Gotham The Final Season Review
After four fairly brutal seasons of the surprisingly mature DC/Warner/Fox (and now Netflix) show Gotham, we come to the epic 12-episode end.Although audiences appeared to be pleasantly surprised when DC's Titans landed on Netflix and showed just how gritty the other comic giant could be, the reality is that Gotham had been treading in murky waters for years, brimming with mature content and offering up a dark and violent interpretation of the Batman universe.
Initially, the choice to set the series at a time when Bruce Wayne was just a child - and years away from being Batman - seemed an odd one, but Ben MacKenzie's future Commissioner Jim Gordon rose to the challenge of championing the heroes, accompanied by a scene-stealing Donal Logue as his weathered partner, Harvey Bullock, with a young Bruce aptly mentored by Sean Pertwee's kick-ass Alfred. Of course, Gotham proved to be much less about the heroes, and more about the villains.
For four years the series wowed with its punchy, macabre often Burton-esque tales, which followed the rise of Batman's future ultimate arch-foes, playing out a veritable who's who of familiar faces - The Penguin became a prime criminal kingpin; The Riddler went from mortician to madness; and a superb rendition of The Joker came to the fore, along with countless others, in initially different, but eventually familiar incarnations.
Gotham is a very colourful show, happy to shoot and stab its way through characters in a heartbeat
Despite the lack of The Dark Knight himself, Gotham somehow also made do with a young and fierce Bruce Wayne - already tooling himself up with the trappings of a future Caped Crusader even in his teenage years, and taking to the streets to fight crime as his city started to collapse around him - and cleverly utilised plenty of the best Batman tales even without the lead hero in place.
Season 4 had already drawn in key elements from Batman: Year One, and The Long Halloween, culminating in the start of a No Man's Land arc, and Season 5 jumps to Batman: Zero Hour for its inspiration, charting one hell of an eventful year as Gotham is cut off from the rest of the world and prepped for destruction. The series whisks its way through 12 exciting episodes each packed with an element key to both Zero Hour and the extended epilogue finale set a whole decade later. It's been a bloody hell of a ride.
Frustrating as it may be for those old enough to remember the familiar trajectory of Smallville when it came to season finales, Gotham still makes it work, largely due to the build-up across this superb season charting the final birth of Batman's arch-nemesis, The Joker (going classic, a la Burton's Batman, with the original origin of Mr. J via Axis Chemicals), having Bane turn up in a TV-scale version of the The Dark Knight Rises story (and you just know somebody is going to get their back broken), and turning Gotham into an absolute war-zone, replete with bombing runs and submarine escapes.
It's been a bloody hell of a ride
Once again, Robin Lord Taylor's Penguin and Cory Michael Smith's Riddler almost steal the whole show, but, despite their best efforts, are still overshadowed by the extended 'guest' appearances of Cameron Monaghan's Mr. J (with some nice nods to The Dark Knight Returns). MacKenzie's Gordon remains the backbone and David Mazouz tries his utmost to look the part, against all odds.
Gotham is a very colourful show, happy to shoot and stab its way through characters in a heartbeat (whilst also happy to bring them back, even after their hearts stop beating), and it's a grim and gaudy universe that somehow still seems perfectly framed for a backdrop to the birth of Batman; a notion that sometimes feels more like a force of pre-ordained destiny, rather than an organic part of a show that has proven time and again that it could arguably live without him - these characters are more than good enough on their own.
It's a wonder that we never got an actual live-action Batman production to cover some of these stories (although plenty have been covered, imagine what a decent Batman run could do with these with a framework as masterful as the MCU), and whilst it's bittersweet that they have to be enjoyed in this 'alternate reality', at least it gives Gotham fans a lot back for their commitment to a compelling - and curiously character-driven - show. If you've never given Gotham a shot, then now's the time, with all 5 seasons up on Netflix and ready to be your next binge-watch choice, even if it's perhaps only this final, short but sweet season that truly gels in its 12 great episodes.
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