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.
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.