Well, this is it, folks. This is the end.
I know, I know. It seems like the first season has just flown by. And believe me, I will feel the pain of “I-must-wait-until-fall-for-Gotham-itis,” too. It was one wild and crazy ride to be sure, so let’s see how it all ended, shall we?
From the start, my gut told me that “Gotham” was going to be a good series judging by the trailers, concept, characters, and overall cinematic look; and I’m glad my gut was right. With the slew of “reality” television programs that have glutted the small screen for years, it’s rare for me to find an original/fictional story program that I really like. In most cases, I try out a new show, watch a few episodes, get bored or disappointed with it, and stop tuning in. Sometimes I’ve watched an entire first season only to check out the second season and give up. Rare is the series I watch from beginning to end, and I’m proud to say that “Gotham” has now joined that list. Time will tell whether season two will or won’t fall into the sophomore slump, but judging by the design, momentum, writing, and characters of this season, I have very high hopes indeed.
The season one finale had three chief plot lines that meshed together perfectly: the culmination of the mob wars; Barbara’s transformation; and Bruce’s discovery of his father’s secret. The action scenes (and there were plenty) were cast against quieter moments, which kept it from being a total head rush from beginning to end. There was a nice balance of frantic momentum and moody tranquility that blended nicely and actually played off of each other.
Let’s start with the ladies. Here, Barbara is talked into having trauma counseling with Leslie. The two ladies chat it up and Barbara finally reveals (somewhat) why she is the way she is. Evidently, her parents broke her down until she was nothing left emotionally and then she made the choice to live in darkness. Doing so has clouded her internal vision as she sees good men as “scary” and seems unable to understand that there are genuinely good people in the world. In her mind, all people are bad or frightening because her perceptions have become so muddied that she can see no good anywhere.
This reflects upon the entire workings of Gotham. The city itself has been broken down by corrupt men and women to the point where it has become dark, a place where criminals rule supreme yet evil does not have full reign. But just as Leslie subdues Barbara before Barbara can kill her, so Jim Gordon, Harvey Bullock, and others put criminal forces in check – not forever but long enough to stop the proverbial bleeding. In truth, there are forces for good in the world, but in Gotham it takes a careful eye to find them.
But Barbara isn’t the only one having fits here. Ed Nygma also goes mental after he fears that Kristen suspects he did away with her abusive beau. This scene seemed to set the stage for what Nygma’s character might become in season two. Gone are the days of him lurking in the halls of the GCPD. Now he has emerged as a man with serious internal issues that threaten to tear him apart. Ed’s exchange with himself reminded me of Gollum’s/Smeagol’s breakdown in The Lord of the Rings. Just as Gollum wars with his good side, Smeagol, so Ed’s moral side tries to contend with his base nature, the side of him willing to go to extremes. This is demonstrated visually as Ed goes back and forth (much like Gollum did), alternating between arguing with his sane side and his deep-seated fears, insecurities, and moral indiscretions. It was cool to watch. (Now if only Ed would have uttered, “My precious!” That would have killed it!)
The chief plot here, though, is the culmination of the war instigated by Penguin between Falcone and Maroni. The fact Gotham is even in this state of open combat is thanks to its pent up darkness so, when allowed to release, it explodes into violent chaos, much like how Barbara and Ed burst when their darker natures seep through. Likewise, this is a great visual display of going out with the “old man” and in with the “new man” as the two old-hat mobsters are checkmated, making way for Oswald Cobblepot to ascend the throne as Gotham’s new criminal king.
Evidently, Maroni was the character teased as the villain who was to be killed off. (In the comics, I believe Maroni is put on trial and is the one responsible for turning Harvey Dent into Two Face by throwing acid on him). To be fair, Maroni’s death wasn’t a huge shocker but I was still surprised. I was equally surprised that Falcone rode off into the sunset, especially after Oswald brashly confessed that he had been plotting Falcone’s demise from the start. Perhaps Falcone saw this as a losing battle and would rather leave the city with his pride and life intact than try to fight a new rival. In a way, Falcone gets what deserves as it was he who so callously said that Penguin was an “odd little man” who could never become a boss. However, to his credit, Falcone admits the error of his ways and tells Jim that, “Gotham needs a law man, not a criminal like me.” Thus like Barbara, Falcone doesn’t believe people can truly be good as he gives Jim a knife that Jim’s father had passed down to him. In Falcone’s mind, no place is safe as he says that Jim’s father was a good man but even he carried a knife.
So that was two mobster heavyweights down. What about the third? Fish Mooney returns and places her bid to become Gotham’s queen and even garners Selena Kyle as an ally. But, of course, she has to contend with those pesky rivals. I have been hard on Fish and, truth be told, I liked her inclusion early on as it provided a sinister camp factor that fit in with the show’s tone. But after Falcone uncovered her plot to dethrone him, I felt her character arc should have ended. What really irked me was her almost constant presence in every episode after that, which took time and attention away from the canon characters. But I am glad she stuck around because she provided me with two redeeming bits in the end – comic relief and poetic justice.
First, Fish has a Barb Wire moment when she insists that Maroni not call her “babes.” But the best moment was, of course, when Penguin finally got his just desserts against his former boss.
The showdown between Penguin and Fish was nothing short of perfection, and I couldn’t have imagined it going down any other way. Aside from her death marking the end of an era in Gotham, it also contained interesting parallels. Rather than shooting or stabbing Fish, Penguin decides to heave her from the rooftop into the churning waters below. This was especially fitting as a watery grave would have been Penguin’s fate had Jim not, at the last minute, spared him in the pilot. (Not to mention that penguins are predators and fish are their chief diet, so it only makes sense for a penguin to slaughter a measly fish.) This was justice at its best and makes me all the more eager to see how Penguin handles matters now that his major rivals are gone. Because if there’s one thing about a crown, it’s this – there will always be folks who want to snatch it away. But for now, the kingdom belongs to Oswald Cobblepot.
In the end, I believe Bruno Heller said that the characters on the show are broken people and that’s certainly true. But what’s more fascinating is seeing how these broken people elect to piece themselves together. If I may sidestep into literature for just a moment, this whole set up of seeing flawed people try to fill their lives with sundry things is akin to the emotional and spiritual overtones of J. K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy. While not my favorite work of hers, she touches on a good point that everyone has a “vacancy” on the inside and people will try to fill it with whatever they can. In the case of the characters of “Gotham” this runs the gamut from respect, to love, to power, and all points in between.
But what keeps some of the characters on track – and others in check – is that despite the darkness, there is light through the good deeds the characters do or when they do good they don’t intend. Likewise, the fact the good guys and gals haven’t packed up and gotten out of Dodge (or make that Gotham) is that they have hope that the city can be redeemed or at least its darker forces can be kept under control. In one scene, Loeb asserts to Jim that, “Hope is for losers.” But Loeb is mistaken. It is hope that keeps people moving on and continuing to do good. In fact, the virtues of faith, hope, love, and even grace are at work behind the scenes in Gotham, which keeps the city afloat: it’s not a lost cause and it’s worth saving and fighting for.
Overall, the season one finale hit every high mark I was hoping for. This was right on par with a “24” finale with its grandiose dramatic scope, unexpected surprises, adrenaline-infused pacing, and overall wrap-up that’s satisfying but leaves you wanting more, not out of a sense of lack but out of sense of what happens now?!?
But, alas, we must wait.
In closing, I want to express my gratitude to all of my blog’s readers and visitors who have perused my meandering “Gotham” musings. I hope, if for nothing else, you gleaned a nugget of fresh insight or a cool ponderable about the show, its themes, or its characters. That’s why I decided to jot down these reviews because I love to analyze pop culture. It’s nothing fancy but I hope it’s been fun. I looked forward to writing these reviews every week, and I will miss doing so during “Gotham”‘s summer hiatus.