Season 3 of Gotham, just as with previous seasons, manages to tell a varied story across its twenty-two episode run. Whilst a lot of series with seasons this length will stick to telling adventure of the week stories with the occasional dabble into mythology, Gotham embraces the serialised nature of its comic book source material, telling one large story across several months. Because of this there are a lot of story elements to the third season, and all of the characters end up in completely different places to where they began.
The season begins with the escapees from the Indian Hill facilities still on the run in Gotham. Having left the GCPD, Jim Gordon has become a bounty hunter, tracking down the escapees. With Fish Mooney amongst the escapees, Penguin also joins the hunt for the Indian Hill inmates, resulting in him receiving huge public popularity. Using this popularity, Penguin runs for mayor of Gotham.
When Jervis Tetch arrives in town looking for his sister Alice, who was one of the escapees from Indian Hill, he hires Gordon to help find her. Unfortunately, Alice’s blood contains a virus that sends people into a violent psychosis. With Jervis revealed to be insane, and Alice’s blood a deadly threat, Gordon rejoins the GCPD.
During this same time Penguin wins the mayoral election with the help of Edward Nigma. Working closely together, Penguin begins to develop romantic feelings for Edward. Unfortunately, Edward meets someone else, whom Penguin has killed. This creates a rift between the two of them, and as Edward embraces his identity as The Riddler, he hatches a plan to destroy Penguin’s mayoral career before killing him.
The season begins with these what seem to be fairly simple and predictable storylines, though as the season progresses it soon develops new layers and mysteries, including the Court of Owls which had only previously been teased in the previous season.
Jim’s story line begins in a strange place, with his reluctance to rejoin the GCPD feeling somewhat out of character for a man who has previously been desperate to be a cop. Unfortunately, with this being the third or fourth time that he’s lost his job as a police officer it does feel a little stale at the start of the season, especially as we all know that he will be a police officer again at some point.
Fortunately, the relationships between Jim and Leslie Tompkins, and he and Captain Barnes, keep your interest for the first half of the season. Due to the Alice Tetch virus both of these relationships are almost completely destroyed, with Barnes becoming infected and shifting from an upstanding police captain to a twisted murderer, and Leslie ending up hating Gordon for his killing of her infected husband.
It’s sad to see two of the purest characters of the show become corrupted over the course of the season, with Barnes sinking into madness and rage, whilst Leslie has her life torn apart, not to mention made a widow on her wedding day.
The second half of the season sees Gordon going on to infiltrate the mysterious Court of Owls, discovering his secret family connections to the villainous group. Whilst this second plot does move the plot forward, it lacks the emotional and personal drama that the first half of the season has.
The development of the Penguin this season also has some of the best moments for his character, with the reveal of his romantic feelings towards Riddler being handled surprisingly well. The altering relationship between the two of them is one of the more entertaining elements of the season, and the shift in fortunes for the two of them.
The shift of Edward Nigma to The Riddler is some of the most interesting episodes in the season, and pairing him up with Lucius Fox as his foil makes for interesting watching, carrying on from the confrontation between the two characters at the end of the second season.
Elsewhere in the show, the supporting characters have a lot to do throughout the season. Poison Ivy ends up falling victim to one of the Indian Hill escapees, whose powers accidentally age her into a young woman. Barbara and Tabitha open their own night club, The Sirens, and attempt to regain power within the Gotham underworld. Selina gets thrown out of a window and gets her own version of the Batman Returns Catwoman alley scene.
Most importantly, Bruce’s story makes some huge steps across the season. His investigation into the Court of Owls and their involvement in his parents death leads to him coming even closer to his future role as Batman, as he falls under the tutelage of The Shaman, who works for the man behind the Court of Owls, Ra’s al Ghul.
Bruce goes further along his path to becoming the vigilante hero we all know and love this season, with some clear connections to his comic book counterpart. Perhaps the most enjoyable of these is the short three episode story involving the return of Jerome (possibly a future Joker), culminating in an incredible confrontation between the two characters in a circus tent, with Bruce beating the psychotic Jerome in a fist fight. Despite Bruce being a boy still, and looking nothing like Batman in these scenes, it feels so much like watching Batman and Joker fighting in the comics. It especially brings images to mind of the finale of The Killing Joke.
Gotham has a lot of things happening in the season, and as such it’s hard to try and summarise everything that happens or all of the changes that the characters go through, but where many seasons of this length tend to dip in quality towards the middle of the season, or lose their way towards the end, having so many storylines across the twenty two episodes means that Gotham doesn’t feel stale at any point.
Despite not knowing if they would be returning for a fourth season, and as such bringing many elements of the season to a close at the end of the season, season 3 does set up some exciting elements that will carry across into the next year, including Bruce clad all in black stopping a mugging in an alley.
A strong season that introduces more characters and elements from the comics, season three of Gotham manages to build upon what had already been done with the previous seasons and improve its characters. Yes, there are some major differences between the show and the source material, which might be a problem for some, but Gotham is forging its own version of the Batman mythology to great effect.
Gotham Season 3 is now out on DVD/BluRay and available in the UK on Netflix.