“This is not just about Gotham. This is all about Bruce Wayne.”
It really is about Gotham. And it’s about Jim Gordon. It’s also very much about Bruce Wayne. The third season ended with Bruce finally starting to embrace his vigilante role, but it was crude and very much only a shadow of the hero he will become. There’s a reason why all of the episodes of this season are subtitled The Dark Knight. Bruce is becoming more and more like Batman. Bruce even confronts his future alter-ego in a vision state. He’s being propelled to that future because of Gotham and because he’s also being manipulated toward his destiny by none other than Ra’s Al Ghul himself, played by Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s awkward Doctor Alexander Siddig. He’s taking center stage this season, and he knows Wayne’s future and sees himself as the guiding force to make sure he gets there.
Gotham has never been darker or more violent than it is this season. The level of massacre, gore, and violence pushes the limits of a network show to the edge. Quite frankly, I’m a bit surprised that they got away with the things we see in Season 4.
“There will always be crime. What I’m offering is crime in the hands of professionals, held to agreed-upon terms. No license. No crimes.”
The season starts with Penguin (Taylor) issuing licenses to commit crimes. He’s extorted the city leaders into going along with the scheme, and all of the police force…except Jim Gordon (McKenzie). He’s given the term organized crime a whole new meaning. A cut goes to the city, and Penguin delivers low crime stats. It all sounds like a pretty good idea. But you just know that things are going to get ugly. The corruption leads to the emergence of a new villain, Professor Pyg (Cerveris), who is killing dirty cops and putting decapitated pig heads on them. Everything is soon thrown into anarchy, and a long list of big bads team up to rain terror on the city. Gordon makes a deal with the devil to try and bring Penguin down, but it backfires badly when he tries to get Falcone to come back to Gotham. He gets his daughter Sophie (Reed) instead, and she turns out to be worse than the devil he knew.
If there is a theme to the season, it’s rebirth. Many of our villains return from the dead to assume new roles. Butch (Powell) ends up dumped in a swamp and regenerates into the Batman villain Solomon Grundy. Barbara Kean (Richards) is resurrected by Ra’s al Ghul to become the new demon’s head. And she’s put together her own all-girl’s crime squad called The Sirens with Selena Kyle (Bicondova) and Tabitha (Lucas). Selena is moving another step closer to Catwoman with her trademark whip and leather tights becoming part of Selena’s new style. Poison Ivy is literally reborn in a toxic membrane and emerges as yet a third actress playing the role. This time up she’s Peyton List. Scarecrow re-emerges as Crane’s son Jonathan (Thompson) uses his father’s fear gas and burlap mask to become a much more frightening version of the character. Ed Nigma/Riddler (Smith) is reborn from that block of ice and has lost his mojo. He forgot how to riddle. He turns to Dr. Thompkins (Baccarin) for help while she takes over as the underground queen of the Narrows. A lot of characters get new leases on life this season.
There’s also a return of the Batman rogue gallery members when Jerome (Monaghan) orchestrates a big breakout from Arkam Asylum. He teams up with Scarecrow, Freeze (Darrow), Firefly (Veintimilla), and Mad Hatter (Samuel) and sets in motion the arrival of the actual Joker character from the comics. By the end of the season even Victor Strange (Wong) is back in the mix. The season isn’t so much a baddie-of-the-week this time around. Gotham is inundated with villains who have teamed up, and the season will see many combinations of alliances and rival gangs before the last episode ends. With all of that, we still find time for Toymaker and The League Of Shadows/Assassins.
I think that’s what I found the most compelling this season. Somehow the show has grown to a very large cast of known characters, and we get a lot of depth to so many of them that it hardly seems possible. But Gotham manages to provide very rich histories and emotions from a lot of characters at the same time. The relationships are incredibly complicated without ever seeming convoluted. You expect there to be a lot of contrived circumstances, and there certainly are, but it never feels that way. In just four years this show has one of the richest list of regulars or recurring characters of any series I can think of.
Bruce is showing some evolution. He gets an armor costume that is morphing closer and closer to Batman. His big challenge is the destiny that al Ghul appears to see in him, and he carries around even more darkness and guilt. There’s tension enough with Alfred (Pertwee) who is also beginning to see what the future holds for Master Bruce, and he begins to supply him with things that will help him get there.
The show was developed by Bruno Heller, who last provided us with The Mentalist. Here he has managed to tap into the comic book world just enough that he teases us with things we know. You almost feel proud of yourself when you recognize elements that will play into the future of the Batman universe. It’s a smart approach that helps make the audience active participants in the show. There are so many little Easter eggs here that you have to stay on your toes. It also makes all of this very easy to watch again. There are bound to be things you missed the first time around.
Each episode is presented in its original broadcast aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC MPEG-4 codec. This high-definition image presentation will take you to an entirely different world. There’s a lot of gritty texture to be found here. Colors don’t often pop. This is often almost a monochromatic world, but once in a while a single color will pop to deliver stunning contrast. It might be a red hood or a bright dress, but it offers just the right balance to break up any of the dreariness to be found here. Fortunately, black levels are up to the challenge with rather sweet shadow definition. A lot happens in these shadows, and we wouldn’t want it lost. For a television show, this is as fantastic as a world gets.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is often alive with just the right mix of surrounds to immerse us deeply into this world. The score is pretty dynamic at times, and it drives the atmosphere that dominates this entire show. Dialog comes through perfectly clear, and you get just the hint of enough ear candy to keep you alert at all times.
Solomon Grundy – Born On A Monday: (9:53) This feature looks at the evolution from Butch to Grundy.
The Sirens Take Gotham: (12:57) This profile looks at the characters of Barbara, Tabitha, and Selena.
The Best Of DCTV Comic-Con Panels At San Diego 2017: (58:27) Instead of the usual panels on each release, this is a compilation of all four in one feature. Again I suspect it will be included with the other sets.
We are moving closer to Batman than I expected in only four years. I’m not sure how much longer the tease can last at this point. The season finale takes a bit of plot out of the last Dark Knight film and leaves Gotham firmly in the hands of the bad guys. I’m not really sure how they can up the action any more than they already have. This is a crowded show that still has a lot of untapped classic characters to mine. “Oh, we’re going to need a lot more of this.”