Gotham begins its fifth and final season with an impressive opener. Borrowing titles from two different Batman stories, the season subtitle is “No Man’s Land” and the episode is “Year Zero.” No Man’s Land was a roughly year long story that crossed over into all the Batman books, introducing several new characters, including Cassandra Cain, who would go on to become one of the later Batgirls. Year Zero is a much more recent story about the very beginnings of Bruce Wayne’s costumed career. This is a lot more No Man’s Land than Year Zero, but it was a really well-done episode. There will be a few spoilers below, so be warned.
The show opens with Day 391 of No Man’s Land, where a very unlikely band of characters get together for a huge fight with a surprising enemy. Just about when you’re wondering how in the world that happened, the days roll back to Day 87. I’m guessing we’re going to spend the season getting to the point we saw in the opening.
On Day 87, Gordon is arguing with the military over the radio, and gives a good summation of the conditions of Gotham during No Man’s Land: the bridges are blown, no one is allowed in or out (the second part never made any sense to me), the powerful have carved out territories for themselves, and the city is a hodgepodge of conflicting gangs, at war over diminishing supplies. Gordon practically begs for help from the uncaring voice, mentioning the families of refugees what’s left of the GCPD is protecting, and gets no answer aside from mumbles about committees being formed.
After being shot in the shocking season finale last time, Selina is still in the hospital, with her condition worsening. Bruce says he’ll stay with her, and the usually-contained street thief cries as Alfred looks on helplessly. Bullock gets into an argument with one of the refugees over the rations being issued, and it starts looking bad fast. First Lucius Fox tries to calm things, and, when that fails, Gordon appears on one of the balconies and delivers an ultimatum. It takes care of things for now, at least. Bullock, Fox, and Gordon discuss their grim situation.
The Riddler wakes up on a couch on a rooftop, and looks about as confused by this development as the audience is. He makes his way home and, talking into a recorder, brings us up to date on his own status quo. In a scene foreshadowing a later relationship, Gordon stands on the GCPD roof next to a big spotlight, talking over the problem at hand with Bruce Wayne. Fox is working on a few things to help out the GCPD, and Bruce leaves to check in on Selina, Gordon wishing her well. They agree that they each don’t regret staying, even as bad as things are.
Mr. Penn, Penguin’s long-suffering accountant, is at Sirens, proposing a trade of commodities. Barbara is still a businesswoman and willing to deal, but Tabitha simmers in resentment for Penguin’s murder of Butch in one of the season finale’s big surprises. Tabitha’s emotional outbursts drive the price up as Barbara tries to find a middle ground between not alienating her closest friend/lover but still staying in business.
The GCPD gets a nasty surprise when one of their sentries gets a face full of fear toxin courtesy of one of the gang-lords: Scarecrow. The man who specializes in fear gets inside and leads his acolytes on a raid of the GCPD supplies. The lights fail as Gordon briefs Harper, and lets them know something is wrong. Gordon goes off to deal with the Scarecrow himself, and Bruce slips away to guard the pharmacy. Gordon’s fight with Scarecrow is nasty with no decisive victor. Bruce picks off several thugs courtesy of an advantage from Lucius until what should be a good development throws the young hero off. The bad guys get away with much-needed supplies.
Fox brings the bad news that, after the incursion, they are down to about a week of food, two if they cut rations down to near-starvation levels. Bullock has some desperate hope that the “people across the river” will finally step up and help. Bruce doesn’t have that much faith, and makes his own arrangements for a supply drop. Bullock remarks that it’s, “nice to have a billionaire around.” Bruce goes to check on Selina again, and Gordon sends more good wishes. I suspect this is one of those cases where Jim would like to visit but both doesn’t have time and is unsure of his welcome.
Selina has come through her surgery despite the power failure, so her condition is stable, but not improved. She makes a few dejected observations, upsetting both her and Bruce. As Bruce is leaving, a creepy nurse says he needs to find the witch if he wants to help Selina. There’s always been an occult underground in Gotham City, but I’m not sure who this is supposed to be, or if it’s a new character. It’s almost definitely too much to hope for that it’s one of my personal favorites, Zatanna. Back at GCPD, Gordon and Bullock discuss the perilous state of morale and supplies.
Penguin is certainly doing better than most, being dressed by his staff and enjoying a good meal in fancy surroundings. Mr. Penn tries to make him listen to a few problems they are facing, but Penguin doesn’t want to hear about it. Penguin manages to prove Penn’s point. Barbara and Tabitha argue over how to handle business with Penguin, Tabitha wanting Penguin’s blood for Butch’s. Their discussion gets interrupted by the unexpected sound of a helicopter.
The crew on the GCPD roof see it fly by and Bruce gives directions for where to meet. The chopper makes it partway down the street before an unexpected RPG takes it down. It apparently crashed in Low Boy territory, one of the minor gangs. Gordon expects trouble going in and coming back. Alfred agrees to keep an eye on things while they are gone, and Bruce is oddly nowhere to be seen.
Most of the rest of the episode takes place at the crash site as we almost end up with the Gotham version of the Battle of Five Armies. The Low Boys are first on scene, and happily pilfering supplies, when Penguin’s crew shows up. He does actually attempt to talk to them, but that doesn’t work and gunfire erupts. Penguin has the edge in firepower and ammo, and I suspect the balance of power in Gotham shifts a bit during this battle. Next to arrive is the GCPD, and a lot more bargaining/threatening takes place. The police have discussed among themselves several times how low they are on ammo, so a big fight isn’t what they need here.
In the standoff, Penguin curiously says he isn’t the one that shot down the helicopter, and makes several good points about why he wouldn’t lie about that at this point. The tense standoff gets sent in a new direction by Tabitha making her presence known in her own unique way. A general firefight erupts, with Bruce skulking around the catwalks. When the GCPD runs low to out of ammo, Bruce stages his own raid and gets them some. Tabitha’s attempt at vengeance shows the truth of the old saying about digging two graves on that path. After a very unexpected reversal, Penguin stabs Tabitha, and a grief-stricken Barbara erupts from the shadows, shooting up a storm.
By the end of the fight, one character is dead, another maimed, one enraged, but the GCPD manage to get the supplies back to their building. Fox revises his count of the supplies up to six weeks, which is at least an improvement. Bullock expresses some displeasure at some of Gordon’s choices, but that’s nothing new. Later in the night, Gordon gets both an enigmatic visitor who seems to be an early version of a well-known Bat-character, and a mysterious call on the radio offering help but not saying who they are.
Riddler has another episode of his new condition and isn’t handling it well. A few of the major characters deal with the aftermath of the battle in different ways with different kinds of pain. Gordon’s life is going to be complicated by at least one of the decisions made. Selina does something shocking, and Bruce is again directed to the witch. Just when things are looking up for the GCPD, they get a visitor with unclear but dire tidings, and the police have a new issue to deal with after a good speech from Gordon.
What I liked: This is a good version of No Man’s Land, and the scene with Gordon explaining it gave a good summary of the status quo. Bruce is getting more Bat-like, which I think is a good thing. The battle around the helicopter was ugly but well written and executed. Gordon’s visitor was an interesting hint at what I think is coming. I’m cautiously hopeful about the new character that visited Gordon.
What I didn’t: The whole “No one can leave” bit never made sense to me when I read the original story in the comics, and later novelization, and it still doesn’t now. I get that he’s the hero of the show, but I agree with Bullock’s complaints about Gordon’s actions during the big fight. I wonder if this final season is going to go the same way The Last Ship’s did, with a steady whittling down of the cast.
Unaccounted for: Most of the characters were either seen or at least mentioned. The only recurring character I believe was not referred to at all was whatever version of Poison Ivy we’re on now for this series. 3.0?
I thought it was a solid start for a final season of Gotham madness. I’ll give this a 4 out of 5.