Gotham: No Man's Land

Bruce: "I remember the night we met. You told me the world may seem dark..."
Gordon: "But there is light."

I absolutely relish this idea that Oswald has to scream bloody-murder, quite like Daniel Stern stepping on a booby trap in the form of a single nail, everytime he enters a gunfight. No particular benefit to the act - he just does it for some reason.

As we draw near to the season premiere of Gotham's final season, I've been given the gracious offer to share my own thoughts regarding where we last left this series in its fourth season finale. And watching Season Four's finale gave me a very strange case of déjà vu. Last year, after Gotham finished its third season on the note that young Master Bruce Wayne was going to make a covert career out of basically becoming proto-Batman, it gave me a quick retort to several nay-sayers I knew at the time that had not seen Gotham. They were also puzzled by the fact that DC Comics and Warner Brothers simply couldn’t give us a live-action Batman television series. My retort to that last year usually was something along the lines of “we practically have that now! Just wait ‘till Season Four!” Well, Season Four has come and gone, having only given us but a glimpse of proto-Batman peppered throughout. No Man’s Land climaxes with a very similar declaration at the end of the hour that says “No, really, this time around, we really will show you the beginning of Batman!”

I don’t mean to say that Gotham’s finale here entirely exudes a feeling that we’ve been here before; indeed, the series’ showrunners were not bluffing or even exaggerating when they said that the fourth year’s finale would be a definite game-changer. No Man’s Land puts the show on a very straightforward path for its final season that seems to be, and hopefully will be, entirely contrasting in tone and atmosphere compared to what we have seen with Gotham for the last four years. And maybe it’s just the Batman fanboy in me talking, but dare I say, if the last five minutes of this episode are just an entrée for the main course that is Season Five, then color me impressed and ecstatic!

But let’s not get ahead here: in typical Gotham fashion, the series takes its colorful array of characters and gives us plot points and prime times for said cast to shine in the finale that we can stay in awe at even after the credits have rolled. But for every plot point I was exhilarated to see come to its conclusion, there then also were plot points that I have to look back on and go “uh, yep, THAT happened.” Part B of Season Four has propped up a rather fragile and out-of-left-field story arc involving Barbara Kean develop her own girls-only mob. And I do mean ‘fragile’; Barbara’s story arc this year always felt unable to stay neck-and-neck with the antics that were transpiring at the hands of the Valeska Brothers, or the ever-mounting chemistry that was blooming between Bruce and Selina, or even Lee and Nygma. Concluding this arc by turning Barbara into what can only sound like the stereotypical and hugely inaccurate caricature of a feminist who spouts that only “men are the issue here” isn’t a fruitful move to renew interest in her character, even if Gotham is only facing just one more season.

Moving up the list, the story arc of Lee Thompkins and Ed Nygma/Riddler also reaches its end, in quite the Shakespearean fashion too. After an entire season, it pains me so much to admit that there is disappointment in me for how Nygma’s character has been handled this year. The pairing of Nygma and Thompkins in itself was and is still welcome for me, as the chemistry between actors Cory Michael Smith and Morena Baccarin conveys something Lee’s previous relationship with Gordon was clearly lacking. But at the end of this season, I’m left still scrutinizing with no success over what the exact point was of pairing the two off romantically. Sure, we know that Lee enjoys working alongside the old Eddie Nygma, the one that’s similar to who Ed was when Lee was still at the GCPD. But once Ed reverted back to Riddler back in 'Reunion', it never felt like it was explicitly shown just why Lee would bother continuing to work alongside arguably the persona that was responsible for killing Kristin and framing Gordon for his crimes back in Season Two. Because…he dresses dapper? Hey Lee, Bradley Cooper always dresses snazzy too, but I'd at least make sure be bought me dinner first and had no skeletons in his trendy closet before I made him my consigliere.

And Riddler himself feels too like something of a wasted opportunity in the latter half of this season. Gone are the days where Riddler prided himself on being the guy ten steps ahead of everyone else in his vicinity, gone are the days where Nygma shone alongside his OG partner-in-crime Oswald. Instead, what we have been given for the last two episodes is nothing short of a pissing match between Nygma and Gordon over the would-be femme fatale that Gordon just can’t seem to work things out with anyway.

But all is not lost. Even if my excitement to see the next stage of metamorphosis that Riddler goes through has dwindled as a result of the finale, my praise and eagerness to see more of Robin Lord Taylor as the Penguin has only gone up. For the second half of Season Four, Oswald has slowly been cultivating his revenge against Tabitha Galavan for murdering his mother two years ago, a plot point I had thought the showrunners had long since forgotten about. Oswald goes through the lengthy process of curing Butch/Solomon Grundy only to immediately shoot him point-blank and take him away from Tabitha – an eye for an eye as he puts it. The execution of the scene itself thrilled me, reminding me immediately what I had gathered after I had finished indulging in the very first season of Gotham – that Penguin is a character who you loathe, pity, fear and cheer for all at once, and seeing him bide his time until he can come out on top at the very end again makes me hope that we will see a Penguin more in his prime and more reminiscent of his more dastardly and wily personality from Season 1 when Season Five comes around. And when I say “in his prime”, I mean that with only twelve episodes to complete Season Five with, I implore the showrunners to simply skip this time over the ‘old hat’ (or old top hat in Oswald's case) of Penguin losing his everything as a result of placing too much trust in somebody, and then having to work his way back up over the rest of the series.

The rest of the finale honors what I know as ‘the norm’ of the Gotham series; Gordon is as righteous as the current set of circumstances demand that he be, remaining next-to-deadpan while doing so; anything that could resemble Bruce and Selina being as happy as clams in a butter sauce is taken away again as Selina is, quite literally, wheeled out at the beginning of the finale, leaving the viewers to throw their arms up in frustration at the fact that we have to watch, yet again, how Bruce and Selina will be at odds with one another once the events of the no man's land begin full-force in January.

For Gotham, certainly not every episode can wear the accomplishment of ‘finest hour of weekly television shenanigans” but it does flourish by merely being entertaining and enthralling every step of the way at least, a veil I wish the series good luck in maintaining as it enters its final season in January.

Aaron Studer loves spending his time reading, writing and defending the existence of cryptids because they can’t do it themselves.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm torn between wanting them to have gone there all the way with Ed and Ozzie romantically as in requited by both, and thinking it's fine as is. They could have done the kiss-kiss-stab thing just as well as Lee/Ed. Oh well.
Barbara is really in a bad way now. Couldn't Ras empire have gone to Nyssa instead? His daughter, a blood relative, not some random lover.
Then Nyssa could tempt Bruce with it or something.
Great review btw.
mazephoenix