Tuesday, April 30, 2019

'Gotham' Recap: "The Beginning" (5x12)

Welcome back to the final recap of Gotham—or, as I like to call it, the show that sparked a Batman obsession that has slowly been consuming my life over the past three years.

Just kidding.


The show's 100th and final episode, "The Beginning," is a glimpse into the future of Gotham City and the first days of its caped crusader as he strikes terror into the hearts of some of the city's deadliest villains.

Warning: this episode contains some heavy violence and an on-screen suicide. This episode also contains some big SPOILERS. So if you want to go into the episode with no expectations or preconceived notions, it might be best to turn away now.

Plot A: Batman Begins.

Plot A: Batman Returns.

Plot A: Holy Finale, Batman!

The episode opens with a young, teenage Bruce staring out the icy window of a ship. On a nearby table sits a passport and a letter to Alfred.

As Bruce steps out of the ship and onto the docks, we hear the contents of said letter in a voice-over. Bruce tells Alfred that he's doing all right. He promises that, although Alfred won't hear from him for a while, Bruce will return when he's capable of protecting the people he loves—and when the city needs him.

Bruce then looks up at a snowy mountain in the distance. The location resembles the unnamed locale where the Shaman took him to train in season 3 (which may possibly have been Nanda Parbat, home of the League of Shadows).

The scene then shifts to Gotham—ten years after Bruce left. At City Hall, Harvey Bullock and a mustached Commissioner Gordon inform Mayor Aubrey James about a mysterious figure who's been terrorizing Gotham's criminals but hasn't killed anyone yet. (Sidenote: I can't believe that Mayor James is still alive and that the people of Gotham elected him as mayor again. Will they never learn?)

Harvey tells Mayor James that while no one gave a description for the figure, they mentioned a "growling," though Gordon says this is merely a rumor. Gordon then tells Mayor James that Penguin gets out of Blackgate Penitentiary soon, so some cops have theorized that he's hired someone to strike fear into rival gangs.

Mayor James complains that, given all of this information, it's not a great time for Gordon to resign. Gordon points out that he turned in his resignation months ago. Mayor James insists that Gordon can't quit, especially since Bruce Wayne is returning to Gotham. He adds that the newly-finished Wayne Tower represents hope, as does Gordon. Gordon replies that his promise—to stay until the Wayne Tower opening—remains unchanged.

After the mayor leaves, Gordon tells Harvey that he's tried running the police department for ten years; now it's time to give someone else a chance with it. Harvey remarks that it's an interesting coincidence that Gordon plans to leave the job just as Bruce returns.

Gordon changes the subject by saying that he's late for a meeting with Barbara (who is now a real estate tycoon, thanks to her decision to buy up about half of Gotham's real estate after reunification, when it was still cheap). Harvey tells Gordon to give his kid a kiss from her Uncle Harv.

Gordon meets Barbara Kean (who now has red hair) and his ten-year-old daughter (hereafter referred to as Barbara Lee) in a tall building with a nice view of Wayne Tower.

Barbara Kean asks if Gordon has heard from Bruce yet. When he replies that he hasn't, she remarks that it's weird that Bruce went ten years without saying a word to Gordon. She wonders if, at the gala, Bruce will recognize Gordon with the "caterpillar" above his lip and laughs. She then leaves Barbara Lee with Gordon after giving him instructions to take good care of her and make sure she doesn't stay up too late.

Over in Arkham, a messy-haired Riddler reads the newspaper over a guard's shoulder. He sees that Bruce is coming back to Gotham.

"Big deal," he mutters. "I knew him, back in the day. We helped save the city together." (You also made him play a quiz show in season 2 where you threatened to kill him with poison gas, Ed. So don't act like it was all buddy-buddy.)

Riddler then sees an article about Penguin being freed. When he expresses his surprise aloud, the guard rattles his baton against the bars. Riddler yells that after being in Arkham for 10 years, he deserves to read the newspaper.

Before he can argue this point further, however, Riddler sees an inmate approach Jeremiah Valeska and start to dab paint on his head.

(Side note: falling into a vat of acid and being stuck in Arkham for ten years has NOT treated Jeremiah well. He sits in a wheelchair, seemingly unresponsive to everything around him. His face is deformed from the chemicals, and his head is mostly bald, except for a few pathetic wisps of hair.)

Riddler stops the other inmate. He asks if he knows who he's dealing with and replies that Jeremiah Valeska is a legend.

"And if you're gonna screw with a legend," Riddler says, stabbing Jeremiah in the leg, "do it properly." Jeremiah does not respond or react at all. Riddler laughs and remarks that messing with him never gets old.

Suddenly, an alarm rings. Guards rush in, grab Riddler, and shove a bag over his head. At the same time, a nurse wearing a red, black, and white outfit rolls Jeremiah's wheelchair away (real subtle, Gotham).

Meanwhile, Gordon goes home to his and Lee's apartment. Lee notices that his mustache is gone. He replies that he was trying something new, but it didn't work.

Lee claims to have liked the 'stache but says that now, at least, Bruce will be able to recognize Gordon. As they wonder how much Bruce has changed over the past decade, Lee remarks that the two of them haven't; they're still both a doctor and a cop. Gordon remarks that he won't be a cop for much longer.

Lee asks if he's having second thoughts about leaving Gotham. She says that while she's all for leaving, she knows how much the job means to him and how much the city looks to him for leadership.

"Well, that's just it," Gordon says. "I was hoping Gotham would outgrow me. But it hasn't exactly happened." When he adds that no one stepped in to lead, Lee says that maybe someone will when he steps down.

"Ten years," she muses. "I wonder what Bruce will think of Selina. She's become quite the 'it girl' around town."

Elsewhere, a security guard locks up some kind of vault room. After he leaves, a masked woman in a leather bodysuit enters. She rolls a gadget across the floor, and it sprays smoke, revealing red lasers all over the room. She flips over and under them with dexterity, before approaching a glass case that holds a blue diamond. She then (for no apparent reason) removes her mask, revealing herself to be an older Selina Kyle.

(Side note: While most of the show's actors reprised their roles for the finale, Gotham cast an older actress, Lili Simmons, to play Selina Kyle in the finale. Camren Bicondova played her in previous seasons. Both are fantastic.)

Selina then uses the claws on her gloves to open a hole in the glass. As she reaches in to grab the jewel, the lights flicker briefly. She turns her head and frowns. Then she pockets the diamond and goes back the way she came.

However, someone watches her from the window, and we hear a cape whirl as this mysterious and unseen figure turns away.

Over at the GCPD bullpen, Harvey asks Harper if Arkham has any idea how the Riddler escaped. She replies that no one knows how he did it or when, but they gave her the address of a guard who didn't show up for work the day he disappeared.

Harvey goes to the address (alone, unfortunately). When he enters, the guard (who looks visibly frightened and agitated) punches him and pulls a gun out. He hands Harvey a phone and tells him to talk to the caller.

Harvey answers the phone. Though we can't hear who he's talking to, we see Harvey become terrified and shocked. The guard then says that Harvey knows what he has to do, as does the guard himself. The guard shoots himself in the head and blood splatters against a nearby wall.

Back at the GCPD, Harvey sits in an interrogation room. Gordon enters and asks what happened. Harvey says he went to check out the guard's address and shot him after he entered. A skeptical Gordon states that Harvey is confessing to cold-blooded murder of an unarmed suspect. Harvey tells Gordon that it's the truth and that he needs to let it go.

Gordon says that, no matter who Harvey is trying to protect, he'll end up in Blackgate if he doesn't change his story. He reminds Harvey that they both know what happens to cops who end up in prison (Gordon, of course, has firsthand experience from season 2). Harvey again tells Gordon to let it go.

After Gordon exits the interrogation room, he sees the other cops looking at him. He tells them that anyone who thinks Harvey's guilty can leave. No one does. Harper asks if the Riddler might be behind the murder. Gordon says it's possible, but the Riddler would've needed help to escape Arkham, so he isn't working alone.

When a cop mentions Penguin's imminent release from Blackgate, Gordon agrees that he's likely behind Riddler's escape. He orders his officers to put a tail on Penguin while everyone else looks for the Riddler.

Harper then tells Gordon that the dead Arkham guard used to be associated with a gang and that she's found an address for said gang.

Elsewhere, Riddler pulls the bag off of his head and stands up. He's in a room we haven't seen before. On the floor sits a crate with an envelope on top. Riddler opens it and reads a letter from Penguin.

The letter says that half of Gotham thinks the Riddler is a madman and the other half has forgotten him; now it's time to remind them of who the Riddler is. It also says that the crate has everything Riddler needs; he just has to follow the instructions.

Riddler opens the case and finds stacks of C-4 explosives. He laughs aloud and wonders what his old friend is planning.

Over at Blackgate Penitentiary, Penguin gets dressed for his release. He puts on leather gloves and a top hat over a fancy suit with a purple jacket. He also sets a monocle over a new blue eye where his old one used to be. (This is a nice visual callback to Fish Mooney's odd, unmatching eyes after she also lost one and got a replacement in season 1. Well, "lost" is a misleading term. She pulled it out with a spoon.)

Penguin then exits the prison, looking a bit plumper than he used to. Reporters swarm him as he steps outside. One reporter asks what he'll do first; he replies that he plans to lay flowers on his mother's grave. Another asks if he has any plans for revenge against Gordon for putting him in Blackgate.

"The best revenge against Jim Gordon will be a life spent serving the city I love," Penguin says.

He then spots two men watching him from across the street. He turns to a young reporter and asks if he wants an exclusive. The man agrees and enters Penguin's limo. Once they're inside, Penguin orders the reporter to give up his jacket and hat.

Elsewhere, someone looks down at building schematics in an abandoned warehouse. We don't see his face but simply hands and arms clad in black leather.

Suddenly, Gordon and Harper enter the building, and the figure goes into the shadows. The two cops then spot several dead bodies on the ground, which Harper's source didn't mention. Gordon says that someone must be trying to cover their tracks. He recalls Mayor James mentioning that someone broke into a government facility last week and points out that nearby crates have army markings.

The conversation is interrupted when the two of them hear a noise. Gordon orders Harper to go up the back stairs while he takes the front. As he does so, gun drawn, he orders whoever's in the warehouse to come out.

The unseen figure replies in a distorted, modulated voice (with a bit of Bruce in it) that he's not Gordon's enemy. As Gordon and Harper reach the top floor, the figure tells them not to touch the dead bodies.

The figure then throws a smoke grenade and uses it as cover to jump out a nearby window. As he does so, we see the back of a cape and a pointy-eared cowl.

After the smoke clears, Gordon rushes over to the window and stares at the ground, only to see that the figure has vanished.

A little bit later, other cops examine the warehouse. Harper tells Gordon that the corpses were rigged with C-4, so the figure they saw saved their lives and probably wasn't behind the murders. Gordon agrees and says the person is probably hunting the same culprit as the GCPD and might be on their side.

He then tells Harper that a lot of C-4 was recently stolen from a government facility. While some of it was on the bodies, most is still missing.

The bad news piles on when a cop tells Gordon that the mayor has disappeared and their tail has lost sight of penguin. Gordon, though frustrated, says they need to keep it simple. He remembers how much C-4 is missing and asks Harper to think about what the biggest target in Gotham is. They both look out the window and see Wayne Tower in the distance. Gordon tells Harper to double security for the gala while he tries to get in touch with Bruce and Alfred.

However, when Gordon enters his car, he sees an unwelcome surprise: Penguin in the back seat with a gun. He tells Gordon to drive and keep quiet. But where does Penguin want to go?

The pier. The pier where so many people have been taken to die, right from the first episode when Gordon faked Penguin's demise.

Penguin reminds Gordon of this and says the cop probably wishes he'd shot him back when he had the chance. Gordon points out that everyone will know Penguin killed him, but Penguin says he doesn't care and that Gordon's death "has been a long time coming."

Gordon says Penguin can kill him, but he doesn't need to attack the Wayne Gala. When Penguin asks what he's talking about, Gordon mentions Nygma's breakout and the attacks on gang members.

Penguin replies that he wasn't involved with any of that and returns to his regularly scheduled monologue. He says that even though he and Gordon stood together, ready to die for Gotham, the cop locked him up in Blackgate six months after reunification.

"This begins and ends with you and me," Penguin says. "Goodbye, Jim." He forces Gordon to turn around.

Gordon replies that it was a mistake to bring him to the pier—and promptly jumps into the water before Penguin can get a clean shot at him.

Some time later, the Wayne Gala is in full swing. One section of the party features a scale model of plans to rebuild and renovate different parts of Gotham.

"So this is Bruce's new Gotham," Selina says to Alfred. "I like the old one."

Alfred greets her warmly and says it's been too long since they last saw each other. Selina, however, isn't in the mood for niceties. She asks where Bruce is. Alfred replies that Bruce's travels have "not increased his respect for punctuality."

Selina says that Alfred needs to tell Bruce to stop spying on her. She says that when she was out the other night, she felt someone watching her and she knows it was him. Alfred snarkily replies that Selina's approach makes perfect sense; she showed up to the gala, dressed to the nines, for the sole purpose of telling Bruce she wants nothing to do with him.

Selina retorts that Bruce left her, after everything they went through together.

"He doesn't get to come back after ten years and act like nothing's happened," she says. Alfred agrees but says she needs to tell him that herself. Selina replies that Bruce needs to stay away from her.

As she walks off, she sees Riddler (in a bowler hat, green glasses, and a green suit and coat with question marks on it) walk down a hallway. Selina then runs into Barbara Kean and tells her old friend to follow her.

In the kitchens of Wayne Tower, Riddler watches the event from a television while the mayor sits next to him, tied-up and rigged with C-4. Riddler says that once Bruce arrives, he can get started.

Inside the gala, Lee runs into Lucius. He says he heard about what's going on with Harvey and asks how Gordon and his old partner are holding up (which seems to imply that Lucius left the GCPD and returned to working at Wayne Enterprises). Lee replies that she isn't sure and that she expected Gordon to be at the gala.

Before the conversation can continue, Alfred takes the stage. He introduces himself and welcomes everyone, on behalf of Bruce Wayne and his company, "to the future of Gotham."

As the Riddler watches Alfred's speech on the TV and waits for Bruce to arrive, Barbara appears. Riddler pulls a gun on her. He asks if she's here to stop him and laments at how much she's changed.

"Do you even remember how amazing you used to be?" he asks.

"Honey, I'm still amazing," she fires back. "I just made a choice."

Riddler replies that not everyone gets to make choices and adds that, after he blows up Mayor James, Gotham will remember who the Riddler is.

He says that he was waiting for Bruce to arrive so that he could interrupt and toss out a riddle or two. But since Bruce is a no-show, he'll have to come up with a plan. Before he can do this, however, Selina knocks him out from behind.

At the same time, Gordon and the GCPD enter the gala and give the order to evacuate the building. Barbara and Selina then enter with the mayor and Riddler. Gordon tells his men to take away Mayor James and disarm the C-4. He then turns to the Riddler and says that four crates of C-4 were stolen, so there's more left.

Riddler replies that it's all Penguin gave him, but Gordon says that Penguin isn't the mastermind here. The police then drag Riddler away. Gordon says that since Nygma wasn't the real threat, there must be something else going on. He sees the scale model of a redesigned Gotham and looks under the table, only to see a C-4 bomb counting down from five minutes.

Gordon tells the others that if the bomb goes off, the tower will fall and destroy other buildings and people. He says they need to leave, but Lee doesn't want to, and Barbara points out that they don't have time to get far enough away.

Lucius tells Gordon how to defuse the bomb. They need to find the detonator wiring of the bomb, which seems to run through one of the model buildings. Gordon remembers the building schematics from the warehouse and says that one was of the Gotham clock tower, which is part of the scale model.

Meanwhile, two cops take Riddler into the elevator. As soon as the door shuts, one of the cops punches out the other.

Back in the main room, Gordon lifts up the tower and finds the bomb's wiring. Lucius says that the core has to be held steady while someone detaches the wires from below. Lee volunteers to work with the wires, as she has "doctor's hands." Gordon reluctantly agrees, and Lucius tells her to cut the green wire. However, there are two green wires, and the first one she cuts accelerates the countdown. (Which just goes to show that even with 13 years to learn, Lucius's bomb-defusing skills are still super rough).

After she cuts the second green wire, the clock stops, and the day is saved.

Lucius then remarks that something doesn't make sense; he and Bruce designed a new clock tower, but this is the old one. Gordon then realizes that the tower is a clue to the culprit but says that the person he's thinking of can't have done it.

(And while he doesn't say the man's name right away, you might recall someone blowing up the old Gotham clock tower in season 4.)

Harper then tells Gordon that the Riddler has disappeared and that the Mayor has ordered Harvey to be sent to Blackgate.

Gordon rushes to stop the transfer. He asks Harvey if the person he's thinking of is the one behind the murder and the bombs. He asks if this person has been "faking it." Harvey begs Gordon not to say the name aloud.

"Is it Jeremiah Valeska?" Gordon asks. The cop carrying Harvey immediately draws his gun, but Harvey knocks him out and tells Gordon to check him for explosives.

Gordon unbuttons the man's shirt. The good news? The cop isn't rigged with C-4. The bad news? He's had a mic under his clothes the whole time. Harvey says that now Jeremiah knows Gordon is on to him, there's no telling what he'll do.

Back in Arkham, the nurse from earlier knifes two prisoners in a cell with Jeremiah. She tells him that their cover is blown. Jeremiah laughs and grabs her by the throat. We then see the nurse's face—and, of course, it's Ecco.

Elsewhere, Riddler is thrown into a limo. Sitting next to him is Penguin. The two friends greet each other. Penguin says that while he wasn't behind the breakout or the C-4, he thought Riddler could use a hand getting away from the GCPD.

But before they can celebrate their freedom, something (or, rather, someone) crashes onto the roof of the limo, leaving a large dent. The chauffeur freaks out and crashes into a nearby wall. The figure who jumped onto the limo flips away.

When Penguin and Riddler exit the car, they scream in terror as the figure (still unseen to the audience) dives toward them from above.

A little bit later, Alfred and Lucius walk through the street together. Lucius says that when Bruce returned to Gotham and told him what he was planning, Lucius didn't hesitate to aid his efforts. He says that he believes in what Bruce is doing, but the man will need more help. He asks Alfred if Bruce has thought about confiding in Gordon. Alfred replies that telling Gordon is Bruce's decision; their job is to serve.

The two men then smile as they see Riddler and Penguin hanging, tied up, from a lamppost.

At the (closed and empty) Sirens' Club, Barbara Lee asks her mother what happened at the gala and why she won't talk about it. Barbara Kean replies that everything turned out fine and she just needs to get something from her old club. She grabs a gun from her old desk.

Suddenly, music sounds from inside the bar. Barbara Kean tells her daughter to wait at her desk. She then enters the bar alone and sees Ecco from the back. Barbara Kean tells Ecco to turn around. Suddenly, Jeremiah approaches BK from behind and forces her backward towards Ecco, who puts a knife to BK's throat.

Jeremiah says he's just throwing a "surprise party" for the queen of Gotham. He then recalls that Barbara was another person once, as was he.

Before he can expound on this, Barbara Lee throws something at Ecco, making her lose grip on Barbara Kean. Barbara Kean then hurts Ecco with her own knife, while Barbara Lee tries to hit Jeremiah (with little success). Jeremiah, in turn, shoots Barbara Kean.

"Cute," Jeremiah mutters. "She has your eyes, for now."

Ecco then looks down at her bloody wound and says it looks like she might be done for.

"Oh dear me, my sweet Ecco, no longer my Ecco," he tells her. "There will never be another one like you."

"Really?" Ecco asks. He responds by shooting her, and she dies with a bloody grin on her face. Jeremiah then says that there are other fish in the sea.

(This is likely a reference to a scene in Batman: Death of the Family, where Joker tells Harley Quinn, "You thought you were the first one? I can tell you this: you won't even be the last."

He then hits Barbara Kean and grabs her daughter. He tells BK that when Gordon arrives, she has to give him Jeremiah's message.

Some time later, Gordon and Harvey enter the club and find Barbara Kean, still hurt from the fight and on the floor. Harvey goes to get an ambulance for her. Barbara says that Jeremiah took their daughter and that if Gordon doesn't go to him, he'll kill her. Gordon asks where he went. Barbara replies that Jeremiah said he was going back to "the place where he was born again."

Gordon says he must mean Ace Chemicals (which is fair, but I was kind of hoping that maybe Jeremiah meant his underground maze, since that's where he got sprayed with insanity gas). He promises to bring Barbara Lee back and heads to the factory.

When Gordon reaches said factory, he finds that Jeremiah is holding a rope. Attached to the rope is Barbara Lee, who hangs over a vat of green chemicals. Jeremiah says that it's funny being back at Ace Chemicals and that he can still feel his flesh burn and melt.

"What do you want, Jeremiah?" Gordon asks.

"There a Jeremiah here?" he replies.

"So what do I call you?" Gordon says.

"I don't know. Call me . . . Jack? Mmm, no, no, that's not right. Joseph? John? J?" Jeremiah replies. " "I don't know, I just . . . I feel something new crawling from the primordial ooze that was me. Something beautiful."

(I now feel justified in hereafter referring to Jeremiah Valeska as the Joker, even if the show isn't allowed to do it.)

Gordon asks why Joker pretended to be a vegetable for so long.

Joker replies that he was waiting for "him [Bruce] to come home." He says that the two of them are bound together.

"And then he just abandoned us," Joker says. "Do you know how it feels to have the one, the only thing you love ripped away from you? It feels like this." He then lets go of the rope. Gordon jumps and grabs it before his daughter can fall into the chemicals.

Joker then tackles Gordon and stabs him. Before he can kill the cop, however, something comes flying through the air and knocks the knife out of Jeremiah's hand. What is it? A sharp, black batarang.

Joker gets up and yells for his attacker to show himself. A mysterious figure watches Joker from above. Joker spots this person and simply says, "You?", which implies that he knows exactly who's behind the mask.

Another batarang flies through the air, lodging itself in Joker's hand and knocking the gun from his grasp.

Joker laughs in delight. A final batarang lands in his head, and he falls to the ground.

Gordon pulls Barbara Lee to safety as the mysterious figure watches from above. As the father and daughter embrace, Gordon looks up at the ceiling, trying to see if his rescuer is still there.

A little bit later, Gordon and Harvey stand on the roof of the GCPD. Harvey asks if Gordon thinks the person who attacked Joker and saved Gordon is on their side. Gordon replies that it seems to be true.

The two of them look at the old searchlight which is covered up by a cloth. Harvey says he thought they packed it away after reunification, and Gordon says he got it out for old time's sake and sent a note to Wayne Manor so that Bruce could be there to see it lit.

Bruce, however, doesn't come. Alfred arrives in his stead, apologizing for his master's absence and saying that Bruce is "otherwise engaged." Gordon observes that Bruce has been busy since he returned to Gotham.

Alfred asks if Gordon's retiring. Gordon replies that he might stick around a little bit longer and pulls the cover off of the searchlight.

Elsewhere, Selina stands on a rooftop, unmasked and in a black leather suit. Someone else stands behind her, also dressed in black.

"You're there, aren't you?" she asks. "Do you have any idea what you did, just leaving? You were all I had. And I know you wanted to protect me, but I didn't want to be protected. I wanted you. Say something. Say something."

Bruce replies (in a deep but unmodulated voice) that there was no other way.

"So what happens now?" she asks.

"I don't know," he replies. "But I'll never leave Gotham again. Return the diamond."

Selina turns around, only to see that Bruce is gone, and smiles in spite of herself as their game continues.

Meanwhile, inside a prison transport van, Penguin rants about the figure who attacked them and how he said, "Gotham is mine."

"I was there, Oswald," Riddler replies wearily.

The two of them then manage to get free of their restraints and jump out the back of the van. Penguin tells Riddler that they need to find out who this person is and show him that the city belongs to them. Riddler agrees.

However, when the two men see a familiar figure jumping across rooftops, they quickly decide to call it a night and deal with him later.

Back at the GCPD, Gordon turns on the searchlight. Alfred reminds him of how he once told Bruce that in the darkness, there would be light. He says that Gordon saved Bruce and gave him hope.

Suddenly, Harvey sees something and points it out to the others. They turn and see a dark figure looking down at them from a nearby building.

"Who is he?" Harvey asks.

"A friend," Gordon replies.

And then, in the final shot of the series, we finally see Batman.

(Note: while the face is David Mazouz, the person wearing the suit is actually a body double, Mikhail Mudrik. This way, David finally gets to be Batman, but the overall effect is that Bruce is all grown up, since David himself is only 18.)

We then see the Gotham logo one final time, with the symbol of a bat behind it.

The Verdict

In some ways, the end of Gotham always seemed inevitable. Predictable, even. The show was always meant to end with the rise of Batman. And that's a lot of expectation to carry into a final episode, especially after parts of this season have been somewhat rushed. So part of me wondered if "The Beginning" could ever measure up to all the endings I'd written in my head.

It. Absolutely. Did.

There's so much in this episode that I could write about it for days. Weeks, even.

I'll try to focus on the highlights.

First of all, I want to applaud Gotham on an excellent casting choice of Lili Simmons. She not only resembles Camren Bicondova, but she's also fantastic in the role of Selina. She's so compelling in the role that the final scene between her and Batman is just . . . beautiful. In the hands of a different actress, the dialogue could have come off cliche or stilted, but it didn't.

It felt heartbreakingly real, and it was a harsh reminder of Selina's tragic arc. She tried to shut other people out and act like she only cared about herself for five seasons. Then, when she finally became vulnerable enough to admit how much she needed Bruce (and how much she cared about him), he left her without saying goodbye. And the pain of that is evident in Simmons's performance.

Another interesting aspect of the episode is Bruce himself. We never see the adult Bruce unmasked and only see him as Batman in the final scene, but he was present throughout the episode, lurking in the shadows. And while I would've liked to see an older Bruce unmasked, or have had more Batman screen time, I think the writers and directors for this episode made the right choice.

Seeing Batman is the natural endpoint of Gotham's story. So if they'd shown him onscreen near the beginning of the episode, it might have felt unearned or too early. There's something satisfying and climactic about having Batman be the final image of the show.

And, as I said last week, Bruce isn't the main character of Gotham (although he is my favorite). If this were the pilot to a Batman series or the conclusion to a series more centered on Bruce, it would be natural to spend more time on him in this episode. But since Gotham is more of an ensemble show, it made sense that Batman's presence should be seen and felt throughout "The Beginning" while other characters were given more focus (so we could see how far they'd come over the past ten years).

I'd also be remiss if I didn't touch on Gordon's final words: "A friend." To me, this line is perfect. It hints that Gordon might know who Batman is but leaves room for interpretation.

When asked what the words meant, executive producer John Stephens replied, "I'm going to leave that up to the audience. In my mind, however, the answer is clear."

I think Gordon A) is smart enough to put two and two together about Bruce being conspicuously busy over the past few days and B) knows Bruce well enough to guess that he's Batman. And if that's the case, I don't mind it. I think it would be out of character for Gordon not to know.

But that's just my interpretation. Either way, the line is great.

Also, a shout-out to my new favorite Gordon: little Barbara Lee. She might not be Batgirl yet, but I enjoyed the spunk that she brought to the episode. Kudos to her for trying to stop Jeremiah and Ecco from hurting her mother, even if her efforts didn't do much.

Moving on to the episode's villains, I enjoyed them. They all had great costumes and great scenes. The Joker, in particular, had a fantastically creepy character design, and it was perfect. Falling into a vat of acid and/or chemicals? Yeah, that'll mess you up. And, once again, Cameron Monaghan gave a fantastic performance as the clown prince of crime (and kudos to Gotham's hair and makeup team for making him look not only deformed but also a lot older).

In general, I appreciated how action-packed this finale was. There weren't really any scenes where I was bored. And honestly? "The Beginning" is, I would argue, a great example of why Gotham is the best live-action adaptation of Batman in terms of tone, style, and genre.

In spite of all its changes to comic book mythology, Gotham feels like a classic Batman comic book (like The Long Halloween). It's a mix of menacing and wacky and dramatic and funny and clever and retro and new all at once. And all of this is on display in "The Beginning."

Penguin and Riddler hanging from a lamppost? Classic Batman. Joker threatening to dunk Barbara Gordon in acid? Classic Batman. Bruce not showing up for his own party? Classic Batman.

In conclusion, I loved "The Beginning." I think one of the reasons I appreciate it so much is this: I just saw a sort of ending to another series (which shall remain unnamed). And that ending didn't feel right. It felt convoluted. Overstuffed. Confusing. And the tone of it didn't match the rest of the series at all. It just . . . overloaded me.

Seeing that series end at the same time as Gotham made me appreciate "The Beginning." It feels right. It's an episode with some twists and turns, but it doesn't come off confusing or overly complicated. In the end, it feels simple and elegant. It feels like a fitting end to a series that I love.

While I'll miss the show, I don't feel sad. I feel happy, because I know what comes next. I know that there are 80 years' worth of Batman stories out there and many more to come.

So this isn't the end. It's the beginning. It's a triumphant note for Gotham to go out on.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

'Gotham' Recap: "They Did What?" (5x11)

Welcome back to another recap of Gotham—or, as I like to call it, my weekly ritual of shouting, screaming, and laughing at my computer screen for an hour.

This week's episode (and the penultimate episode of Gotham overall) is called "They Did What?" It focuses on the fight for Gotham City between Nyssa al Ghul's forces and our beloved heroes (and villains, in the case of Penguin and Riddler). Once again, this week's plot can't really be separated by character or storyline, so it'll all go under Plot A.

Warning: this episode contains heavy violence and one on-screen suicide, and the following recap contains heavy SPOILERS.

Plot A: Domino Effects

Gotham City's remaining citizens flood the streets as they make their way to the GCPD. Inside of the precinct, Gordon tells Lucius and Harvey they need to get ahold of Barbara so they can make sure that she, Lee, and the baby are safe.

Lucius replies that they have their hands full with the refugees pouring into the GCPD. Harvey remarks that Nyssa has them outgunned and suggests that it might be time to surrender. Gordon, however, says the GCPD and its allies are the only ones standing between Nyssa and the city, so they have to keep fighting. He tells Harvey to gather up the refugees and get them to safety below ground.

Over at the clinic, Bruce and Selina watch over a bloodied, unconscious Alfred. Selina tells Bruce that the doctors did everything they did to stabilize him; now all they can do is wait.

Bruce says that Alfred's condition is his fault, since he sent him on the mission to stop Bane. Selina retorts that both she and Alfred knew what they were getting into, but Bruce says that Nyssa is still hell-bent on destroying him, Barbara, and the city because of Ra's' death. Selina replies that Bruce stopped Ra's twice and tells him that they'll stop Nyssa together.

Meanwhile, at City Hall, Nyssa shows Barbara that she has the same infamous dagger from last season—you know, the one that turned Ra's into a pile of ash.

This actually raises a few interesting questions, such as:
  • Where did Nyssa get the dagger? Did Barbara just leave it lying around after she used it at the end of season 4? (If so, that was pretty careless on Barbara and Bruce's part, considering all the trouble that knife caused.) Did one of the league members find it and pass it off to Nyssa?
  • Did Nyssa bring the dagger because she specifically needed it to kill Barbara? (In episode 4x05, Bruce theorized that the knife could be used to kill anyone raised to life by the Lazarus pit.)
  • Or does the dagger only work on the current Demon's Head (as implied in episode 4x04)? 
  • And, in that case, would it be able to kill both Bruce and Barbara (since he treated them both like heirs, and they both helped kill him)?
But I digress. Nyssa cradles Barbara's daughter in her arms. Barbara tells her that if she hurts the baby at all, she'll kill Nyssa. Nyssa replies that it's not fair for the child to get attached to her mother when Barbara won't be alive for much longer. Nyssa says that once the city and Gordon's Green Zone are destroyed, Barbara and Bruce will die. 

Barbara tells Nyssa about the submarine and the treasure onboard and begs her to take it and leave. Nyssa refuses and says she plans to raise Barbara's daughter as her own.

Then General Wade (still mind-controlled) walks in and tells Nyssa that the army has landed and is awaiting his orders. 

Sure enough, army tanks and copters have entered Gotham. One commander questions Wade's orders to destroy the Green Zone, saying they can't just go around killing civilians. Bane responds by relieving the man of his command and snapping his neck. 

Bane then introduces himself to the soldiers as their new commander and orders them to get to work.

Over at the docks, Penguin and Riddler prepare to enter the sub. Before they get onboard, however, Penguin asks if they can really be so cavalier about the city's destruction. 

Riddler is fine with letting Gotham burn, but Penguin says he can't let someone else take over his city. He says that Riddler should want to help stop Nyssa and Bane, especially since they used him to kill innocent people. Riddler, however, is unmoved by this argument.

Penguin replies that he's going to follow his heart and make a stand. Riddler retorts that following his heart has never worked out for Penguin.

Penguin replies that this might be true, but the Riddler should try thinking with his heart for a change. He then tearfully says, "I'm gonna miss you, Edward." Riddler replies that he'll miss him too . . . but it turns out that Penguin was talking to Edward the Bulldog. 

Penguin hands his leash to the Riddler, tells the bulldog to go with Riddler on the submarine, and walks off. Riddler yells that he's going to take both the submarine and the treasure if Penguin doesn't come back. Penguin, however, keeps walking. 

Back at the GCPD, Gordon tells Harvey where he plans to make their last stand. He says the GCPD needs to slow down the army long enough for someone to find Wade and free him from Nyssa's control so that he can reverse the order to destroy Gotham. 

Detective Alvarez tells Gordon that he hasn't had any luck reaching anyone at the Sirens' Club. Gordon wants to go there himself to look for Barbara, Lee, and the baby, but Harvey replies that the GCPD needs a leader. Selina volunteers to search the club in his stead.

Elsewhere, Lucius asks Bruce if he's sure about fighting alongside the GCPD. Bruce replies that he is. Lucius then equips Bruce with an EMP, smoke bombs and signal jammers. Bruce spots one leftover item and asks what it is. Lucius says the tech is from Wayne Enterprises' old "Nightwing" project.

(Nightwing, you say?)

"Portable, next-gen stealth tech," Bruce says, remembering the project. Lucius explains that the technology could make aircrafts invisible to radar, but also had an unintended side effect in that it served as a beacon to certain animals. (Gee, I wonder what those could be?)

Bruce takes the Nightwing beacon, saying that it might prove to be useful later on.

Meanwhile, Penguin enters Gordon's office.

Gordon says he's surprised that Penguin is still in the city. He says that the storm Penguin warned him about has finally come to pass. (Which is a nice callback to Penguin's pleas to Gordon in the very first episode.)

Penguin: "Listen to me. There is a war coming. A terrible war. Falcone is losing his grip and his rivals are hungry. There will be chaos, rivers of blood in the streets! I know it. I can see it coming."

Penguin says that when Gordon spared his life and ordered him never to come back to Gotham, it was the most lost he'd ever been, because he was away from the city. Penguin says that the city is a part of him and a part of Gordon as well.

Penguin adds that he could escape, but then afterward he'd have to watch the city burn to the ground, only to be rebuilt by politicians and industrialists. He insists that his life and blood are a part of the city and says he intends to stay and fight for his legacy.

Harvey then enters. He tells Gordon that the army has busted through a checkpoint and is headed toward the GCPD barricades with 600-700 men—and the GCPD has only 30.

"Make that 31," replies the Riddler, who enters with an assault rifle in hand. He tells Penguin that piloting the sub is a two-man job and adds that he also wants to keep this city the way it is. 

With everyone suited up, Gordon, Harvey, Penguin, Riddler and Bruce roll out with the rest of the GCPD.

When they arrive at the barricade, Gordon tells everyone which flanks to take. From the ground, Bane remarks that Gordon has a "crusader complex." Gordon points out that, once upon a time, Bane would've been fighting for the same side as Gordon, but Bane replies that he's found his "true purpose." Bane then tells his men to fire on his command.

Gordon then orders his men to begin shooting at the army, and the army (and Bane) return the fire (in a scene that finally shows the full context of the flash-forward from 5x01). 

Over at Sirens, Selina finds Lee, who regains consciousness. Selina asks where Barbara and the baby are. Lee replies that Nyssa took them. Lee then sees, from a window, that the Narrows are burning. Selina tells her that the city "never stood a chance" and that any refugees who survived went to the GCPD. 

"Then that's where I'm needed," Lee replies.

Back at the barricade, Bruce throws smoke grenades while the army and GCPD exchange fire. One of the soldiers throws an actual grenade over the barricade. As it lands, Riddler freezes. Penguin gets in front of him, and when the grenade goes off, debris from the explosion flies into his right eye. He clutches it in pain.

Bane then pulls out a humongous RPG and uses it to blow a hole in the barricade. Soldiers go through the hole, and Bane orders them to bring him Gordon and Bruce.

Gordon says they need a way to stop the army. Bruce replies that he has a plan, and Gordon orders his men to fall back. As they retreat, Riddler calls the whole thing a disaster, and Penguin frets that there's nowhere they can hide from the army.

Gordon then gets a radio call from Lucius, who informs him that he was able to track the general's chip to City Hall. Selina adds that Nyssa took Barbara and the baby. Gordon surmises that they're probably at City Hall as well. Lucius tells Gordon how to disable the chip, and Gordon says he'll go to City Hall alone.

After Gordon leaves, Riddler apologizes to Penguin for not reacting to the grenade quickly enough. Penguin replies that saving his friend was "the least he could do." He then asks Riddler if the injury looks bad and pulls off his bandage to reveal a bloody, grotesque wound over his right eye. The Riddler tries to tell him it looks fine but gags before he can finish the lie.

Meanwhile, Bruce re-enters the GCPD and tells Lee that Gordon's okay. He then tells Lucius that they need to get out Jeremiah's old generator, which the GCPD has been using since the bridges blew.

"We need to make it a bomb again," Bruce says. Lucius gets out the Riddler's diagram from season 4 of which buildings Jeremiah originally planned to destroy so that he could build his maze. Bruce's plan? Make the maze and use the buildings as dominoes to cut off the army.

Lucius says that ground zero has to be Wayne Enterprises headquarters, and Bruce agrees that there's no other way. Once WE falls, it will knock down the other buildings and finish the job for them. Lucius then adds that they only need the core and activator to set off the bomb and hands both to Bruce. As he does so, the generator shuts down, and GCPD's lights go out.

Selina says that she'll go with Bruce, and the two of them leave with the bomb. Lee then remarks that she can't believe she and Lucius are letting Bruce and Selina do this.

Over at City Hall, Gordon enters. Barbara distracts one of her guards and kicks him, while Gordon takes out another. He then uncuffs her and asks where the baby is. Barbara replies that she's with Nyssa and the general.

On cue, Nyssa enters, bringing the baby with her, as well as several armed men. Gordon orders her to hand his daughter over, but Nyssa refuses. She then says that he and Barbara should drop their weapons unless they want to risk hurting their child in the crossfire. They comply.

Nyssa gloats that the army is almost inside the Green Zone and that Bane is going after Bruce. She then wonders aloud what she should do with Gordon and Barbara.

At the same time, Bruce and Selina enter Wayne Enterprises. Bruce sets up the bomb and says that it will weaken the support column on top of the building and cause the whole thing to collapse and knock down the other buildings. Selina remarks that it's a little crazy that they're fulfilling Jeremiah's old plan.

Bruce remarks that there's no other way but pauses when he sees a portrait of his parents looking down at him. Selina asks if he's sure he wants to go through with this and points out that he's already lost Wayne Manor.

Bruce replies that he has a lot of memories of this building (especially from before his parents died) but adds that his parents built it to make the city a better place.

"They would have sacrificed everything for this city," he says. "They did sacrifice everything. If that's what it takes, so will I."

This is not only a tearjerking line but also a callback to season 2, when Bruce told Hugo Strange, "My father fought and died for what he believed was right. And if necessary, so will I."

As the light turns red and flashes, Bruce tells Selina that it's time to run. They do, just barely escaping before the bomb goes off and the building falls.

The army runs from it, but some of the soldiers are crushed by the debris.

Back at City Hall, Nyssa decides to kill Gordon herself. She hands the baby off to General Wade and remarks that she'll kill Barbara after the city is destroyed.

She then proceeds to fight Gordon and pretty thoroughly kicks his butt with her League of Assassins training. The fight is briefly interrupted when one of her men gets a radio message from Bane's lieutenant.

"They did what?!" Nyssa yells, apparently after hearing about Bruce and Selina's handiwork. She orders the lieutenant to blast through the wreckage and find another way to the Green Zone.

She then tells Gordon that while his allies bought him time, the Green Zone will still be destroyed. She adds that it's time for him to meet his fate.

"Let's meet it together," he replies, snapping a handcuff around her wrist so that the two of them are chained together.

(Sidenote: This might be a reference to the animated film adaptation of Gotham By Gaslight. The movie features a battle where two characters are fighting each other, and one of them uses the same move to chain his opponent to himself. I don't want to give too much away, but if you've got 75 minutes to spare, happen to enjoy murder mysteries, and don't mind the horror/thriller aspects that come with an R-rated showdown between Batman and Jack the Ripper, I'd definitely recommend this film. It's beautifully animated, the voice actors are wonderful, the plot is brilliant, and the writers do a great job of adapting beloved characters into the Victorian setting.)

A-HEM. Once again, I'm digressing. Perhaps overly long references to past Batman mythology is my coping mechanism for dealing with the approaching end of Gotham.

Gordon then slides the dagger over to Barbara, who joins the fight and takes down Nyssa's guards. Barbara then attacks Nyssa. Nyssa says that Barbara can't defeat her. She insists that she is Ra's al Ghul's daughter and his one true heir. Barbara responds by stabbing her in the chest with the dagger.

Wounded but not defeated, Nyssa commands Wade to "execute the failsafe." He then shoots himself in the head, distracting Gordon and Barbara long enough for Nyssa to get loose. She gloats that once she watches the city's destruction, her legacy will be complete. She then runs off without further ado.

Elsewhere in Gotham, Bane attacks Bruce (though how he found Bruce and Selina is unclear).

(I suppose he just followed the property damage left in their wake.)

Bruce tells Selina to warn the GCPD about Bane, but she refuses, and the two of them fight Bane together. They give it their best, but none of their attacks land successfully and he tosses them both aside with ease.

Bruce says that Bane hurt Alfred. Bane replies that collateral damage is a fact of war. Selina then attacks him, but he grabs her in a chokehold. Bruce begs Bane to let her go, but he replies that "There are no attachments in war." He prepares to kill her, telling Bruce that "an ounce of pressure" is all it will take.

Suddenly, Selina grabs one of the knives from Bane's holsters and uses it to stab him and get loose. Bruce then attaches the Nightwing beacon to Bane's chest and activates it, summoning an army of bats that swarm and blind Bane.

As they fly around him, Bruce looks up at the winged creatures, seemingly inspired by them.

It's not only a classic Batman shot—if I had a nickel for every time bats swarmed Bruce or one of his enemies in a comic book, movie or TV show, I'd be a billionaire too—but also an interesting contrast to last season, when Bruce was terrified of the dark creatures that swarmed him in his toxin-induced hallucination.

Meanwhile, Gordon tells Barbara that with Wade dead, there's no way to reverse the invasion order. Barbara, who holds her reclaimed daughter, introduces the child to Gordon and lets him hold her for the first time with her.

Elsewhere, troops led by a (recovered and bat-less) Bane march through the streets, getting closer to the Green Zone.

Inside the zone itself, Gordon and Barbara enter the GCPD. Barbara assures Lee that the baby is fine, though she needs to be fed. Gordon fills his friends in on what happened with Nyssa and Wade.

Harvey asks what they're supposed to do next. Cops then tell Gordon that the GCPD is surrounded by Bane's forces. Barbara says she needs to get the baby to safety. Gordon agrees and tells her to use the underground tunnels to get their daughter and the refugees to safety while the GCPD holds the army off to buy time.

Lee says she wants to stay with Gordon, but he points out that many of the refugees are from the Narrows and will follow Lee's orders because they know and trust her. She agrees and begins to lead them to the tunnels.

Back at the clinic, Bruce is all suited up for a fight. As Alfred comes to, Bruce tells him to rest. Alfred remarks that he spent a long time trying to protect Bruce, and now the boy has become "a soldier for good."

Bruce replies that it's his turn to protect both Alfred and Gotham, "even if there's nothing left to defend."

At the same time, Barbara and Lee lead the refugees into the tunnels. Lee gives them directions on where to go but says that rather than join them, she's going back above ground to stand by Gordon. The two women share a surprisingly heartfelt goodbye, with Barbara thanking Lee for everything she's done.

Lee tells Barbara to lead the refugees to safety. Barbara starts to walk toward them but then stops and looks back at the GCPD thoughtfully.

Meanwhile, Gordon, Bruce, Selina, Penguin, Riddler, Alvarez, Harvey and Harper meet Bane's army in the street. Gordon tells Bane that all wars come to an end. Bane remarks that this isn't a war but a firing squad.

Suddenly, Lee joins Gordon's line. Bane prepares to open fire, when Gordon hears something: more people. Gotham's citizens flood the streets, led by Barbara. It's Bruce who realizes that they've come to back up Gordon's final stand.

Bane orders the soldiers to fire, but they're clearly having second thoughts about killing so many civilians at once. He orders them again. Gordon tells the soldiers that they have a choice to stand with the people of Gotham or with Bane.

Bane raises his gun to shoot, but several soldiers aim their guns at him. After a few seconds, he surrenders and the crowd cheers.

All's not well that ends well, however. Over at the docks, Nyssa boards the submarine and leaves Gotham with Penguin's treasure (and Edward the Bulldog).

Don't worry, though—according to Tze Chun (writer and producer on Gotham) Nyssa didn't hurt the pooch.

At the GCPD, Lucius tells Gordon that news of what happened has reached the mainland. Now that the truth of is out, the army is going to help rebuild Gotham City with humanitarian aid, supplies and crisis relief.

Gordon takes Lee aside and asks her if the "not listening" thing is going to be a habit.

"You're welcome," she replies. (Gordon, you should know by now that Lee's not big on taking orders.)

Barbara remarks that the day's events will make for "an interesting bedtime story" and lets Gordon hold the baby. Gordon asks if Barbara's settled on a name yet.

"Barbara," she replies. "Barbara Lee Gordon. In this city, it's important that she know who she can rely on." (Which is arguably the sweetest reason EVER to name your daughter after yourself, your ex-fiance, and the woman you've tried to kill a couple of times.)

But not everyone's caught up in the joy of victory. Bruce sits alone on a stairwell at the GCPD, looking somber. Selina sits next to him and asks what's wrong. He replies that Nyssa's still at large and that she and Bane were right: everything that happened to Gotham has been because of him—including Bane almost killing Selina while Bruce was powerless to stop it.

Selina replies that she'll be there for Bruce whenever he needs her. He quietly replies that his parents used to tell him the same thing.

Elsewhere, Penguin furiously rants about how Nyssa escaped with everything he had. Riddler agrees that they're back to square one. Penguin adds that they didn't get any reward for helping save the city (a bit generous, considering their small role in the fight) or any credit.

Riddler replies that he doesn't want any thanks or respect from the citizens of Gotham. He then proceeds to give an absolutely bone-chilling speech about how he felt nothing for those "drab and boring" people and how he used to be one of them back when he was simply the awkward and submissive Edward Nygma working at the GCPD. He briefly glances in a mirror—but only sees himself, with no hallucinations or alter egos (which, as TV Tropes points out, is a devastating sign that every trace of the old Ed is gone).

Riddler adds that he has no intention of being a "common criminal" and that Gotham will bow to him. Penguin agrees, saying that the city has underrated both of them and that if he were still in charge, it wouldn't be in ruins. Riddler says that Gordon will only ever see Penguin as Fish Mooney's umbrella boy. He adds that the only reason he fought for the city is so that he could take it for himself.

Penguin says the two of them would be stronger together and says they should make a pact.

"We take what we want, from who we want, and we suffer no fools," he says.

"Together," Riddler says. He says they should shake on it. Penguin, who holds a knife behind his back, says that they're "brothers" and should hug instead. As they hug, Riddler also holds a knife. Both men point the blades at each other's back, but neither attacks.

As they let go, both men put their knives away.

"Life begins anew," Penguin remarks.

"Shall we get to work?" the Riddler replies.

A little bit later, Gotham's new mayor is introduced as the reunification process begins. The mayor gives Gordon the title of commissioner, and his friends applaud him.

Afterward, Harvey says he'll miss having Gordon around at the GCPD bullpen. Gordon replies that he won't be too far, and their mission is still the same. Harvey remarks that Gordon is "swimming with the sharks now" and tells him to call if he needs anything. Harvey then says he's going to get a drink before Gordon starts to crying (though he himself sniffs a little as he walks off).

In the midst of the celebration, Bruce tells Gordon he's leaving the city.

"My life here is too public," he says. He adds that his mind is made up and that he knows the city's in good hands with Gordon as commissioner. Gordon thanks Bruce for everything he's done for both him and the city. The two of them hug, and Gordon remarks that the city will always be Bruce's home.

Bruce simply nods but says nothing. After he leaves, Lee remarks that Bruce is "all grown-up" and that Gordon has another child to look after now. (Yet another child that will end up fighting crime dressed up as a bat, whether he knows it or not.)

Meanwhile, Selina goes looking for Bruce at the GCPD, but he's not there. Harper hands her a letter that Bruce left for her, and she reads it. Though we (the audience) don't know what it says, it's likely nothing good.

In an airplane hanger at Gotham Airport, Bruce says goodbye to Alfred. He says that the butler knows how to reach him if he needs anything. Alfred remarks that he'll be "self-sufficient" and the reconstruction of both Wayne Enterprises and the manor will keep him busy. He tells Bruce to remember everything Alfred taught him, and Bruce promises that he will.

Alfred then says that while he never tried to replace Bruce's parents, Bruce is the "only son [he'll] ever have" and that he could not be more proud of who the boy has become. The two of them hug, and Bruce boards a Wayne Enterprises private jet.

As the plane takes off, Selina runs out of Gotham's airport and watches it take off. She's visibly distraught at the sight.

From above, Bruce looks down at the city of Gotham—the city where he born in, the city that has shaped him, and the city he will one day protect.

The Verdict

The more I reflect on this episode, the more I love it.

One reason is because it makes a point to focus on legacies. Nyssa thinks that destroying Gotham is her legacy. Penguin is obsessed with leaving a lasting legacy on the city and only defends it to protect said legacy. The same is true of the Riddler.

But Bruce? Bruce has never cared about creating or preserving his own legacy in Gotham. And in this episode, he destroys the last physical vestiges of his life as Bruce Wayne (before and after his parents' death). What's more, he destroys the last physical reminder of his parent's legacy.

In a lot of ways, Bruce has been shorted by this shortened season. There hasn't been much time to focus on his arc, growth, or role as Gotham's defender (as was hinted at at the end of season 4). But this episode summed up one of Bruce's final steps to becoming Batman (apart from traveling the world and training with masters of different subjects).

See, the way I see it, each season is about Bruce acquiring a different trait that will aid him in his future role as Batman:

  • Season 1 was about Bruce becoming a detective.
  • Season 2 was about Bruce learning to think like a criminal.
  • Season 3 was about Bruce becoming a vigilante.
  • Season 4 was about Bruce becoming an actor and stepping into different roles (particularly the guise of Bruce Wayne, billionaire playboy).
Season 5 is about Bruce accepting and making the sacrifices that come with being Batman. Batman has been portrayed and written in various ways throughout the years, but one thing is always the same: being Batman requires sacrifice.

Robin (in Young Justice season 1): "You can't tell Batman. I always wanted, I always expected to grow up and become him. And the hero bit? I'm still all in. But that thing inside of him, the thing that drives him to sacrifice everything for the sake of his mission? That's not me. I don't want to be the Batman anymore."

For 99 episodes, Bruce has grappled with who he is. Over and over again, he's tried to hold onto a relationship with Selina while still pursuing his mission and training—and every time, either the relationship or the mission fell apart.

His decision to leave without saying goodbye to Selina in person was, in essence, a sacrifice. It was him finally accepting that, no matter how much he loves her, the mission comes first.

In this episode, Bruce sacrifices both his relationship with Selina and his parents' legacy.

And that's the beautiful irony of it: Penguin, Riddler and Nyssa are all obsessed with cementing their legacies in Gotham, but Bruce isn't.

And yet, his legacy as Batman will outlive them all.

On an unrelated note, I would be remiss if I didn't discuss the episode's climax. Now, I'm sure some critics are probably going to say that having the army simply stand down, when faced by Gotham's citizens, was anticlimactic.

I disagree. If you think that scene was anticlimactic, then you don't understand Gotham.

The show's name is not a mere stylistic choice or imitation of Smallville. It is a reflection of the show itself: a show anchored by the living, breathing landscape of a chaotic and ever-changing city. Gordon, Bruce, and Penguin may be the central figures in the story, but the show isn't really about any of them.

The show about Gotham itself. There are some video essayists that explain it better than I can (BrownTable and HiTop Films, for instance), but suffice it to say that the show has given Gotham City a certain personality and life of its own. A certain insanity, really.

An assassin who carves tally marks into his skin? That's just Gotham. People coming back from the dead? That's just Gotham. Clown cult based around a resurrected maniac? That's just Gotham. An ecoterrorist who's really a teenager trapped in a thirty-year-old's body? That's just Gotham. A man whose dominant personality manifests itself in the form of a gangster puppet? That's just Gotham.

All that to say, the city itself is the underlying main character of the show. So it's fitting, really, that the final showdown is won by the city itself—or rather, its citizens. All of the unnamed citizens that we (the audience) take for granted. We don't know their lives. We don't know whether they're bad guys, good guys, or somewhere in between.

But whoever they are, whatever they've done, they stand up for Gotham. They stand in line with our heroes and villains, shaken out of apathy and fear, and bound together by one common thread: the city.

That's not an anticlimax. That's Gotham defending itself and taking a united stand for once.

If you ask me, that's the perfect way to end the show's penultimate episode.

So honestly? "They Did What?" gets an A+ in my book. Season 5 hasn't been perfect, and it was definitely hurt by Fox's initial order to only do 10 episodes (it later got extended to 12, but that's still only about half of the show's usual 22 episode run). However, episodes like this one remind me of the care, dedication and love that Gotham's creators have put into the show. This isn't some cash-cow prequel series made to sell merchandise; it's a narrative they've put their blood, sweat and tears into. And it shows.

I'll be back next week with my final recap for Gotham's final episode: "The Beginning."

Until then, have a good week, enjoy seeing Avengers: Endgame, and remember: "However how dark and scary the world might be right now, there will be light."