Gotham: Season 3: a review

A vocal contingent exists out there who refuses to watch the television series Gotham or even acknowledge its existence.

I am a diehard Batman fan, and I understand this point of view, to a degree. Initially, the thought of a show about Gotham City in the years before Batman makes his first appearance didn’t appeal to me. I watched the show from its debut because I acknowledge that Gotham is as much a character in the Batman comics as Batman himself. Gotham is, in fact, the reason Batman exists. I liked what Tim Burton did with Gotham in his movies, and then what Batman: the Animated Series elaborated on with its Art Deco sensibilities and throwback ’40s aesthetic. The noir look went well with the story of Batman, and harkened back favorably to the original Bob Kane (and Bill Finger, I suppose) product. Gotham, in its eponymous series, isn’t quite Art Deco, but it still maintains the shadowy, noirish look. Even with cell phones and computers in obvious use in the series, the show still manages to look as if the setting is from an indeterminate time period.

In fact, it’s best to imagine the entire series as existing in its own pocket universe. It is not canon. This is not bad news. In fact, it frees up the creators of the show to do pretty much anything that they want to do. That’s a plus for viewers, like me, who don’t need to see the origin story of Batman rehashed with a slavish devotion to canon. I want to be surprised by this story.

I’m happy to say that, by the end of season three, I have been surprised. And I am a fan of the show, even though this season nearly lost me in the middle. I am also happy to add that Gotham has been picked up for a fourth season, and I will be watching that one as well. Things are getting good.

This season began with the introduction of Jervis Tetch, the Mad Hatter, and he proved to be an interesting villain. His sister was even more interesting because she, Alice, is the carrier of a potent virus that creates super-villains. The Tetch virus is a season-long story arc. As is the Court of Owls. Jim Gordon begins as an alcoholic bounty hunter before eventually, and inevitably, re-joining the GCPD. He begins an investigation into the Court of Owls that culminates in his becoming a member and then betraying them. Oswald Cobblepott kills Edward Nygma’s newest lady-love, because he is in love with Nygma himself (couldn’t see that one coming). He pushes Nygma into becoming The Riddler for real, and gets shot and presumably killed again, although it should come as no surprise to anyone that he isn’t dead. Ivy Pepper, who will become Poison Ivy, has been physically aged to a young woman, even though she’s still a child in heart and mind. Lee marries a gangster’s son, who gets infected by the Tetch virus and is killed by Gordon before he can kill Lee. This doesn’t go over well. Captain Barnes is also infected by the Tetch virus and becomes the villain the Executioner. Bruce Wayne is replaced by the doppleganger Bruce while he is brainwashed in some Asian mountains by Temple Shaman. He returns as a puppet, temporarily, of the Court of Owls, before meeting Ra’s Al Ghul for the first time (played by Dr. Bashir from DS9). Jerome, who is not Joker but is the Joker, makes a return appearance. Lee injects herself with the Tetch virus, then forces Jim Gordon to inject himself. Both are ultimately cured by the antidote.

If this sounds like a particularly busy season, you will understand my main complaint about the series this year. It is busy. Too busy. I still think that 22 episodes are too many to tell one story. A shorter season would have been better. Season Three languished so much in the middle that I was tempted to jump ship at some point.

But—and this is a big ‘but’—the ending of the season made me forgive the excesses and meanderings of the middle. This was a great ending to the season. Bruce Wayne is one step closer to becoming Batman. Butch has been shot but not killed. Barbara Keen is apparently dead (of course, we know how that works in comics). The Riddler has literally been put on ice. Bruce ran Alfred through with a sword, and then healed him with water from a Lazarus Pit (even though no one called it that). Selina has picked up the whip for the first time. So much good stuff to appeal to any Batman fan.

I hope the writers of the show consider doing an A and B half of next season. Maybe two entirely separate story arcs, each taking up half a season. When they attempt to stretch the story out, the arc itself is somehow weakened.

But, I’ll still be watching next season.

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