TV Review: Gotham Series 1 Episode 22: ‘All Happy Families Are Alike’

After a mixed first series, Gotham goes out on a high, says

Gotham Penguin Maroni

 

This review contains spoilers

 

★★★★☆

 

Holy finale, Batman! 22 episodes after Thomas and Martha Wayne made a terrible decision about shortcuts back from the opera and Detective Gordon took up his first case, the first series of our Batman show without Batman comes to an end. And it ends with a bang, thankfully, as the mobster plot that’s been ticking away in the background all this time escalates into full-blown war between Falcone and Maroni, with the GCPD in the middle.

The episode centers on Gordon’s struggles to stop the battle. Interestingly, he’s forced to add a few shades of grey to his usual rigidly black-and-white morality this week – with Maroni too temperamental to run Gotham without things descending into anarchy, it’s up to Gordon to make sure Falcone hangs onto power. And, in fact, to make sure he survives, given the alarming number of hitmen aiming for the mobster’s head. And Fish Mooney’s finally come back to Gotham with her own plans, having somehow recovered from being shot offscreen. And who knows what the Penguin’s got up his sleeve…

Out of all the disparate plot threads that have trailed through this season – Fish Mooney’s trip to Dollmaker Island, Gordon’s conflict with Internal Affairs that sort died out halfway through, pretty much everything Barbara did before the last three episodes – the mobster subplot’s been consistently entertaining. So the finale benefits from bringing it to the forefront.

It also perhaps inherently benefits from being a finale, where the stakes are higher than ever before and anything can happen. And admittedly, there were some shocking moments in this one. Fish Mooney and her goons unexpectedly showing up in Falcone’s hideout was a well-done surprise, as was the reveal that Selina Kyle was working for her (although her rejoinder of “cat got your tongue?” got an actual cringe out of me).

And, surprisingly, the finale got liberal with writing characters out for good. In the episode’s best scene – with Gordon, Penguin, Bullock and Falcone tied up at the mercy of Fish and Maroni – the latter was shot by Fish after one too many vaguely-MRA-flavoured crack about “babes” and “women’s lib”. Fish herself was shot and shoved off a roof – if she IS coming back, she’ll need nothing less than a go on Project TAHITI – and Falcone himself retires at the end of the episode.

All this leaves Penguin to declare himself King of Gotham – complete with a swell of dramatic thunder – and paves the way for the age of supervillainy. If they’re aiming to have ten seasons like Smallville did, they might be moving a bit fast here – maybe we’ll get a new bunch of mobsters next series to bring things back to a sort of status-quo.

One last roundup of assorted subplots – Kristen Kringle’s now suspicious that Edward Nygma (Future Riddler) murdered her boyfriend, after managing to catch Nygma’s name spelled out in the suicide note he forged. This leads to a somewhat-sudden breakdown as soon as she leaves the room, complete with jerking camera motions, multiple voices and bursts of maniacal laughter – credit to Cory Michael Smith for managing to pull it off. Barbara FINALLY shows off her dark side by getting into a gratuitous catfight on the floor with Leslie Thompkins after a therapy session goes badly wrong. Bruce Wayne, searching for evidence his father wasn’t corrupt, manages to uncover the man’s secret cave, with the speakers blasting Provokiev’s Dance of the Knights for dramatic effect (also known as The Apprentice’s theme, so there might be two puns in there).

And on that scene, the series ends. Overall, the second half of this series has been better than the first, with more time spent on plots that stretch between episodes rather than Villain of the Week cases. We’ve had some consistently good performances, especially from said villains, but even Jim Gordon’s become a little bit more interesting (well, sort of, a bit). There’s still a lot of room for improvement, though. Portrayal of female characters is flaky, and the show still has a lot of love for anticlimactic endings, extraneous characters and as many subplots as it can cram in.

Can it improve? Well, I suppose we’ll find out in the autumn.

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