- by Jeff Beck
Gotham: Season Four: A Baffling Series of Missteps
For its first three seasons, “Gotham” proved itself to be one of the very best shows on television, entwining multiple storylines and characters in the “Batman” universe to produce a fascinating kind of “what if” scenario in which the beloved heroes and villains clashed before the dawn of the Caped Crusader. I know I’ve said it before, but there was no reason such an idea should have worked, and yet, somehow they’ve been able to bring it all together to make a compelling, thrilling, and downright entertaining show that has shown no signs of slowing down. Heading into the fourth season, expectations remained quite high, and once again the fans found themselves wondering if the show’s greatness would continue for yet another year, or if this would finally be the season in which the overwhelming number of characters and plotlines would simply be too much to handle.
As the season begins, the city is still recovering from the Tetch virus incident. Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) once again finds himself boss of the underworld and has started issuing licenses that basically legalize crime. Of course, Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) doesn’t approve of this, but the GCPD appears reluctant to do anything about it, forcing him to turn to an old acquaintance for help in taking down Penguin. These trying times also have Gordon running into villains like Jonathan Crane (aka The Scarecrow) (Charlie Tahan), whose fear toxin continues to wreak havoc, Ra’s Al Ghul (Alexander Siddig), who’s on a quest to find his heir, Professor Pyg (Michael Cerveris), a murderous madman who wears a pig’s head, and more, but as always, these are just typical days on the crime-filled streets of Gotham City.
Once again, it’s nearly impossible to do a simple summary of what this entire season entails, for as mentioned, there is so much going on with the multiple storylines and characters that a basic summary of the whole thing would be at least a page long, and no doubt overly verbose. Suffice it to say that this season sees a new batch of antagonists on the loose in the city, along with some old ones, giving our heroes plenty to worry about as they try their best to save the city from the villains who would see it overrun with crime.
Season four of “Gotham” is something of a strange curiosity. As mentioned, the first three seasons of the show had been outstanding, juggling multiple intriguing storylines with great skill, and always keeping the show compelling with its use of captivating characters. However, when it comes to the fourth season, a very odd occurrence happened in which the writers opted to use a number of rather dull characters from the “Batman” universe to occupy most of this year’s storylines. This led to bland arcs that focused on villains like Poison Ivy (Maggie Geha), Sofia Falcone (Crystal Reed), Barbara Keen (Erin Richards), Solomon Grundy (Drew Powell), Ra’s Al Ghul, and Professor Pyg. In short, it was a kind of parade of uninspired antagonists that ultimately caused the show to have its first disappointing season.
Luckily, there was some good to be found among the plethora of humdrum villains, for this season also features the return of Jerome (Cameron Monaghan), who features in several episodes in the second half. It’s also his storyline that eventually sees the long-overdue introduction of the real “Joker” (also played by Monaghan), who was certainly a surprise, though as to whether it was a good one or not remains rather divisive. On the one hand, he’s certainly a different interpretation than what we’ve seen before from Romero, Nicholson, and Ledger, but Monaghan’s take is also somewhat flat, as though he’s kind of bored with the role or just sleepwalking through it.
He clearly wants to convey that “Jeremiah” (they don’t use the name “Joker”) is insane, and he does that in part, but surely there was a way to do this while also giving the character a little more life. Just look at Jerome, a character that many mistook as The Joker way back in season one: He had the look, the personality, and the spunk. Simply put, he was a great interpretation of The Clown Prince of Crime, which makes it more than a little mind-boggling as to why they would put him aside for a take on the character that seems practically sedated. I suppose they just wanted to try something new. It’s just a shame that it didn’t work out quite as well as they’d hoped.
This season is really best described as a series of baffling missteps by showrunner Danny Cannon and the Gotham writers’ room. As to why they would choose to have so many uncompelling villains crammed into this season, along with a number of directionless plotlines, is anyone’s guess. Because of this, the ratings have dwindled to their lowest yet, making it something of a miracle that the show was granted a last-minute renewal for a fifth and final (and probably shortened) season. We can only hope that they’ve learned a thing or two about what not to do as they head into the show’s grand finale, which will supposedly focus on the transformation of Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) into The Caped Crusader.
This show really has been something incredibly special, and is a hell of a lot for any group of writers to handle, so perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised that it finally got away from them. However, it is great to know that they’ll have a chance to redeem themselves when the show comes back next year, for it more than deserves to go out with a grand finale, and the fans that have stayed with it throughout its ups and downs deserve to see the birth of one of the greatest comic book heroes of all time. It may have hit a bit of a speed bump this season on the way to its final destination, but given how great this show once was, I have to believe that it will get there in a magnificent and impressive manner. 2.5/4 stars.
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