‘Gotham’ 1.22 Recap: “The Least Worst Option”

Before ‘Gotham’ started last fall, the show seemed almost destined for failure. That it turned out to be much better than expected was a very welcome surprise. This week, the first season blazed to a close with a very action-packed, momentous finale that will surely leave fans eager for more.

Choosing an episode title (‘All Happy Families Are Alike’) as a reference to Tolstoy’s ‘Anna Karenina’ is a little weird, however.

The Shooting War

The city of Gotham remains in the grip of the gangland war between Maroni and Falcone when Fish Mooney, last seen stealing a helicopter to escape the Dollmaker’s island prison, arrives back in town standing at the head of a rowboat, like Washington crossing the Delaware. (Again, odd.) That gunshot she took as she escaped doesn’t seem to have had any adverse effects. She never mentions it once. As she lands on shore at the outskirts of town, Fish encounters Selina Kyle, who is obviously enamored with her.

Two weeks later, a pair of Maroni’s goons attempt to take out Falcone by blowing up his car with a rocket launcher. Falcone survives, but is injured and taken to a hospital. When Jim Gordon hears about this, he learns that City Hall, which was formerly in Falcone’s pocket, is now backing Maroni and gave a go-ahead for the hit.

At the hospital, Falcone lies strapped to a gurney in an empty back room with no doctors or security detail around him at all. Clearly, he’s been left there for Maroni to find. Penguin and Butch show up first, bearing flowers. Penguin gleefully boasts to Falcone that he masterminded the whole conflict. “Business must come first,” he explains when asked why he would betray the man who’d treated him pretty well, all things considered.

Just then, Jim interrupts, armed with an assault rifle. He handcuffs Penguin and Butch to a pipe. Penguin begs Jim to release him before Maroni’s men arrive, because he knows that Maroni has no love for him and will surely kill him. He tries to call in that favor Jim owes him, but Jim ignores him and calls Harvey to ask for help getting Falcone to a safe house. Harvey doesn’t know why Jim cares what happens to Falcone and tells him to get out of there. Jim explains that Maroni is unstable and will lead the city to chaos. He believes that Falcone is the lesser of two evils and the only man who can hold Gotham together.

By the time Harvey gets there, Jim has also decided to bring Penguin and Butch along, because he feels responsible for them. Before they can go, however, one of Maroni’s burly thugs walks down the hospital hallway. Jim turns him away with his rifle. Moments later, the thug returns with backup, including Commissioner Loeb, who orders Jim to clear out. Jim refuses. Thus commences the first big shootout of the episode, in which Jim Gordon pulls all sorts of John Woo moves, double-fisting pistols in slow-motion until he clears a path to escape in an ambulance (which seems to be more armored car).

The Best Little Warehouse in Gotham

The ambulance, shot to hell in the escape, barely makes it to Falcone’s abandoned warehouse. Falcone believes they’ll be safe there, because anyone else who knew about it is dead. Unfortunately, he didn’t count on Fish Mooney still being alive. With a fabulous new ’80s punk makeover and a crew of lackeys including young Selina Kyle (similarly attired), Fish ambushes Jim and company, trusses them up on hooks hanging from the rafters, and calls to invite Maroni over. Bruce tries to signal Selina to help release him, but the girl is all-in with Fish now.

Maroni arrives in a bit, delighted at such good fortune. He basks in his moment of triumph, until Penguin agitates the situation by inflaming tensions between Fish and Maroni. Fish makes it clear that she wants to be a partner, not a lackey, and will not be talked down to. Because he can’t help being an ass, Maroni keeps pushing her buttons by demeaningly calling her “Babes.” After about the tenth instance of that, Fish can’t take anymore and shoots Maroni in the head!

Chaos erupts. Everybody shoots at everybody else. Jim manages to free himself and cuts down Harvey and Falcone. They run, but don’t get far before Selina catches them and brings them back to Fish.

More chaos. Penguin jumps out from hiding with a machine gun and shoots up the place some more. Jim, Harvey and Falcone escape again. Selina flees. Penguin chases Fish up to the building roof. She gets the jump on him and knocks his gun away. They fight their way over to the building ledge when Butch interrupts, holding a pistol but unsure which one he should shoot. Fish is his friend and mentor, but he’s been brainwashed to obey Penguin. They both yell at him to shoot the other.

Conflicted and confused, Butch shoots them both, non-fatally. He apologizes to Fish, but Penguin has enough strength to toss her off the side of the building to the water far below. Penguin howls to the city skyline, “I’m the king of Gotham!”

After finally making their way to safety, Falcone says that he’s done with being a gangster and plans to retire to some sunnier climate, leaving Gotham for Jim to sort out. He gives him a knife that he says is from Jim’s father, who he claims was a friend. He tells Jim that it’s time to shake up the city.

Heeeeeere’s Barbara!

Having survived her ordeal with The Ogre, Jim’s ex-girlfriend Barbara seems to be recovering. Jim’s current girlfriend Lee insists that she seek counseling to discuss what she went through. Barbara says that she likes Lee, and will only talk about the experience with her. Even though she’s not a licensed (or even trained?) therapist, Lee consents.

They meet in Barbara’s apartment. Although Barbara acts like she’s fine, it’s clear that she’s holding back and is kind of messed up. She pries into Lee’s relationship with Jim, and asks if he hits her – you know, for fun. Lee is disturbed by the question.

During dinner, Barbara’s eyes glaze over as she recounts the story of what happened at her parents’ house. She admits that she killed her parents, not The Ogre. Then she pulls a knife and goes full-bore psycho.

Lee tries to run but can only lock herself in the bathroom. Barbara smashes through the door like Jack Nicholson in ‘The Shining’. Lee knocks the knife out of her hand and the two women catfight across the apartment floor. Eventually, Lee gets the upper hand and repeatedly bashes Barbara’s head against the floor until she goes limp. In a case of absolutely terrible timing, Jim walks in just as the fight concludes.

Is Barbara dead? That isn’t clear. Whatever happens next, the show’s writers have made a conscious decision to deviate from ‘Batman’ canon, in which Jim Gordon and Barbara Kean get married and have a daughter (also named Barbara) who will become Batgirl. Does this mean that Lee will be Batgirl’s mother? How awkward to name your child after someone who tried to kill you…

Riddles in the Dark

Miss Kringle discovers the clue that Ed Nygma left in the note supposedly written by her missing boyfriend Tom. Nygma feigns ignorance and claims that it must be a crazy coincidence. She isn’t convinced.

After Kringle leaves, Nygma has a total schizophrenic breakdown in which he hallucinates and talks to himself. No doubt his ascension to supervillain will be more of a focus in Season 2.

As Above, So Below

Bruce Wayne becomes obsessed with discovering his father’s secrets. With Alfred’s help, he searches through the study, pulling every book off the shelves until he finally finds a concealed remote control clicker. When he pushes the button, the fireplace in the room retracts and unveils a hidden staircase leading down below the house. You might say it looks like a cave, perhaps with some bats in it.

I’ve complained periodically throughout the season that ‘Gotham’ suffered some obvious padding and filler, and would work better with a shorter, more focused 10- or 12-episode season, rather than the full 22. I still very much believe that’s true. With that said, the show-runners obviously had their endgame for the season in mind and delivered an excellent finale.

It has already been announced that Season 2 will follow the rise of The Joker, and that Jada Pinkett Smith will not return as Fish Mooney. Despite this, her final scene here is a very obvious comic book “death” and that leaves the door wide open for her to reappear in the future. I don’t believe for a second that she’s gone for good.


  1. Sloppy. Sloppy . Sloppy. For a show that had 22 episodes, they tried to cram waaaay to much in this last episode. I’ve enjoyed this whole season quite a bit, but these last two episodes didn’t do a lot for me. I didn’t like that we last saw Fish get shot in the stomach and not a single scratch on her now. They even went through the trouble of foreshadowing when Dulmacher asked her if he know how painful it was to get shot in the stomach. How did Selina all the sudden become a henchman for fish without a single scene of persuasion? New haircuts? Instead of spending three episodes on the Ogre, they could’ve dedicated that third episode to Mooney coming back, licking her wounds a little, and have a few scenes with Selina to establish how she manipulates her into being one of her goons. I was going to mention this last week, but wasn’t motivated enough to. I think the writers don’t know what the hell to do with Barbara. That psycho killer nonsense was dumb. Setting her and Lee up was stupid too. Maybe it was Barbara’s intent to be alone with Lee but I thought Lee was a coroner, not a psychiatrist. I’ve liked Barbara all season, but these last few episodes left me wishing she wasn’t in it anymore. I never saw any moments of her being crazy. Maybe a little damaged from her absentee parents and her “crazy party bisexual lifestyle”, but not silly crazy like she wound up. Maybe the show tried to imply it when the Ogre said he saw something dark in her, but all she did was turn into a sniveling coward after she found out what he was. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Falcone’s change of heart seemed a little abrupt to me as well. There were some great moments, like Nygma’s descent into madness. That was handled pretty good. Bruce Wayne’s father’s secret lair was pretty exciting too. If it turns out to be that, maybe they’re misleading the audience, but hopefully they’re not and this will be the future batcave. Maybe in this show Bruce’s father had a plan to become a vigilante and Bruce will carry the torch. That would be cool. I don’t buy for a second that Mooney’s out of the picture for good. I’m wondering if Penguin will actually be ruling Gotham in season two. I’m definitely excited for season two but I think with all those episodes, they can plant their seeds for future episodes earlier on and the payoff would be much more gratifying then cramming everything into the finale.

    • Josh Zyber

      I see where you’re coming from, but a few points:

      Here’s an interview where Bruno Heller admits that he had to cut scenes from the finale for time.


      I suspect that Fish’s gunshot is something the writers originally had plans for that got abandoned. As it is, the episode does have a time jump between her arrival back in Gotham and the next time we see her (during which she got her makeover). It’s a standard comic book convention that characters recover from gunshots with absurd speed. I still think this should have been addressed, but I can forgive it.

      Heller also talks about Selina becoming Fish’s henchgirl. I didn’t have a problem with this. Selina is still young and impressionable, and would be drawn to a strong, charismatic leader like Fish. This is another stop on her way to becoming Catwoman.

      I agree that we didn’t need three episodes with The Ogre. I also agree with most of your complaints about the Lee/Barbara storyline (especially Lee not being a psychiatrist), but I will point out that the show hinted earlier in the season that Barbara had mental issues in the past – more than just being a partygirl. I believe she was even institutionalized. Does that justify a rapid switch to full-blown psycho killer? No. I complained about the portrayal of Barbara as a weak-willed, sniveling victim during last week’s recap.

      Falcone wanting to retire didn’t come from out of nowhere. He had planned to leave town for good earlier in the season, until discovering that his young girlfriend was a mole working for Fish. He’s burned out being a mob boss.

      I had my share of issues with the show over the course of the season, and the finale wasn’t perfect, but overall I thought it was a very strong close for the season.

  2. nagara

    It feels like there should have been one episode before this one that i missed. This felt more like a rushed finale than an actual plan.

  3. I finally caught up with this last night.

    I wasn’t crazy about the finale…a little too much mob action and it seems the showrunners changed their mind about definitively killing off Fish Mooney – I suspect she’ll pop up again down the road.

    Also not sure about the idea that Thomas Wayne may have already had a Batcave of his own…that seems to be a huge deviation away from why Bruce becomes Batman in the first place. Also, the final shot was a bit too much like the final shot of LOST’s first season – not sure if that was a homage or a rip-off. 🙂

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