This Gotham review contains spoilers.
A lot happens in the Gotham season one finale, as you would expect. But since it’s the season finale of Gotham, a lot of what happens is pure nonsense. I can sum up everything wrong with this finale fairly succinctly, though. Ready?
Gotham Logic: Kill an interesting character, but keep your most irritating, hated ones alive…or at least ambivalently dead…so they can live to annoy your audience another day.
You see, “All Happy Families Are Alike” may have a lot going on, but it also feels like everyone involved was just making things up as they went along until they ran out of time. The writers knew that by the end of season one, Oswald Cobblepot would be top dog in Gotham City. How he got there clearly didn’t matter…as long as he got to stand on that ledge and howl “I’m the king of Gotham!”
Robin Lord-Taylor was this show’s undisputed highlight all year long, but that particular moment reminded me more of this than anything else. And while I have to blame the writers and not the actor for this, he also delivered the obligatory “nothing personal” when he explained his master plan to the man he was supposed to kill. As a writer, you should have to put a large bill in the cliche jar any time one of your characters has to resort to that.
But speaking of cliches, we may as well discuss Fish Mooney. If you go back to my earliest Gotham reviews, you’ll see that I pegged her as a fascinating character to watch. I’m not sure when exactly I started to find her a laughable caricature, but it happened, and her “triumphant return” this week was a head-scratcher. Wasn’t she suffering from a gunshot wound the last time we saw her? She got better really quick.
Why Selina Kyle was in this episode at all, other than perhaps to fulfill a contractual obligation, was a similar mystery. Much has been made of Fish’s Catwoman-esque mannerisms, so you could see why Selina would gravitate towards her. Perhaps if this had happened, oh, I dunno, ten episodes ago, Selina suddenly idolizing Fish would make some degree of sense.
But perhaps the failing here is mine. Asking why any character behaves the way they do on this show or makes the choices they do is a fool’s errand. I should have learned this by now.
But can I at least ask why the writers do what they do?
Even Gotham supporters must agree that Barbara has been an odious, offensive character. At various points this season she has been: a one-dimensional love interest, a devious/promiscuous bisexual stereotype, a caricature of someone with addiction issues, and finally…a murderer. And not just any murderer. A murderer who then uses her recent trauma to attempt murder of her ex-boyfriend’s current lover.
(And remember, folks: Jim Gordon loves this woman so much that he’ll eventually name his daughter after her.)
As if that isn’t bad enough, all of this…all of this ridiculous horribleness culminates in a hair-pulling slap fight. Y’know, I realize Gotham is supposed to take place in a kind of ambivalent time period, but that shouldn’t extend to it being written like the writers are actually from 1954.
Anyway, she’s still alive. Don Maroni is dead (in what I’ll confess was a cool moment, and one of the few genuine surprises this show has ever delivered), but Barbara is alive. I’d rather not bring up the fact that Don Maroni is supposed to be the guy who scars Harvey Dent and creates Two-Face, because then it opens up the floor to the idea that I’m only harsh on Gotham because it deviates from established Batman mythology. That simply isn’t true. I’m harsh on Gotham because it kills relatively interesting characters (Maroni), retires the best actor on the show (John Doman’s Carmine Falcone), but keeps awful cartoon characters like Barbara Kean and Fish Mooney alive.
I’ll give the show this, they managed to establish the idea that the Riddler simply can’t help himself when it comes to leaving clues about his crimes. They made sure we knew it, too, because that scene went on forever. But I do think Cory Michael Smith can pull off a proper Riddler now, as his whole body language kinda changed and maybe, just maybe, there’s hope. But probably not. Because it still all came down to Miss Kringle and a typewritten note.
Bruce and Alfred are generally episode high points, but, ummmm…listen. Gotham literally gave away the last shot of the season finale (the Batcave tease) in the trailer for this episode. At this point, I pretty much expect Bruce and Alfred to descend that staircase and find an old Batman costume that Thomas Wayne once wore (see: “The First Batman” from Detective Comics #235).
Gotham defenders need to ask yourselves while we wait for season two: if you removed the familiar Batman brand names from this series…would it still hold the same appeal for you?