The Fear Reaper
They Who Hide Behind Masks
The Demon’s Head
The Blade’s Path
Hog Day Afternoon
A Day In The Narrows
Stop Hitting Yourself
Let Them Eat Pie
Things That Go Boom
Queen Takes Knight
Pieces of a Broken Mirror
A Beautiful Darkness
The Sinking Ship, The Grand Applause
One Of My Three Soups
Mandatory Brunch Meeting
To Our Deaths and Beyond
That Old Corpse
One Bad Day
No Man’s Land
This review contains mild spoilers within the second and third paragraph.
Despite some questionable characterisation and directionless subplots, Gotham’s fourth season ends triumphantly with an explosion of villainry fanfare worthy of perseverance through the first half of this 22 episode series. With Bruce Wayne’s journey toward becoming the Dark Knight anchoring much of the series’ intrigue, Gotham ends feeling like a show that’s finally found its groove that it lost somewhat after its excellent second season.
The story picks up where the third left off; Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) holds the keys to the city and asserts his dominance over the criminal underworld through the use of licences allowing organised crime to continue under his watchful eye. Frustrated at Penguin’s stifling grip over Gotham, Detective Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) turns to Falcone (John Doman), or more specifically his daughter Sofia (Crystal Reed), to combat Penguin’s reign over the city. Nestled within this story is a disappointingly brief appearance from Scarecrow (David W. Thompson) and the questionable inclusion of new villain Pyg (Michael Cerveris) who torments Gotham.
After an explosive finale to this plot line, the mid-way point of the season sees the direction of the show change for the better. With the main villains of the Batman universe already fleshed out and established in previous seasons, the second half of season 4 erupts in frenzied chaos as a handful of villains team up to overthrown Gotham. This plot feels much more like the Batman we know (minus Batman himself of course) and later evolves to see a character return from the grave and wreak havoc.
With so many characters, both good and evil, stuffed into this season at times Gotham feels in danger of becoming too convoluted for its own good. Some characters, especially Mr Freeze (Nathan Darrow) and Firefly (Camila Perez), are demoted to a few lines of dialogue in the entire season. Other characters like The Riddler (Cory Michael Smith) and Butch (Drew Powell) go through a series of different character arcs but wind up in almost the exact same position they found themselves at the end of the previous season which almost makes them feel redundant and poorly executed.
If there’s one shining light here though it comes in the form of Bruce Wayne who really comes into his own this season. Along with Alfred (Sean Pertwee), the two slowly progress from a parallel storyline to the criminal underworld to becoming enveloped in the entire season arc with Bruce slowly becoming the Batman holding much of the intrigue. His dynamic with Selina (Camren Bicondova) feels more natural this year too and the sexual chemistry between the two feels charged and raw, helping to elevate both characters when they share the screen together. Selina also benefits from her own progressing plotline, slowly becoming the femme fatale Catwoman. Watching these two grow together and become their destined characters bodes a very intriguing prospect for the fifth and final season.
Out of all the superhero shows on TV, Gotham is the one that’s grown the most over the years. While it doesn’t always hit the mark, there’s no denying that Fox have done an admirable job presenting a compelling origin story for many of Batman’s famous villains, giving them enough material to work with to feel like menacing threats to this doomed, crime-riddled city. The third season suffered from a melodramatic reliance on killing characters off only to see them miraculously saved several episodes later and this tired trope certainly dampened an otherwise enjoyable arc. This year, the show abandons this trope, instead focusing on building a criminal underworld worthy of the Batman legacy.
The only black spot in an otherwise enjoyable series is the way the female characters are handled here. The first half, for all its flaws, was relatively subtle in the way it portrayed its female villains. The second half recklessly abandons this, constantly hammering home how females are stronger, that men are responsible for the wrongs in Gotham and generally making it very clear that these women are empowering figures. Its the old adage of “show don’t tell” and this all-female band of villains feels wasted at times, reduced tova political agenda rather than a meaningful inclusion in the show.
Gotham is certainly best enjoyed binging and Season 4 finally brings the show back to where it hit its peak during its second season. While the plot is a little inconsistent with its various juggling characters and questionable plot choices that throw the first half of the season into mediocrity, the latter portion of the season make the perseverance here worth it. The shows ends in an explosion of gunfire, anarchy and shocking plot developments as the future of Gotham is literally left in the dark, leaving the fifth and final season a very tantalising prospect indeed.