This Gotham review contains spoilers.
Gotham Season 5 Episode 11
As we begin the penultimate episode of Gotham, let us take a moment to appreciate the surprising changes the final story has sprung on us. When we first saw Bane, I’m sure most of us assumed he would soon be hitting a Roderick Strong worthy backbreaker (NXT!NXT!) on Bruce Wayne, but no, instead of Bane breaking the Bat, Bane broke the Butler. When we first saw a femme fatale with an accent, I’m sure most of us assumed that it would be Talia Al Ghul holding Bane’s leash (because we all saw Dark Knight Rises). But it was Nyssa Al Ghul, a character who has made a major impact on Arrow (Holy Multiverse!). So Gotham, like it has always done, is going its own way as it barrels towards a conclusion.
Things are getting really personal as Nyssa is attacking an already near helpless Gotham to take revenge for her fallen father. Remember, it was Bruce and Barbara Kean who forced Ra’s Al Ghul out of this mortal coil, and Nyssa aint having it. And this isn’t the Nyssa from Arrow. There’s no Sara Lance to push Nyssa to the side of the angels.
This is a Nyssa who will not hesitate to threaten an infant’s life in order to watch her adversary Barbara Kean squirm. This is a Nyssa already completely poisoned by her demonic father, a Nyssa who sees Gotham City as just another corrupt empire to watch burn. I mean, it’s all a bit over the top as Jaime Murray (she of Dexter and Spartacus fame) slinks and gasps her way through monologues, but hey, it’s Gotham! If you want subtleties in your femme fatales, Cersi Lannister and Game of Thrones are back. But, a bit surprisingly, Nyssa isn’t going to kill the baby, the product of Barbara and Jim Gordon’s ill-timed coitus, and Nyssa, through Bane, still controls the US military presence in Gotham so you know things are going to get all Helm’s Deep.
Because of Nyssa and Bane, in this, Gotham’s most dire hour, unexpected heroes rise. Some really, really, really unexpected heroes: like Penguin. When one imagines Gotham being sieged, one does not imagine Oswald Cobblepot as a heavily armed savior. But he is, because Penguin is just as much as part of Gotham as Gordon and the GCPD, as Bruce and Alfred, and as Selina Kyle. As Penguin said, his mark has been made on every sewer, every corrupt bit of concrete and steel; Penguin is Gotham City, but it is still kind of shocking when Penguin abandons his recently completed submarine, abandons his treasure, abandons Edward Nygma, and vows to protect his city. Penguin offers Gordon his services, and the unlikeliest but, in a way, likeliest team up ever forms to save Gotham.
Seeing Penguin and Gordon plot to take out Bane and save Gotham really drives home the point that Gotham (the series not the city) has been about a building and complex relationship between the pair. I mean, who ever thought we’d experience, and for the most part enjoy, a TV series based around a Jim Gordon and Oswald Cobblepot partnership? And let’s not forget Nygma. Of course, soon after the Brave and the not so Bold team up of Penguin and Gordon forms, Riddler shows up because Gotham is also Edward Nygma. So heroes and villains unite as the scourge of Bane and Al Ghul grows.
And yup, with Riddler and Penguin present, Helm’s Deep goes down, but with the complication that most of the soldiers sieging the GCPD are innocent soldiers manipulated into following Bane. It’s loud, it’s violent, and it’s over the top. It’s Gotham. As the invasion begins, Penguin loses an eye after saving Riddler from a grenade (do we have the origin of the monocle? I think we have the origin of the monocle). You have to appreciate the complexities of the Gotham version of Penguin. Has the character ever been this nuanced in any comics, TV show, animated feature, or film? While Penguin shows the world his bravery, Gordon learns that if he zaps the chip in Nyssa’s puppet general’s brain with a Lucius Fox created EMP, he can cancel the invasion. Gordon also learns that Nyssa is holding Barbara and his newborn baby girl. So it’s side mission time with Gordon off to save the day.
Oddly enough, Gotham has another unexpected hero, the Joker. Or at least the bomb Jeremiah built that would have been used to knock down buildings and turn Gotham into a maze. Bruce wants to use Jeremiah’s weapon to defeat Bane and add a heaping dollop of irony to the proceedings. I really dig how Gotham’s villains are like the life blood of the city, defending it from an infection of incursion. To plant the bomb, Bruce needs to use Wayne Enterprises as the center of the blast. Remember, Bruce lost Wayne Manor already, so his sacrifices for the city are really piling up. He also has a Batcave’s worth of guilt as he knows that Nyssa has invaded Gotham City because of him.
This Nyssa might not be as compassionate as her Arrow counterpart, but she wants herself a baby. She plans to raise baby Gordon Kean as the latest Al Ghul. Gordon arrives, frees Barbara, and Miss Kean If Your Nasty continues the Al Ghul tradition by stabling Nyssa with the same dagger that killed demon daddy dearest. Nyssa escapes and we have an unexpected first meeting between Gordon and the assumed future Batgirl. Kean finally names the baby, and indeed, it is Barbara Gordon. Barbara Lee Gordon. Welcome to the world of Gotham, future Batgirl.
As all this baby drama goes on, the final battle between Bruce and Bane is all sorts of cool. Bruce confronts Bane and uses another Fox created device to summon a swarm of bats to befuddle and take down Bane. Yes, Bruce Year Ones Bane and after Bane gets batty (weeeeee), the villain finally gets the drop on Gordon and the GCPD. He is embarrassed by Bruce and ready to make Gotham burn (and yes, this Bane is all sorts of Tom Hardy mwwhaaahhhh, Gothammmmm).
All seems lost, until Barbara shows up with the citizens of Gotham to back up her baby daddy and his crew. Maybe Barbara could not stand in front of Bane’s army strapped with a baby? Whatever the case, the conscripted servicemen and women of Bane’s force refuse to fire on civilians and Gordon wins the day.
The day is won, but Oswald and Edward leave without their submarine and their treasure. The two grow embittered once again because, as Gotham hails Bruce Wayne, Barbara Kean, and the police as heroes, Penguin and Riddler are the forgotten ones. Oswald is left bleeding, missing an eye, but there are no thanks for the two villains. After almost killing each other, Penguin and Riddler vow, that form this day forth, they will make Gotham City pay. But little do they know Nyssa absconds with their sub.
Things end pretty iconic this week as Bruce begins his journey of training (and I bet if there was another season we would be able to follow this and I bet he’d meet a young Zatanna Zatara and now I just can’t). As I said, Bruce blames himself for the attack on Gotham City and leaves in order to keep his home safe from any future attacks on the Wayne name. And to train, all while Alfred gets down to the business of rebuilding all things Wayne.
The pieces continue to connect as Gordon is named commissioner and gets down to the business of raising baby Barbara. But it is Selina we end on, Selina who is now abandoned and alone now that Bruce left without saying goodbye or offering to take her with him. There is a cold side, an inhumane side to Bruce Wayne, and Selina Kyle just got a fistful of it.
All in all, an effective second to last episode that remained focused and dotted a ton of iconic I’s and crossed a bunch of historical T’s. One more to go.
Marc Buxton is a freelance contributor. Read more of his work here.