Gotham: Season One Review, Guaranteed Spoiler-Free

Complete Season One review of Gotham. No spoilers. No nonsense.

That first season finale of Gotham was dreadful. Thankfully, the entire season wasn't as bad, but that last episode did its best job discouraging me from caring to ever watch season two. A finale should take the utmost care to produce. You pull out your big guns and deliver a compelling reason to return in the next season. They either stopped caring, don't have the talent, or dropped the ball on what should be one of the most important episodes of a series' run. No matter which answer it is, I have nearly lost faith in this series. Nearly.

Things started to get pretty ridiculous the last several episodes with Barbara inexplicably acting like a total nutjob based on contrived motivations that did nothing to convince me her actions were plausible in the slightest. Maybe it was the acting, maybe the writing, maybe the corny villain, maybe all of it? The Ogre could have been a compelling villain had he not been written by an angsty 15-year-old Hot Topic regular—and you know the producers were banking on this character to really cement Barbara's psychological downturn... for what reason exactly? We'll have to tune in to season two for whatever silly spin they try to put on this, but I'm not interested in taking their bait.

"Why would you do this to me? 
I thought we had something!"
While the closing few episodes left a sour taste, Gotham started out rather promising. Robin Lord Taylor's Penguin came through gates in a monstrously delightful way. He clearly has talent and the producers seemed like they wanted to use it for a while. A little over halfway through the series, they seemed to stop caring and wanted to instead focus on Gordon's entirely useless romantic sub plot which did nothing except build that inane story arc with Barbara. I'm still shaking my head over that. It's unfortunate because I saw an Emmy nod in Taylor if the producers would have just pull their heads out of their asses and built a strong foundation for him to play on. I feel like his own show worked against him and will cost him a nod for his infectiously wormy performance. Awesome job, Taylor, but your writers don't seem to care.

The Penguin's awesome arc is further fumbled in the finale where what he had been working towards finally comes to a boil. Instead of taking the pot off and actually cooking up a compelling climax to his story, they let the pot boil over, and shoved in everything they had in the fridge, the freezer, and the pantry, hoping to get a good meal out of it. Seriously, guys? Why? Taylor was arguably the best and most crucial element to the entire series. It's what we tuned in for every week and this is how you treat your greatest asset?

At least the show continued to look good. I'd argue it's the best shot TV series around at the moment. Even topping Marvel and Netflix's brilliant Daredevil. In nearly every episode, we're treated to dingy, steamy, panoramas of dark city streets,Gothic architecture, condemned underground tunnels crawling with homeless, and murky hospitals. It all drips in a noir atmosphere totally befitting of Gotham City that was enthralling to be a part of in spite of some of the ridiculous plotting that speckled the season.


Edward Nygma, later known as The Riddler, though not a major player comparatively, was engaging every moment he was on screen and in some ways handled better than anyone else in the show. Cory Michael Smith embodies the character, delicately playing with, and even gaining empathy from, the audience through the close of his arc. His attempt to be social and even find love is loaded with quirks, ticks, flaws, and riddles, never getting old, though you'd guess otherwise. I just wish the producers had focused more on Nygma and Penguin in lieu of the villain-of-the-week crap that ultimately lead nowhere.
"Hey, Gordon. Just stopping by to let you 
know our characters don't matter."

Little Bats, little Cats, and Alfred were among others that brought a lot of charm to Gotham. Bruce has as excellent chemistry with Alfred as he does with Selina Kyle. While David Mazouz is still learning as an actor, he shows immense promise as a Bruce Wayne and is respectful to the character while coming into his own. Camren Bicondova's Selina Kyle is just as good while giving us exactly what we'd expect from a young Catwoman, but peppering the performance with her unique personality. Mazouz and Bicondova together remained as perfect as I'd ever want throughout with an awesome sub plot concerning Alfred's former service to the British government that entwines all three characters.

It all comes down to the leading man, Ben Mckenzie, who is entangled in all of it. Mckenzie proves himself as a lead, even if some of his mannerisms are a bit over-the-top. It takes a lot as an actor to play off every individual in a wildly diverse cast and he does a damn good job. His Gordon character isn't given much room outside of the stern, do-good, patriot, but I hope they'll try to tear him down more in the future and really see what Mckenzie can do.

While his relationship with Nygma, the Penguin, Bruce, Aflred, Selina, and even his partner, Harvey, are all solid, it's those damn women that ruin everything. I'm not sure who the misogynist over at Fox or CW is, but they need to seriously reconsider how they're representing women on TV. It's bad in The Flash, and it's laughable in Gotham. They're made to be useless damsels, unreasonably psychotic at worst, and an ankle weight at best. Jada Pinkett Smith's Fish Mooney starts off halfway decent, but devolves into a haphazardly written sub plot device. I don't even think Ben Mckenzie can take it seriously as he awkwardly shifts his eyes, nodding to the audience that even he knows that the women in his show are absurd.

By the first season's close I was really getting sick of the lazy writing. It seems like the producers didn't even think they would make it that far. The good actually outweighs the bad even if the finale and its preceding episodes flew off the rails. There are too many great characters and the look of the show is second to none right now. It's easy to forget how it started with the fantastic opening episodes, especially with Taylor's amazing Penguin, and later with episodes like Red Hood, Alfred's past, Bruce and Selina's budding relationship, or the bizarrely eerie Scarecrow origin. It was all pretty intriguing to see how Penguin's arc was going to peak as it ran through all of this, even if it got diluted in a sloppy finale.
It's going to take a while for me to forgive them for a lot of the predictable rashness inherent in super hero TV. I pray they've been taking notes from Daredevil and will focus on the characters that should truly matter in season two. There are so many talented actors in Gotham, the show has superb atmosphere, and the actors seem to be treating the characters with respect, even when the plot contrivances want to interfere with that.

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- J.G. Barnes