June 6, 2017

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Finale Review: “Gotham”


No mainstream comic book saga revels in its darkness quite as much as FOX’s GOTHAM.  Its sheer viciousness is particularly impressive since it exists in a universe of broadcast standards and practices that now seems positively antiquated.  Nevertheless, just about every character in the show’s Gotham City is or has been a violent psychopath, and in Season 3, that included most of the putative heroes:  pre-Commissioner Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie), kindly doctor (and some-time Gordon love interest) Lee Thompkins (Morena Baccarin), and teen Batman-to-be Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz).  They were, in the way of comic book stories, possessed by outside forces like an evil virus and the always-popular influence of League of Assassins leader Ra’s al Ghul, but still.

The season finale (Hour 1 written by Executive Producer Danny Cannon and directed by Nathan Hope; Hour 2 written by Co-Executive Producer Robert Hull and directed by Rob Bailey) reached a peak of bleakness at the close of the season’s penultimate hour when Bruce fatally stabbed ever-loyal butler and de facto dad Alfred Pennyworth (Sean Pertwee)–although the death didn’t last long, thanks to some of the League’s restorative waters.  By that time, Jim and Lee were almost entirely in the thrall of the virus, with black eyes and pulsating veins in their faces.  It all made the supposed darkness of a movie like Batman v Superman look pretty lighthearted by comparison, let alone Gotham‘s CW cousins like Arrow and The Flash.

As a series, Gotham is still a victim of its own sprawl, with too many characters to service and hours to fill, although under showrunner Bruno Heller, this season’s storytelling was more focused than the show has been in the past.  The finale ended up spending prime real estate in its last half-hour dealing with the confrontation between C-level characters Barbara Kean (Erin Richards) and former girlfriend Tabitha Galavan (Jessica Lucas), because neither the Gordon nor Bruce stories had a big ending.  (Barbara appeared to be killed by electrocution, but as noted death is often a temporary condition on Gotham.)  The series is also limited by the fact that we know the iconic characters have to survive so they can be around for the adult Batman mythology, which means that as many times as Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) or Riddler (Cory Michael Smith) appear to be on the verge of certain extinction, something has to save them.  It’s also hard to restrain a yawn at the arrival of Ra’s al Ghul yet again, after recent appearances in Batman Begins and more than one season of Arrow.  Nevertheless, Gotham did a good job this season with developing the twisted relationship between Penguin and Riddler, and Riddler’s emergence as a major villain along the way, and the finale also brought Selina Kyle (Carmen Bicondova) a step closer to becoming Catwoman, as well as ending with the reveal of a proto-Batman.

Gotham continues to have some of the most impressive production values on network TV (reportedly, license fee negotiations between FOX and Warner Bros Television went down to the wire before its renewal), and its heightened sensibility allows the cast, regulars and guest stars alike, plenty of license to chew scenery while staying in character.  Michael Chiklis, who began as Gotham City’s police Captain and turned into one of its most bloodthirsty virus victims, was particularly colorful in Season 3, and it was fun to see Baccarin, who was a notable evil alien queen on the reboot of V, go back to the dark side toward the end of the season.  (The season finale indicated that Baccarin is leaving the show, at least for a while, which is in accord with the news that she’s been developing projects elsewhere, although the door was left wide open for her return.)

Like many serialized broadcast dramas, Gotham would benefit from a shorter episode order (this season, less of the Council of Owls would have been a blessing), and its non-stop notes of violence and corruption can be monotonous.  It’s one of the few network shows left, though, that can be fairly termed distinctive and sometimes even surprising, and in the ratings it’s one of FOX’s strongest drama performers after Empire.  If its costs can be kept in check, it seems to have enough life left to launch Bruce Wayne all the way to his shadowy alter ego.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."