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Gotham's five years summed up by the wildest moment from each season
Gotham is 100 episodes of the weirdest, the funniest, and the most unpredictable moments in the history of Batman storytelling, maybe even in the history of television. Now that it's all over, let's look back at the moments that make Gotham so unforgettable.
We're going to do the impossible and pick one moment from each of Gotham's five seasons that sums up what makes it such unforgettable television.
SEASON ONE: FISH MOONEY'S GOT HER EYE ON YOU
If you're planning on watching the show for the first time and are still reading this spoiler-filled article for some reason, keep your eye on Fish Mooney during the first season.
Much of Gotham's debut season fixates on the moral grey of the GCPD and mob politics. So you get some predictable and familiar characters: your Falcones, your Maronis. To keep things unpredictable, the show introduced a brand new character named Fish Mooney, played by the inimitable Jada Pinkett-Smith.
Fish is another Gotham City crime boss, but Pinkett-Smith plays her like she's a version of Eartha Kitt's Catwoman who just found out she got poisoned with that stuff from the Jason Statham movie, Crank, and now she has to be at 11 all the time. It's glorious.
A lot happens to Fish in Gotham's first season. She fights to be the top gang leader in Gotham, she loses, she is the reason Penguin walks the way he does, she flirts with... everyone? Also, she gets thrown off a rooftop. But what really stands out is her interaction with a character credited as "Office Manager" played by Jeffrey Combs.
If you know anything about Combs, it is that he is the villain/anti-hero of more B-movies than can be counted. He is a king among scenery chewers and beloved by horror and sci-fi fans the world over for it. So for Pinkett-Smith to out-Combs Combs? It's a big deal. And she really does it.
The story is simple, but weird: some of Fish's gang disappear, it turns out they've been captured by the Dollmaker, an evil doctor who likes to do human experiments, and, eventually, Fish also gets captured. She's on an island far from Gotham City, there's no obvious means of escape, and she's given an ultimatum by Combs's "Office Manager": allow her gang to die or have the Dollmaker remove her eyes. She chooses option three: using a teaspoon to gouge out her own eye before popping it like a grape under her boot and then passing out.
If I have to put my hand on my heart and say what the first moment was that I knew anything could happen on Gotham, this is it.
SEASON 2: HI, AZRAEL! OH, UH... BYE, AZRAEL!
A lot happens in Gotham's second season, but probably the thing that most set the tone for the remainder the series was the introduction of the Sacred Order of St. Dumas. Oh, don't get me wrong, they do not survive past the second season, but the Sacred Order of St. Dumas is the first of several shadowy organizations who want to destroy the Wayne family, destroy Gotham City, and then rebuild it in their own image. The Court of Owls basically has the same modus operandi in season three and so does Ra's al Ghul the season after that. It's a bit of a theme!
The Sacred Order of St. Dumas is repped by Theo Galavan (and his sister, Tabitha). He comes to Gotham, convinces most of its (very stupid) leaders that he is a real nice and cool dude even though he kidnaps a bunch of the city's supervillains from Arkham Asylum to use for his own Suicide-Squad-esque purposes. Eventually, people figure out Theo's kind of a jerk and then he dies. And that's the end because people who die always stay dead in comics.
Kidding! Almost no one dies on Gotham except for Nygma's girlfriends and Lee's husband, I guess. Don't date Batman characters is what I'm saying. But season 2 is where we are introduced to a secret medical facility called Indian Hill that is run by Dr. Hugo Strange, as played by B.D. Wong. And the only person who can give Jada Pinkett-Smith a run for her money in over-the-top acting on Gotham is B.D. Wong. He is a delight.
Strange figures out how to undo death, but, generally speaking, the people who are resurrected don't remember who they are. So Strange brings Theo Galavan back to life as Azrael, a kind of avenging angel who most comic book fans of Batman know as the guy who took over as Batman after Bane broke Bruce Wayne's spine that one time.
People who Strange brings back to life tend to be pretty sturdy, so shooting Azrael doesn't really do the trick in re-killing him. But the best moment of Season 2 is absolutely and unquestionably the way Azrael does die: by having Penguin and Butch shoot him with a rocket-propelled grenade. They literally blow him up. It's one of those defining moments in Gotham where you realize that, for a character to really die on Gotham they are basically required to be blown up real good or go out in some other fashion that is absolutely bananas.
Also, Fish Mooney comes back from the dead and literally says the line, "I'm Fish Mooney, bitch." That was almost my pick for Season 2. Almost.
SEASON 3: MAKE GOTHAM SAFE AGAIN. WITH LOVE. ALSO CRIMES.
Hard to believe, but we've reached about the halfway point of this list with nary a mention of Robin Lord Taylor or Cory Michael Smith. That changes right now. Look, there are so many incredible performers in Gotham that there could be a whole article dedicated to every single one of the show's leads, but the two that make Season 3 the first, truly, all-the-way-through great season of Gotham are Taylor and Smith as Oswald Cobblepot and Ed Nygma respectively.
Season 3 of Gotham aired in 2016 in the absolute thick of that year's presidential election. TV writers were already being influenced by Trump even before he was president. One of the most direct meta-textual Trump elements was introduced to a show was on Gotham when known gang leader and murderer, Oswald Cobblepot, runs for mayor with the slogan "Make Gotham Safe Again" and ACTUALLY WINS. It was a moment that, uh... kinda predicted some real life stuff, but, much more than that, it was a moment that redefined Gotham (and the classic Batman Returns Penguin story) all over again in the best way possible.
During the campaign, Oswald has Butch bribe campaign officials to ensure his victory in the mayoral election, but Ed Nygma takes all the money back. And Ed does this not so that Oswald will lose the election, but so that Oswald will win knowing that he did so because the citizens of Gotham are really and truly stupid enough to vote for, even love, him. And thus a tragic love story is born.
In hindsight, for all the ways in which Gotham breaks with Batman tradition, we all should have known that the literal Penguin and the literal Riddler were never going to fall in love, get married, and ride off into the sunset together. I certainly wished it would happen and still kinda wish it did, but it was never going to. However, the moment Ed hands Oswald the confidence to believe that he can be the mayor of Gotham is the moment that kicks off Oswald falling in love with Ed. And then that leads to Ed getting a new girlfriend who is played by the same actress who played Ed's last girlfriend. And that leads to Oswald killing Ed's new/old girlfriend in cold blood out of jealousy. And that, in turn, leads to a love/hate feud that lasts the entire rest of the show.
The season literally closes with Oswald freezing Ed in a block of ice and then proudly displaying Ed in his new club, the Iceberg Lounge. This was the season that delved into the modern classic Batman villains, the Court of Owls, but, honestly, who cares? That was good, but Gotham's third season belongs to Robin Lord Taylor and Cory Michael Smith.
SEASON 4: THE WORLD MAY SEEM DARK, BUT THERE IS LIGHT
I think it's safe to say that Gotham's penultimate season is its most eventful. Penguin issues literal licenses to do crime and the GCPD actually lets it happen! Gordon dates a mob boss! Riddler dates Gordon's ex, Lee, who was evil for a little bit but now she's a gang leader and that makes her... good? It's the season of Ra's al Ghul, the third actress to play Poison Ivy, and of course, it's the season where Cameron Monaghan gets to play twins, neither of whom is technically the Joker, but, also, both of whom are really 100% the Joker, who are we kidding?
So the only way to pick one moment is to pick the final one of Gotham's fourth season, the one that wraps everything up so well that, if the show had been canceled right then and there (as it nearly was), fans would have felt satisfied.
The last episode of Gotham Season 4 is called "No Man's Land," a reference to a 1999 Batman comic of the same name. In it, Jeremiah Valeska and Ra's al Ghul succeed in destroying every bridge that leads in and out of Gotham, thus leaving the city in ruins. The city is carved up by different groups: the Penguin controls City Hall, Barbara Kean rules the Sirens club in a women-only zone, Scarecrow has a zone, we get a glimpse of Man-Bat, Mother and Orphan, and a host of others.
In the middle of all of that is James Gordon and Bruce Wayne. They meet at the rooftop of the GCPD, reveal the spotlight that we all know is destined to someday have a bat symbol on it, and shine it into the sky. It's a beacon to let the citizens of Gotham know that, as Gordon says to Bruce, "the world may seem dark, but there is light." It's a line that echoes what Gordon tells Bruce the night Bruce's parents are murdered and it's also a promise that these men will become the heroes and allies they were always destined to be.
SEASON 5: THE END IS THE BEGINNING IS THE END
I hope you enjoyed that inversion of the title for the classic Smashing Pumpkins that song appeared on the Batman & Robin soundtrack. I came up with that title just for you, one guy who got it. You're welcome.
Gotham's fifth and final season only had 12 episodes to somehow both wrap up every loose thread from the previous four seasons and also, just for funsies, introduce a bunch of characters we'd never see before including Bane and... Scarface?
One other character that the show introduces is Ra's eldest daughter, Nyssa al Ghul. And her story is that her dad is dead and now she's sad. If her pickup had broken down, too, she'd be a walking, talking country song. Instead, she'll settle for making Bane, mind controlling a general, and killing the citizenry of Gotham to make Bruce Wayne so sad that then *he* becomes a walking, talking country song. Or becomes Batman. I guess that works, too.
But the best moment has got to be when all of Gotham rises in unison with one voice to say, "We've put up with so much $#@!, but the military industrial complex, damn, that's where we draw the line!"
James Gordon is supposed to take the last remaining police officers alive to hold off Bane and the army while Barbara helps what's left of the Gotham population escape. Instead, Barbara brings everyone back to back Gordon up. So it's Gordon, the GCPD, Bruce, Selina, Lee, Barbara, Penguin, the Riddler, and every last living resident of Gotham vs. the army.
I guess the army has been watching Gotham as much as you and I have, because they take one look at that mob of people who, let's be real, elected Penguin their mayor and also probably have all murdered at least one guy — and they surrender. I mean, I know we're supposed to think the soldiers have a change of heart and do the right thing, but I would prefer to believe that they were rightfully scared because NOBODY messes with Gotham but Gotham.
It's triumphant, it's ridiculous, it's, honestly, the ending Gotham deserves. Yes, there's a "ten years later" episode after this, but that's just icing. All of Gotham standing arm-in-arm like the most demented Whos down in Who-ville is the cake.
Those are the most-defining moments from this devout Gotham fan. What are yours? Is it when Penguin makes a mean lady eat her kids? Is it when Penguin eats a pie that's made of poor people? Seriously, why is there so much cannibalism on Gotham? Tell us your faves, give us your cannibal theories, and tune in tonight for the last-ever episode of Gotham.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author's, and do not necessarily reflect those of SYFY WIRE, SYFY, or NBC Universal.