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Gotham: Year Zero

Bullock: "I swear to God, I am never paying taxes again!"

After a lengthy hiatus, Gotham finally returns to the air and must now battle the dilemma of distinguishing the chaotic 'no man's land' from what everyday life in Gotham City is like.

When we last left our heroes, Jeremiah Valeska had cut off Gotham from the outside world via explosives, and the pale-faced bloke turned the city into a battleground between baddies. Here in 'Year Zero' – an episode that turns out to share nothing in common with the comic 'Year Zero' except the name – Jeremiah has pulled a Houdini and left Bruce Wayne and the GCPD to begin reclaiming territory from the villains this series could afford to pay for screentime: Penguin, Barbara, Tabitha and Scarecrow. Without law or order in the city, the one theme left to unite the main cast is that of survival. Ammunition, food, water, and territory all now become essentials in order to endure, and most of the characters are now additionally dedicated to the protection of at least somebody else.

Gordon, Bullock and Lucius Fox are balled up at the GCPD headquarters, protecting civilians that couldn't make it out of the city in time, and after 87 days, their resources are dwindling. Gotham may have almost a dozen further episodes to establish Gordon as the eagle-eyed and fearless leader of Gotham's police force seen in most Batman comics, but right now, it's a bit frustrating from the standpoint of the viewer to try and understand why Gordon is the guy we all need to be looking up to at the moment. He may have the trenchcoat and he may make all the inspiring speeches, but at the end, we've still yet to see what – we've yet to see anything – that helps us understand why Gordon is our hero or why this conflict is personal to him. Frankly, I'm convinced he's only still here establishing leadership and settling guidelines because, as a cop, it's all he knows how to do.

On the flip side, we have Bruce Wayne; not only does he see Jeremiah as partially his responsibility given the nature of their feud last season, he also nearly lost his best friend/love interest in a potentially fatal accident during the events leading up to no man's land. Now Bruce has sworn to not only assist the survivors trapped within Gotham, but to also track down Jeremiah and deliver justice as a means to avenge Selina. If anything, no man's land is much more personal for Bruce than it ever was for Gordon, and the series now has an excellent opportunity to show Bruce hunting through villain territories and battling rogues all just to get to Jeremiah. From the sound of future episode synopses, we might be getting just that soon...

To lend a hand to the boys in blue, Bruce exploits the fact that he's still wealthy enough to purchase Balmoral Castle, and flies in a chopper of food, water and medicine for those taking refuge at the GCPD HQ.

But this is Gotham City after all, and we all know how a convenient panacea like that would end.

Much like the premise of Designated Survivor, an unknown assailant takes out the chopper, and a four-way duel between the Low Boys gang, Penguin's goons, the GCPD, and Tabitha Galavan ensues for the precious supplies. In retrospect, 'four-way' is used loosely here, because Tabitha really only cares about killing Penguin as revenge for him executing Butch last season. Things don't go as Tabitha planned, and she ends up mortally stabbed through the heart by Penguin. And if Gotham were hoping that this turn of events would get them through my 'How To Design a Shocking and Most Unexpected Character Death' lecture, I'd have to fail them on the spot, because I've marked Tabitha as a goner ever since Penguin sealed her doomed during Season 4's finale. I think Tabitha's very much worn out her welcome anyway as a character ever since the end of the St. Dumas Arc back in Season 2, and she abruptly had no relevance anymore to the story other than being the Thing 2 to Barbara's Thing 1.

Meanwhile, Nygma has begun waking up in quite an odd assortment of locations. First a trashed rooftop. Next, a garbage can. He begins to suspect that it is his alternate personality messing with him and taking control of his body while he's blacked out. You know, during Season 4's finale, I remember a hearty bit of speculation was aimed at what monstrous type of experiments Dr. Hugo Strange was going to conduct on Nygma and Lee Thompkins in order to resurrect them. I wasn't alone in that speculation either, but somehow, the showrunners sensed the fanbase's collective guesswork and decided instead to shelve any indications about what Strange did to Nygma in favor of showing Nygma trying to, once again, get his mind, memory, and bearings straight. Just like how Season 4 opened with him. I can't deny Cory Michael Smith has done a fantastic job of bringing the maddened state of Edward Nygma to the screen for years now, but newfangled approaches are essential in storytelling, and there are still yet many new approaches to The Riddler that could be taken, for example, Paul Dini's run of Detective Comics, where Nygma lost his obsessions with riddles, and tried the path to reform by becoming a private investigator.

The highlight of 'Year Zero' comes in the form of a quite depressing crossroad for Selina Kyle. The bullet Jeremiah shot her with last season has left her with paralysis, and her spine is at the risk of collapsing. The cost of her freedom to work solo combined with the fact that she was attacked because she was associated with Jeremiah's true target – Bruce – has caused Selina to slip into a heavy depression, and it's admittedly upsetting to have to see her go through this. Anger, betrayal, angst, hurting, they're all sides of Selina we've seen time and again, but never suicidal, because as bad as things got, she was always someone who would never let herself get pushed to that point. The passion and raw emotion Camren Bicondova has brought to Selina for nearly five years has secured her as one of my favorite characters of the show, and I absolutely think she knocked it out of the park with her performance in the premiere, as dreary her character's circumstances are.

All in all, 'Year Zero' I guess is just homme moyen sensuel, but that doesn't necessarily dampen my enthusiasm still for Gotham's final run. I'm actually relieved to see that much of the footage we were shown in the trailers for Season 5 all comes from just 'Year Zero', meaning that what's left for us in store for the rest of the series is at best, all novel.

Other thoughts:

• I can't be the only one who groaned out loud when Gordon decided it wasn't worth it to waste a bullet on Scarecrow. One of the most powerful gangsters now in Gotham. Who is in possession of a hazardous and incapacitating fear gas. At point-blank range.

• Oswald sounds a bit too much like Earl of Lemongrab when he's screaming "Unacceptable!"

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

1 comment:

  1. Well that was very Gotham. Tabitha won't be missed. Except by Babs who wants to kill Ozzie.
    I wonder where Lee is? Alive and crazy like Ed?
    Was Ozzie's dog called Ed? ha ha.


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