REVIEWED: SEASON 5 (ALL EPISODES) | WHERE TO WATCH: ALL 4, APPLE, GOOGLE PLAY, AMAZON PRIME VIDEO, YOUTUBE
Gotham has always been a very weird show. It's been through many highs and lows ever since it started back in 2014, with some seasons being significantly better than others. However, since Season 4 ended, the fifth and final year had a lot riding on it since, not only would it be wrapping up everything that had come before, it would also be heavily influenced by the famous comic book storyline, 'No Man's Land’. There would also be a price to pay though, since the episode count would be reduced to just twelve episodes instead of the usual twenty-two, which eerily echoes what happened with Game of Thrones' controversial final season. While not a complete disaster, Gotham’s last is still very disappointing, suffering from rushed planning, many cut corners, derivative storytelling, and a lack of finality.
It feels as if the showrunners never actually had a plan of how to wrap things up in a proper farewell story, so instead, it seems like they used their original plans but heavily condensed it down to just eleven episodes albeit with a few modifications, as well as having the twelfth episode be nothing more than a coda story that sets up the beginning for Batman and his villains. Watching it from beginning to end, there's clearly the sense of speeding through character development and plotlines (Catwoman's recovery, Barbara's reform, Gordon and Lee's romance/marriage, etc.), which just makes everything feel poorly paced, plus the showrunners never truly went all the way when crafting their own adaptation of 'No Man's Land'. What made that particular storyline iconic was the sense that every villain in Gotham was at each other's throats, fighting for supremacy and control, and as it progresses, the bigger the threats become until the last enemy to face is the worst of them all in the shape of the Joker.
When the season starts, it feels like we're getting that with all the perfect components in place for a gigantically insane swansong, but it slowly loses sight of what it's supposed to be and instead becomes a city under siege story as Gotham comes under threat from an outside paramilitary force, and that's when the series takes a real nosedive. The show devolves into a derivative, unnecessary rehash of The Dark Knight Rises, even by having its two main villains feel like blatant, carbon copies from that film. The last thing Gotham needed was being highly derivative of a previous work (especially since it's a film that audiences are pretty torn about), but that's what transpires, and as a result, the show's focus and direction feels completely wrong. Frankly, Jeremiah Valeska, the show's proto-Joker, should've acted as the season's true main villain, especially considering that the Joker was the ultimate antagonist in the original comic storyline. Here though, Jeremiah feels too much like a glorified guest character.
Gotham's final season isn't a complete and total trainwreck, nor does it ruin past seasons that came before, but it's a massive disappointment for a show that fully embraced how dark and ridiculous it was. The potential was there, and the setup was brilliant, but the show doesn't follow through with its initial ideas and devolves into something that is highly frustrating to watch. The returning characters are still memorable, there’s some fun moments to be found and even a few standout episodes (seven is frankly the best out of the bunch), but this unfortunately just continues the trend of disappointing final seasons of late.