NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Gotham” are present in this review
It’s been a long five-year journey, but the Dark Knight finally comes to Gotham with the show’s final episode, ironically titled, “The Beginning…” Jumping ahead ten years in time, the series finale for Gotham completely moves on from the final season’s main story arc, in favour of laying the final couple of pieces for the rise of Batman in Gotham City, which is not so coincidentally timed with Bruce Wayne’s fateful return to the city, after a decade of traveling. Of course, the return of Bruce also stirs up an old, deadly adversary, who also chooses the same moment to make his evil mark.
As far as wrapping up Gotham as a whole goes, “The Beginning…” does a pretty solid job of appealing to established Batman/DC fans, while equally serving the general followers of this specific show. We don’t actually see Bruce in the flesh here, surprisingly (outside of a brief intro), but the rest of the cast is allowed to pick up a decade into the future, which sees a heavily experienced Commissioner Gordon (now complete with a moustache!), ready to retire on the eve of the opening for the city’s new Wayne Tower. At the same time, Barbara has gone straight and become a legitimately successful real estate tycoon, while Gordon’s marriage to Lee remains strong. Even some key villains seem like they’re doing pretty well after their especially heavy struggles during Gotham City’s segregation earlier in the season, with Penguin ending a ten-year sentence at Blackgate Prison, and Nygma, now fully embracing his Riddler persona, freshly broken out of Arkham Asylum. It seems that the crime wave that Penguin and Nygma promised at the end of, “They Did What?” was pretty short-lived, despite both criminals now being back on the streets.
So, to get the obvious question out of the way, yes, you do see Batman in this episode, which marks the first time since the Adam West era that a live-action Batman was fully viewed, from the front and all, with spoken dialogue, on television (DC Universe’s Titans also had a live-action Batman in its first season finale, but he was only seen from behind, and never spoke). There is still a bit of a cheat here, since David Mazouz’s voice and likeness is simply overlaid on a stunt performer, plus Bruce’s superhero alter-ego is never actually referred to as, “Batman” in this finale, but it is still satisfying to see Bruce fully don the cape and cowl, even if we don’t actually get to see him fight. We see a Batarang or two, but that’s about the extent of it. That may disappoint some viewers, who were hoping to actually see Batman clobber a few criminals before Gotham concludes for good.
Fortunately, the episode’s actual threat is well-realized, and appropriately terrifying. Shortly after Bruce returns to Gotham City, a breakout occurs at Arkham Asylum, complete with Nygma being busted out in the process. The only one unfazed is Jeremiah Valeska, who has apparently been a vegetable for ten years… Until now. This was actually a pretty solid callback to the, “Going Sane” Joker arc from DC Comics lore, which saw The Joker beginning a normal life and becoming a mentally healthy, well-adjusted citizen once he believed that Batman had died, only to re-disfigure himself and resume his old criminal ways upon learning that the Dark Knight was still alive. Jeremiah becoming active again right when Bruce Wayne, his main obsession, returns to Gotham City, feels both appropriate and chilling, suggesting that the underlying theme of criminal escalation with the coming of Batman will be present within this take on the character, even if we won’t get to see his actual career properly unfold.
Jeremiah’s plan initially sees Bullock pretending that he shot and killed a traitorous Arkham Asylum guard, which Gordon is determined to prove is not the case. We never quite learn what Jeremiah has on Bullock, but his presence is quite obvious from the get-go. Regardless, Gordon eventually tells Bullock that he knows Jeremiah is behind the Arkham guard’s killing, and this eventually leads to the GCPD joining Alfred, Lee, Barbara, Lucius and Selina at the Wayne Tower opening, which Jeremiah has naturally rigged with explosives. Oh, and on the note of Selina, she’s been recast in this finale, now being played in an older variation by Lili Simmons. Simmons does fine in the role, but Selina’s recasting is really distracting, especially when no one else, including David Mazouz, are recast in their series lead roles. Why bother recasting Selina in that case? Did Camren Bicondova just look far too young to be a convincing adult Catwoman? I’m sure that fans would have tolerated this, especially since Selina doesn’t really do much in this episode anyway, beyond steal a diamond, and bitch about how hurt she is that Bruce left without saying goodbye.
After the Wayne Tower explosives are inevitably disarmed, Barbara encounters Jeremiah and Ecco at Sirens, alongside her daughter, Barbara Lee, with Barbara’s old club apparently having been closed for years. Barbara Lee ends up getting kidnapped by Jeremiah, with Ecco being shot and killed in the chaos (paving the way for the real Harley Quinn in the future, as Jeremiah nonchalantly comments that there are, “Other fish in the sea.”), and Gordon chases Jeremiah to Ace Chemical soon afterward, where Barbara Lee is dangled over the same vat of chemicals that Jeremiah fell into ten years previous. There’s a nicely tense scene here, particularly when Jeremiah struggles with recalling his identity, listing a bunch of, “J” names as he, “Feels something crawling out of the primordial ooze.” Yes, this is another cheat, since Jeremiah is very clearly fully realized as the Joker of the Gotham universe at this point, though he’s never actually referred to as, “Joker” at any point. Still, a quick Batarang takes Jeremiah out before he dunks Barbara Lee, with Bruce also rounding up Penguin and Riddler again while he’s at it (even if they immediately escape their prison transport right afterward), before Gordon, Alfred and Bullock all stand together to activate the Bat Signal for the first time, which doesn’t yet have the Batman logo on it. Still, you do get one up-close view of Bruce in full Batman garb to close out the series for good, allowing Gotham to get one over on The CW’s similarly-spirited Smallville, which didn’t show its lead star fully in his Superman costume (despite having twice the run).
“The Beginning…” mostly succeeds at what it sets out to do, namely wrap up the final lead character resolutions for Gotham, while leaving the titular city in the capable hands of its universe’s freshly-born Batman. Jeremiah also completes his proper transformation into the Joker of the Gotham universe at the same time, despite no one ever actually uttering that name. Thus, the stage is set for a Batman career that we unfortunately won’t get to see. Still, as a series finale for Gotham, “The Beginning…” is pretty satisfying overall, even if it’s predictably hamstrung by the restrictive TV stipulations regarding how it can portray its Batman and its Joker. I suppose we did actually get to see Batman and Joker properly realized on live-action television here, more so than the first season finale of DC’s other small screen attempt on Titans managed to offer, though not actually getting the chance to see Batman fight in this finale is a huge disappointment. Considering that Warner Bros. is still weirdly skittish about properly portraying a live-action Batman and Joker for the small screen however (despite having several small screen Supermen and Lex Luthor’s over the past several decades, without compromise), Gotham’s introduction of both iconic characters is as good as we can ask for on television at this point. Even beyond them though, the show’s other leads also get nicely fitting send-offs in this finale, despite their in-universe challenges only just starting, now that Gotham City’s craziest criminals and most devout protector have finally come to it!
- Fitting, satisfying send-offs for the lead characters
- Jeremiah's rebirth effectively re-timed with Bruce's return
- A modern Batman and Joker are finally fully realized on live-action television (even if their names aren't used)
- Batman not actually fighting criminals is a big let-down
- Why is Selina recast?