Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 14, 2018)
With every year of Gotham, Bruce Wayne moves closer to becoming Batman, and that continues with Season Four. This four-disc Blu-ray set offers all 22 episodes. The synopses come from IMDB.
Pax Penguina: “Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) fears Jonathan Crane (Charlie Tahan) is still alive and back in Gotham. Meanwhile, Penguin's (Robin Lord Taylor) ‘licensing’ of crime in the city backfires during the grand opening of his new Iceberg Lounge. In the aftermath of his encounter with Ra's Al Ghul (Alexander Siddig), Bruce (David Mazouz) begins his vigilante watch.”
Some seasons open on a slow, expository note, but not Gotham, as “Pax” explodes right out of the gate. We get good character development as well as elements that push the series ever more firmly toward Batman Begins territory. It’s a strong year-opener.
The Fear Reaper: “Gordon is forced to face his inner demons when he tries to bring in Jonathan Crane to prove that the GCPD is still powerful.”
As much as I liked Batman Begins, I admit its choice of villains left me a little cold, as I never thought a lot of Scarecrow. Not that he’s a poor baddie, but he’s not a favorite, and his prominence here dings “Reaper”. Still, even though the show marks a step down after the excellent “Pax”, it works pretty well.
They Who Hide Behind Masks: “Gordon travels to Miami hoping to convince Carmine Falcone (John Doman) to help him fight the Penguin, only to have his daughter Sofia (Crystal Reed) follow him back to Gotham.”
Some parts of “Masks” feel a little sluggish – especially the predictable developments in Miami – but others work pretty well. Edward’s answers to simple riddles amuse, and we get our first glimpse of Bruce as he veers toward “billionaire playboy” mode. These moments help redeem the weaker parts.
The Demon’s Head: “Bruce puts the lives of a Gotham Natural History Museum historian (Dakin Matthews) and his grandson (Benjamin Stockham) in danger as he attempts to discover the meaning behind his knife from the auction.”
Even by Gotham’s standards, the canine humanoid Anubis seems creepy and weird. He becomes the main highlight of an otherwise spotty show, one that suffers from too much Ra’s for my liking.
The Blade’s Path: “Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) uses Butch (Drew Powell) to regain power and identity. Sofia Falcone appeals to Penguin's vulnerable side. Bruce makes bold moves with the dagger in his possession.”
While I appreciate the series’ stabs at characters beyond the core, Gotham works best when it focuses on those big names. It’s mildly interesting to see the intro of Solomon Grundy, but like Scarecrow and Ra’s, he’s another one of those villains who leaves me cold, a factor that impact this episode’s success. I do still enjoy the Riddler’s descent into stupidity, though.
Hog Day Afternoon: “Gordon and Bullock (Donal Logue) pursue a serial killer who's assassinating cops and dressing them in pig heads.”
As S4 progresses, I may need to rethink my opinion of Grundy, as the series depicts him in a fairly endearing manner. His development – and the return of a character from years past – adds to “Hog”, though the main plot seems a bit lacking.
A Day In the Narrows: “With Professor Pyg (Michael Cerveris) striking fear throughout Gotham, Gordon and Bullock head into the Narrows to look for clues. Bruce Wayne meets a former friend, who convinces him to come along for a night with some old classmates.”
In seasons past, Bruce tended to be one of the series’ less interesting characters, but that’s changed in S4, as he’s started to come into his own the closer he gets to Batman territory. Pyg remains a terrible villain, but those scenes offer enough action to elevate the show.
Stop Hitting Yourself: “Grundy and Nygma become main attractions at Cherry's Place in The Narrows. Penguin wants revenge when he hears Nygma is mocking him on stage and enlists The Sirens for help. Meanwhile, Gordon is offered the position of GCPD Captain.”
At the very least, “Stop” benefits from the absence of Pyg, but it also succeeds for other reasons. The elements related to Nygma and the Sirens motivate characters and narrative, and the interactions between Penguin and his psychotic young friend delight. “Stop” becomes the best episode in a while.
Let Them Eat Pie: “Professor Pyg continues to torment Gotham City. Sofia and Penguin get ready for a fundraiser for the orphanage, and things don't go as planned when Professor Pyg shows up as the chef.”
Here I thought we’d be rid of Pyg – at least for a while – but unfortunately, this doesn’t prove true. Once again, Pyg prompts a drag on the season – not a terrible one, but he continues to act as a lackluster character. On the other hand, Crystal Reed looks amazing in a strapless ball gown, so there’s that.
Things That Go Boom: “Gordon tries to broker a deal with Penguin that involves Sofia. Meanwhile, Alfred (Sean Pertwee) tries to pull Bruce out of his teenage-angst and downward spiral, as Lee Thompkins (Morena Baccarin) gains more control over the Narrows.”
Much of “Boom” focuses on Gordon/Sofia melodrama, and those moments feel less than enthralling. Some of the tension among criminal elements work fairly well, though, and those help turn this into a reasonably positive program, even if we’re still stuck with more Pyg than I’d like.
Queen Takes Knight: “Carmine Falcone comes to town, making things complicated for Gordon, Sophia and Penguin. Alfred tries to get through to Bruce once and for all, Nygma struggles to gain control over the Riddler persona, and Tabitha (Jessica Lucas) attempts to make Grundy remember his past.”
That’s a lot of plot threads, but “Knight” manages to balance them well. The show throws out good twists and turns to make it a winner – and a teaser for the return of a prominent character.
Pieces of a Broken Mirror: “Gordon is called to the scene when the Toy Maker (Chris Perfetti) is hired to assassinate a doctor in Gotham. Lee tries to rebuild the Narrows with Nygma's help. Alfred's new life becomes complicated. Ivy (Peyton List) shows Selina (Camren Bicondova) her new persona.”
As Bat-villains go, Toymaker isn’t high on my list, but at least he’s a step up from Pyg. The developments with Ivy work well, though I’ll miss Maggie Geha – in a series packed with babes, she was the babe-iest. “Mirror” doesn’t fare as well as “Knight”, but it’s still a more than competent show.
Footnote: List gets the part to give us a notably more mature-looking Ivy. She’s actually only two years older than Geha.
A Beautiful Darkness: “Ivy tracks a secret project on which Wayne Enterprises is working and begins to target anyone that can give her information. Meanwhile, Jerome (Cameron Monaghan) becomes obsessed with Penguin in Arkham.”
Jerome’s return marks a cause for celebration, and his interactions with Penguin delight. The Ivy plot also advances matters well and Bruce’s vision of his future adds to this strong episode.
Reunion: “Ivy picks her next target, leading Gordon and Lucius (Chris Chalk) back to an old friend, as Selina tries to take matters into her own hands. Sofia wants full control of Gotham and turns to Lee.”
After the highs of “Darkness”, “Reunion” offers the almost inevitable step down in quality. It’s still a good show, though, especially during its more action-packed second half.
The Sinking Ship the Grand Applause: “Bullock and Gordon try to track down someone who is key in Sofia's control over Gotham. Meanwhile, Penguin, Lee and Nygma enlist an unlikely ally as they seek revenge.”
I’m disappointed that Jerome has once again gone bye-bye, but the reunited team of Penguin and Riddler compensates. It still doesn’t add up to a great episode, but it flies enough of the time to keep us with it.
One of My Three Soups: “Arkham's ‘finest’ give Gordon and Bullock a run for their money, as they hatch a plan to escape the asylum. Meanwhile, Bruce devises his own strategy to thwart their plans. Also, Barbara (Erin Richards) gets an offer she can't refuse.”
Any episode that brings back Jerome seems likely to succeed, and “Soups” indeed satisfies. Along with Jerome, Mad Hatter returns to prominence, and we find a show packed with intrigue and drama.
Mandatory Brunch Meeting: “Gordon and Bullock try to stay one step ahead as Jerome zeroes in on his next target. Meanwhile, Nygma hosts a riddle game show in the Narrows and faces his toughest challenger in Lee Thompkins, and Penguin goes to see Butch with a proposal.”
The Jerome story deepens here, as we learn aspects of his past. These lean a little trite, but they still work, and the remaining interactions turn this into another winning program.
That’s Entertainment: “The Arkham inmates are still running freely in Gotham and they're only getting more difficult to catch. Gordon develops a plan, but reluctantly has to turn to Bruce for help.”
On the negative side, “Entertainment” borrows a little too heavily from the 1989 Batman for its story/threat elements. Still, it manages to go down enough new paths to become a good show, even while it lacks a ton of originality.
To Our Deaths and Beyond: “Gordon and Bullock try to figure out who the clever thief is behind the robberies of various bank branches in Gotham. Meanwhile, Barbara is put in danger, forcing Tabitha to recruit help.”
After the highs of the Jerome thread, it seems inevitable that “Beyond” will come as a drop-off in quality, and it does. A narrative that revolves moderately heavily around Ra’s doesn’t help, so “Beyond” delivers a decent but less than great episode.
That Old Corpse: “Chaos erupts at the GCPD, sending Gordon on a wild goose chase for the culprit behind the mass takeover. Meanwhile, a friend of Bruce's becomes paranoid, resulting in rash and destructive behavior.”
Although the Jerome thread seen earlier in this season hinted at future events, I figured those would hold off until Season Five. I don’t feel disappointed that I don’t need to wait, especially because “Corpse” moves along the characters well and creates an exciting continuation.
One Bad Day: “As Gotham falls into complete anarchy, a team of unlikely heroes step up to save it. Bullock takes the lead at the GCPD and Bruce's psychological limits are tested as those close to him are put in danger.”
With little time left in S4, “Day” amps up the tension and drama. Add to that good character developments and it continues the series’ hot streak.
No Man’s Land: “Jeremiah warns a skeptical Gordon of more destruction coming Gotham's way, and Gordon is forced to make a potentially devastating decision. Bruce is forced to come to terms with the future.”
Apparently Season Five will be Gotham’s last, and it’ll be an abbreviated collection of episodes that runs about half a standard season’s length. On one hand, I feel disappointed that Gotham will end, but on the other, it had to conclude at some point, as eventually Bruce needs to finally become Batman and that finishes off the series’ purpose.
Wherever S5 goes, “Land” acts as a solid conclusion to S4. Yeah, it lifts a little from Dark Knight Rises but it still becomes a fine finale for a good year of shows.