When Gotham screened its pilot episode at conventions, I watched with fascination, because it showed such promise as a moody, atmospheric take on the pervasive corruption that created the antibody of The Batman. Sure, it wasn’t entirely based on eighty years of canon, but nothing could do that, so I was prepared.
I stopped watching with regularity halfway through the second season because it stopped being what was promised and became something else entirely. It was a ham-fisted, over-the-top camp take on a modern-day comic, more beholden to the ABC Batman series than the comics.
With each successive season, the twists came faster, the characters stopped making sense, and internal logic was found only in the dictionary. This was a manic Gotham City, where the line between good and evil, moral and corrupt, quality and crap was blurred with every scene.
While earlier a ratings darling, it crashed under the weight of its own absurdity and was given a ten episode fifth and final season to wrap things up, get Bruce Wayne under the cape and cowl and call it a day. Then, Fox granted them two more episodes which felt more tacked on than organic.
Gotham: The Fifth and Final Season and Gotham: The Complete Series are out tomorrow from Warner Home Entertainment. You can find them as Blu-ray or DVDs with nary a difference between them so take your pick.
Apparently, showrunner John Stephens had been planning for their take on the No Man’s Land storyline for some time, and then, for good measure, tried to graft on the horrible Zero Year arc from the current Rebirth line of comics. He shoved both under the title Legend of the Dark Knight, but really, that’s reserved for episode twelve.
The nonsense from season four led to the city being cut off from the rest of America, leaving Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie), having found his moral bearing once more, a still-teenaged Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz), and others to take the city back from Bane (Shane West), sent there by Nyssa al Ghul (Jaime Murray), seeking vengeance for the death of Ra’s al Ghul (who should be getting better any second now).
Turning the tide against impossible odds is, of all people, the Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) who, like Carmine Falcone in the pilot, declares his love for the city, despite its evil. “But then what? Stand on the shores of the mainland and watch the army burn it to the ground? Then watch tasteless industrialists and vapid politicians rebuild it? My life is etched on the walls of every alley and dirty warehouse here. My blood lives in its broken concrete. I’m staying to fight for my legacy,” he declares.
We win, of course, just as Barbara Kean (Erin Richards) has given birth to a daughter, named Barbara Lee Gordon, combining the threesome that fueled much of the romance for five years. We know she’ll become Batgirl down the road so it’s a nice nod even fi the timing makes little sense, like so much else of the show.
My biggest complaint was always that by having Mr. Freeze, the Riddler (Cory Michael Smith), Penguin, Scarecrow (David W. Thompson), Hugo Strange (BD Wong), and others a decade ahead of Batman’s arrival, would make them too old to be true threats when they would eventually face off. The teen Selina (Camren Bicondova) made more sense as she grew up experiencing much the same as Bruce, only to make different choices. The ever-aging Poison Ivy (Peyton List) also made a kind of sense given the life of a plant.
And it shows in the finale, where we pick up a decade later, but only Selina (Lili Simmons) has aged, the others stuck in place, stretching credulity. Bruce has finally left Gotham City, after leaving a series of farewell letters to Selina and Alfred (Sean Pertwee) for his training, something way overdue, and comes back, shadowing Gordon until things get dire thanks to Jerome (Cameron Monaghan), the faux-Joker of the series, who shoots Barbara and threatens baby Babs at the Ace Chemical plant. We finally get the Dark Knight and then credits roll.
Yes, the show had its admirers and fans, that’s how it lasted five tortuous seasons. It never lived up to my expectations, going so far in the other direction, my distaste grew visceral. Still, if you liked the show, you can relive every quirky, oddball, hyperkinetic moment.
The box set contains the existing versions of the first, second, third, and fourth seasons with nothing new added. The Fifth and Final Season contains several bonus features to sate your appetite for more craziness. There’s the lengthy Villains: Modes of Persuasion, plus Gotham S5: Best Moments at NY Comic Con 2018, Gotham’s Last Stand, and Unaired scenes.