TV reviews

Gotham 5×01 – ‘Year Zero’ – Review

As Gotham enters its final season, the city has found itself completely isolated from the outside world, with lawlessness taking the reins, and Gotham itself divided into separate territories, each controlled by a different faction. Only Jim Gordon and the  GCPD stand in the way of total anarchy, as an ever-fraying thin blue line, protecting the citizens against the forces of chaos. Events are starting to move towards the birth of the Dark Knight, as Bruce Wayne continues on his path towards becoming the hero that the city needs.

This last outing for the series uses two of the DC Comics tales – ‘Zero Year’ and ‘No Man’s Land’ – as its jumping off point for the story arc they’re telling this year. The climax of Season 4 saw Gotham cut off as all the city’s bridges connecting it to the mainland were blown up. This opening episode begins some 391 days later, with a montage showing us various characters in the process of getting ready for battle. It’s a tantalising glimpse of what’s to come, as it seems that Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) has joined forces with Oswald Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor) and Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) in order to protect the city against a deadly siege.

However, it appears we’re getting ahead of ourselves, as once the pre-credits scene is out of the way, the clock is wound back to 87 days after the blasts which stranded Gotham City. It’s an effective way for the production team to show us just what lies ahead, and gets you thinking about just what will happen in the intervening ten-or-so months for these new alliances to be forged. Here, we have a very different – and much bleaker – picture, as the various villains are doing their very best to carve things up, and establish their own little domains or fiefdoms, each vying to have total control. Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows, evidently, so the next 300+ days are set to be very miserable, by that token.

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‘Year Zero’ certainly isn’t short of either action or incident, and right from the off we get the set-up for what would appear to be a climactic battle in the not-too-distant future. There’s also an assault upon the main hospital by Scarecrow (David W. Thompson) and his gang, plus a standoff between the GCPD, Cobblepot, the Lo Boyz gang of Old Gotham, and the Sirens, all of whom are fighting over the contents of a downed helicopter which was carrying much-needed supplies. There’s certainly no love lost between any of them, and in particular Cobblepot and Tabitha (Jessica Lucas), after he killed her lover at the end of Season 4 in an act of revenge.

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This all helps ramp up the tension nicely, as the already febrile atmosphere of the city has now begun to stew and fester in its confinement, and due credit must be given to the creative team for building up to this situation so effectively, paying off the work they’ve clearly put into playing a very long game, in order to get us to here. This season opener also nicely establishes the new equilibrium, as we learn how the various factions have carved up Gotham, with Cobblepot in particular having set up a feudal system, using people who didn’t manage to get evacuated in time to work – and die – in his ammunition factory, while he dines on steak, holed up in City Hall, like one of the kings of old.

It’s also interesting to see just how far Jim Gordon can push the envelope in trying to defend the city and still remain true to his principles, as he’s already started to blur that line somewhat by the episode’s end, after shooting Cobblepot in the leg before reneging on a deal and taking away all of the supplies from the downed copter. His moral compass has been a bit all over the place in earlier seasons, so it’ll be telling to see how he manages to navigate this situation, and eventually develop into the Commissioner Gordon of Batman lore. If only Ben McKenzie wasn’t so annoying – it’s hard at times to find yourself rooting for Gordon, but hopefully he’ll rein it in a bit this year.

With only a dozen episodes before we get to the end of Gotham, it means that there thankfully isn’t room for padding or filler. However, it also means there’s an awful lot of ground to cover between now and then, such as resolving Nygma’s current schizophrenic episodes, as ‘good’ Ed is taking control of the dominant Riddler personality as he sleeps. There also isn’t a lot of time to see more of Gotham‘s clear MVP, in the form of proto-Joker Jeremiah Valeska. However, I’m sure a frantic pace will help move the story along nicely, and avoid some of the pacing problems which cropped up at times previously. A solid and promising start to a swan song run.

Oh, and can we have lots more of Sean Pertwee please? Thanks.

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