It’s been eighty-seven days since Gotham City was declared a No Man’s Land by the United States government, and things are progressing at about the same rate as anyone familiar with Gotham would be expecting them to. Barbara Kean and Tabitha Galavan have transformed the Sirens into a women’s-only area where men have to buy time to come visit, but the rules are strict, and anyone seen breaking those rules will be harmed by a gleefully vicious Tabitha. Barbara is also in charge of food distribution, having lots of steak and other things at her apparent disposal, which she can use to barter with the other territories of Gotham City.
Those other territories include Gotham’s armory and City Hall, where Penguin has come to roost; the north side, which is embroiled in a territory war between Mr. Freeze and Firefly; James Gordon, Harvey Bullock, and the rest of the GCPD have the precinct and the area around it, and Gotham’s west side is under the control of the Scarecrow and his cronies (crow-nies? Sorry, not sorry), all of whom are busy terrifying and crucifying those whom they feel need to be terrified and/or crucified.
There are, of course, some unaccounted for. No one knows where Jeremiah Valeska has gone to hide, but he definitely makes his presence felt near the end of the episode when Gordon finds a map of Gotham with a pair of cartoon eyes drawn over them, along with a series of blood-red haha’s written into the shape of a smile. Bruce is at the hospital with Selina during all of his free time, and Selina is perhaps going into her darkest period, which is understandable. She’s been paralyzed by Jeremiah, and it was simply for being Bruce’s friend. She clearly regrets their friendship because of it, and wishes she was dead, and currently there seems to be nothing that Bruce can do to help her, except for help pay for expensive surgeries that have so far done nothing. A helpful(?) nurse at the hospital does have one suggestion, though. Take Selina to the Witch, because the Witch can help.
Everyone in Gotham City needs supplies of some kind – food, ammunition, medical supplies. Barbara trades Penguin a thousand pounds of meat for a thousand pounds of ammunition. Bruce tries having supplies shipped into Gotham from outside – he's the only one with the resources available to do such a thing – but the chopper it comes in on is shot down and a war rages over the supplies, though eventually Gordon and company are the ones who are able to get them.
As always, new allies are formed, and new enemies are made. While Bruce and Gordon’s friendship is strengthened by what Gotham is going through, and Barbara’s enmity with Penguin is deepened when he brutally murders Tabitha Galavan during the fight for the contents of the supply helicopter. Things will, of course, eventually sort themselves out for the grand finale of the final season. After all, at the beginning of the episode there is a flash forward, a year and some months into Gotham City’s having been called a No Man’s Land, and it features a team-up between Gordon, Bullock, Penguin, and Riddler, fighting for the sake of Gotham.
As it enters its final season, Gotham continues on with the confidence it gained during the latter half of its fourth season. There are a lot of interesting things happening, but even as the episode goes on, it becomes clear that what we’re getting as of now is still more of the same – stalling, waiting for some bigger, grander moment to come along. That tends to be the issues with prequel stories – Smallville struggled with it for all of its seasons until the very end, when Clark was finally allowed to put on the iconic Superman suit – and Gotham even now is struggling to wait until Bruce is officially Batman, which is rumoured to happen in the very final episode of the season, an episode which takes places ten years in Gotham’s future. What that means for the rest of this season remains to be seen, but Gotham does set up some juicy tidbits for future episodes. Plus, it has to be said: Gotham still manages to be fun, especially if someone embraces the complete batshit insanity of the series, where it started out from, and where it’s gone.
Tabitha Galavan’s death is one of the big moments in the season opener, and while it’s definitely an inciting incident that’s going to galvanize (Galavanize? Sorry, not sorry) Barbara Kean into action, it’s also a death that feels both inevitable and unearned. Despite being a regular character, Tabitha never really did anything, beyond looking attractive and holding her knife to someone’s throat. Her relationships with both Barbara and Butch were never deeply explored, and though she was the one to train Selina when Selina joined the Sirens, it was more of an informed plot point than it was one that was portrayed with detail on screen. Ultimately, Tabitha was always going to be cannon fodder, it was only a question of when. It’s unfortunate too, because Jessica Lucas is capable of more, but with so much going on, Gotham was never able to really dig deep with her.
Barbara Kean is someone who the series really struggled with from season to season, and she’s gone through so many permutations, from dull love interest and art gallery owner to cheating fiancée to murderess to a bonafide crazy person to nightclub owner and leader of the League of Shadows. It’s been a wild, wild journey, and while for a moment it seemed as though the Gotham writers truly had no idea what to do with her (a common problem for the designated, show-starting love interest of the protagonist for any superhero show, look at Lana Lang from Smallville and Dinah Laurel Lance from Arrow for further proof) she’s somehow emerged as one of the show’s most interesting, dynamic characters. The thing that makes Barbara great is her unpredictability – where she will go next – and now that she truly has a beef with a Penguin, exciting things are almost certainly on the horizon for her. Kudos has to be given to Erin Richards too – she’s rolled with everything the writers have thrown at her, and she’s pulled it off with élan, creating a wonderful, layered, complex, wild character.
Jim Gordon and Bruce are both on their own, intertwined journeys, and it’s nice seeing Gordon reaching a place where he’s taking command and no longer struggling with his internal darkness, and allowing Bruce to grow up and be an ally instead of a kid who should be hidden away at Wayne Manor. Selina’s own story is sad and tragic – a character full of life, who was once described by Gordon as being a hell of a survivor, now wishing she had died instead. It’s clear from previews that Selina isn’t going to stay immobile forever, and it’s clearer still that Bruce is going to take Selina to this Witch character to heal her.
The Witch’s identity is a mystery for now, but Gotham has also checked in with every big player from the end of season four with the exception of one – Dr. Leslie “Lee” Thompkins. We’ve even gotten a little check in with the Riddler and with Jeremiah, but nothing from Lee, which makes one wonder if Lee isn’t the Witch that the nurses are speaking of. After all, as a doctor and a healer, it makes sense that Lee would somehow gain the ability to heal people. Besides, she collapsed with the Riddler at the end of the last season, and he’s certainly – well, “okay” is pushing it – but he’s alive and functioning. One wonders how Selina will be healed though, and what form that healing will take. It’s entirely possible that similar to movie versions of the character (as well as the television Birds of Prey incarnation of the character), Selina will gain some sort of superpowered abilities to push her into her future Catwoman persona. Whatever the case, it’s doubtful that Bruce and Selina will be as close as they were at the end of the last season, and how their relationship will play out is going to be interesting to witness.
It’s good to see Gotham back, and one hopes that with this shortened season, they lay off of the decompressed storytelling that they’ve used in the longer, more bloated seasons, and pare it down to a strong story with a strong finish, as befits a show as ambitious as this.
As Gotham starts up its fifth and final season, it remains quintessentially Gotham - crazy, wild, unpredictable, and fun, especially if you can let go of any preconceived notions and just go along for the ride.
Gotham: Year Zero Begins
Writing - 8/108/10
Storyline - 8/108/10
Acting - 8/108/10
Music - 7/107/10
Production - 8/108/10
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