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Gotham Season 4 Review: A Dark Knight

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Gotham Season 4 Review: A Dark Knight

Marc Kaliroff, Editor

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“I saw a vision… of a cataclysmic event soon to befold this city. A cleansing fire that will destroy, purify, create… create you, Bruce. I will use it as a mighty forge molding you into a dark knight above Gotham…”



From the moment Bruce Wayne stood on the rooftops of Gotham City, I could already tell that the noir and gothic inspired crime show Gotham was ready to let the dark knight finally spread his wings and take off into the blackened skies of a morally corrupt city, plagued with some of the most well-developed villains in all of television. After four years of buildup, the series is getting ready to set its course for its grand finale that will finally transform Bruce into the caped crusader that fans have anticipated to be revealed on the small screen for years. Gotham may twist its original mythology in various ways, but it does so with absolute succession that will leave you strangely rooting for both the villains and the heroes simultaneously. It takes Batman’s most well-known stories and adapts them into what might be their most compelling versions to date; in some ways going beyond what the original comics even accomplished.

 


The Birth of The Batman

Gotham succeeds the most in character development. This season helped further humanize the main cast by showing their vulnerabilities and diving deep into their possible futures that are set to unfold on the future road ahead. Bruce Wayne, in particular, had what was by far his best story arc throughout the series so far. David Mazouz first stepped into the shoes of the iconic hero over four years ago. While the seventeen-year-old actor may seem like he is too young to play Batman, appearance differentiates the facts. On his journey to become the savior of Gotham, the actor has clearly changed a lot. After four seasons of Gotham, I can finally say that he is ready to don the iconic cape and mask. Whether it was playing a playboy billionaire or a white knight jumping over rooftops to stop a crime, Bruce certainly proved himself this season by uncovering his divine path through a hallucination that showed his ultimate destiny; a hallucination where Batman made his debut in the shadows. This season was a rather educational experience for the troubled teenager, as he finally discovered what his life purpose is after committing what was originally thought to be a homicide that scared him mentally during the first act of the twenty-two episode season. After a long battle between leisure and destiny, the character put himself on the intended path that will eventually lead to the birth of Batman. The beginning of Bruce’s story this season is the start of his future crime fighting career.


Selina Kyle finally pushed forward in the ranks of Gotham. After being sick of retaining the status of a lackey and “street-trash” in the underworld, Selina packed up and headed for Tabitha Galavan in search of help. Learning to crack a bullwhip and fight properly, Selina Kyle certainly gained traction this season. The character previously relied on the story of Bruce Wayne the majority of the time, as the two were typically paired together, but now Catwoman’s future has been locked in.

Speaking of rising up in the ranks, detective James Gordon began his social status from the bottom to know what is nearly the top. Captain Gordon is on his way to become the commissioner of the GCPD. On his way to achieving the highest status in his sanctuary, he faced a lot of drama between his best friend, Harvey Bullock, and himself. The two have had their conflicting views in the past, but it never got to a point where the two were forced to split up or give up on each other. The drama that proceeded during the first half of the season had severe consequences on both characters future actions. It is the route that will turn James Gordon into the highest commanding officer and Bullock into just a lead detective.

Gordon has always been Gotham’s main focus, but this season he slowly began to pull away from the title of “protagonist.” Gotham has always attempted to not have a main character although Gordon was clearly always the primary focus. Many other shows may suffer from a lack of focus, but Gotham excels by swaying it. Gotham remains true to its name. It is not the story of a character or the birth of a legend; it is the story of how a city fell into chaos and from the ashes would eventually rise a hero who the city desperately needs. A hero that has a whole lot of villains to keep in check.

A Legion of Horribles

Batman’s rogues gallery is what makes the character so loveable. With a seventy-nine year history, Batman has developed what is arguably the greatest cast of villains to ever walk the pages of a comic book. From the sadistic and humorous Joker to the meticulous enigma that is the Riddler, Gotham certainly has an absurd amount of material to work with. Four seasons in and Gotham barely scratches the surface of what would seem like a never-ending rogues gallery. However, having an excessive amount of threats is not always a good thing. The show can sometimes be shrouded by an abundance of villains during long story arcs that should be focused on a particular group of characters. With so many returning villains, it was about time that a few of them stepped back in the shadows for a short period of time in order to allow the newcomers to take the spotlight. Over the course of four years, Gotham has created the best live action interpretations ever of Batman’s rogues gallery.

Before getting into the first few villains it’s important to note to critical elements to the season. The first being that the season is separated into four story arcs that all tie into each other. The second is that Oswald Cobblepot had quite an important role during the first half of the season. The Penguin created a new wave of crime that would protect a large quantity of Gotham during the events in between seasons three and four; a policy known as the Pax Penguina, rules that had similar consequences to the Pax Romana. Licensed crime is a way of ensuring that citizens and police officers would not wind up in body bags at the end of the day. The various types of licensable crime vary – one personal recurring detail that I loved that was unnecessarily added was that the cards do not contain any options for rape, due to Oswald’s disapproval of the subject. Organized crime may seem like a terrible idea on paper, but once the public sees massive spikes in survival rates and decreases in overall crime, Gotham turns on the GCPD due to a belief that the underworld can handle crime better than the formly prided police. James Gordon’s controversial views of the topic lead him to attempt to overthrow Oswald. With the lack of any help from the police department, the captain seeks help from the daughter of former villain Carmine Falcone, Sophia Falcone. Sophia agrees to help Gordon, but ultimately for her own selfish intentions, even though she was specifically warned by her father that she was not ready to enter the city grounds. Sophia Falcone was originally a strange attempt at attempting to make the mob bosses of Gotham relevant again, but she escalates into becoming a mob boss of her own over the course of the season. The dastardly daughter of the Falcon bloodline took up a good chunk of time but was not the overall focus of the season. While her unpredictable storyline is used to open the floodgate to a new legion of villains, her story certainly helps evolve Gotham’s prior villains and heroes. It helped establish Gordon and Oswald’s future perspectives of their allies; something that is a key part of building the Batman lore as every character has feelings of betrayal and reunitement.

Something we rarely get in comic-books today is original villains. Debuting in 2007 was the Pyg; a plastic surgeon who surgically modified his patients to make them into what he believed was perfection. Lazlo Valentin brought along some of the most horrifying events on television. This interpretation of the character was still singing his favorite opera tunes, but he was not exactly letting his patients off the table in the way you would think. From killing pigs to meat pies, Pyg certainly knew how to change one’s appetite. I quite literally felt pains in my stomach while watching some of his most gruesome moments this season during the ninth episode “Let Them Eat Pie” (I recommend you skip a meal before seeing this one). This was one of the most terrifying villains on television that I have personally witnessed due to his obsession with the idea of Pygmalion; creating something new from something that is old. From his disgusting masks to his downright threatening poses, this is a villain that I hope will return during the final season even if it is for a brief episode. If you are a fan of the horror genre, then the Long Halloween inspired first half of the season, is certainly right up your alley.

 

Lazlo Valentin, The Pyg



Last season the demon’s head, Ra’s al Ghul, was introduced during the finale as Bruce set out to find who he really is. Ra’s al Ghul dictates the future of Gotham by toying with both the hero’s path and the underworld’s rebound. Ra’s sets out to expand the League of Shadows, but he runs into trouble when his protege, Barbara Kean, refuses to lead the league into the course he had originally plotted, forcing him to regain control of his empire. Ra’s al Ghul is one of Batman’s many mentors. This is by far the most comic accurate adaptation of the character that has ever hit the live action department. While I love Liam Neeson’s interpretation of the character, Alexander Siddig’s legitimate cultural ties to the characters Arabian background resonates a rather realistic tone for the character. It is the first time where Ra’s al Ghul’s story actually seemed believable due to the character’s appearance. Siddig also strangely resembles the character which really enhanced the experience. The casting for Ra’s could not have been any better. Ra’s is mainly here to help develop Bruce into the dark knight, but he also helps push Barbara Kean forward by making her pursue larger goals in her already crime infested life.

Finally comes the joker of the deck. Cameron Monaghan has been the fan favorite actor of the entire series. After last season’s praised episode “The Gentle Art of Making Enemies,” it was only a matter of time that the joker-like character would finally become a series regular. Monaghan once again steals the spotlight from every other actor that the show has to offer. The ginger maniac, Jerome Valeska, escaped from Arkham and created a group that could potentially be a precursor to the Legion of Doom. Enter the Legion of Horribles; Jerome Valeska, Mad Hatter, Scarecrow, Firefly, Mr. Freeze, and Penguin all joined forces in order to bring the city to its knees through the spread of “joker toxin.” The six fully developed villains sitting in one room for a mandatory brunch meeting puts a smile on ones face. Out of all the villains, Gotham could have thrown together, I could not have been happier with another group of foes. The chemistry between Jerome and all his frenemies was perfect, although I do wish that we had received a few more scenes where the legion fully interacted with each other. Everyone plays directly into his plan and it all leads into what is by far Gotham’s most compelling story that it has ever crafted; the tale of two twins and a legacy of madness.


The Gentle Art of Making Television

Gotham is by far the most gorgeous looking television show to ever cross the small screen. The cinematography has won awards on practically a yearly basis and for good reason. Every shot is so well executed and there is rarely ever a single mistake that occurs in the background. The special effects are literally mind-boggling. For years I thought that Gotham was almost entirely practical effects since the series was filmed in New York City, but believe it or not, it actually is not. There are tons of special effects going on in the background. Sometimes actors are even standing in front of a green screen with a few real walls. It is extremely impressive how well the effects are pulled off. I expect this quality from movies, not television!

Batman, Joker, Penguin, Two-Face, Riddler, what do they all have in common? Costumes that are iconic. Gotham is certainly not lacking in the makeup department. These actors look as if someone just pulled them out of a comic-book. Characters like the Scarecrow and Mr. Freeze look as they should. Gotham is one of the very few television shows to ever hold a candle to multi-million budget films. The majority of these outfits look far better than even some of the more recent Batman films. The visuals speak for themselves. Each outfit takes inspiration from multiple sources of Batman media while also injecting itself with its original comic counterpart. Even in such a dark and brooding city, these wacky outfits still seem normal for Gotham. The Riddler for example always catches my eyes. The bright green outfit somehow manages to fit into the contrasting colors of the show where everyone wears darker colors.


Jonathan Crane, The Scarecrow



Gotham’s episodic problem is pacing and story organization. A large portion of the cast is given an even amount of screentime, but it is broken up into an oddly matter sometimes. There are some episodes that do not finish their individual character stories for about another episode or two. It can be really stressful at times to remember who was doing what due to how long they have been away. The Scarecrow and Barbara Kean are the biggest victims of this ongoing problem that the series has had since it’s sophomore year. Every story ties into each other so there is bound to be problems with the overall pacing. The payoff, however, is worth the stress that you will endure at times while watching.

The Verdict

Gotham is leaps and bounds ahead of comic-book television shows. It is one of the few shows that are willing to take major risks on a well known established universe that fans are very picky about. This season may be the beginning of the end, but Gotham’s story clearly has much more to tell. This is by far the best comic-book show to ever hit the small screen. It is one of the very few television shows that has me desperately watching the night an episode airs. It’s dark, humorous, sharp-witted, unpredictable, and best of all, entertaining no matter what the situation is. Every great villain defines their show and Gotham is exactly what you think it is. It’s madness that will have me going on a rewatch in the distant future long after the series concludes.

 


The following contains spoilers to the last five episodes of season four. This section contains predictions and a brief review of Gotham’s biggest game changing story arc.



A Tale of Two Jokers

Jerome combed Gotham for the missing member of his family; a member whose legacy will lead to nothing but death and madness. Jeremiah Valeska, who is also played by Cameron Monaghan, ultimately gives off a rather curious impression. No one is truly sure whether the meticulous genius can be trusted and for good reason. After all, his twin brother has sparked a new reckoning upon the people of Gotham. The mystery of who the Joker really is was expanded upon in season four. When Jerome met his demise, he left a parting gift for Jeremiah; a toxic gas specially designed by Scarecrow to create mental and physical alterations to the victim rather than instantly killing them with a smile. Gotham’s conclusion to the mystery of Mr. J is that “Joker” is an idea that spawns a legacy of destruction throughout the Batman universe. This conclusion is absolutely brilliant. The Joker has never had an actual identity. Jerome has a belief that he is more than a man, he is an idea, a philosophy. It is an ongoing belief that anyone who inflicts a constant stream of chaos on the city can helm the identity of the clown prince of crime. Cameron Monaghan had the rare opportunity to play two different versions of a character. He has clearly been having a blast playing these characters. Monaghan delivers what is by far one of the most fascinating interpretations of the clown prince of crime. His triumphant return next season will certainly have me tuning back in.


Tales To Come

Jeremiah Valeska, The Joker


Gotham is packed with some of the most absurd details ever in a television series. With almost eight decades of lore, Batman certainly has a lot to say about finer details. These are nine story plot-points that may play a key role in the final season of Gotham

  1. The Gotham Clocktower was blown to pieces during Jeremiah’s first step to his blank canvas. The Gotham Clocktower is the future location of Bruce’s main city Batcave. This same secret hideout appeared in the main story mode of Batman Arkham Knight, where Oracle resided for the majority of the game.
  2. The Riddler entered the Narrows this season, but we could see him potential turn it into a massive enigma next season. The Riddler is well known for hiding all sorts of puzzles for the bat around the narrows, so we can expect to see Gordon, or perhaps even Bruce, engage some riddles.
  3. No Man’s Land is by far one of the most intriguing Batman stories ever due to its unethical setup. When Gotham is hit by multiple earthquakes, every single inmate is let out from Arkham. The entire city is shut down and evacuated by the United States military and turned into the first area ever in the U.S. to be considered part of the nation. Batman goes missing and it is up to the police to conquer a Gotham City completely divided by gangs. We can expect something similar to the original story to be happening during the final season after the consequences of the final episode this season.
  4. Commissioner or Captain? Gordon might take the high ranking title of commissioner if he leads the way to victory during the consequences of “No Man’s Land” next season. He also might get that famous mustache soon!
  5. Penguin took over the museum during the criminal uprising. This is the future Iceberg Lounge where Penguin will ensue all his operations.
  6. The center of the museum where Penguin stood is the same area where Solomon Grundy was hidden under during the events of Batman Arkham City. With the fifth season being inspired by No Man’s Land it’s possible we can see this be used as an area where Grundy will be locked away.
  7. Man-Bat, Mother, and Orphan were all seen at the ending. Lady Shiva was also cut from the final episode, but we will be seeing all of them return next year. Man-Bat might be Bruce’s first big threat during the final episode if they decide to take inspiration from the cult classic Batman The Animated Series.
  8. In case you could not put two and two together, the light signal at the ending is indeed the future Batsignal that stands above the GCPD headquarters.
  9. Batman is coming to Gotham. Next season will focus on the transformation of Bruce Wayne into the caped crusader. For years we have known that Bruce will don the batsuit during the very last shot of the show and now it is finally going to come to light.
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1 Comment

One Response to “Gotham Season 4 Review: A Dark Knight”

  1. sophia on July 26th, 2018 5:04 pm

    Hello site
    In my opinion, the Gotham series is the best episode of the century. Looking at the cold and ghastly eyes of the twin brother Joker scares me and shakes my body. I can not say with certainty that the young Bruce Wayne’s character is my most popular character because he is really proud and vulgar and interferes with others’ work. Jim Gordon is a dull person and somewhat arrogant. If I want to speak honestly, I admit that I love the joke brother’s twin brother and enjoy the scenes of his presence. He looks at the true fear of young Bruce … his eyes … his frightening grim … his pale face … I dare to say that he is even more frightened than his brother. I wish she was in more scenes! … maybe … in the future we’ll see him … maybe …

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Gotham Season 4 Review: A Dark Knight