I really hate "super special 2-hour" finales...or "super special 2-hour" anythings, these days. Yes, Twin Peaks, I am looking right at you. No one can be expected to melt their brain for that long and be okay, okay? This isn't about Twin Peaks though, and it's hard to be mad at Gotham for pulling the same crap as everyone else this finale season after the series essentially delivered everything I wanted from it upon the official news of renewal — except for BatBruce. DAMMIT, GOTHAM, I SAID NO.
Way back in Gotham's buggy, balloon-y, bat-sh*tty early days, the strongest stuff the show had going was the mob storyline and the baddie infighting, the feel of a police procedural that just so happened to take place in a comic book. Oswald Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor) slowly clawing his way up the underworld's tower of power... Nerdy Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) struggling to balance work, an unsuccessful love life, and the homicidal persona that lived in his head and convinced him to buck his meds and embrace his true murderous self... Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) returning to his hometown, trying to be a good cop in a bad city-- these are the stories that gave us our first gritty look at a Gotham City that could become increasingly unhinged and unstable as the seasons progressed.
It's true that Gotham's first season was rough, plagued with uneven tone and quality, countering the strong mafia stuff with the likes of the Balloonman (which will never stop being shorthand for the worst Gotham has ever offered), an iffy Scarecrow origin story, and pretty much everything that had anything to do with Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) in the wake of his parents' murders. There was a simplicity about those early days though that made the stories feel more personal and intimate which, at its core, is what I have always believed the Batman mythology to be. No matter how extensive the "Batfamily" becomes, how vast Bruce Wayne's influence or fantastical his various villains are, Batman is the story about a man who suffered a terrible trauma and subsequently shaped his life around it. It's a very human story and because of that, no matter how big it gets, it will always, in a way, be rather small.
The beauty of a huge mythology like Batman (and Superman and Wonder Woman and all the others) is that there's usually something to be found for anybody. There's nothing wrong with Ra's al Ghul (Alexander Siddig) and his magical Lazarus pits or the mystical reach of the Court of Owls. It's just not my thing and in the context of Gotham and the time period it's supposed to present in Bruce Wayne and Jim Gordon's lives, I had an even harder time engaging with it.
At the conclusion of this season's double-whammy finale, however, that time appears to have passed. For now. I mean, you can't introduce Ra's, give him a whopping 10 minutes of screentime, and then never bring him up again. Gotham has introduced magic and the supernatural to its universe. It's there now. It's Chekov's Lazarus pit. It's going to be "a thing."
But Gotham also did a bit of housecleaning, killing off Barbara Keane (Erin Richards), Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith), disabling Butch (Drew Powell) and Riddler for the time being, and sending Lee Thompkins (Morena Baccarin) on yet another sojourn to find herself — specifically, find herself not in Gotham. Selina Kyle (Carmen Bicondova) teamed up with Tabitha Galavan (Jessica Lucas) and unsurprisingly, has a way with a whip. Penguin and Ivy (Maggie Geha) put the finishing touches on plans for a new nightclub — the Iceberg Lounge — a place that we know will become a fixture in the city for years to come and act as Penguin's "legitimate business" throughout his underworld machinations.
It seems as though Gotham is ready to return to its roots, even going as far as to have Jim and Harvey (Donal Logue) walk out of the GCPD "like two beat cops" looking to shake things up. For an ending, it's a promising beginning to the show's upcoming fourth season. The key to Gordon surviving the Tetch virus, Bruce overcoming his "programming," and Tabby finally (FINALLY) killing off Babs and ascending into a leadership role of her own, no longer tied to either her brother or her lovers was "choice." Gotham is a town that eats its citizens alive, even the ones who love it — especially the ones who love it — but whether one of Gotham City's victims becomes warped by the experience or changed for the better, Gotham has decided is ultimately a matter of choice. Bad things happen, but they don't have to make you a bad person. In Gotham's case, bad beginnings do not have to be what defines a series that chooses to rise above it.
Gotham returns next fall on Fox.