Gotham – Season 3 Episodes 21 & 22
Heroes Rise finale: “Destiny Calling” and “HeavyDirtySoul”
Gotham ends season 3 with many characters questioning their identity: those having been infected with the virus supposedly seeing their real selves; those caught up in the chaos seeing what they’re made of in the face of it. Some of these questions definitely had a greater effect on me than others: Butch’s sacrifice being the most powerful; Lee and Jim’s Gothic romance feeling somewhat out of place.
The double episode finish was definitely an improvement on last season’s finale. Whereas last year’s plot points were concluded, this year characters went through turning points. So defining were these points as well, I’m left wondering if season 3 is to be like the end of a book in a trilogy, its finale feeling somehow bigger than I’ve seen before on the show.
Bruce is effectively Batman now, just an early evolution thereof. Jim’s lovers have both moved on. Sure, both Lee and Barbara could come back again – when there’s reanimation and a Lazarus Pit knocking around, all bets are off. It’s hard to see how they could whilst still letting Jim move onto something new though. And then there’s Gotham City itself.
Not only has the old order of criminal been put to bed with Barbara’s death and Penguin’s takeover as king of his army of differently-origin-storied but the Tetch virus has no doubt created a new wave of soldiers for him to recruit or ally with. Gotham City is now truly overrun by crazed villains that need a caped crusader to defeat them.
I still think that the Court of Owls was completely deluded to think that this conclusion would be a reset button, after which they’d be in control of a reordered Gotham City. Nonetheless, I can definitely see the new order as the perfect training ground for Ra’s Al Ghul’s heir. Can’t for the life of me see what on Earth he’s going to be able to offer Bruce that might change young Batman’s mind on being that heir but Alexander Siddig looked and acted the part so well I find myself really looking forward to season 4 either way.
But season 3 still: how powerful did you find each character turning point that made up this season’s finish?
Bruce becomes the Batman
Bruce may have pretty much become Batman now but I was much more drawn to Alfred and Ra’s in all of his scenes. Normally I’d be talking about how great it was to see Bruce and Selina in conversation or argument but here their interaction was much more like the soap-opera melodrama the adult cast has previously suffered from. The danger of the identity plot perhaps is that of characters accusing each other of not knowing the other or themselves as well they should.
Sean Pertwee doesn’t miss a step though, from his response to Bruce’s challenge about not saving a young man from his pain to his refusal to let Bruce succumb to dark magic’s brainwashing. I’d still rather have seen more build up to this moment. As it is I see Bruce as under the influence of magic rather than conditioning. Though his adventure has been spread across many episodes it wasn’t given a lot of screen time each week, and so it felt like Alfred was having to break a spell rather than bring a lost Bruce back to the truth. Either way, all the Alfred moments are my top pick of both episodes and I would have watched just for those.
Ra’s Al Ghul’s appearance in the Lazarus Chamber was a close runner up though. The moment where he tries to get Bruce to kill Alfred has all the feel of a properly dark and Grimm fairy tale, in direction, writing and performance. I found Ra’s threatening and powerful, like a faerie lord on the verge of tricking a human out of his soul. This bodes well for season 4.
Many people that already know Ra’s’s background won’t have felt much disturbance at Alfred’s death with it happening so near a regeneration pool perhaps. Nonetheless, I’d still say that the battle for Bruce’s soul was handled well this episode. Plus, the effects of the Lazarus Pit could still have long-term consequences on Alfred.
Jim Gordon – brother cop, tragic lover
Whereas Bruce has arguably become the central character in Gotham, Jim is still the mortar that holds the show together. There are always some plots that run without a link into the others but Jim can investigate his way into most characters’ business at most times. In this finale though I think his link let him down.
Left to himself I don’t think that would have happened. The virus plot seems perfect for Jim Gordon, always one to have a personal battle or ideological struggle to face. I can even forgive him showing such great control under the influence of the virus given his experience in battling himself.
It should have been a great parallel to Bruce’s struggle, seeing Jim’s darker self fighting against Harvey’s attempts to draw out Jim’s better nature. But in my mind it came second to Bruce’s plot in both timing and, importantly, construction: If you do the same thing as someone but afterwards and worse you come off badly.
Again, it should have worked. Jim’s always been battling his ideals, even once giving in to the need for the final justice of an execution sentence. But he got stuck in a strange Gothic romance plot and surrounded by the seemingly pointless return of Fish Mooney. Not his fault both times.
I don’t blame Lee. She was a great character up to the end of season 2 but just had nowhere to go in season 3, finding herself stuck with a mob-boss father in law, a dead husband and development entirely defined by Jim. It could never work. And worse, resisting so well for two episodes, she’s finally forced to adopt evil cleavage.
The poor woman was entirely controlled by the plot. How did she manage to stay in control of the virus? Why did her darkest emotion turn from revenge on Jim to a desperate love for him? The only reason she can be doing these things is because of some need to have a Romeo and Juliet moment, sad music playing over her and Jim falling onto one another.
But this didn’t even work: Should I be sad they were cured and didn’t go on a killing spree? I know they now can’t be together but it was only going to last until the virus took control of one of them in a few hours. The music and shot was supposed to make me sorry for them but I couldn’t be after that inexplicable build up.
At all times in this finale Jim is surrounded by such strange things that lose all meaning. Why were the ninjas just dancing with Freis and Firefly instead of attacking them? Why couldn’t those useless ninjas beat an untrained swordsman in a fight? And why did Fish Mooney get or stay close to that fight? “You damn fool!” Yes Fish, I agree, you were. It even adds to the ridiculous when she tells Penguin not to cry as she’s done this whole death thing many times before.
Of course I lightly step over the fact that she had to die in order to pass the mantel of king of the freaks to Penguin. But really? Did she? Perhaps instead there was just too much wannabe Shakespeare in the way of Jim getting good plot. He’s a great character and deserved more.
Penguin vs. The Riddler
I’m surprised someone won this battle, or perhaps just disappointed, as I wanted to see the two of them go at each a few times as supervillains first. But that’s really just my issue. As it was they have a deeply personal backstory that could really only ever end up satisfied by one of them being permanently taken out of the picture.
For a while I wondered if the show was really going to kill one of them, given Fish and Barbara’s demises. Body counts can perhaps only go so high however, and being locked in carbonite and left on display in a bar / entertainment lounge does still answer the need.
Still, the whole thing was starting to get a little strained as they went back and forth being each other’s prisoner. I kept thinking “where is this going?” Like Jim’s plot then, I felt we got our conclusion but did it really mean anything? Was it really powerful?
The rise of Solomon Grundy and Catwoman
I started with Bruce’s plot because I though Alfred’s moments were so strong. If I had to pick a single stand out moment in both episodes though, I’d have to give serious consideration to Butch’s sacrifice. Giving his life for Tabitha was the character’s finest hour.
Butch’s relationship to Tabitha is possibly something I’ve never properly understood until I now come to reflect back on it. Both have been kept down under another character’s influence despite themselves and found a connection in that. Since they came together they’ve been through torture and never turned on each other, and in the face of a gun Butch remains true.
More than that, unlike many plotlines this connection has been building over a season and a half, so when Butch makes his last choice in Tabitha’s favour I was both proud and upset at the same time. It was one of the most meaningful and moving moments of the series. I almost felt a bit cheated when it turned out Butch was still alive but when it was revealed he was to be Cyrus Gold (Solomon Grundy) I changed my mind; it’s a promotion to supervillain after all.
Butch’s murder also gave meaning to Barbara and Tabitha’s plotline that was starting to strain as much as Penguin vs. The Riddler. I loved Barbara in ‘This Ball of Mud and Meanness’ and I don’t think she’s been given anything near as good since. Her final plot was full of coincidence and convenient plot turns. Thankfully her battle with Tabitha was very well handled. Against a ninja Barbara realistically stood little chance but she fought desperately every step of the way.
I wonder if transferring Tabitha as partner to Selina has been a long time in the planning. I never once made the link with Catwoman’s whip but there it was, delightfully plain as day at the end.
“Destiny Calling” and “Dirty Heavy Soul” make a good character-centred finish to season 3. Alfred having to talk Bruce out of the spell on his mind and Butch’s sacrifice alone are stand out moments of the whole series. But though a considerable improvement on the season 2 finale I still don’t think I can call season 3’s end great.
Trimming down the cast for season 4 might be a wise choice. I’d rather Bruce have spent more time in his false training to really feel how deep he’d gone under and forgotten his family. Penguin and The Riddler’s plot could perhaps had a little less back and forth being captured by one power group or another so they could spend more time focused on each other. And Jim’s plotlines felt far too influenced by unfounded and unneeded Shakespearian tragedy.
That said Bruce’s development as a whole throughout the series ended very well for me. He has his first rule of honour now and a city to protect. Jim too has constantly been forced to question his beliefs and purpose and the virus plotline fitted him perfectly for that. Adding to this all the promises and possibilities for season 4 I’m left excited to see what’s next.
- Butch’s sacrifice
- Butch’s promotion to supervillain as Solomon Grundy
- Alexander Siddig as Ra’s Al Ghul, threatening and fae
- Sean Pertwee – at all times in both episodes
- Tabitha and Barbara’s fight
- Catwoman getting her whip
- Jim under the virus
- Lee as a Jim fanatic instead of wanting her revenge
- Ninja dancing and general uselessness
- Fish’s pointless appearance
- Shakespearian melodrama: Jim and Lee taking the antidote and Fish’s death
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