Gotham: Season 4 Wrap Up

Gotham: Season Four Musings (Episodes 18 – 22)

Dear friends, I wish to apologize for my absence as I just returned; went to a friend’s wedding and woke up on a fishing trawler off the coast of Bangkok. With a tattoo. Next to a tiger. As much as I wanted to channel my inner Hangover and Murray Head, I wondered aloud how this could have happened without a passport.

And the wedding was mid-May.

Crisis averted, as the local embassy helped me out, and the flight home allowed me ample time to catch up on the last four episodes of Gotham.

I’ve mentioned several times how the show struggles with its identity, whether it be a serious, dark show or more campy fare; how there have been meaningless subplots and conflicts that go nowhere; how there have been difficulties juggling storylines; dropping in characters and just as things get interesting, pull the chute and have them take a seat on the bench; seemingly stumbling week to week, ignoring character motivations and tossing aside plot continuity with casual indifference.

Another element I’ve mentioned a lot over the past few years is the expendable-ness of characters, especially female characters. Many an episode had introduced female characters, only to be killed to advance plot or push another character in a new direction. Which doesn’t necessarily bode well in today’s environment.

That said, I found episodes 18 – 22 rather intriguing in that identity is a running theme between the characters. Some have been dealing with identity crises through the season and series, but the motif has moved to the forefront as the season winds down.

Jim Gordon has had a roller coaster season, ups and downs, but seems to have overcome his guilt at indirectly causing the deaths of many in Gotham with the Sofia Falcone/Pyg storyline. If he hasn’t, at the very least he’s learned to not to mope about it. As the season ends with Gotham City cut off from the rest of America and teases out a possible No Man’s Land storyline for Season Five, Gordon leads Harvey, Foxy and the rest of the GCPD to save the city from the criminal underworld carving out their own little fiefdoms. His little talk with Lee seemed to have given him a moment of clarity; he regrets how things have played out between him and Lee and says he would change everything that led to that point. Though that “point” sees Gordon under a hydraulic press at Riddler’s command, which Lee promptly saves him from becoming a lot thinner. But I digress; clearly he’s referring to his relationship with Lee, but cause and effect also mean the events that led to being under the press. Lee, however, sees Gordon for who he is, and reminds him that he wouldn’t be Gordon if he changed anything.

And that’s the point; Gordon has regrets, done things he’s not proud of, but then again so has everyone else in Gotham. He is not alone in his transgressions, but that means he is human like everyone else. Even the most sociopathic of characters on the show express a residue of regret every now and then, and that is what makes compelling characters. Gordon has his sights set on saving Gotham again, though this time the stakes are higher. Yes, there was poison gas and large bombs and the Tetch virus, but the No Man’s Land angle presents a Gotham in complete chaos, sort of a DC version of Lord of the Flies in which every villain is jockeying for position in the new world order (not to be confused with the wrestling group of the same name).

Bruce had been subjected to the psychological wringer this past season, having killed Ra’s al Ghul (not once, but twice!), figuring out who he is or will be, running the gauntlet in Jeremiah’s Killing Joke-esque funhouse with a suffering Alfred projected onto screens, to realizing he is what Gotham needs. Whether that realization is Batman at this point is irrelevant. He’s moved on from the whiny, emo, self-destructive party boy we saw in the middle of the season to a more determined saviour of the city. Too bad he burned his proto-Batman costume. Time to buy another on from Amazon.

To say this season is chock full of character development is an understatement; not only have Gordon and Bruce figured themselves out, but Riddler is in the middle of his own existential crisis. In a nice twist, Riddler now speaks to Ed in the mirror. It seems the tables are turned as Ed is subconsciously manipulating Riddler; how else can we explain Riddler’s romantic interest in Lee? But wait, didn’t he say he knew Lee was stringing him along? Maybe Ed tugged at the heartstrings and Riddler allowed himself to be charmed by Lee’s feminine wiles.

At the same time, Lee sets things straight with both Gordon and Riddler in this mini love triangle; that she will chose who she is and who she is going to be with rather than let either fellow decide. So she lets go of Gordon and plans to run off with Riddler, but when the bridges are destroyed, she has no choice but to stay and help the people of the Narrows. While she may have become a little more adventurous, such as shooting Sofia between the eyes, she still cares for people in general and decides to remain in Gotham, much to Riddler’s chagrin. This, of course, leads to a nice double betrayal as Lee and Riddler stab each other. What better way to celebrate your deceptions than to kiss it out while bleeding from the gut. Someone should call the marketing people at Hallmark.

Babs has her own identity crisis to deal with as well; is she the Demon’s Head or not? Is she the immortal consort to Ra’s al Ghul or not? After a brief resurrection, Ra’s forces Babs to give back the Demon’s Head, but it seems like her Kung Fu is strong, for she retains some of the power and, manhandling Bruce, manages to kill Ra’s again. The League of Shadows falls into line and pledges their loyalty to her, but Babs takes the No Man’s Land idea to the extreme and kills the male Leaguers, opting to have an all-female entourage in the Sisters of the League. It seems Babs believes all the ills of Gotham have been at the hands of men and thus need to be eliminated. Sounds like she, Tabs, and the Sisters will be busy next season cleansing Gotham of men.

Penguin seems to be the one who hasn’t changed, though he took a page from The Count of Monte Cristo and played the long game in his quest for revenge by befriending a Grundy Butch. With promises of a cure, Butch joins Penguin, only to be shot by our favorite feathered villain as a ‘right back at ya’ to Tabs, who killed Penguin’s mother in a previous season. Brilliant move by Penguin, but again we enter ‘let’s introduce an iconic DC villain, only to underplay him and kill him off’ territory. Sure, it’s okay to take liberties with canon, but just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Perhaps things aren’t all dire; it looks as if Hugo Strange, who just finished curing Butch of Grundy-itis, might have an opportunity to bring him back next season.

Jeremiah seems to be taking on the mantle of the Joker, especially after Jerome’s death. While Jerome was criminal hyperbole personified, Jeremiah plays it cool, terrifyingly chilling enough to make Hannibal Lecter proud. If circumstances progress accordingly we might see Jeremiah become the Joker sometime next season, but if they don’t that’s fine as well; Cameron Monaghan has been a great addition to the cast and his Jeremiah is more frightening than Jerome was. Scarecrow’s Joker gas plus Jeremiah’s intelligence make for a great villainous combination. We have been given Joker red herrings before and we got them now, especially with a pale Jeremiah wearing the long purple coat and wide-brimmed fedora. I’m too jet-lagged for El Predicto just now. Ask me again in the autumn.

So, we’ve got characters with identity issues resolved or in crisis, a city cut off from the mainland, a federal government that has given up on said city, a group of underworld villains posturing for control of said city, and Bruce, Gordon and the GCPD ready to defend said city. Oh, and Selena has been shot, Killing Joke style, seemingly paralyzed. I stress seemingly, because we all know at some point she will either heal or Hugo will fix her or some intervention to make her whole again because that is canon you don’t mess with. I seem to be hitting the ‘repeat’ button a lot, but it behoves me to mention another female character getting injured, maimed, or killed to further another character’s development or advance plot. No wonder Babs is angry. I’ll let you marinate on that for a bit.

All in all this has been an enjoyable season of Gotham. Let’s hope Season Five plays out the No Man’s Land storyline for at least the first half if not the whole year. It would be a shame to tease out iconic story elements only to drop them on a whim.

But that would never happen on this show.

Tune in next season – same Bat-time, same Bat-channel.