Gotham 5.12

Gotham Series Finale Recap: “Our Story Is Over, Old Friend”

After five seasons, Fox’s Gotham ended its run last Thursday with a finale episode that tries very hard not just to wrap up its own storylines, but to tie the entire Batman mythology together.

Gotham has often been a very frustrating series. Five seasons is kind of short for a comic book show these days, and this last one was only half the normal episode length, but I feel like it’s been on forever. I’ve enjoyed the show enough all along to keep watching. I even dutifully recapped every episode of the first three seasons here in the blog, but the repetitiveness of storylines (and sometimes outright stupidity) got to be a grind over time. I have to be honest that I’m relieved to see it finally end with some note of real closure before the network had to pull the plug.

In a plot largely lifted from The Dark Knight Rises, Season 5 saw Gotham cut off from the mainland and quarantined while villains Nyssa al Ghul and Bane plotted to destroy the entire city. That storyline was actually resolved in the penultimate episode, which under normal circumstances might have served as the finale. United by a common cause, Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie), Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor), and the Riddler (Cory Michael Smith) joined forces and saved the city. That battle won, Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) announced that he’d be leaving town indefinitely.

The finale only briefly picks up from this point, to show Bruce traveling the world and beginning training for the next phase of his life.

Ten Years Later

A time jump shows the city in the final stages of its slow recovery. Now police commissioner, Jim has grown a mustache, but soon shaves it off. Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue) looks pretty much the same, even wearing the same outfit from the previous episode. Aubrey James (Richard Kind) is somehow mayor again. Having been completely out of contact with anyone for a decade, Bruce Wayne is supposedly going to return for the inauguration of the newly constructed Wayne Tower. Jim plans to retire as soon as that event is over.

Barbara Kean (Erin Richards) has dyed her hair red and is now a legitimate businesswoman. Her daughter with Jim is adorable, but Jim is still with Lee (Morena Baccarin, who even married Ben McKenzie in real life).

For reasons unexplained, the Riddler has been locked away in Arkham Asylum for the past ten years. Jeremiah Valeska (Cameron Monaghan) is also incarcerated there, in a vegetative state. Penguin is set for release from Blackgate Prison, where he’s grown fat. As he steps to his freedom, he chooses to adopt a monocle and top hat as his new signature outfit.

Selina Kyle is now a notorious high-end cat burglar. She’s also played by a new actress (Lili Simmons), who looks little like Camren Bicondova, for one episode only. (Bicondova claims it was her decision to step away and pass the torch at this moment.) We’re introduced to the new Selina stealing a giant diamond from a museum. She senses someone watching her.

The Riddler gets broken out of Arkham. He’s led to believe that Penguin is responsible, but Penguin has no idea. In fact, Jeremiah Valeska has been faking catatonia for the last ten years, awaiting a chance for revenge against Bruce Wayne. He manipulates Riddler into planting bombs in Wayne Tower, which he will detonate when Bruce gives the inauguration speech.

While tracking a lead, Jim encounters a shadowy figure who saves him from one of Jeremiah’s booby traps and then flees before Jim can get a decent look at him.

Penguin kidnaps Jim and brings him out to the city docks where Jim spared his life way back in the show’s pilot episode. Furious that Jim turned on him and sent him to prison when he thought they were working together, Penguin plans to kill him, but Jim jumps into the water before Penguin can shoot.

Bruce doesn’t show up to the inauguration, so Alfred gives the speech instead. Selina crashes the party, disappointed that she isn’t able to tell Bruce off for ditching her ten years ago. However, Selina spots Riddler in the crowd and exposes the bomb scheme. Lucius Fox (Chris Chalk) and Lee work together to defuse the bomb. Jim pieces together that Jeremiah is responsible.

Penguin and Riddler reunite, but are attacked by an unknown assailant who smashes down onto Penguin’s limousine and leaves the two of them trussed up as a gift for the police. Hmm, who could that be?

Jeremiah kidnaps Jim’s daughter, Barbara Lee, and lures Jim to Ace Chemicals. He dangles the girl over the same chemical vat that he fell into years earlier. He teases Jim that he’s tired of the name Jeremiah and wants to be called something different, but doesn’t actually come out with the word “Joker.”

Jim saves his daughter, but is stabbed by Jeremiah in the process. Before the nutcase can finish him off, that black-clad mystery figure who’s been skulking around everywhere turns up again and incapacitates him by tossing little boomerang thingies in the shape of bats at him. How weird!

Standing atop a building, Selina can sense someone watching her again. She knows it’s Bruce even without turning to look at him. She tells him that he hurt her feelings by leaving. From the shadows, Bruce says that he’ll never leave Gotham again.

Riddler and Penguin escape police custody and vow revenge on the man who accosted them, but catch sight of a dark figure flying between buildings and decide to hold off another day on that plan.

Jim, Harvey, and Alfred meet on the roof of the GCPD building and fire up the old spotlight. Jim says that he’s decided not to retire after all, because the city still needs him. On top of a building across the way, they spot someone in a black cape and mask watching them. It’s a man… dressed like a bat. Craziest of all, a zoom-in close-up reveals that his face kind of looks a little like it could maybe be Bruce Wayne under the mask. But that can’t be, can it? Nah… That’d be too nuts.

It must just be another psycho in a city filled with them. I think we should call him “Bat Guy.” Whatd’you think? Catchy, right?

Episode Verdict

I have a feeling that the producers planned for the series to end exactly like this, with a one-off flash-forward, no matter how many seasons it ultimately ran for. In a lot of ways, the finale feels like a backdoor pilot setting up an entirely separate show, but that isn’t the case. Although the Epix network has an Alfred prequel called Pennyworth upcoming and The CW has a Batwoman series in the works, neither directly follows the Gotham continuity.

Instead, this is really an attempt to finally put all the pieces in place and align Gotham with traditional Batman canon. It ends with the long-awaited reveal of the Dark Knight, and with key members of his classic rogue’s gallery fully invested in their roles. To that end, it feels rather perfunctory and anticlimactic, like it’s just ticking off boxes on a checklist to get them over with. It’s a belated origin story that’s already been told countless times before.

I also found it very distracting that the episode makes almost no effort at all (aside from recasting Selina) to age any of the characters for the big time jump. Most of them look exactly the same, down to having the same haircuts and wearing the same clothes. It’s very lazy on a basic craftsmanship level.

That said, I’m glad the show has a real ending and I don’t regret watching it for the past five seasons. I really enjoy the way it mixes and matches pieces of other Batman stories. (Penguin has basically morphed into Burgess Meredith in the 1960s TV series, while Jeremiah wears Heath Ledger’s outfit from The Dark Knight.) Those fan-service details were great fun right through to the end.

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