Gotham Season 1 Finale Review: “All Happy Families Are Alike”
***As always, this review will contain spoilers. You have been warned.***
Gotham‘s first season started off on a fairly strong note and has continued to improve every week since, so expectations were understandably high for the last episode. Last week’s played out like a well-orchestrated mob thriller and set the scene perfectly for a massive finale. It seemed literally impossible to screw it up, but they did. They really did. The writers have taken a lot of liberties with the Batman mythos, but they might have gone a little too overboard this time. There were some legitimately great moments, but sometimes I got the feeling that everyone was just trying too hard to up the ante. The ridiculousness starts early when Fish Mooney sails back into Gotham and immediately runs into Selina Kyle, who she has never interacted with before. Next thing you know, the two are working side by side with matching haircuts. This would have been perfectly excusable if it weren’t for the idiocy that followed.
We finally get Gordon, Bullock and all of the city’s major crime lords in the same room. It’s a truly epic moment in a series that has been pretty great in the past, but it doesn’t start off that way. Before shit really hits the fan, Fish and Maroni stand triumphantly in front of Gordon, Bullock, Falcone and Penguin as they dangle in front of them. They could have offed them all in one, foul swoop, but they don’t. Fish and Maroni get into a convenient argument about his use of the word “babes,” which eventually leads to Fish shooting him in the head. It’s a bittersweet moment. On one hand, it’s a refreshing shock to see that a character who actually appears in multiple Batman properties can still be killed off. On the other, it’s a shame that it had to be Maroni. He may have only appeared in 11 episodes, but David Zayas has such a strong presence whenever he’s onscreen.
A huge battle erupts after Maroni’s brutal assassination, which gives Gordon and Bullock a chance to escape with Falcone. It’s ironic to see the man who has tried so hard to keep Gotham’s streets clean trying to help protect one of the city’s most notorious criminals, but it just goes to show how much Gordon has had to adapt throughout the season. Things were starting to look up for this finale, until Selina Kyle delivered one of the season’s most cringe-worthy lines: “Cat got your tongue?”
Unfortunately, misplaced puns weren’t this episode’s biggest problem. As most Gotham fans know, Barbara Kean is the absolute worst. We’ve seen her play a nagging girlfriend, a damsel in distress, a cheater, a damsel in distress again and now she’s a murderer. I thought it was strange that she took The Ogre to her parent’s house last week, but now we know why. Barbara wanted to kill her parents because her mom used to call her fat or something. Things only get weirder from there, when Barbara goes full Gone Girl and tries to straight up murder Gordon’s current girlfriend. It’s almost as if the writers realized just how unlikable Barbara was and decided to go the whole nine yards. I’ve been wondering how they could possibly redeem the future Mrs. Gordon and I think I’ve finally figured it out. What if Barbara Kean isn’t the Barbara that Gordon eventually marries? Maybe something will happen to Dr. Thompkins and Gordon will fall in love with another woman who happens to be named Barbara as well? It’s a long shot, but it makes more sense than having him propose to a murderer.
Just when you thought this episode couldn’t get more ridiculous, Bruce Wayne and Alfred make a surprising discovery. Bruce thinks his father had some sort of secret life, so he starts mindlessly rummaging around the library. The two turn over every book and wind up with nothing, until young Bruce thinks of something that makes absolutely no sense. His dad was a known stoic and so was Marcus Aurelius, so he must have hidden his secrets inside a book about Roman emperors! Wow, Batman really must be the world’s greatest detective because that shit is beyond far fetched. Sure enough, he flips open the book and finds a remote control. With a push of a button, the fireplace begins to shift to reveal a hidden room. Yes, Thomas Wayne was hiding the Batcave. What was he using it for? His own 50 Shades-esque playroom? A room filled with gold coins so he could swim in them like Scrooge McDuck? It’s hard to say, but let’s hope they give us a good explanation next season.
Thankfully, not everything about this episode was bad. Robin Lord Taylor’s portrayal of The Penguin has been a real standout all season and this episode is no different. We were forced to sit through a lot of Barbara crap, but it was worth it to see Penguin blowing people away with a tommy gun. That’s when things truly took a turn for the better and Fish Mooney received the sendoff that we all expected. Oswald finally puts an end to his old boss by pushing her off a building and into the ocean below. It’s a fitting end for a woman named Fish and hearing Penguin shout “I’m the king of Gotham!” is enough to give anyone goosebumps. Cory Michael Smith is also a saving grace for this episode. We only see The Riddler briefly, but he gives us an insane display of his multiple personalities and how he battles them. It’s a true Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde moment and hopefully a look at what’s to come in the next season. The rest of the cast is in top form as well, even if the writing is occasionally lacking.
Overall, it was a surprisingly unsatisfying ending to an otherwise fantastic season. I don’t know if the writers were trying too hard to outdo themselves or what, but it was over the top in the worst way. Gotham has been renewed for a second season, so we’ll just have to wait and see how things pan out. Is Maroni really dead? Is Barbara dead? Who’s gonna take care of Butch? There are still a lot of things to look forward to and it’s hard not to fall in love with such a strong ensemble cast. Although the writing may sometimes suffer, Gotham is still one of the most creative re-imaginings of the Batman mythology that we’ve seen onscreen. Whether it’s true to the comics or not, there’s something to be said for that. Let’s just hope we don’t get any bat-nipples in season two.