Gotham’s season finale capped off a year that made great improvements on its predecessor by embracing the more gonzo and outlandish aspects that the other superhero shows shy from. The complex histories, and futures in fact, shared by these characters enriches this hour of television which could be summarized as simply a villain with a ticking time bomb. While the anti-climatic climax to this episode, entitled Transference, will most likely sour the memory of this finale, the disappointment is vastly outweighed by the visuals of these memorable characters colliding in iconic locales and the possibilities set up by the cliffhanger.
Down to the very color scheme of this episode, it is about the monsters created by this city’s corruption. Hugo Strange’s inducement of all the villains in Arkham Asylum is only possible because of the cruel actions of anti-heroes like Jim Gordon, who had his own monstrous inducement in the form of Clayface infiltrating the Police Department as him. The truth is quickly found out (this is only an hour after all) when Jim’s friends saw all the flaws in Clayface’s façade, which makes me believe there is hope for the future Commissioner but more on that later.
The show is more fun and interesting when it gets blunt with its metaphors. The mama of his child, Leslie Thompkins, is weighing heavily on Jim Gordon’s mind and has him thinking about his impact on others. The moment Jim breaks free, he snaps right back to the hero suit we he wears well to but you can tell that Hugo Strange’s deep dive into his psyche, and the seeing the broken mirror reflection of himself, still haunted him even as he rallied the others to prevent a bomb from exploding. The world of Gotham is a very different place after this finale, and you can see that internalized by Jim’s revelations. Through the years the show has been on the air, Ben McKenzie has been only allowed to play the stoic lead but this season finale finally broke his steely pathology. Up until this point, he has only been playing Jim Gordon though but now he got to play a villain. His Clayface performance of Jim Gordon was a refreshing slice of wacky comedy in the middle of all the character drama that was going on around it.
The way the show used Arkham was very satisfying as fan service. All the characters happen to leave off on a heroic note for a very villain centric season. The material that the show writers pulled from to make this finale and for the third season (ie The Court of Owls) means the next season will test the heroes’ mettle. The way the show left its villains ensured that they would have an interesting trajectory next season as well, a point made clear during the episode’s final shocking moments. While Bruce Wayne is busying himself with recently introduced Court of Owls, Fish’s bus of mutants descend upon Gotham… a doppelgänger of Bruce along with them.
The show could figuratively barely contain the weight of all the stories it told during this season, and all those stories and nightmares literally burst free on Gotham’s streets during the last moments of the season. The show’s writers service the operatic themes more than anything, as shown by this twist. Elsewhere on television, superheroes are more concerned with being human and grounded (which is not a slight in the least), but I appreciate Gotham’s more mythic approach to these characters and origins considering that many think of them as “Modern Myths”.
While most shows have their sights set on setting up the bad guys for their next season, I feel this show set theirs up perfectly right in the finale. Therefore, instead of having a season focused on the villains, the third season should focus on creating the heroes of Gotham. The writers should do this by first introducing new allies in the fight against the darkness in Gotham, like reporter Vicki Vale and even a pre Manbat Kirk Langstrom. The goal of the third season, however, would be Jim Gordon’s rehabilitation into a role model fit for the future Dark Knight, Bruce Wayne.