Gotham: Review: Series 1 Episode 22: All Happy Families Are Alike

Gotham 1.22The battle for Gotham has begun…

There’s a hell of a lot of fighting going on in this episode – between Maroni and Falcone, Penguin and Falcone, Penguin and Maroni, Fish and Maroni, Fish and Falcone, Fish and Penguin, Barbara and Leslie, Jim and the Commissioner, Harvey and some gangsters, Bruce and Alfred, Nygma and Miss Kringle… Some of it is physical, some of it is verbal, but there doesn’t appear to be any harmony at all, which makes the episode quite exhausting to watch.

The problem is that there’s also a lot of talking: before they carry out some deed which will change things forever, everyone seems to have decided that they must deliver some impassioned speech about their motivation. Usually, that means that there’s time for the cavalry to arrive (or at least, Jim Gordon, who’s the nearest thing that Gotham currently has), and then a proper fight can break out. It does mean that when there is the odd unexpected action, it comes out of the blue even more than usual (Fish’s execution of one of her rivals, particularly). Fish’s fate isn’t too surprising – and let’s be honest, does anyone really think she’s dead?

As far as Gotham goes, this season has seen the previous bosses overthrown by the upstart Penguin, and Jim Gordon basically pissing everyone off on his journey of discovery about the corruption at its heart. There’s a brief acknowledgement of this when he notes that he’s effectively a dead man walking (and even more so after his run-in with Loeb at the hospital), but he’s survived a lot longer than by rights he should have done. Compare Ben McKenzie’s world-weary performance in this episode with the young hopeful at the start of the season and you can see the effect it’s had on him.

The episode also contains two key moments for the Batman mythos – the discovery by Bruce and Alfred of a hidden staircase behind the fireplace in Stately Wayne Manor (activated by some very appropriate music!), and the descent into some form of psychosis of Edward Nygma. The visuals for the latter work well here, but they could become incredibly tiresome if they’re used all the time next season.

Has Gotham lived up to the hype this year? Pre-Daredevil, I’d have said yes, but the Netflix series demonstrated how you can how this sort of urban decay in a superhero environment (and that’s what Gotham is). It’s certainly thrown in a number of surprises (not least in this final episode with its treatment of Barbara), but it’s not really had a continuity of tone and approach. Maybe those extra episodes actually worked against it? It’ll certainly be interesting to watch how the producers and writers deal with a full season that they can pace from the start, rather than have it disrupted mid-way…

Verdict: A noisy but also talky finale that wraps one element of the season up while leaving much in the air for next year. 7/10

Paul Simpson


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