Gotham: They Did What?

Gordon: "For Gotham!"

When FOX kicks the support beams out from under you and says that the narrative you had planned to normally span across a twenty-two episode season now has to be condensed down to ten episodes, I guess it makes sense that your last few episodes are going to feel more like a paint-by-numbers project as you struggle to quickly wrap up character arcs so that those characters in question can resemble their comic counterparts.

Any remaining characteristic that Gotham hasn't shown the genesis for is abruptly wrapped up here in 'They Did What?' - Oswald loses an eye and gets his monocle, Bruce summons a colony of bats, Gordon's daughter is named 'Barbara,' and Gordon gets his promotion to Commissioner. And there's really no weight behind any of these developments, they just sort of happen because... they need to happen. Last year, in Thomas Ijon Tichy's review of 'The Sinking Ship, The Grand Applause,' he mentioned how there wasn't much of a thread that connected the plot points or character moments of that episode, "Things Just Happen." And that's mostly how I feel about this sudden conclusion to 'They Did What?', things just happen and there's no rhythm or flow to a lot of them.

Nyssa abducts Barbara instead of just killing her like she said she was going to do, and wants to raise Barbara's child as her own. Barbara manages to stab her in the gut but she still walks it off. Nyssa locks Gordon and Barbara in a room so she can make her escape. Gordon is able to kick the door down anyway. Bane's invasion overpowers and takes over the GCPD but instead of killing Gordon and Bruce like he said he was going to do, he takes a detour just so he can ambush Bruce and Selina in an alleyway. Bruce saves Selina by summoning a colony of bats because of course he just happens to acquire at the last-minute sonar equipment. The terrified refugees of Gotham City attempting to flee underground return to the surface anyway so they can stare down Bane and a firing squad. Nyssa escapes in Oswald's submarine alone even though it was stated two people are needed to pilot that thing.

For once, I don't know if the cobbled-together writing here can be blamed solely on the showrunners though because simply we just don't know if their intended 'vision' for Season 5 was meant to last an entire year before FOX cut their air time down to size.


If there is a highlight though for this episode (and there are several, mind you), it begins with where we began this year. The sequence of Gordon, Bullock, Oswald and Nygma suiting up and taking the stand against Bane's army in a dire effort to protect the GCPD I confess had me energized and eyes glued to the screen, and even if it's incredibly jarring that for some reason this sequence occurs in daylight while the standoff shown in 'Year Zero' was happening at nightfall, it's an absolutely energizing scene. Never mind the fact that Bane's army, which supposedly outnumbered the GCPD six-hundred to thirty-one, has the firing accuracy of an Imperial Stormtrooper, this scene had wit, it had rapport, it even had a little bit of heart (turns out Oswald loses his eye while defending Nygma), and it's oddly enough a nice depiction too of an incredibly dysfunctional group willing to set aside past grudges to defend in any way they can the city that is a part of them, that has had a hand in each of their upbringings.

I was a little skeptical at first of why Oswald would be wiling to come back and put his life on the line for Gotham City after going through so much trouble to leave it behind and start life anew elsewhere. But of course, Robin Lord Taylor's performance in the office-sequence across from Gordon completely convinced me, and as much as I love his chemistry with Cory Michael Smith, Taylor and Ben McKenzie are also a phenomenal pair when they get scenes like this one. In many ways, their portrayals of Penguin and Gordon have shown they can at times be inverted versions of the same individual, and by now have established this nice ebb-and-flow of knowing when to work together, and when they can be at each other's throats.

It's unfortunate that so late in the game Gotham is somewhat hinting at a redemption arc for Barbara because she's so endearing and likable when she's anything but a psychotic mob boss. I liked her character just fine enough for the first half of Season 1, and even though as a character, she's been through the grinder time and time again, but Erin Richards, like Taylor and Smith, just has that charm to her that makes her enjoyable to watch when she's spirited and vibrant as opposed to being so full of anger, venom and angst.

Shippers of Oswald and Nygma will probably seethe at the resolution to their arc until they're blue in the face, but I personally enjoyed it nonetheless. At the end of it all, Nygma's decided that he felt nothing, no hint of triumph, joy or euphoria, even when Gotham City is rejoicing for their salvation. The very city he put his life on the line to defend. Because it sickens him just knowing he had to associate himself with the civilian population that he considers intellectually inferior to him. Nygma relapsing into his megalomaniac egotistical persona is such a 'Riddler' thing of him to do, and it inspires Oswald to agree with his notion that they shouldn't have to ever think about changing who they are to please everyone else - they're criminal masterminds and if that's what fate has planned for them, then so be it. And as amusing as an on-screen visual it was, I don't think Nygma and Oswald secretly pulling blades on each other with the intention of double-crossing the other adds anything to this ending, simply because the scene succeeds in getting across anyway the notion that they're brothers-in-arms, and will be for the time being - blades or no blades.


Something I've been dreading for a while has finally reared its ugly head in this episode, and because we now know the series finale is actually a time-jump, there's no room at all left for Gotham to resolve it: the very reason Batman even exists in the first place. In the five years we have journeyed with Bruce Wayne on his quest to rise one day as Gotham's caped crusader, Gotham has forgotten to address two core aspects to what makes Batman... well, Batman. And those are why does Bruce Wayne/Batman need to work outside the law and why is Bruce's motif bats?

Rather than deliver on the indication that Bruce was going to be infiltrating and dissolving gang factions throughout the city this year, Bruce instead spends much of this season assisting the GCPD, and by the end of this season, not only is Gordon's lineup of cops shown to be capable of holding off Bane's army of grunts, but it is a mob of ordinary civilians that is able to coerce Bane's army into standing down and turning on Bane himself. In the end, we can't help but wonder then 'why would this city even need a lawless vigilante?' What has shown Bruce that the municipal government of the city is incapable of enforcing proper law and order?

And then there's the bat motif. "But Aaron, Bruce had a vision of bats and Batman back in Season 4!" I understand that, but that isn't enough. That silhouette with the signature bat ears poking up in Bruce's vision still needs a point of origin. In response to that argument, Batman cannot create himself. Otherwise, what is stopping Bruce from fashioning his cowl and armor to resemble just about anything he wants? The design and appearance of Batman is tied in many renditions of the character to Bruce's fear of bats themselves. Several times in the past it has been hinted by David Mazouz among others that Bruce's fear of bats would be a plot point explored in this series, but ultimately, that never came to pass. Yes, Lucius gives Bruce some tech that utilizes sonar which just happens to have a side effect of attracting certain animals, but at this point in the series, when we're so close to the finish line, this feels more than anything else like an afterthought as opposed to a development that will leave an impact on Bruce and something he feels is necessary to incorporate into his campaign of vigilantism.

I almost feel like my energy could be best utilized in other departments then commenting on what a trainwreck Gotham's interpretation of Nyssa Al Ghul is. Almost. For goodness' sake, the series itself seems to even have no concept of this character's identity because literally any quote delivered by a character concerning Nyssa contains what we already know - that she wants Bruce and Barbara dead, and she wants to destroy Gotham. Over and over again, that's spoon-fed to the viewer, like they're fussy children and Gotham is the mother trying to get them to eat their peas. For all her bluster that she is an 'Al Ghul' and that stronger people than Gordon and Barbara have tried and failed to kill her, in the end, she scampers off with her tail between her legs (unknowingly dog-napping Edward the bulldog in the process. That absolutely hurt me.), marking her as the final of many quite forgettable antagonists Gotham has had to offer. Do I even need to comment on the low blow that is this character threatening a defenseless infant with a dagger?

So in the end, Gotham City earns its salvation, Gordon gets his promotion, and Bruce pulls the "Dear John" letter trope from Season 3's finale and uses it to tell Selina that he's leaving Gotham City for...reasons. The real kicker here was knowing though that Camren Bicondova has evidently been recast as an older Selina Kyle for Gotham's series finale, which genuinely saddens me now knowing that a scene containing her realizing Bruce has also essentially walked out on her life is the last moment we have with this actress.

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

3 comments:

Thomas Ijon Tichy said...

Dear Aaron,

I admire your resiliency in actually continuing to review this and doing a good job of it. I kinda know what it takes. :)

Aaron Studer said...

Thanks, that means a lot!

Anonymous said...

Nice review. I wonder if the Selina/Bruce shippers liked this ending. Can't imagine so.
Nyssa didn't work, sorry Jaime Murray.
I liked that Babs lived, and that she helped.
As an Ed/Ozzie shipper I was okay with this ending for them. The brothers line was kinda pointless, so let's ignore it. The writer claimed it wasn't his but added later. Okay.
Let's see if next week's epilogue works.
mazephoenix