Gotham Season 3 Review

  • Series: Gotham
  • Season: 3
  • Episodes: 22
  • Discs: 4 (Blu-Ray)
  • Cast: Ben McKenzie, Donal Logue, David Mazouz, Sean Pertwee, Robin Lord Taylor, Cory Michael Smith, Camren Bicondova, Morena Baccarin, Alexander Siddig
  • Network:  FOX (Warner Brothers Productions)
  • DVD Format: Blu-Ray, Color, Widescreen

The opening episode of Season 3 of Gotham brings in The Court of Owls, but then we don’t see them again, until towards the end of the season. Bruce meets the Court and gives in – giving them control of Wayne Enterprises and promising to stop his investigation into his parents’ murder. Meanwhile, James Gordon is no longer a police detective and is making ends meet as a bounty hunter, collecting the escapees from Indian Hill.

A new villain for the season is Jervis Tetch, whom long-time Batman fans will know as, the Mad Hatter. Tetch makes his Gotham debut at a club owned by Barbara and Tabitha. He appears to simply be a hypnotist and stage magician – but he has far greater control over his victims than an ordinary illusionist. Jervis Tetch approaches Jim and asks him to find his sister, Alice – weaving him a sob story about them being separated as orphans when they were children. But when Jim finds Alice, she is terrified of her brother and says he can control people. She’s also afraid because her blood is lethal and can turn people into monsters.

Alice ends-up dying (accidentally) at the hands of her brother. The death of Alice brings James Gordon back to the GCPD as a detective. However, Capt. Barnes ends-up infected by a drop of her blood. He goes crazy and starts to execute the guilty of Gotham, before being caught and sent to Arkham.

Meanwhile, Penguin becomes mayor of Gotham and is also running Gotham’s underground. He is successful as mayor, and briefly becomes happy – and thinks he’s fallen in love with Ed Ngyma – his new chief of staff. On the night that Penguin plans on telling Ed this, Ed meets a woman in a wine shop who looks just like Kristen, his old girlfriend whom he murdered. She doesn’t even freak out when she discovers that Nygma murdered his ex. Penguin threatens her to get her to leave – but she isn’t intimated by this either. So Penguin has her murdered.

Ngyma discovers his new lady love’s brake lines were cut, causing her car to careen into a train. He blames Butch (and Tabitha) but later is convinced by Barbara that it was Penguin. Nygma shoots Penguin in the gut and dumps him in Gotham harbor. Penguin, however, survives, and is healed by Ivy – now a young woman instead of a child, but with the mental attitude of an eight-year-old. Nygma becomes The Riddler.

Meanwhile, a cult has formed around Jerome – the Joker. The cult leader tries to bring Jerome back from the dead and fails. Later Jerome revives. He and his gang of Jokerz terrorize Gotham but are ultimately defeated.

After the Jerome/Joker attack, the plot focuses more on the Court of Owls. Bruce meets his clone from Indian Hill, but he escapes and reports to the Court. During the battle with Jerome, Bruce decides not to kill him and he makes a solemn oath to Alfred that he will not kill. Bruce and Selina meet her Mom, but she turns out to be a con artist who takes advantage of Bruce to get some money. Selina has a hissy fit and walks away from Bruce. Bruce is then kidnapped. He’s turned over to “Sensai” and his ninjas – more or less the League of Assasins, with the Sensai being a level below Ra’s al Ghul himself. With the clone at Wayne Manor, Bruce is brainwashed and trained to fight. After his brainwashing is complete, he’s taken to Gotham to destroy the “corrupt” city. The Sensai tries to get Bruce to execute the Court – but he is prevented (and the entire Court leadership is killed). Still, the court has had time to place its weapon in Gotham. The weapon is a bomb, loaded with a weaponized and aerosol version of the Alice Tetch virus. The bomb will be released in a public place – causing Gotham to tear itself apart.

Lee Thompkins returns to Gotham with her fiancé, Mario, who just happens to be the son of Carmine Falcone, the gangster. When Jim is forced to kill Mario to stop him from killing Lee – Lee cannot forgive Jim. Later Lee infects herself with the virus, buries Jim alive with a sample, and tells him to use it to get the strength to free himself. Jim resists for himself but when he figures out the location where the bomb will be set off, he takes the dose of the virus.

Meanwhile, Harvey Bullock gets Hugo Strange and Lucius Fox working on a cure for the virus. There is a confrontation in which the first batch of cure is destroyed, but they continue to try to make more, even though Jervis Tetch’s blood is a key ingredient.

Jim, Harvey, and the GCPD race to Gotham train station to stop the bomb. Bruce, held by Sensai, looks down on Gotham from Wayne Enterprises with the trigger in his hand. Alfred, Jim, and Harvey try to stop him. Unfortunately, for everybody, during another fracas – the trigger is knocked out of Bruce’s hand – and pressed. There isn’t enough time to stop the bomb and it goes off.

Bruce seeks out Ra’s al Ghul and finds him by the Lazarus Pit – in Gotham. Alfred follows. Rauch forces Bruce to stab Alfred then gives him the hint to use “the water”. Bruce, now finally freed from his brainwashing, and appalled at what he’s done, pours some water on Alfred’s wound and rushes him to the hospital. The penultimate scene is Alfred starting to wake up in hospital. The final scene has a young couple and their daughter being confronted by a mugger with a gun. The mugger is defeated by a masked man in black. We then see Bruce in black clothing, and a cape, standing on a rooftop gargoyle, guarding Gotham.

Season 3 of Gotham has a few themes – the most obvious one is madness, but it’s not the most interesting. What’s interesting is the theme that no one can be happy in Gotham. Any character who may have flitting moments of happiness – loses it. This is most obvious with Penguin, when he wins the mayoral race, without bribes, he is ecstatic. When he walks into the mayor’s office a few weeks later only to be confronted with a “press conference about his numbers” – he assumes it’s bad news. When the news is good – he’s happy. He even manages to fall in love. – Only to have everything taken from him again. And when Penguin is happy – he’s standing upright, his limp is less pronounced, but as he becomes less happy – he limps more and he doesn’t look good – physically.

But it isn’t just Penguin who goes through these transformations. Lee returns to Gotham, and to her job as medical examiner for the GCPD – even though she’s now engaged. She should be happy, and she should have stayed away.

Harvey ends up as acting captain, and seems to enjoy it – but there was a time when Harvey had also quit the GCPD – and started running a bar. That was his ultimate time of happiness.

Ed Nygma seems to be happy with his Kristin clone, but she quickly dies. And I found myself wondering just how much of a coincidence it was that they met, and they met when Ed was supposed to be on a date with Oswald.

Bruce and Selina have a moment – but then Selina gets angry at him, and leaves.

Pretty much everyone in Gotham cannot be happy – that’s the ruling principle of Gotham.

But this is still a film noir styled show. It’s about protagonists – not heroes. And sometimes even the villains can be just as interesting or more so than the “heroes”. It’s also violent. There are plenty of instances of someone walking into a room and killing everyone there – usually with guns (although the Court of Owls is appropriately enough cut to death by knives). But the violence is disturbing at times.

Gotham also continues to have incredible cinematography. The fight between Bruce and Jerome in the Hall of Mirrors is particularly well shot, avoiding clichés, while simply looking really cool. Early in the season, white graffiti bats appear on buildings. There’s a style to the filming that is reminiscent of the great film noir movies, and it’s just there, without calling attention to itself.

Overall, Gotham is still a good show, and well worth watching.

Please also see my Gotham Season 2 Review.

Please also see my Gotham Season 1 Review.

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Gotham Season 2 Review (Spoilers)

  • Series: Gotham
  • Season: 2
  • Episodes: 22
  • Discs: 4 (on Blu-Ray)
  • Cast: Ben McKenzie, Donal Logue, David Mazouz, Sean Pertwee, Robin Lord Taylor, Cory Michael Smith, Camren Bicondova, Morena Baccarin, Erin Richards, James Frain, Chris Chalk, B. D. Wong
  • Network:  FOX (Warner Brothers Productions)
  • DVD Format: Blu-Ray, Color, Widescreen 

Gotham has incredible cinematography. The use of dark, light, shadows, raking light from the side, tints of gold or blue is simply spellbinding. This show really deserves an award for the cinematography and lighting because it is just that good. The sets and locations also take your breath away and without being “showy” – they are just there. Film students need to look at this show just to see what you can do – even with the constraints of time and budget found in television.

The plot of season 2 of Gotham, however was really, really dark – so much so that at times it was really hard to even watch it. I normally watch at least one episode of a show on DVD/Blu-ray per day, more on my days off. With Gotham, I sometimes went days between watching it. Some of that was personal reasons, but some of it was wanting to avoid immersing myself in such a dark world. The subtitle of Season 2 was “Rise of the Villains” – and it is that, but moreover it’s a season in which the villains keep winning – which of course means the heroes keep losing. We also see two characters that, as audience members, from last season we liked – stepping even further down the path to becoming becoming the villains we know they will become.

One of the most difficult scenes to watch in a difficult season is when Ed Nygma kills Kristin Kringle. Kristin is too innocent to be living in Gotham – and her somewhat accidental death, literally at the hands of Nygma early in the season sets him on a very, very dark path. The psychosis that began with the death of Kristin’s abusive boyfriend last season, completely takes Ed over when he kills his girlfriend. And the scene is just hard to watch. It’s terrible – not badly produced, but it’s showing violence towards women in an way that’s about the man’s point of view – not the woman’s. It’s hard.

Whereas season 1 of Gotham had many strong women – some villains, some not, many strong in their own ways, in season 2 those women are gone. Both Barbara and Tabitha (the villain Galavan’s sister) are utterly insane. And as crazy as Fish was last season, she was also strong. Tabitha is cruel and psychotic – and in a sense this makes her not a strong woman. Likewise, Barbara, who never seemed to know what she wanted anyway – is nuts as well, and as manipulative as possible. When she returns at the end of the season as “cured” the audience can’t trust her. It will be interesting to see where her character goes in Season 3.

The second half of the season, introducing Hugo Strange (played by B.D. Wong – the psychiatrist from Law and Order: SVU which is just perfect casting), explains how monsters end-up in Gotham, as well as satisfactorily concluding the hints about Indian Hill that have been dropped since last season. I actually enjoyed the second season better than the first – though seeing Jim’s descent was, well, hard.

The first season saw Jim Gordon as an honest cop in a dishonest town. In season 2, out of necessity, Jim also doesn’t become corrupt, but he becomes more morally ambiguous. Jim goes from being the one good guy bringing light to the darkness, to the protagonist in a film noir series. He becomes Sam Spade, or Fred McMurray in Double Indemnity. It’s hard to watch Jim becoming the type of cop he despised when the show started. And at the end of the season he isn’t even a cop – though I expect him to return for season 3, with or without Lee Thompkins.

The Bruce and Alfred relationship in Season 2 is complex. Early in the season, Bruce tries to send Alfred away, then changes his mind. Alfred, in turn, decides he must train Bruce – train him to fight, to think, and to become the man he’s destined to become. Bruce is now more free to investigate his parents’ murder, and to learn on his own. At times this is problematical – would you let a 13-year-old boy live on the streets on his own? But, at the same time, Alfred can’t really stop Bruce. He’s a stubborn, determined boy – and to keep their relationship strong, Alfred needs to know when to stop him and when to let him go. This has always been key to their relationship.

Overall, I liked Gotham season 2. The cinematography and lighting alone make it a series worth watching. The season was dark, very dark, and times even difficult to watch, but at the same time – I think Season 3 might actually be, well, it’s hard to imagine “lighter” but to also have some of the great character moments of season one. The moments that made you say, “awww”, and really understand and feel for the characters. My Review of Season 1 of Gotham is also on Bitch with Wi-Fi.