Gotham Season 4 Review – Spoilers

This review includes spoilers for Gotham Season 4.

  • Series: Gotham
  • Season: 4
  • 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

Season 4 of Gotham is roughly split into two sections, with the first eleven episodes focused on the villains Professor Pyg and Sofia Falcone (daughter of retired mob boss Carmine Falcone) and the second half bringing back Jerome (the Joker). Along the way, Gotham regulars Penguin, Riddler, Poison Ivy, Selina Kyla, and the Gotham City Sirens of Barbara Kean and Tabitha make regular appearances. Revived by the waters of Slaughter Swamp that was poisoned by the industrial waste of Indian Hill – Butch is now Solomon Grundy. And yes, even R’as al Ghul is back. That sounds like a lot, but this show knows how to give each of their characters time to fully develop their stories.

Professor Pyg is a well-spoken serial killer whom we usually see with a pig’s head covering his face. He starts by killing GCPD police officers and covering their faces with a severed pig’s head. Detective James Gordon, who is promoted to Captain this season, is on the case with some help from Harvey Bullock. When it turns out all the cops that the Pig kills are dirty, things get intense and confronted with evidence that he was also “on the take” Harvey quits the GCPD and opens a bar. Never fear – he’s back by the conclusion of the storyline. But Professor Pyg soon turns his attention on the Narrows – poisoning several of the homeless. He then shows up as a caterer at a fundraiser for an orphanage that Sofia Falcone has recently established. Episode 9, “Let Them Eat Pie” has Professor Pyg first singing, “He (Pyg says, “they”) Had It Coming” from Chicago – then Sweeney Todd style serving the guests’ meat pies made from the Homeless he killed. Pyg also leaves a clue for James Gordon, a quote from Jonathon Swift’s A Modest Proposal. The GCPD arrests Pyg, he escapes, and eventually, James Gordon is forced to kill him when he takes Sofia Falcone “hostage”. It looks like Sofia will use this against Jim (as well as their brief partnership to take down Penguin) but she is also murdered an episode or two later.

I didn’t like Pyg at all – he’s too gross, and his “attack the rich to help the poor” argument might have been more convincing if he hadn’t killed six homeless people to accomplish his “goals”. Plus Professor Pyg is just not a great Batman villain, and Gotham didn’t make him sympathetic as they have other long-term villains. But, all in all, the Professor Pyg storyline is completely wrapped up by episode 10 or 11, and the remainder of the season has a better season-long villain. All the musical and other references in episode 9 were amusing though. (Someone on the show must like Bob Fosse, because not only does Pyg quote Chicago – but Riddler’s full suit is straight out of a Fosse musical – stiff bowler hat, gloves, and even Riddler’s movement emphasizes controlled snappy lines, as is seen in Cabaret, Chicago, and Pippin.)

The season opens with Penguin having come up with an idea to rule the criminal underground in Gotham: Pax Penguina – he literally licenses crime. Penguin even gets the police to allow this by paying them off. Thus Pyg’s initial strikes against “corrupt cops”. Riddler’s frozen body decorates Penguin’s Iceberg Lounge. Jim Gordon, however, thinks the system is ridiculous and sets out to take down Penguin. He even sees Carmine Falcone at his home in Florida (presumably) and makes a bargain with Sofia as the lesser of two evils to take down Penguin. Meanwhile, Lee Thompson has returned to the Narrows – she’s operating a free clinic and working at an underground fight club to pay for it. Riddler is released from his icy prison – but not without problems.

Riddler now has two personalities – his “nice guy” personality (Ed Nygma) falls in love with Lee, whom he meets at the fight club, is meeker, but isn’t as “smart” – he can no longer create elaborate riddles – he can’t even solve simple childhood riddles. The Riddler personality is smart, can do the riddle thing, wears a bottle-green silk suit, bowler hat, and green gloves, and could care less about Lee. The Riddler manipulates Ed to free himself. Ed is also the one who finds Solomon Grundy (formerly Butch Gilzean) shortly after he’s resurrected in Slaughter Swamp. Ed takes Butch to the fight club, Butch beats the current champion and becomes the best fighter. Eventually, Ed, Lee, and Butch take over the club – and later, Lee takes over the Narrows. Unfortunately, Lee has a hard time holding on to the narrows and it goes back and forth between her and others throughout the season. But Ed’s love for Lee is balanced against her desire to have real power in the Narrows so she can actually do some good. At the same time, Riddler is haunting Ed because he wants to become the dominant personality. Oddly enough, with help from Penguin – he succeeds and Riddler’s full personality – cleverness, lack of caring for others, and beautiful bottle-green suit (again, with bowler hat and green leather gloves) is born.

Penguin starts out on top, ruling Gotham’s underworld through his Pax Penguina plan, but soon is involved in a war for territory against three groups of, interestingly enough, all women: Sofia Falcone who wants to rule Gotham like her father did; Lee Thompkins who wants to rule the Narrows for altruistic reasons; and the Gotham City Sirens (Barbara Kean, Tabitha Galavan, and briefly Selina Kyle). Between these various groups, the Pyg, and later developments – Penguin slowly loses his position. Penguin also briefly works with Butch and Riddler.

The first episode also has Bruce Wayne, dressed in black, beating up criminals on Gotham city streets. Lucius Fox gives him a bullet-proof flexible suit (a basic Batsuit, minus cowl) but when Bruce is forced to kill R’as al Ghul with a ceremonial knife at his request – Bruce flips out. His reaction to having to kill someone is to become a rebellious teenager – hanging out with the wrong crowd, drinking, chasing girls, and being a spoiled brat. he even gets himself emancipated and fires Alfred. It takes some time for Bruce to stop this behavior, and deal with his issues (the trauma of having to murder R’as), but when he does – he and Alfred are wonderful together. Selina also helps Bruce face his issues and get back to being himself. So he doesn’t become the Bat yet.

Barbara Kean tries to pick-up the organized crime that Penguin doesn’t control – opening a gun-running and sale organization. She also runs a nightclub where the women don’t have to pay for drinks. Tabby supports her in her goals – and they try to recruit Selina. Barbara, it turns out was revived by R’as al Ghul, using “Lazarus water” (presumably because they couldn’t do a full Lazarus pit sequence). When R’as dies – Barbara becomes the Demon’s Head. It turns out, R’as really should have left an instruction book. At times, Barbara is able to lead the League of Shadows – but at times the League, especially the male members, balk at a female leader. The male League members even bring R’as back, but Barbara and Bruce kill him again. Barbara ends up as the Demon’s Head, understanding her powers, including the way to interpret visions of the future, as she leads a new female-only League of Shadows.

Tabby works with Penguin to get Butch “fixed” by Hugo Strange. It surprisingly enough works once they finally manage to get Butch to Strange. However, as Tabitha and Butch declare their love for each other – Penguin fatally shoots Butch (after calling him a friend) because Butch killed his mother. Then he wounds Tabitha – who goes to Barbara for help (we don’t see the result).

Both Riddler and Lee are wounded at the very end of the season too (yes, they look like they are dying – we can assume not because: comics).

The main villain of the second part of the season though is Jerome and his twin brother, Jeremiah. Everything else – Penguin, Riddler, the Sirens, Bruce, Alfred, Jim Gordon, and Harvey Bullock is spread through the entire season. Jerome is as nutty as before and he orchestrates a breakout at Arkham when Ed Nygma and Oswald Cobblepot are briefly locked up. Jerome uses a radio signal to get people up on rooftops ready to jump at midnight. But if Jim Gordon tries to stop anyone, including Harvey, they will jump immediately. Jim solves the conundrum by having people save each other. He and Jerome confront each other – and Jerome falls to his death. Jerome’s followers stage an attack on GCPD HQ.

But Jerome also threatens his twin brother, Jeremiah. Jeremiah is a brilliant engineer and he develops a self-perpetuating generator (with a little help from Wayne Enterprises). We are given a few hints that Jeremiah isn’t normal either – he lives in an underground bunker with only a female secretary / bodyguard for company, in a scene between Jerome and Jeremiah – Jerome accuses Jeremiah of lying about the horrors Jerome did as a kid, which resulted in Jerome being physically abused and ultimately sent away, while Jeremiah was sent to engineering school. Jerome uses his Joker Gas on Jeremiah which turns his face stark white – and releases his inner demons. Jeremiah is much scarier than Jerome because he’s so cold and calculating. Jerome wanted chaos. Jeremiah has a plan. With the final two episodes entitled “One Bad Day” and “No Man’s Land” long-time fans of the Batman Mythos know what’s coming and aren’t disappointed. Bruce, Jim, Lucius, and Harvey stop the initial explosions of the generators that Jeremiah has rigged to become bombs. But Jeremiah succeeds in blowing-up the bridges leading into Gotham City – leaving the city isolated.

Even though I didn’t like Pyg as a villain, and Jerome is just simple madness and chaos, Jeremiah made for an excellent villain. Adapting the massive “No Man’s Land” storyline is hard and Gotham managed to give it a good start (I can’t wait to see the follow up). As always, the imagery in this show is so good. This season opens with Bruce, very Batman-like on a rooftop with his cloak flowing behind him and a gargoyle in the background. It ends with Gordon shining a light at the clouds from Gotham City PD with Bruce standing nearby as a beacon of hope. In between the development of the other characters is just so well done. I love Penguin and Riddler so much I almost want to see them succeed – even though they are the villains. And the women this season also came into their own, even if they didn’t always meet their goals. I actually, overall, liked Gotham Season 4 very much, and I recommend it. I’m also looking forward to Season 5, which will be the final season.

Read my Gotham Season 1 Review.

Read my Gotham Season 2 Review.

Read my Gotham Season 3 Review.

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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.

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.