After teasing it for so long, will Batman finally, actually begin on Fox’s Gotham? It looks like that could be the case as the series enters its fifth and final season.
Gotham is in chaos… again. As the last season ended, the most recent Joker, Jeremiah Valeska, blew up all the bridges out of town, isolating the city from the rest of the country. (Apparently, he’s a big fan of The Dark Knight Rises.) We start the new season 87 days later. Gotham is a war zone and a No Man’s Land. Jim Gordon maintains some radio contact with state or federal government, which refuses to help or provide aid. Nobody is allowed into or out of the city borders. As far as the outside world is concerned, Gotham is on its own and those trapped inside will just have to fend for themselves.
The city is divided into factions. Penguin, Barbara, Scarecrow, and Victor Fries each rule their own territories. (There’s been no sign of Jeremiah since the initial collapse.) The GCPD controls a ten-block area, and Gordon struggles to help the civilian population. Food and supplies (like ammunition) are running out, and the people of the city are getting very restless.
Selina Kyle survived a stabbing but is left paralyzed. She’s depressed and suicidal. Bruce Wayne frets for her well-being.
As a former mayor, Penguin rules City Hall. He’s also taken over a manufacturing plant and repurposed it as a bullet factory, which gives him a big edge in the warfare being waged throughout the city. Barbara, however, lords over a significant supply of food, forcing Penguin to barter with her ladies-only faction.
The Riddler is kind of a mess. He experiences frequent blackouts and lost time during which his original Ed Nygma personality takes over, Jekyll and Hyde-style. He has no idea what Ed is up to and it’s driving him even crazier than he already is.
When Scarecrow and an army of crazies invade the GCPD headquarters, Bruce joins the fight, clad in black leather and special night vision goggles supplied by Lucius Fox. It’s obviously a proto-Batsuit, and Bruce has started developing fighting strategies based around instilling fear in bad guys.
Afterward, Bruce arranges for a helicopter to defy the No Fly Zone restrictions and deliver a cargo of food and supplies to the GCPD, but somebody shoots the chopper down with a rocket launcher. No one is sure who’s responsible, but Penguin is quick to claim the booty. This leads to a big showdown between Penguin’s well-armed forces and Jim Gordon with a handful of cops and few bullets between them. Barbara and Tabitha enter the scene as well.
Eager for revenge over Butch’s murder, Tabitha kills a bunch of his goons and grabs Penguin, but her gun misfires (shoddy quality control at Penguin’s factory) and he stabs her in the chest. That sends Barbara into an uncontrollable rage and she shoots up the place with what’s left of her ammo. Penguin gets the drop on her and offers a truce, but she won’t hear it. As Penguin prepares to kill her, Bruce hijacks his truck and gives the ammo to Jim, who shoots Penguin in the leg.
The victor of this confrontation, Jim takes all of the supplies back to the GCPD. Harvey is upset that he let Penguin go rather than kill him.
When Jim’s not looking, a masked lady sneaks around the GCPD building and scrawls “HAHAHAHAHAHAHA” on a map. This must presumably be the new Joker.
As the episode ends, Jim receives a radio message from a female voice informing him that he has allies across the river who will work to help the city, Penguin puts out a bounty on Jim’s head, and Barbara vows to murder Penguin for taking Tabitha from her.
Gotham is often a very frustrating show, and I honestly came close to giving up on it a few times, especially after Season 3. It’s overstuffed with villains and the storylines are frequently repetitive and poorly plotted. Sometimes it’s just outright dumb. Once the concept of resurrection was introduced, character deaths became totally meaningless.
Fortunately, the show rebounded enough in Season 4 to keep me watching, even if many of these same issues continued to apply. In a lot of ways, the start of Season 5 is more of the same. This is something like the thirtieth time the city of Gotham has fallen into total, apocalyptic chaos, and the premiere simply has way too much going on for a single episode to contain it all.
That said, it works well enough, and I hold out some hope that the show’s near-cancelation last year (and confirmation that this is the final season) will drive the writers to work toward real closure. If I’m not mistaken, the episode count will also be half the usual length, which can only be an asset for this series.
One of the cleverist things this show has done is to introduce The Joker not as an individual character, but as an idea that transfers from lunatic to lunatic like a virus. I also find it pretty hilarious that Barbara’s new look this season appears to have been styled directed after Sharon Stone in the notorious Catwoman movie. Subtle fan-service details like that are endlessly amusing.