‘Gotham’: Going Out With A Bang

Before the announcement that Gotham was getting a fifth and final season that’ll probably be shorter than the others, I’d accepted that the show was probably going to be over soon. I’d half expected that this season would be the last, and we’d never get closure on the cliffhanger we’re supposed to be getting. I’m unbelievably relieved that I was wrong about that.

Prequels have expiration dates. I knew that going in. They have limits on how long they can exist and how much time they can span, because if they didn’t, they wouldn’t be prequels anymore. And I’m very glad that the show didn’t become a zombie franchise, going on for season after season, past the point of them having any kind of long arching story or plan. In the world where so many shows keep going after they should have concluded, it’s really nice to see something stopping. We’re going to get a planned ending, rather than being left hanging after a cancellation. The show is going to go out on its own terms, and that’s the best I could have hoped for.

It’s my absolute favourite comic book show, and I’ve watched a lot of those. Even if I’ve never finished them, I’ve watched at least a few episodes of all of them – from 60s Batman to Agents of Shield – so I think I can safely say, none of them are quite like  Gotham. That’s not to say they’re bad. In fact, many of them are very good. But none of them have Gotham‘s way of both respecting canon and completely tossing it out the window whenever they feel it’s necessary.

I’ve heard the show described as the love child of the Nolan and Burton movies, and while I think that’s true to an extent, I also think it does a disservice to the  Gotham writers and the show’s individual merits. Every new adaptation will be compared and contrasted with the ones that came before it. That’s a given. But Gotham is unique. So many different things come together to create something that’s consistently enjoyable to watch, like how:

  1. It’s aesthetically pleasingOut of all the comic book shows out there, this one most feels like it’s taking place in reality.
  2. It has interesting villains that are fun to watch and can be legitimately intimidating. Take Penguin – he’s an all around pretty terrible dude. He kills a whole bunch of people without even blinking. But he also has a few redeeming qualities, like his love for his mom, and enough pet the dog moments that we don’t completely hate him. And beyond that, he’s just likeable. He’s entertaining and funny, and whenever he’s on screen, I know I’m in for a good time. He’s terrible at being a mafioso, I’m pretty sure he’s lost and regained a crime empire at least once a season, and his tenure as mayor lasted, like, a week, but that’s the fun of it!
  3. It’s hilarious, while also having a lot of successfully emotional scenes. Those things coexist without overpowering each other.
  4. It’s true to the spirit of the source material. It’s a love letter to the Batman mythos. It’s filled with mythology references from every kind of Batman related media – the comics, the Burton movies, the Nolan movies, Batman: The Animated Series – while also being unafraid of trying something new. Every good adaptation takes some risks and tries new things. Gotham is no different.

I’ll admit, the show took a while to find itself. If you go back and watch a season one episode after seeing something from season four, the contrast is shocking. There’s been a major shift, both thematically and tonally. And I think it was almost certainly a shift for the better. But I – and clearly a lot of others – still saw something compelling there, even in that first season. For whatever reason, I kept watching, and I am so glad that I did. Gotham has gotten progressively better over the seasons, at least as far as I’m concerned. Season two was better than season one. Season three was better than season two. And season four? Season four is just awesome.

This season has been badass. Writers and actors alike have been outdoing themselves every episode. The performances have been outstanding. Especially David Mazouz – he started off good and has consistently gotten better as the show progressed so that he’s never been out of his depth next to any of the more experienced actors, but his work this season has been even more impressive than anything from before. The season has everything that I liked about the previous seasons with even better execution. When I thought that this season would be the last, the fact that it’s so good was my consolation – if it was going out, it was going out on a really high note.

We’ve been told that the season four finale will be a major shift in the premise of the show. Normally hearing that would make me worry they’re going to jump the shark and that the next season will be a drop in quality. But when it comes to Gotham, I’m not worried at all, because every time I think they’re not going to be able to top an episode, they do. Every episode has so much heart in it. I may not always agree with their creative choices, but they certainly know how to entertain. Whatever else happens, I’m sure I’ll at least have a good time watching.

Gotham isn’t just a Batman origin story. Partially, sure – one of the storylines that’s been ongoing since the beginning is about how Bruce got to a point where he felt he needed to dress like a bat and fight crime, expanding his backstory beyond deciding to beat up criminals after his parents were killed. But it’s also about how Jim Gordon’s evolution from detective to commissioner (even if we don’t see that full arc on screen). It’s about how Gotham itself went from a pretty ordinary city with a little more Mob violence and a slightly higher murder rate to wretched hive filled with super villains that needs the Dark Knight. The show is called Gotham, and that says it all – it’s the story of Gotham City.

Sure, maybe season five will be a bit of a let down. Who knows? But for its entire existence, Gotham has been worth watching, and I can’t wait to see how the show will be wrapped up in its final season.

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