answer on whether Ecco is actually Harley, and the answer is no as Jeremiah shoots Harley while proclaiming there’ll never be another like her. Nice little irony there, but for five years, Harley had been teased, and we’re left with a cute little wink and nod.
With Jeremiah easily defeated, I can’t help being a little disappointed that the finale was really all about the Joker and not Penguin and Riddler, the villains we have followed for five years. I know you can’t fit everything, but there was no Scarecrow, Poison Ivy, Mister Freeze, or Victor Zsasz, character we have spent a great deal of time with over the years. Hey, remember when Harvey Dent was a thing on Gotham? That didn’t last, huh?
But it is Penguin and Riddler who get short thrift. They are left cowering on a street corner after the spy Batman’s shadow. They are left as punchline and we never really get a wrap up to any of their character arcs other than that they become kind of dopey and evil. Selina gets a fun little farewell as Batman pays Catwoman a visit. She pours her heart out and screams at him for leaving her, but also says that he inspired her to greatness. Batman, from the shadows, asks her to return the diamond. Now, that perfectly encapsulates the Bat and Cat relationship.
We’re at the end; it’s time to say goodbye. And there were some surprises. We all probably thought Barbara Kean had to die, but she came too far to just be shunted off so the heroic journeys of Batgirl and Gordon can continue. We end with Gordon and Bullock turning on the signal and Batman’s arrival. It’s all a bit awkward as this Batman is kind of skinny faced and the episode treats us to the most undramatic shot of Batman possible. During the press for this final season, the brain trust of Gotham promised we wouldn’t simply get the Smallville flyby; we would get the full Batman. Well, we did and not much more as the finale was more focused on filling out columns then it was finding clever and memorable resolutions to character stories we’ve spent five years watching unfold. Instead, we are left with a bit of cosplay and dramatic music.
But that shouldn’t be Gotham’s legacy. The legacy should be a daring, oftentimes punch-drunk series that played by its own rules and presented some unexpected and unforgettable takes on some comic book legends. It featured an excellent cast that we all fell in love with. It was a mish mash of styles and stories that didn’t always stick the landing, but damn, was Gotham earnest. So even though the finale disappointed, here’s to Gotham, a series like no other, and one that I wish would continue in the myriad Bat television projects to come. So good luck, Batwoman. Good luck, Pennyworth. You have a… unique legacy to live up to.