Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 8, 2019)
All good things come to an end, and Season Five of Gotham becomes our final take on the Batman prequel series. This two-disc Blu-ray set offers all 12 episodes. The synopses come from IMDB.
Year Zero: “Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) and Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) face the chaos Gotham City has become, as villains who survived the attack on the city begin to resurface and claim various territories. Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova) grapples with how to deal with her uncertain future.”
This episode’s title implies it immediately precedes the tale told as Year One - ie, the first true appearance of Batman. That means that by the end of Season Five, we should see Bruce pretty much ready to go as the Caped Crusader.
How far Gotham goes in that regard will be answered soon. “Zero” opens the season well, as it provides an action-packed entry into the situations and sets up many potential storylines in a good way.
Trespassers: “Gordon and Bullock (Donal Logue) investigate a location where several kids have been kidnapped. Barbara (Erin Richards) proves to be an unlikely ally to Gordon. Bruce looks into an alleged witch with healing powers to Selina. Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) deals with his demons.”
For the most part, “Trespassers” acts to continue trends that began in “Zero”. That means it seems less dynamic than I might prefer, but the show still moves along the narrative in a largely positive manner.
Penguin, Our Hero: “With the creation of Haven as a safe place for refugees, Gordon hopes to stop the gang fighting in Gotham. Meanwhile, Selina is determined to find Jeremiah (Cameron Monaghan) and she convinces Bruce to help her. Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) goes to Haven to reclaim his staff.”
Wherever Bruce ends up at the end of S5, Selina pushes toward Catwoman first. I’m not sure if I like the method the show uses to motivate this shift, but it creates an interesting twist. In addition, the focus on Penguin – long one of the series’ more entertaining roles – helps make this a solid program.
Ruin: “Gordon and Penguin are forced to work together and alliances are shaken when Lucius (Chris Chalk), Nygma and Barbara all have different ideas of the culprit behind recent events at Haven. Meanwhile, Selina continues her quest for revenge against Jeremiah.”
After the literally explosive events of the prior episode, “Ruin” forms more of an expository tale. It does fine in that regard, and it comes with more than enough action and intrigue to sustain it.
Pena Dura: “A military task force led by Eduardo Dorrance (Shane West) is called in to provide relief to Gotham. Meanwhile, Nygma looks for answers from Penguin, who leads him back to Hugo Strange (BD Wong). Bruce feels concerned about Selina's recent behavior.”
To some degree, “Dura” proceeds along the expository path of “Ruin”. This makes sense, mainly as the episode explores Nygma’s pathology and various relationships. It’s not the most exciting show but it moves along events in a compelling manner.
13 Stitches: “Gordon assembles an unlikely team to protect Gotham from Eduardo Dorrance and his Delta Force. Just as Lee Thompkins (Morena Baccarin) resurfaces, Barbara reveals shocking news that will change Gordon's life forever. Selina and Penguin team up to outsmart fellow villain Magpie (Sarah Schenkkan).”
After some largely expository shows, “Stitches” ramps up the action and drama well. It goes down a number of fun paths and throws out good twists to become a strong episode.
Ace Chemicals: “Gordon races to uncover the criminal element threatening to end talks of Gotham's reunification with the mainland. A very much alive Jeremiah returns and organizes a twisted recreation of the murder of Bruce's parents with the help of Jervis Tetch aka Mad Hatter (Benedict Samuel).”
Given the episode’s title, one might expect “Chemicals” to lean heavily on Jeremiah, and one would anticipate correctly. This episode marks a dynamic push toward Batman’s defining characters and relationships and does so in a momentous way.
Nothing’s Shocking: “Bullock's past comes back to haunt him when he and Gordon investigate two murders at Sirens. Bruce and Alfred (Sean Pertwee) explore the tunnels beneath the city, and Penguin and Nygma's plans to escape are thwarted by the least likely of suspects.”
After the big thrills of “Chemicals”, “Shocking” brings an inevitable regression, mainly because the face-changing villain seems lackluster. Still, I like the oddness of “Mr. Scarface”, so we get enough substance to make this another reasonably solid show.
The Trial of Jim Gordon: “After Gordon is shot in an attempt to establish a cease-fire, he hallucinates a trial for his life that could have deadly real consequences. Meanwhile, Ivy (Peyton List) returns and puts her spell on Bruce, leaving Selina to defend herself. Lee has a life-changing moment as Barbara and Penguin consider their next moves.”
With so little time left in S5 – and the season proper – I figure Gotham should really percolate at this point. “Trial” feels a little like a placeholder, and Gordon’s dream sequence becomes an albatross. It’s not a bad show, but it’s the weakest of S5 to date.
I Am Bane: “On the precipice of Gotham's reunification, Gordon and Bruce find themselves face-to-face with a newly transformed Eduardo, and discover the real mastermind behind the city's current chaos. Meanwhile, a pregnant Barbara turns to Lee for help.”
As implied by the title, this episode introduces a major Batman villain, and it does so pretty well. Gotham’s Bane doesn’t pack the punch of Dark Knight Rises’, at least he’s substantially superior to the Batman & Robin take. A few lulls hit the episode, but it still offers a good rebound after the lackluster “Trial”.
They Did What?: “As Bane enacts his final plan for Gotham's destruction, Gordon rallies his former enemies to save the city.”
Though one more episode remains after “Did”, it really completes the series’ arc. The final show actually takes place 10 years after “Did”, so it’s a formal epilogue and not part of the S5 thread.
Some of this feels like a direct lead-in to Batman Begins, but “Did” takes a few alternate routes, which I appreciate. If Gotham played totally by canon, it’d be predictable, so some changes make sense.
As a conclusion to the season’s arc, “Did” works reasonably well, but I can’t claim it becomes one of the series’ best shows. Though it finishes matters in a mostly positive manner, it’s a little less satisfying than I’d hope.
The Beginning: “Ten years in the future, Bruce returns to Gotham for the opening of the new Wayne Tower. When Bullock is framed for a murder, Gordon begins to piece together a sinister plot targeting the city. A new figure emerges to be the hero Gotham needs.”
Gee, who might that hero be? Inevitably, “Beginning” covers territory similar to what we saw in Batman Begins, but the series’ shifts from canon allow it enough changes to satisfy. It’s a powerful episode and one that makes me even sadder Gotham ends here.
Actually, I kind of wish the series finished with “Did”, as it seems like a more natural conclusion: wrap up with Bruce still firmly pre-Batman and less us fill in the dots ourselves. Nonetheless, “Beginning” offers so much drama that I can forgive its semi-unnecessary nature.