Gotham Season 5 Review

  • Series: Gotham
  • Season: 5
  • Episodes: 12
  • Discs: 2 (Blu-Ray)
  • Cast: Ben McKenzie, Donal Logue, David Mazouz, Sean Pertwee, Robin Lord Taylor, Cory Michael Smith, Camren Bicondova, Morena Baccarin, Cameron Monaghan
  • Network:  FOX (Warner Brothers Productions)
  • DVD Format: Blu-Ray, Color, Widescreen

The fifth and final season of Gotham does the “No Man’s Land” storyline from Batman comics. The title “No Man’s Land” even appears on-screen. After Jeremiah Valeska blew up the bridges leading out of Gotham – the city is cut off from “the mainland” and from any form of help or assistance from government or other sources. This is a little difficult to believe, but it does give the entire season a claustrophobic feel – as Captain Jim Gordon and the GCPD are the only ones holding the city together and trying to provide essentials like food, water, shelter, and medicine. Gotham is soon split into territories run by different gangs, so we do get to see brief appearances by groups such as The Mutants (even though in the comics they only appeared in Frank Miller’s Elseworlds graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns). Most of the short season focuses on a few groups: Sirens – run by Barbara Kean, City Hall – run by Penguin, and Edward Nygma (who is on his own but very important to the story). Other characters that we’ve met through the years on Gotham also make appearances. These appearances are integrated into the storyline and do not seem to be there simply for the sake of a character or actor appearing in the final season.

Barbara controls access to food and alcohol, and Penguin controls access to arms and bullets, even starting a bullet factory – so Capt. Jim Gordon has to work with them to get these “essentials”. Edward Nygma keeps waking up in strange places with no memory of how he got there or what he did. At first, he thinks the “Ed” (or Riddler) side of his personality is behind this. But we find out he’s being controlled by Hugo Strange, and behind him is Amanda Waller. Nygma discovers it was Ed who destroyed Haven, a building full of refugees – set up by Captain Gordon, with a rocket launcher. Hundreds of innocent women and children were killed by Ed’s actions. Nygma is disgusted when he realizes what he’s done, but discovers Hugo Strange literally put a chip in his head to control him and get him to do whatever he wanted. But it was Amanda Waller, a military agent, who gave the orders, including the order to destroy Haven. Waller’s ultimate plan is to use the military to completely destroy Gotham because she thinks the city isn’t worth saving. Waller also doesn’t care about the innocent civilians who suffer under her plan – even though she could have used the military to evacuate Gotham instead and then rebuild the city.

Waller also arranges to have Jeremiah Valeska escape from Arkham. Jeremiah immediately causes a lot of chaos and destruction. He is, though, dropped into a vat of chemicals at Ace Chemicals by Jim Gordon (Gordon didn’t push him in but he fell when he tried to push Gordon in). Jim also drives the truck loaded with chemical weapon bombs that will poison Gotham into the Gotham River. Waller also turns one of her mercenary troopers into the venom (a form of steroids) ingesting super-villain who tries to destroy the GCPD, and in particular, James Gordon so Gotham can be destroyed by General Wade. Wade initially arrives for “Reunification Day” and compliments Gordon on his holding Gotham together and using Wayne Enterprises technology to clean Gotham River water. But Wade has also been chipped by Waller, so instead of reporting that Reunification can go through, he orders that Gotham be completely destroyed with military bombs. The military begins to follow this order as well as landing on Gotham with tanks and hundreds of troops led by Bane.

During the course of the season, Capt. Jim Gordon works with Barbara, Oswald Cobblepot and Edward Nygma. This shaky alliance continues, though at times various players fall back to their resentments from issues they’ve had with each other in the past. But especially after he figures out what Strange and Waller did to him, Nygma works with Gordon and even forms an alliance with Penguin. Barbara and Gordon have a one night stand that results in Barbara getting pregnant. She tells this to Gordon when Lee Thompkins finally returns, having been missing for most of the season. Gordon and Thompkins also marry. Barbara and Jim Gordon will, ultimately, co-parent their daughter, Barbara Lee.

The season is very, very dark – and a lot of horrible things happen, as you may expect in a city under siege storyline. However, the penultimate episode, “They Did What?” actually both concludes the season and the series – and is positive and hopeful. I don’t want to spoil it. The final episode is set ten years after “He Did What?” and introduces Batman. Yes, Batman.

Even though parts of Season 5 of Gotham were extremely dark and difficult to watch, I did, ultimately like the season, and I think a big part of that was the episode “They Did What?” which did a very good job of concluding the season and the series. Characters we’ve followed for five years were allowed to follow their storylines and in the final episode, we see how they’ve become the characters we know from a more “standard” Batman universe. Gotham was developed with the premise, “What made Bruce Wayne, Batman? What was he like as a child/teenager?” and it succeeded in this. But Gotham also succeeded in telling the story of a city. It explained why the Gotham City of a more standard Batman universe is so messed-up and where the supervillains came from, especially the ones that seem to have almost supernatural powers. Yes, Gotham is a different take on Batman, and it really plays with timelines (especially introducing “No Man’s Land” and Bane before Bruce became Batman) but that also falls under the category of “What if…” What if Bruce didn’t just wander the world learning how to fight, but he was pushed into leaving Gotham? What if there was a real reason that there were so many weird, superpowered, criminals in Gotham beyond just “they are there because of Batman”?

Overall, I really liked the series of Gotham. The entire cast was brilliant – especially Sean Pertwee (Alfred Pennyworth), Camren Bicondova (Selina Kyle), Cory Michael Smith (Edward Ngyma) and Robin Lord Taylor (Oswald Cobblepot). Not that the rest of the cast weren’t brilliant too – I loved Donal Logue as Harvey Bullock, Chris Chalk as Lucius Fox, David Mazouz as Bruce Wayne and Ben McKenzie as Jim Gordon – but Gotham was in many ways all about the villains. The villains and a few brave souls (Bruce, Alfred, Jim, Harvey, and Lucius) that decided to fight them. The series is definitely worth watching, on Blu-ray if you can (I replaced my first and second season DVD copies with Blu-rays to get the full effect of the excellent filming, direction and use of widescreen techniques.)

Read my Review of Season 1 of Gotham.
Read my Review of Season 2 of Gotham.
Read my Review of Season 3 of Gotham.
Read my Review of Season 4 of Gotham.

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.

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.

Son of Batman

  • Title: Son of Batman
  • Director: Ethan Spaulding
  • Voice Director: Andrea Romano
  • Date: 2014
  • Studio: Warner Brothers Animation
  • Genre: Animation, Action, Fantasy, Drama
  • Cast: Jason O’Mara, Stuart Allan, Thomas Gibson, Morena Baccarin, Sean Maher, David McCallum
  • Format: Widescreen, color, animation
  • DVD Format: Blu-Ray

“I’ll drive.” – Damain
“No.” – Batman
“I know how.” – Damain
“No.” – Batman

“Do you know what you were tonight?” You weren’t a warrior. You weren’t a soldier. You were a child.” – Batman
“If it hadn’t been for him [Nightwing, Dick Grayson], I…” – Damian
[breaking in] “If it hadn’t been for Dick, you’d have gone too far.” – Batman
“It’s easier my way!” – Damian
“It has nothing to do with easy. It’s about doing what’s right, because it’s right and that’s the only reason you need.” – Batman

“You’ve never felt vengeful?” – Damian
“Everyday. You have to keep your center, Damain. You can’t fight crime by becoming a criminal.” – Batman

Son of Batman is the first of a trilogy of films about Damian Wayne – the son of Talia al Ghul (daughter of Ra’s al Ghul) and Bruce Wayne. Damian will become the fourth Robin (after Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, and Tim Drake). The film opens with Ra’s al Ghul and Damian standing on a balcony in the secret temple of the League of Assassins. They watch the assassins exercising and training below, and Ra’s tells Damian it will be his birthright. But the temple is attacked. Talia protects Damian, but ultimately Ra’s is killed. Talia takes Damian to his father in Gotham City.

Once Talia makes introductions she leaves, and Batman returns to his mansion with his young son. Meanwhile a scientist, whom we learn later is Kirk Langstrom, is being forced to work on a formula or his wife and daughter will be harmed. Previously working for the League of Assassins, Langstrom is now working for Deathstroke – the leader of the attack on Ra’s temple. At Wayne Manor, Damian finds an antique sword and attacks the bushes. Bruce is impressed by the young man’s skill, while Alfred bemoans the destruction of the shrubbery.

Later that day or the next, Damian shows up at Wayne Enterprises – and proves himself an adept hacker. Bruce brings him home and grounds him. This will not go well.

Deathstroke’s henchman, Ubu, enters a hotel room with two hookers – but immediately gets suspicious. Damian arrives and fights Ubu – the fight spills out onto the street. Damain’s about to take Ubu’s head off with a sword, when Nightwing arrives. A few minutes later, Nightwing, looking the worse for wear, calls Bruce and tells him he has his son.

Back at the Batcave, Damian says just the wrong thing to Batman, and Dick who knows his mentor well, mutters, “uh-oh”, then Batman reads Damian the riot act. However, Damian is allowed to put on his own spin on the Robin suit and he and Batman travel on Gotham’s rooftops together. Batman introduces the new Robin to Commissioner Gordon with a nod and a “I’ll explain later”. Gordon gives Batman a clue, a scrap of paper from the investigation of Ubu. Batman and Damian follow it up, finding Langstrom. They find out Deathstroke has his family. There’s a massive fight against guards that ends-up in an old stadium that’s filled with giant man-bats.

Damian has Langstrom at knifepoint. He’s taken to the Batcave. There, finding out about his family, and that Ra’s wanted him to create a formula to create human/animal crossbreeds to create super-soldiers. Batman and Damian head off on a rescue mission, while Nightwing watches Langstrom as he makes a antidote to his man-bat formula. Damian had recognized the scientist’s daughter’s description of two mountain peaks like cat’s ears as Interlochen.

The rescue mission goes smoothly, and Batman finds the mother and daughter. But the daughter slips Damian a phone with a video message from Deathstroke and a location of Damian’s still-missing mother, Talia. Bruce calls Dick from a hotel room – then realizes Damian is missing. Batman, having heard from Mrs. Langstrom that Talia was also a prisoner but she was taken to another location. Dick quickly deduces the location, a nearby oil rig off the coast of Scotland.

The oil rig is at sunset and the animation is gorgeous. Damian takes an elevator to a sea base. Batman arrives and takes out the guards. Damian discovers a Lazarus Pit. Deathstroke threatens Talia. Damian threatens Deathstroke. But when pushed, Damian drops his gun. Talia gets shot trying to save Damian from Deathstroke. Batman arrives. Man-bats also attack. Batman uses sound signals on his batarangs to draw away the man-bats. Batman has the injured Talia.

Man-bats burst through the reinforced glass ceilings of the base, causing water to rush in and the system to overload. The man-bats burst above the base from the ocean and Nightwing and Langstrom fire antidotes at the man-bats from Nightwing’s plane.

Batman takes Talia into the Lazarus Pit. Damian and Deathstroke face off in a sword fight. Talia is cured by the Lazarus Pit.

The Sea-base starts to collapse as the sea rushes in. Water from the Lazarus Pit, which is being mined, also gets released. Deathstroke goads Damian into killing him – but Robin refuses – taking the name as his own for the first time. However, Deathstroke is caught by the explosion of the Lazarus pipelines. Batman, the new Robin, and Talia make it to an escape capsule and Nightwing rescues it from the ocean and the collapsing oil rig.

Talia and Bruce discuss who will have custody of Damian, but in the end he will stay with Bruce for now. Talia goes to rebuild the League of Assassins.

The animation in Son of Batman is excellent. This film looks gorgeous and the action sequences (of which there are many) are crisp and easy to follow. The sunset colors of the oil rig sequence are stunning. The film’s last shot of Batman and Robin, their capes blowing in the wind, the sunset behind them is beautiful. But this is also an extremely violent film with a high body count. The characterization is OK, but could have been better. Bruce Wayne seems a bit bland – and I found it hard to believe he didn’t even questions Talia. You’d think he would have demanded a paternity test – if only because of his position. Yet, Bruce also stops short of openly declaring that Damian is his son to the world.

I avoided this film and the two sequels for awhile because I’m not a fan of Grant Morrison at all, nor am I a fan of New 52, and I don’t really like Damian either. But, having said all that, I enjoyed this film. It looks gorgeous. The characterizations were pretty good. I loved seeing Dick Grayson as Nightwing, and the hint of the brothers-in-bat-hood relationship he will eventually have with Damian.

Recommendation: See It
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Next Film: Well, it should be the next in sequence, Batman vs. Robin, but it will probably be Batman: The Killing Joke which I just bought.

Spy

  • Title: Spy
  • Director: Paul Feig
  • Date: 2015
  • Studio: 20th Century Fox
  • Genre: Action, Comedy
  • Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Miranda Hart, Allison Janney, Rose Byrne, Morena Baccarin, Jude Law, Jason Statham, Jessica Chaffin
  • Format: Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format: R1, NTSC

“I must have watched this fifteen times now, because What the fuck? I almost put it up on youTube.” – Elaine Crocker
“I must say I was uncomfortable with the event, but I’d also like to say – it was over ten years ago, the instructor was not harmed.” – Susan
“Fine was your mentor, right?” – Elaine
“Yes.” – Susan
“Why did you not become a field agent?” – Elaine
“We’re such a great fit and a great team… Fine made some great points, maybe I’d match better staying in his ear.” – Susan
“Yeah, he sniped you. All the top agents used to do that before I got here.” – Elaine

“I do not condone these sexy but reckless actions of yours, Susan!” – Nancy

Melissa McCarthy’s Spy is an empowering movie – but it is also laugh-out-loud funny, fast-paced, and quite the ride. The movie stars five very different women and a few men. At the core of the film is the friendship between Susan Cooper and Nancy, two analysts at the CIA. Their job is perfectly explained by the opening scene of the film where Bradley Fine, top CIA field agent, tracks down a man who’s made it known he’s willing to sell a small, portable nuclear weapon. Fine’s holding the man at gunpoint when he points out that he erased the men who helped him hide the nuke, then he erased the “erasers” so Bradley better not kill him. At that moment, Fine sneezes, the gun goes off, and the guy dies. Susan asks, “Why did you do that?” then calmly, and expertly guides Fine to his escape, even calling in a drone strike so Fine can get away. Susan and Nancy’s friendship is illustrated by a scene where they are in a bar talking. Nancy spots Carol Walker, the agency’s top female agent and quietly pokes fun at her for being so perfect. The scene is very real and illustrates how real women talk.

After Fine’s disastrous mission, Elaine Crocker, the head of the department at the CIA tells the agents that someone else must know about the nuke because it’s come up for sale on the black market. Susan had figured out it was Rayna, the seller’s daughter. Fine is sent to get Rayna – but he’s killed and Rayna reveals she knows the names of all the top agents. Thus Crocker needs to find an unknown for the mission. Susan Cooper volunteers. Susan, as a woman, is given a horrible cover story, and even worse and more embarrassing special equipment. When she arrives in Paris, her hotel is the type of dive that makes one want to take a shower just looking at it in the film. In Paris, she runs into Ford, another top agent who quit when Elaine choose Susan for the mission instead of him. Ford will continually show up – proving himself to be an incredible egotist, who constantly brags up his own abilities and insults Susan.

Susan herself through luck and talent manages to do quiet well. She’s supposed to be on a track and report mission, but the building she’s supposed to watch, where Deluka, their lead is staying has burned down the night before. Susan runs into Ford, who leaves her, but she notices that a woman has switched backpacks with Ford. She chases after him, right into the middle of a German dance pop outdoor concert. Ford barely realizes what’s going on but manages to throw the bomb into the river. After the encounter, Susan asks to go to Rome to follow their next lead. Her new cover is even worse than her first one.

In Rome, Susan saves Rayna – the woman she’s after, from a poisoned drink. Rayna has the man who slipped it to her killed, then invites Susan  on her private jet to Budapest. On the jet, Susan is knocked out. When one of the men on the plane threatens Rayna (largely because she treats him badly – not even knowing his name), shoots up the plane, and kills the pilot and navigator. Susan lands the plane. Rayna concludes that Susan is CIA – Susan convinces her she’s Amber Valentine a bodyguard hired by Rayna’s father. Rayna accepts this but is wary. When they land, Susan runs into Nancy, and tells Rayna she’s another of her operatives. A car shoots at them, killing Anton, one of Rayna’s retainers – Susan gives chase on a scooter. She catches up to the car, and fires at it and it crashes – it’s the agent, Carol Walker. Susan’s apologizing, when Carol pulls a gun at her – then is killed by a sniper.

Rayna is to meet her buyer at a disco. The Ally from Rome, Aldo, shows up – as does Ford and Nancy. Ford causes trouble, Susan has Nancy cause a distraction, and Susan goes after the woman to prevent her from meeting Rayna. Susan gives chase and fights the woman in a kitchen, using things like cast iron pans and tupperware. She does pretty well, but ends-up cornered. Fine shows up and kills the girl, but he and Rayna who are working together take Susan hostage. She ends-up tied up with Aldo. Susan’s pretty demoralized by this but Aldo cheers her up and then helps untie her. They escape.

Susan goes to find Rayna, Fine, the broker, and the buyer. Rayna claims Susan is doing all this because she loves Fine. Fine had revealed himself to be a triple agent. Rayna takes the group to the nuke, and again all hell breaks loose as the broker kills everyone he can so he can take the nuke and the diamonds that were Rayna’s payment. Ford arrives and pratfalls into the room – becoming a liability. Susan and Fine handle things in the room, though the broker escapes with the diamonds and nuke. Susan runs to the helicopter to get him and jumps on the strut. Ford jumps on her. Susan lets Ford fall in the lake, knocks the nuke and diamonds in to the lake but gets caught at the wrong end of the broker’s gun. Nancy shows up in another helicopter and fires at the broker. The broker, not quite dead fights back and grabs Susan’s necklace – she loosens the adjustable toggle and the guy falls into the lake.

Now successful, Susan passes up a chance at a dinner date with Fine for a girls night with Nancy. Elaine promises to keep her on as an active agent.

Whereas the opening credits are a typical Bond-type montage of smoke and girls – the end credits show Susan’s missions, complete with secret identities and special weaponry and they are hilarious. The movie also has a terrific soundtrack of fun music. Spy is an empowering movie and I enjoy it every time I watch it. It pushes through the Bechel test like water. The main characters – Susan, Nancy, Elaine, and Rayna are all women. Even secondary characters – the traitor Carol, and the third analyst in the basement – are women. Moreover, the men aren’t particularly competent. Bradley Fine walks into the opening scene like he’s James Bond, but he sets-up the entire movie by killing Rayna’s father, accidentally, before finding out where the suitcase bomb is. Ford is an egotistical braggart who’s claims are so ridiculous he’s obviously making them up (and Susan calls him on it), and the reality of his “abilities” is considerably “less”.

Susan begins the film as an extremely competent CIA analyst – without her in his ear, Fine wouldn’t last 30 seconds. When Elaine, Susan’s boss, digs into Susan’s records at The Farm – the CIA’s training facility, she’s impressed and even asks why Susan didn’t apply for a field agent position – only to discover that Fine suggested that she should not. Susan and the other analysts have to endure horrible conditions in the CIA basement in Langley – with bats and mice in the room – yet all three analysts deal with it like it’s nothing. No women standing on chairs screaming at a mouse here. The scenes between Nancy and Susan, especially their first scene in the bar, are written the way women actually talk. And Nancy is also a strong woman who adds to the chemistry of the film.

Rayna, as the villain of the piece, is the type of woman it’s easy to dislike – she’s a spoiled, pampered brat. She always gets exactly what she wants, yet she cares little for other people. Even her underlings can’t stand her – and many try to kill her in the film. Rayna’s method of intimidation includes poking fun at Susan’s looks and her clothes. She also is a psychopath – she doesn’t even care about Fine, whom she’s sleeping with, even though he killed her father.

I highly, highly recommend this film. It’s empowering to watch. But it’s also very funny – and it’s a great action/adventure film.

Recommendation: A Must See
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Next Film: Son of Batman

Serenity

  • Title:  Serenity
  • Director:  Joss Whedon
  • Date:  2005
  • Studio:  Universal
  • Genre:  SF, Action
  • Cast:  Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk, Morena Baccarin, Adam Baldwin, Jewel Straite, Sean Maher, Summer Glau, Ron Glass
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“This is the captain, we have a little problem with our entry sequence, so we may experience some slight turbulence and then explode.”  — Capt. Mal Reynolds

“I aim to misbehave.”  — Capt. Mal Reynolds

Another film I received as a gift, though I had seen Serenity in the theater, and liked it.  Mind you, I liked it, not loved it.  Serenity is the film sequel to the short-lived television series, Firefly.  What is it about Firefly that its fans are about as rabid as Fundamentalists – and about as hard to convince you’re really not interested?  I’ve seen the TV show, and it just didn’t catch my interest, for many reasons, only one of which is it’s a Western (and a thinly disguised one at that) — the heroes are also soldiers of the South who lost a Galactic Civil War.  Think about that.

The film starts, without credits, with a prologue or teaser, showing Simon Tan breaking his sister, River, out of a government “research” facility.  Yes, this is another “science is bad; government is bad” science fiction movie.  I miss when SF meant adventure, wonder, and fun, instead of the now popular anti-science and anti-government parables.  Anyway, Simon succeeds in getting River out, as we know, since the two were passengers on Capt. Mal Reynolds ship, Serenity.  However, the film does, to it’s credit, have a much more linear sense than the television series ever did, which helps considerably.

Mal and his crew are on a job, but River accidentally sees a subliminal message in a very weird commercial – and goes bonkers, then knocks out or kills everyone in a frontier bar.  Mal and company return to Haven, Shepherd Book’s community for shelter.  They leave to pick-up the Companion, who had left to conduct her own business, and return to find everyone in Haven dead.  But through River’s actions, they now have a problem to solve:  What is Miranda?  Why does the Alliance (a system-wide government of several planets) want River dead?  Just what is going on?

Eventually they discover Miranda is a planet — a planet no one knows and no know talks about.  They discover it’s located beyond the Reaver band.  Reavers are vicious killers – cannibals, and violent criminals.  We see a Reaver attack early in the film, to explain to the audience how awful they are.  Mal disguises his ship as a Reaver ship, to get through the band, un-harassed.  This works.  They find planet Miranda, but everyone there is dead.  At first, it seems there’s no obvious reason that everyone’s dead — no signs of environmental disaster, no signs of violence.  But they discover a recording.  The Alliance put Pax, a drug in the air system — the drug had such a calming effect people stopped doing anything.  But for about ten percent of the population, it had the opposite effect — people went wild, and became monsterous, violent, killers.  It other words, a bad drug reaction created the Reavers.  The ultimate “bad trip”.  Not to mention that Pax, the drug that calms people to death, sounds an awful lot like “Bliss” – the drug that did the same thing in the Doctor Who episode “Gridlock”.  But ideas do run around.

Mal and company then have to get the recorded message to Mr. Universe, the ultimate TV/Media fan so he can broadcast it on all screens.  The government agent who’s been chasing them throughout the film gets there first, and kills Mr. Universe.  But, Mal receives a message about a secondary transmitter (unfortunately, Mal does not erase or destroy the message — so the agent also hears it).  The conclusion of the film has what’s left of Mal’s band fighting a historic last stand, and getting injured one at a time, while Mal goes one on one against the agent before he can send out the message.  Course, Mal wins, and he also doesn’t kill the agent, just ties him up.  River defeats the Reavers who had been after the remainder of Mal’s shipmates.  Book was killed in Haven and Wash is killed when Serenity makes a less than perfect landing.

Overall, though not a bad film by any means (the acting is very good, and the film has some very strong, and very different female characters), it also doesn’t stand up that well.  Some of  the “shocks” of the film I remembered from having seen it six years ago, weren’t shocking now because you expected them (the biggest of these is Wash’s death, which really seems like a waste, and pointless).  It’s not a bad film, not by any means, but it’s not a exceptional film either.

Recommendation:  Do see it.
Rating:  3 out of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Shall We Dance (1937)