Supervillains Make Gotham Great (Again)

So I was going to incorporate this into the forthcoming fourth finale review of Gotham, but it’s already as long as a typical article. The finales of this, Riverdale, Arrow, Agents of SHIELD, & The Flash are all happening within a week of each other too. Even Deadpool 2 debuts then because Grodd forbid the media I’m interested in covering be spaced out. I’m not sure if those critiques will be mashed together into a gargantuan combo review (What do you suggest, readers?), but it doesn’t need to be even longer. So here’s more spoilerish Gotham gab for a week where it doesn’t bother airing because they understand everyone’s at Avengers: Infinity War anyway. (That’s next week’s blog.)

I don’t mind WB dithering on The Batman movie possibly starring Ben Affleck. This season of Gotham has become the giant-size Batman film I’ve always wanted but otherwise wouldn’t get. Mostly because brooding Batman (He’s dressed like a bat, but it’s everyone else who’s mad?) isn’t there to draw focus away from all the kooky villains. Not since BTAS have I been so invested in rooting for so many miscreants. The secret to the show’s success is to stock its sets with scrumptious scenery & let thespian foes with GIF-able faces gorge themselves upon it.

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Now all they need to do is recruit Jimbo Gordon, & their barbershop quartet will be bigger than The Beatles!

“Come to Gotham City & be murdered by the world’s most flamboyant criminals!” The Gotham Gazette is 90% crime blotter & 10% upcoming events sure to become crime scenes. Security firms could make a mint in town if they weren’t cowards.

Remarkably Gotham’s fourth season doesn’t have any episodes that feel standard or overtly filler. Now it’s really picking up the slack from its inaugural season’s wheel spinning. The pacing is very economical despite juggling multiple plotlines. Some may go a bit too swiftly, yet none overstay their welcome. Core characters are regularly absent for episodes to give others’ arcs room to breathe. Unlike Riverdale (Cheryl Blossom aside), it’s been reveling in its innate camp. This series has become dangerously self aware.

Gotham’s narrative zaniness has become a running gag, but it’s not completely unhinged. Sophia preyed upon Oswald’s loneliness because she learned this tactic from her dad after Fish Mooney pulled it on him. Her mole in Penguin’s operations was his record keeper, Mr. Pen, who previously worked for Carmine Falcone. Although we hadn’t met him before this season, it makes sense that Cobblepot absorbed more of Don Falcone’s employees than just Zsasz. I was prepared to just accept Sofia’s sudden rise to power, but the writers went a step further to retroactively support it. Meanwhile Arrow‘s writers couldn’t even muster that basic storytelling courtesy for Ricard-0 Dragon!

Sophia Falcone was running the underworld just fine until she did something needlessly stupid. To punish a recalcitrant Gordon, she maims & dethrones her more agreeable sister-in-law, Doc Thompkins. Her brand new enemy swiftly joined forces with her older enemies & ventilated her with lead. Way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory! Of course Sofia doesn’t die because headshots are rarely lethal in this town. Always double tap.

The Penguin gave up his revenge to rescue Riddler because his love is the only thing true & pure in Gotham! I’m so glad they’re friends again! Nygmobblepot still isn’t canon, but perhaps the new Hattercrow ship will have better luck. Oswald really needs to look for a new boyfriend that won’t constantly betray him. (I’m wondering if Nygmobblepot hasn’t happened because of a mandate from DC/WB/Fox. Perhaps this Riddler isn’t canonically bisexual because the writers were only allowed to make one major Bat-villain LGBT.)

Victor Zsasz is a huge fan of the disco. This is canon now. When do we get a scene of Mr. Zsasz killing it on the dance floor?

Barbaric Kean stabbed two guys & acquired her own army, so calling her Stabby Babs & Barbara Queen is back on for this season. One one paw, Barbara becoming the leader of the League of Shadows is a nifty progressive move for such an arcane secret society. On the other paw, she seems barely qualified for the job she got primarily because she was servicing the last Demon’s Head. (Do Erin Richards & Robin Lord Taylor get to keep their defaced portraits?) Tabitha seems like the superior pick. I thought Babitha was officially over when Barbara had her League Of Shadows thrash Tabitha, but Babs actually surrendered her freshly unlocked precognition power (they probably could’ve introduced that earlier) to The Master from “The Deadly Assassin” the resurrected Ra’s al Ghul to save her. Did the League ladies interrupt what would’ve been the Babs & Tabs make amends make-out? (Ra’s likewise cockblocks Bruce Wayne with Selina Kyle so he’ll have to take Talia to prom next season.)

The Riddler opened his Riddle Factory game show where he inexplicably never says “Riddle me this!” Then Lee spoiled it for him by seducing the Ed aspect of his psyche. If Lee needs money to save The Narrows, why doesn’t she just ask Bruce Wayne instead of turning Ed into the center of another triangle? (Gotham’s never even previously shown us this Riddler is adept at bank robbing!) She better just be using him because this pairing doesn’t make sense otherwise since he’s indirectly responsible for her miscarriage & directly responsible for killing Kristin Kringle. (Not there’s any ship in this series that isn’t highly problematic…) She’s been making very questionable life choices ever since she juiced herself up with Tetch blood. (I guess that would also explain Jim recruiting Sophia to disrupt the Pax Penguina.) Riddler became the most sought after bachelor in Gotham City despite being one volume short of a full encyclopedia? Not bad for a dude who gave a whole spiel about how love is for weaklings.

I’m so glad “One of My Three Soups” was a literal title. It actually contained three soups! As a bonus, the title even works metaphorically. Mad Hatter is the too hot soup that came in like a giant wrecking ball, Scarecrow is the too cold one that’s absent for most of the episode, & the Jeromeker is just right. In any other series, Mad Hatter hypnotizing most of the city via radio to become jumpers would be a season finale. (His ability to do this without hats still amazes me.) Former champion whistler Jerome Valeska is confused as to why Bruce keeps refusing to kill him. It’s about time another live action version of the Joker uses Laughing Gas!

Thankfully Arkham Asylum remembered to oil its revolving door! The Triple J supervillains even received a drum tattoo from their fellow inmates on the way out. Even the radio acknowledges that Arkham’s security is laughable. (The Penguin just seemed to amble out of its sick bay to freedom the previous installment.) The place has really gone down the tubes ever since Hugo Strange was deposed.

It turns out Jerome has a “good” twin, Jeremiah Valeska using the unsuspicious pseudonym of Xander Wilde. There’s always two Jokers in a deck! He greatly overstated his ability to build the world’s least solvable maze. If Jeremiah as the Joker doesn’t work out, they can bring back Jerome since death doesn’t matter. It’s a hilarious running gag that he keeps getting killed just as he’s reaching peak Joker. Or he could have an unlimited supply of secret siblings all played by Cameron Monaghan.

Welcome back, Michelle Veintimilla the original Firefly! Now please give her something meatier to do in season five! Meanwhile recast Scarecrow refuses to take his burlap mask off. That feels very in-character. Didn’t Scarecrow slink away when last he was on? How’d he get locked up in Arkham Asylum again? It’s like the reverse of the time Firefly & Mr. Freeze were laying low outside the city despite not being on the bus out. If you consider Arkham doesn’t understand how locks work, technically they’re not continuity errors.

I’m delighted that The Arkham All Stars (Legion of Horribles isn’t snappy enough) gathered for a whimsical mandatory brunch meeting! I love these rogues unlike Arrow’s Legion of Whom? They actually have distinct personalities, outfits, & gimmicks! They don’t do much, but seeing all those supervillains in one room made me giddy! It’s the next best thing to their epic team-up in The LEGO Batman Movie! Did the Riddler’s & Poison Ivy’s invitations get lost in the mail?

It may not have the social commentary & family dynamic of Black Lightning, but all its pieces are gelling together so well this year. Even without an official Batsuit yet, it no longer feels like a pointless prequel. Now 87% of the show is real DC characters doing semi-recognizable things. (I’m disappointed gay Penguin, Fish Mooney, Bridgit Pike, Tabitha Galavan, & a Barbara Kean that matters haven’t been adapted to DC’s latest continuity reboot.) Since the season finale is entitled “No Man’s Land,” will they literally shake up the city with a cataclysm? The city’s entropy is already propulsive. Gotham is a series of unfortunate events! I don’t want to look away!

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