This may be my most punctual review ever as I had nearly a month’s head-start to get it done! In December I attended “Meanwhile, Back in Gotham: Preview Screening and Discussion” at The Paley Center. The last time I went to an advance screening of a season premiere it was for Doctor Who season six (in reboot numbering), & I got Steven Moffat to sign my sonic screwdriver. (PHRASING!) This time I was unable to obtain any autographs & it cost more, but I did avoid stress induced vomiting connecting to writing a monograph whilst waiting on line for hours. So I’m counting it as a success!
The two times I’ve attended NYCC, the Gotham panels were always on another day. Last year’s didn’t even announce there’d be one until the week before when all the tickets were sold out. With the series ending, this Paley Center event seemed like my last opportunity to see them. They finished filming literally the day before. I feared the entire cast would be executed after the finale wrapped (That’s what they do for TV shows. The trend of reviving long dead shows is due to conceal a spate of zombieosis.), yet they did not fall into a pit of fire or revolving blades beneath the stage. This cast has excellent camaraderie, although I’ll never be able to tell whether it’s genuine or the thespians are contractually obligated to keep up appearances. It’s pretty surreal to hear them discuss how they’re all suddenly unemployed.
I was seated in the fourth row behind Andrew “Mr. Penn” Sellon & saw Thomas “Joe the cop” Calderone. Next to me was a duo in superlative Nygmobblepot cosplay. The event was geographically convenient for me, but I overheard there were even more devoted Gothamites that flew in. I took lots of non-flash photography of the cast on stage despite my camera being indecisive about whether the batteries were full or empty from one moment to the next. One of the whole cast is at the end of my Spider-Verse review. The moderator, Damian Holbrook, said we were a very exuberant crowd that sounded like we were at Comic Con Riverdale panel not the Paley Center. “The heroism of everyday people” was an odd talking point. I wish there were more audience questions at the end because the handful they allowed at the end were underwhelming. My numerous inquiries would’ve been better!
Lucius Fox is understatedly droll on the series, but Chris Chalk is exuberantly hilarious! Give him more comedic roles! Ben McKenzie also confirmed that he isn’t a humorless stiff like Gordon. Erin Richards says Cersei Lannister as a periwinkle cowgirl is her favorite of all Babs’s looks. Somebody stretched David Mazouz out.
I yelled “STABBY QUEEN!” at Erin Richards as she left the building, but she didn’t hear me because her other fanatics were shouting too loud. I stood in close proximity to Robin Lord Taylor, Ben McKenzie, Morena Baccarin, & Chris Chalk as well but still couldn’t get good snaps of them through the ravenous throngs. They were much nicer about signing everyone’s photos than I would’ve been in that situation.
I could’ve ruined the premiere for you a month ago, but I deigned to be conscientious. This review will have SPOILERS for “Year Zero.” (Season four was Year Negative One.) It may also contain some for future episodes based on what was discussed at the event’s panel & my own conjecture. I both want to be surprised by this season but kept obsessively checking for leaks to see if my favorite characters would be returning.
The last two episodes filmed to bring the episode count up to 100 won’t be the last aired. So the continuity might get a little wobbly, which could have been avoided if they were granted the full episode count at the outset. The premiere starts with a flashfoward to the GCPD in a firefight against the US army (Is it still treason if the city was unilaterally expelled from the country?), so maybe timeskips won’t be a big deal. It’s an open secret the series finale has huge one.
The premise of No Man’s Land is that Gotham City has been abandoned by the US government following catastrophe. This time there aren’t even any citywide earthquake damages, a satanic rock star convincing the government to forsake it, or Lex Luthor plotting to become the savior of another city. (So far Nicholas Scratch isn’t a character in Gotham. I don’t know if that’s a pro or con for this adaptation. It feels like a missed opportunity to cast Marilyn Manson.) Surely they could send in federal disaster relief via boats & choppers until the bridges are repaired. I found this concept dubious in the comic too. (Quarantine was also the solution to San Diego becoming Sub Diego & Blüdhaven’s nuking, so maybe FEMA just doesn’t exist in DC Comics?) Then I realized the federal government still hasn’t remedied the toxic water in Flint, Michigan, & Gotham’s predicament tracks. It doesn’t even want Bruce Wayne buying everyone airlifted groceries. Perhaps they’re just waiting for the supervillains to purge each other out? Anyway it’s not even in the top five most ridiculous events Gotham has asked us to roll with.
Unlike Mr. Lodge’s quarantined all-crime zone in Riverdale, this series acknowledges that being cut off from outside resources is bad for long-term criminal enterprises. (Fortunately the supercriminals maintain their custom couture in these chaotic days because the show took “being grounded” for a long walk off a short pier. You know which one.) Now the city is forced to cannibalize itself more than usual. Jaime Murray’s voice claims to be an ally to the city. Don’t trust her, Gordon! She’s typecast as duplicitous, like in the slow second season of Warren Ellis’s Castlevania adaptation where we were deprived of witnessing Godbrand the Viking vampire turn anyone into a boat!
The big death of “Year Zero” is Tabitha Galavan. In retrospect, it’s not surprising. It explains why she wasn’t in any of the promotional images for season five & Jessica Lucas wasn’t at the Paley Center event. (Donal Logue was also absent despite being a core cast-member since season one, so that may hint Harvey Bullock buys the farm too.) It would’ve been nice to get some flashbacks to her time before Gotham, but that was never in the cards with the abridged season order. She served her purpose as Selina Kyle’s mentor, & mentors don’t tend to survive origin stories. The deck was stacked against her since she’s also a biracial bisexual woman invented without a direct comics counterpart. (Tigress is the name of different DC characters, whereas Kelcy Griffin’s Detective Harper is supposedly a canon character despite having a different first name on the show. More importantly, the unnamed drum-playing octopus in Aquaman was definitely intended to be Topo!) Hopefully Ms. Galavan will become a canon immigrant someday.
Tabitha trying to assassinate Oswald with his defective bullet was a clever plant & payoff. I was surprised that he was able to overpower her with the knife so conclusively afterwards. Barbara also failed to put up a good fight int his scene. So much for one of the city’s greatest assassins & the new Demon’s Head! (Are any of Babs’s League of Assassins still alive? Are there no more secret Lazarus Pits in Gotham to resurrect Tabby? Can’t she pay Strange to cure her death?) Why wouldn’t either have brought knives? Babs finally vows to kill him after deferring Tabitha’s vengeance for so long in favor of business, but Pengy’s plot armor is on par with Gordon’s & Bruce’s. It kills the tension knowing she’s going to utterly fail. Something terrible is going to happen to Edward the dog though.
Another aspect of Ms. Galavan’s murder is that it potentially causes Babs & Jim to hook up again to spawn Tony, Batgirl, & James Jr. This was heavily implied during the Q&A. DO NOT WANT! I love that Gotham granted Barbara Kean her own unique trajectory as The Stabby Queen instead of relegating her to a broodmare. It’d be a shame to backtrack on that.
Despite appearance in the previous season finale, Selina Kyle was unable to be evacuated. The entire theater burst out in laughter when the nurse told Bruce to bring suicidal Selina to The Witch. It’s gratifying to learn I’m not the only one that finds these moments hilarious. I’m betting this witch is Dr. Leslie Thompkins with Hugo Strange’s advanced equipment. (Morena Baccarin is also in the final season of A Series of Unfortunate Events, so this mash-up came true.) My runner-up is Poison Ivy, but she already had a turn healing Selina. (In the No Man’s Land storyline, Ivy took control over produce & orphans in Robinson Park, but her territory isn’t indicated on the map. Ditto Mad Hatter.) Camren Bicondova revealed she did a big fight scene in episode three with a broken foot, so Catwoman won’t remain bedridden for too long.
This episode is a poor outing for all The Sirens, but it’s showcase for The Penguin! Pengy finally gets revenge for his dearly departed mother! Having him conscript a factory into manufacturing (shoddy) ammunition to corner the market on this commodity is a great strategy. He gorges himself like an emperor as his underlings starve. His trucks even bear his face as a logo. Jim shooting him in the leg after he just had it fixed is comedic karma. (Gordon says he would’ve never considered shooting anyone like that before the bridges fell, which means he’s been watching a different series.)
Scarecrow & his natty new hat enter this season by cavalierly having some unlucky rando crucified. This is symbolically appropriate for scarecrows! He’s bringing back crucifixion to the masses as a secular torture/execution! I dig that his gang wear plague doctor crow masks instead of aping his look like Strawmen. Hack writers often show Jonathan Crane (brother of Frasier & Niles) is powerless without his trademark fear gas, but this version will just slash away with his scythe. Full-service Scarecrow isn’t a pushover! If any poseur tries to tell you the Joker is the scariest Batman villain, they’re objectively wrong. Now I’m mad again that DST didn’t make a toy of him! The Scarecrow may be in his element of terror, but even he’s a scavenger. Bruce Wayne in night-vision goggles singlehandedly taking down his Scarecrew is a great proto-Batman sequence.
Despite its title, this episode doesn’t have much commonalities with The New 52’s Riddler-centric Bat-origin. (Mazouz is still rightfully upset that he didn’t get any scenes with The Riddler aside from that second season interrogation, which he says doesn’t count. Chalk & Richards were also displeased they never shared any screentime. Sean Pertwee wanted to face off with Zsasz.) Riddle Boy’s pesky dissociative identity (he needs a support group with Caitlin Snow, Samantha Arias, David Haller, & Mary Walker) keeps making him wake up in strange places (possibly including the same Chinese restaurant dumpster wherein reside the remains of Oswald’s dad), but at least his acute case of death has cleared up. (Will Cory Michael Smith finally watch Batman Forever now that filming wrapped?) Now when does he get his question mark cane?
After being bizarrely absent from Jeremiah’s posse for the last previous episodes, Ecco returns in Harley Quinn regalia to deface a map. Her motivation remains unclear, but it could be related to that citywide epidemic of Flair. If only Bud & Lou the hyena babies would appear too! Mr. J was absent so we don’t know if DC & WB have ended their embargo on letting him officially be The Joker yet. Apparently Titans was able to use the Joker, so I will be incensed if they maintain this double standard.
Bane hasn’t debuted yet, so I don’t know if he’ll live up to his terrible first impression. So far this is a less stupid adaptation of No Man’s Land than the last one he was involved in, The Dark Knight Rises. I’m not sure if I dislike that more or The Dark Knight Returns. (I’d write a series on seminal works that I hate, but that requires effort.) Speaking of, The Mutant Leader is also appearing way ahead of schedule, but his nipples aren’t pointy enough! Magpie will also show up, so I was wrong about Cherry being her. There’d better be an episode about the Firefly vs. Mr. Freeze turf war!
Now that there’s an ending in sight, the series has even more narrative urgency than last season. With only half the usual episodes, however, I worry about how rushed the all killer no filler season will feel. Please don’t crumble in the conclusion, Gotham!
Thank you very much to everyone who was tricked into looking at my blog last year & got their eyes burnt out by the neon green! All y’all are the real heroines & heroes! 2018 was a ridiculously outstanding year. (Take that, under-performing 2017!) The least read articles were “My Cat Is A Dragon” & “Fiction & Felines!,” whereas “Does Infinity War Bore?” was the least in need of additional clicks. 22,342 views & 16,942 visitors is our all-time record! It will cause me nothing but despair once 2019’s metrics fail to surpass them.
Come back next week for … something? Look, I spent a whole month meticulously editing a single article instead of planning for the future, okay!