Gotham: Season 5
Understandably, prequels are generally in demand by audiences. Typically, they expand upon the origin stories for fan favorite heroes and villains. When a character becomes popular audience members usually clamor for more in their stories and te events and circumstances leading up to the popular film is a perfect place to start. The downside is prequels rarely live up to expectations. Set back in time the favorite characters are younger, often requiring significant recasting that often is contrary to the established mental images. Another common hurdle is the unavoidable fact that the ultimate disposition of the characters is rather set in stone. The degree of difficulty is greatly enhanced by the constraints imposed on the necessity of generating and maintaining suspense, tension and a sense of imminent doom. Because of these restrictions the odds of a prequel’s success are greatly reduced. A few years ago, the Fox television network scored a solid hit with ‘Gotham’. Riding on the tsunami of major film and television franchises, the DCEU and MCU, ardent fans are more determined than ever to ensure any material using their favorite characters must tightly adhere to the generally accepted continuity. While this can turn off fans of any genre, it is especially a concern when the source material is taken from a comic book. In this instance, the effect is substantially enhanced. Comic book and science fiction enthusiasts have the propensity to be intimately familiar with the minutia of every detail of the characters, themes, and narratives. They gather in huge convention where such details are endlessly debated with the seriousness of a Supreme Court case. With Gotham, the fact that it concerns the origin story of Batman the scrutiny is close to unimaginable. Showrunner/creator Bruno Heller stepped to the bar and gleefully leap over it.
The premise was simple, over the las four seasons the story has watched as young Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz), went from a grief-stricken child, traumatized by watching his parents slaughtered, to a young man with elite training, financial resources and a nifty bat infested cave beneath his stately home. As he was honing his skill to become a masked vigilante and the world’s greatest detective, the roster of allies and rogue’s gallery of villains was taking shape. Under consideration is the fifth and final season of this piece of the saga. To his credit, Mr. Mazouz had the common scene, devotion to storytelling and respect for the fans to end the series despite fan and studio support. He realized that a successful story must have distinct beginning, middle and end. The old paradigm for television required episodes that could be told out of order, typically as stand alone, abet related story, the current trend embraces the wonders of the dénouement. In this final season we can watch with rapt attention as the myriad of pieces final fall into place until the final shot featuring a very shape of a black cowl and cape.
Although the principle character has to be Bruce, the primary point of view is presented through Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie). The original story usually depicted hm as Commissioner Gordon, the head of the Gotham police force and staunch ally of Batman. The five seasons comprising the series chronicles his professional journey from detective through captain and finally achieving his customary exalted rank. Along the way the vast assortment of characters is also organically grown from nascent versions of themselves to the men and women we all know. Most notably is Oswald Cobblepot Robin Lord Taylor, whose nom de guerre is ‘The Penguin. At first, he is depicted as a gaunt man with a notable jump of a decade at the end of this season for the final episode. During that period many of the final requirements to bring them in line with the familiar forms. For Mr. Cobblepot his time incarcerated left him rather corpulent with a perchance for umbrellas. A couple of Batman’s most important influences were also carefully developed. Alfred Pennywort (Sean Pertwee), the faithful Wayne family major domo, is shown as fiercely loyal but, consistent with some of the recent incarnations, swift, occasionally lethal action. His Alfred had been a member of Britain’s military force, the SAS. This version of the beloved character was so popular that thee currently a prequel to this prequel, ‘Pennyworth’ following the meeting and early friendship of Alfred and Bruce’s parents, Thomas and Martha Wayne.
One of Batman’s most complicated relations is undoubted with Selina Kyle. In the first four seasons she was played by young dancer/actress, Camren Bicondova. For the more adult version in the final episode the role was turned over to Lili Simmons. During the series the narrative plunged deep into the origin of one of DC’s most unusual romances in comic book history. What began as frenemies slowly grew into star crossed lovers. Selena we a street kid, a thief and burglar whose considerable skills I stealth, martial arts and deception placed her on a ninja like level. In this season she turned fully to larceny greatly betrayed when Bruce left Gotham determined to ‘find himself’. The portion of the overall narrative infused an untraditional depiction of a classic theme. It helps to provide a firm foundation for the adult relationship between Batman and Catwoman. Similar exposition is provided for the burgeoning incarnations of the Penguin, the Riddler (Cory Michael Smith) and Bane (Drew Powell), in their original, pre-super villain personas., Oswald Cobblepo and Butch Gilzean, respectively. Understandably, there are several changes from the standard, accepted canon. Despite the ire this might induce in die hard aficionados of all things DC comic books, the transition from page to television requires changes to adapt to the differences in pacing, presentation and narrative. Although most of such endeavors are dismal failures, the developer and primary creative force, Bruno Heller, has performed an incredible accomplishment, a completing, engrossing series that captivates the audience.
Although the primary focus of this consideration is this final season, it is frequently appropriate to fold in detail of the entire series to examine best how well the concluding season performed in its primary function of tying up the numerous plot threads developed along the course of the previous seasons. In this regard the final season, and, most crucially, whether it was able to neatly pull everything together for a satisfying conclusion. For source material intended as a prequel, there is a further onus on the writers to minimize discrepancies when the characters are extrapolated to their comic book and movie forms. Overall, the series succeeded in tis far better than I originally anticipated. The backstories contributed rather than conflicting with established mythos. While some recon was infused in the general flow of the narrative, the character arcs came across organically and consistent with expectations. The most intense example of this is the frenemy relationship between Bruce and Selena. Catwoman was introduced as a villain, a staple adversary in Batman’s rouge gallery. Recent incarnations have complicated this adversarial relationship. Within the context of ‘Gotham’, young Selena was a street kid, homeless crashing where a safe heaven fo the night might present itself. She had honed her formidable skills in acrobatics, martial arts and Ninja-like stealth and misdirection to become a natural cat burglar of considerable skill. She was the polar opposite of Bruce, a privileged boy with vast wealth, sheltered from most of the grim realities of life, witnessing the murder of his parents he swore to discover the culprit and extract justice. Various forces were influential in the transformation of this wealthy heir prototype of the caped crusader, the world’s greatest detective, the Batman. Selena might not have been the most significant source of training, the head of the most proficient ancient cadre of assassins, ‘The League of Shad would forge this soft forge tis soft child of society and privilege, into a fighter of extraordinary ability, prowess and control. The leader of the League, the near immortal Ra's al Ghul (Alexander Siddig), took a personal interest in perfecting the young man’s destiny.
Now that many series give proper respect to the artists and fans by brining a series to a definitive conclusion, a new standard has emerged, how well the ending served the overall narrative. After watching this final episode, it must be noted that this one worked exceptionally well. Little potential deviations from canon were addressed. One glaring example is the lanky frame of the Penguin. His normally corpulent was finally shown in a flash forward and his release from incarceration. Attention to such minutia is quite commendable and much appreciated by die hard fans.