Gotham – Season 1 Episode 22
“All Happy Families Are Alike”
It’s finally done, Gotham season 1 comes to an end after several torturous months of missed opportunities. The gang war comes to a serious head as Fish Mooney returns to take advantage of the situation.
It’s been known for a while that Jada Pinkett Smith would not be returning for season 2 of Gotham so logically the character of Fish Mooney would have to be written out in some way. Then again given the lack of narrative cohesion on this show I actually wouldn’t be surprised if she just disappeared with no explanation.
Over the past few episodes she has been absent from the main story in order to have her own unconnected plot with Dollmaker on his island. One thing this episode proves is that her side story was completely useless. Nothing about it feeds into her presence here and the cliffhanger from her last appearance where she was shot in the stomach isn’t even mentioned so, nice work Gotham writers. It feels as if all of that we were forced to sit through was a complete waste of time. I suspect that contractually Jada Pinkett Smith was signed up to make so many appearances but the writers had no idea what to do with her so cooked up the inane side narrative to keep her ticking over but have her away from Gotham City.
Having her return at this point makes a kind of sense as the gangland situation is at its most volatile and she is best placed to take advantage of that. It fits with her plan earlier in the season and adds another side to the ensuing madness. What doesn’t make sense is her taking on Selina Kyle as one of her helpers. It feels like a really contrived way to have Selina in the finale and her contribution to the whole thing completely backs that up. I actually think it might have been interesting if Fish helps influence Selina into her Catwoman persona in later life but as always it’s an opportunity that is sorely missed.
Jada Pinkett Smith does a great job in this episode but her performance has always been one of the strongest aspects of this show. It seems like she realises just how ridiculous this show is and hams it up appropriately. Her character becomes an enabler for a massive alteration to Batman lore when she shoots Maroni in the face. Maroni is a Batman mainstay so having him die sends an important message about not always playing it safe and defying audience expectations. At the start of this episode I felt that Falcone was functionally invincible given his connection to the Batman canon but after offing Maroni I no longer feel that he’s as safe as I initially thought. I certainly wasn’t expecting Fish to do it but it’s a shame that his last word was “babes”. Not the most dignified way for a mob boss to go.
Fish’ apparent death felt a little rushed but I did enjoy when Butch listened to both her and Penguin begging him to shoot the other and he just shoots them both. A man who can’t decide so just betrays everyone kind of has to be respected. Also they were fighting like stroppy toddlers arguing over who gets to choose the TV channel so I was kind of glad when he shot them both. Penguin throwing her into the water was a really obviously poetic death for her. Fish Mooney now sleeps with the fishes. Come on, someone had to say it. I’m just surprised that it wasn’t a line of dialogue here.
I got a bit of a kick out of the massive amounts of silliness here. Gordon rushing to save Falcone from hospital after he’s nearly taken out with a rocket launcher was completely ridiculous. He catches Penguin in the act of trying to kill him and arrests him which basically means that Penguin is now in Gordon’s custody which also means under his protection. Bullock’s reaction to how this madness unfolded was just priceless but then again that’s something that’s always been consistent here. I really wish Bullock had a lot more to do in this show generally as he is by far one of the best characters.
The situation with the gang war felt constantly nonsensical but I’ll confess to being immensely entertained by the whole thing. I had a blast with how over the top and silly it all came across. There was nothing really subtle about it and I don’t really think Gordon is quite there yet when he recognises that Falcone running the crime in the city is the best case scenario. He’s been uncompromising before and had that belief solidified after his dealings with Loeb so supporting Falcone in his bid to regain control doesn’t really work for me. At least it culminated in Penguin yelling “I’m king of Gotham” over and over which I found to be satisfyingly hilarious.
Barbara’s contribution to the episode was somewhat unexpected but kind of in a good way. It was all a little contrived to have her spend most of her scenes in therapy lead by Leigh who is absolutely not a therapist but whatever, this show has established that people can do whatever job they like. It also does pretty well at failing the bechdel test as they spend pretty much every scene together talking about nothing but Jim. Barbara and Leigh are barely characters and seem to serve the main function of propping up Jim in some way and contributing to his development. What makes it worse is that Jim isn’t especially well developed even after 21 episodes. He doesn’t seem to change that much so having people sit around talking about him adds very little.
When Barbara revealed that she was the one to kill her parents and not the Ogre before turning completely homicidal and going after Barbara with a knife I actually thought it was kind of great. There was nothing clever or interesting about it but just for pure entertainment value I thought it worked. It also makes a lot of sense given how insane she has apparently become. I like that her experience with the Ogre has consequences and now she’s a little homicidal as a result. This surely can’t be the same Barbara that Jim later marries because how is she going to become a functional member of society after this? It was a good use of a fairly worthless character anyway and Erin Richards actually does insanity really well.
Bruce and Alfred’s plot this week involved Bruce tearing apart his father’s old office in search of some kind of a clue relating to the information he supposedly found out last week. These scenes drag on with the only progression through much of the episode being the office becoming progressively untidy. That is until Bruce remembers a key word that Lucius Fox mentioned that allows him to find a remote that moves the fireplace and lets him discover the Bat Cave -presumably- down a staircase behind it. What will he find when he’s down there? Will it be an empty cave or will be discover that his father used to be a costumed vigilante? There’s actually a precedent for this in comics before Flashpoint. You can find out more here. Oddly enough I was joking with friends that season 1 would end with Bruce finding the Bat Cave, I didn’t actually really believe that I would be right but here we are. At this rate Bruce will be Batman by the end of season 2.
Edward Nygma’s inclusion here felt entirely tacked on and I found it funny how Kristine wandered up to him and basically said that she’d randomly noticed that the first letter on every line of the note she got spelled out his name. What would ever possess her to notice such a thing and how would it get her to the conclusion that he must be the killer? It was a bit of a stretch even for this show but it was a rushed set up for a rushed transformation into the Riddler. How ridiculous it has been for poor Edward Nygma and it’s only going to get worse.
All told this didn’t really feel like a finale, it just felt like another episode albeit with more action and a little more plot progression than usual. I still feel like the show is dragging its feet a lot and squandering a lot of its potential. I do kind of like the absolute silliness that is fully embraced in this episode and think it might be a suitable direction for this show to pursue.
It turns out that this show is incredibly entertaining when it just decides to embrace how silly it is and actually have some fun with it. I really think being a silly show that doesn’t take itself at all seriously is a solid direction for this series. Extra points given to this episode for being just so damn entertaining
Fish Mooney’s return actually works really well in getting things moving. It ultimately proves that her side story was a complete waste of time but having her back in the mix with the rest of the cast was a lot of fun and Jada Pinkett Smith hams up her performance appropriately. Having her kill Maroni was a nice touch and messes with the status quo in regards to Batman lore. If Maroni can die then Falcone can die, there’s less of an element of safety to the show.
Penguin killing Fish felt more than a little contrived and altogether too easy but she needs to be gone and now she is. Seeing Penguin yelling “I’m king of Gotham” over and over again was pretty priceless and I’m glad it was allowed to exist.
Gordon’s contribution to the episode was largely passive but I like how bizarre the situation he found himself in was. He tasked himself with protecting Falcone because apparently he’s the best choice to be in control of all the crime in the city. I completely don’t buy that Gordon would accept that as a viable way out but it suggests some progression even if it is off screen for him. He finds himself stuck with Penguin because arresting him apparently means that he needs to protect him. I have to agree with Bullock’s disbelieving reaction to the whole thing. Season 2 needs more Bullock that’s for sure.
Having Barbara turn out to be a psychopath who killed her parents was oddly believable and the scene was a lot of fun to watch. Her time with the Ogre has had consequences it seems but I find it tough to believe that this can be the same Barbara who marries Gordon later in life.
Bruce Wayne finding the Bat Cave feels both too premature and completely stupid. What will he find down there? Maybe he’ll discover that his father used to be a costumed crime fighter and will be further inspired by that. We should have Batman by the end of season 2 at this rate.