In the eyes of this lifelong Batman fan, Gotham will forever remain a wonderful part of the character’s enduring mythos. I’m aware of how a percentage of you scoff at how it retold the Dark Knight’s beginnings – and those of his villains, for that matter – but it’s important that creators keep things fresh. After all, our hero couldn’t have gotten this far if everybody rehashed the same tales over and over again.
Over the five years that Gotham had been on the air, I couldn’t help making comparisons to Smallville in various news articles and reviews. And at a time like this, it’s hard not making another one. I say that because while both shows had a similar goal in fleshing out the backstory of a beloved icon, Smallville covered much more ground during its ten-season lifespan. On the plus side, like Smallville, Gotham‘s producers were given a heads up going into their final season. As such, each journey ended in proper fashion – with the protagonist embracing his costumed destiny.
Before I get too ahead of myself though, let me first discuss what accounts for the bulk of the two-disc Blu-ray set.
For the first eleven episodes, expect to enjoy something akin to No Man’s Land or Zero Year, as both those comic book arcs served as inspiration. Actually, I’d say the former more so lent its influence, though those who’ve read both will draw more than a few parallels.
Basically, the saga picks up right where you’d expect it to, had you also tuned in for season 4. To put it succinctly, Jeremiah Valeska (Cameron Monaghan) blew up the bridges leading out of Gotham City, thereby isolating it from the mainland. Afterward, the resident supervillains have claimed sections of the metropolis for themselves.
Given that premise, I was somehow both thrilled and disappointed by the results. In other words, I was anticipating this gargantuan extravaganza of evildoers, with the likes of Mr. Freeze, Firefly and Scarecrow vying for control. Unfortunately, David W. Thompson (Scarecrow) was the only actor of those three to stick around, so we instead saw other gangs like the Undead, Low Boyz and Street Demonz carving out their niches (yawn). Having more than one name ending with a “z” makes me recall the Alone in the Dark video game released in 2008, what with its Ratz, Humanz and such, but that disaster is an entirely different discussion.
Regardless, I found myself enjoying season 5 on a binge-viewing more than I did watching it on a weekly basis. Maybe it’s just me, but seeing Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) and Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) trying to bring order to a city that’s become crazier than ever was like popcorn. Sweet, blood-soaked popcorn.
Along the way, they deal with the usual menaces such as Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) and Riddler (Cory Michael Smith), but there are other baddies present to mix it up. For me, the highlight was the aforementioned Jeremiah Valeska, the man who goes on to become the Joker. I don’t know how Cameron Monaghan managed to find a handful of different ways to play the Clown Prince of Crime over the course of the series, but he somehow pulled it off.
If you’ve stuck around for this long, then you should remember how Jeremiah’s twin brother and criminal predecessor, Jerome, evolved over the course of the first four seasons, and how Jeremiah was distinctly different. But as he’s gone progressively more insane, Jeremiah’s flare for showmanship increases – and so too does that of his right hand gal, Ecco.
Since the producers couldn’t get their hands on Harley Quinn, they placed this Ecco in her stead. Maybe it’s just me, but I found her to be more comparable to Harley’s eviler iterations, specifically the one seen in the Arkham video games. And despite her being an analog, I think actress Francesca Root-Dodson may have out-Harley’d Margot Robbie. How someone managed to be frighteningly psychotic and adorable at the same time is beyond my grasp.
In addition to a new spin put on the Joker’s fateful chemical bath, the series finally introduced its own version of Bane before checking out. Due to the costuming department making him resemble Mortal Kombat‘s Kabal, he became the butt of many jokes on social media, though that spoke nothing of Shane West’s actual performance, which I found to be highly satisfying. Granted, his mission had too many similarities to his counterpart in The Dark Knight Rises, but I can forgive that for the most part.
Once the No Man’s Land stuff gets resolved, we jump forward ten years into the future – and are treated to the series finale that feels like a second pilot episode of sorts. Had Gotham served as a springboard for a full-blown Batman series, it would’ve worked. Hell, I’m still pleading for DC Comics to continue this show’s legacy as a comic book, just as they once did with Smallville. I mean it when I say I’d read stories involving the characters this cast blossomed into on a monthly basis.
Although the finale as a whole was satisfying, I’m indifferent when it comes to the Joker’s final look. Yes, he genuinely looks like a guy who fell into a vat of acid, but the creative minds behind the camera already found the perfect look for him earlier in the season. Well, there’s also the matter of Batman’s costume resembling a valiant cosplay effort, but it’s saved for the final moments only.
When it comes to the bonus features, there’s some pretty good stuff on hand. After reliving 2018’s New York Comic Con panel, be sure to check out “Gotham: A Modern Mythology,” which is pretty much the closest thing we’re going to get to a retrospective for the time being. “Gotham’s Last Stand,” meanwhile, was a total disappointment, as it was over before I could even finish eating a Popsicle. I’m being entirely serious.
But if you want to watch something really cool, don’t pass up “Villains: Modes of Persuasion,” a documentary exploring antagonists from a variety of DC TV shows, and not just Gotham. Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl and Krypton are also touched upon, so it’s no wonder this’ll be included on a variety of DC Blu-ray releases dropping over this summer.
To be completely honest, Gotham: The Fifth and Final Season didn’t equal or surpass some of the preceding seasons. Still, it was a fitting sendoff worthy of adorning the shelves of Bat-fans who were willing to give this alternative take on the Caped Crusader a chance. And if you haven’t started collecting, know that the complete series will also be made available on home video, so keep your eyes peeled if you haven’t been scooping these up one by one as I have.
Hey, Gotham's fifth and final season may not be perfect, but it's a satisfying conclusion to a five-year journey. Come for Batman, stay for Jeremiah Valeska and Ecco.
Gotham: The Fifth and Final Season