Gotham Season 5 Episode 1 Review: Year Zero

It’s a free-for-all as the Gotham season 5 premiere starts things off with some No Man’s Land action.

This Gotham review contains spoilers.

Gotham Season 5 Episode 1

At long last, the grand finale of Gotham begins. Gotham has always been a throw it to the wall and see what sticks potpourri of madness and it looks like for the final season, all semblance of self-restraint is thrown out the window as Gotham plunges into the madness of No Man’s Land.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, because while comic purists have always wanted to play a connect the dots game with comic book continuity, Gotham has consistently gone its own way and presented its own, shall we say, unique take on the Batman legend (we’re looking at you Jerome and Jeremiah). 

Needless to say, with a series finale looming, all bets are off. Characters could die or be eradicated from the Bat mythos because, for a show that’s entire premise is a promise of tomorrow, there is no tomorrow. And while Gotham will be missed, it’s getting crowded in the Batman without Batman TV series world. Think about it, not including Gotham, there will soon be three other TV series that are going to be Batman adjacent without actually featuring Batman. 

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There’s DC Universe’s Titans, there’s the upcoming Batwoman TV series, and there’s Pennyworth, an Alfred prequel of all things, with Gotham‘s Bruno Heller at the helm. Heck man, that’s a lot of Batman not Batman out there. So Gotham’s final season is going to have to stand out. And the first episode of the new season gets off to a fun start with the usual mount of plate spinning and scenery chewing. Because kids, ‘less we forget: This is Gotham

Things start off big with what seems to be a flash forward as Gordon, Bullock, Riddler, and Penguin lead a Helm’s Deep like defense against unknown invading hordes.  This is all very appropriate because these four characters are basically our Gotham core four. While the series has gone very deep into the Bat legend and very deep into some strange places (that’s more TV Solomon Grundy than I ever imagined possible), the series has always orbited around James, Harvey, Edward, and Oswald.

Yes, there has always been a deep focus on Selina as well but she could not be featured in this flash forward tease because of reasons that will be made clear in a bit. Needless to say, No Man’s Land is going to get ugly very quickly and when you think about it, No Man’s Land is the perfect crazypants Bat story to close out Gotham.

After all, Gotham has become bloated with Bat villains so a No Man’s Land inspired story arc to end the series allows for every villain introduced to play a part in the final episodes. Here’s the breakdown: 

Penguin controls city hall and the Gotham armory, Barbara Kean and her Sirens control the area around Barbara’s club and also control food distribution, the west of Gotham is controlled by Scarecrow (still wearing the best freakin’ comic accurate costume in super hero media), Firefly and Mister Freeze are warring for the north of Gotham, and the GCPD controls the area around the precinct while caring for the citizens of the besieged city. Plus, we are left with a few wild cards. We don’t know where Lee Thompkins or Hugo Strange are, Riddler is waking up in dumpsters as his Edward Nygma personality tries to reinsert itself, Jeremiah is still among the missing, and we still have the enigma of the newly introduced Orphan. Man, that’s a lot of plot.  

So where’s Bruce Wayne in all this, you ask? Bruce is with Selina who is paralyzed after the tragic events of the last season finale. But Bruce has not abandoned his civic responsibility as, through Lucius Fox, Bruce is supplying Gordon and the GCPD with supplies. This week, Brice orders a chopper delivery, which kicks off the man action for the season five premiere. 

As for Selina, seeing the always confident and capable young woman paralyzed has the emotional resonance it’s supposed to. It’s hard to watch such a powerful portrayal of Catwoman confined to a bed, and it’s all played with the appropriate amount of gravitas despite the camp trappings of the rest of the series. There is hope, as Selina undergoes an experimental surgery to restore some of her mobility, but during the operation, Scarecrow raids GCPD and the hospital where Selina is being operated on. This leads to the most Batman moment of arguably the entire series so far as Brice dons night vision goggles to take down Scarecrow and his goons. Scarecrow makes off with a ton of prescription drugs leaving Bruce desperate to help Selina. This would all be just mindless action without Selina at the heart of it. Later in the episode, Selina tries to kill herself because she can’t stand being crippled. 

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read more: The Many Deaths of the Joker

It seems like through the whole No Man’s Land ordeal, it will be Selina’s life that will be the highest stakes.  But there is a dark hope. A mysterious nurse tells Bruce, “She needs the Witch.” Who can the witch be? Might it be Lee Thompkins? When last we saw Lee, she was dying but in the insidious hands of Hugo Strange?  Or is there a new player in Gotham? Because with our boat load of current characters and with Bane and Harley on the way, one not just front load the final season with a hardcover DC’s Who’s Who worth of players? 

So really, none of heroes start off the season in a good place, nor does the Riddler. But somehow, Penguin is doing better than ever. He is munching on steak and feeding his bulldog (named Edward in a nice touch) more vittles than most Gotham citizens eat. He controls the flow of bullets and has kind of become the Gotham version of Negan. Penguin even gets a Dark Knight Rises inspired knee brace to help with his limp. So when Bruce’s copter goes down thanks to a mystery assailant (Bane? Jeremiah?), Penguin and the GCPD led by Gordon race to retrieve the much needed supplies. 

A standoff ensues until Tabitha Galavan shows up to kill Penguin. Don’t forget, Penguin killed Butch right after Butch was cured of the Grundy curse. Butch died in Tabby’s arm and Barbara Kean’s gal Friday has sworn revenge. It’s a fun standoff with Penguin taking the fallen copter, GCPD arriving and Tabby Galavan making her last stand for Butch. And it all ends badly as our cast whittles down by one. Penguin gets the upper hand on Tabby and stabs her in the heart. Barbara arrives to see her most trusted confidant die, so I guess Barbara will be motivated by revenge this season as the multipart gang war heats up.  

Bruce and Gordon end up with the chopper swag as we close things out with a subtle but effective change to the Bruce/Gordon dynamic. After the battle with Scarecrow and the battle to save the supplies, Bruce really stepped up to help save the day. It’s clear that Gordon does not see Bruce as a kid anymore. Gordon is no longer Bruce’s caretaker; he is Bruce’s peer as the Batman and Commissioner Gordon bond continues to evolve.

But Bruce and viewers are left unsatisfied because Selina is still essentially a suicidal vegetable and Bruce will have to help her fight her toughest fight as Gotham slowly starves and burns. Well, that should certainly make for a dramatic new season as we are left with the questions of who shot down the copter and who is the Witch?

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I guess we’ll find out nest week, same Bat time, same bat channel. 

Gotham Central

– Of course, this final season of Gotham is inspired by the famous No Man’s Land storyline. No Man’s Land was published in 1999 and ran through the pages of Batman, Detective Comics, Batman Chronicles, Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight, Batman: Shadow of the Bat, Catwoman, Nightwing, Robin, and Young Justice. It was written by (deep breath) Jordan B. Gorfinkel, Greg Rucka, Chuck Dixon, Scott Beatty, Paul Dini, Bob Gale, Devin K. Grayson, Kelley Puckett, Larry Hama, and Bronwyn Carlton with art by (deeper breath) Greg Land, Andy Kuhn, Yvel Guichet, Alex Maleev, Dale Eaglesham, Frank Teran, Phil Winslade, Damion Scott, Dan Jurgens, Mike Deodato, Tom Morgan, Mat Broome, and Sergio Cariello. 

No Man’s Land began after Batman: Cataclysm, a story in which an earthquake ravages Gotham City. Due to the frequent horrors inflicted on Gotham from disasters and villains, the US government cuts Gotham off from the rest of the United States. The villains of Gotham separate the city into fiefdoms with only the Bat Family and the GCPD preventing total anarchy. 

Some notable occurrences that took place in No Man’s Land are the debut of the modern Batgirl (the one with the stitched up mask that is now known as Orphan) and the DC Universe proper debut of Harley Quinn! That’s pretty appropriate since Gotham has promised the long awaited debut of its Harley during this TV version of No Man’s Land. The Nolanverse entry The Dark Knight Rises also borrowed elements of No Man’s Land

– Bruce’s fighting style is really becoming Batman like what with the stealth takedowns and the night vision goggles. The scene this week of Bruce taking down Scarecrow’s goons is really reminiscent of the Scarecrow fight sequences in Batman Begins.

– Who’s the Witch? Batman has had a long association with Zatanna, but is Gotham ready to connect with the mystical elements of the DCU? 

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3.5 out of 5