15 July 2024

DVD Review – Gotham Season 5 (2019)

In the eyes of this lifelong Batman fan, Gotham will forever remain a wonderful part of the character’s enduring mythos. I’m aware of how a percentage of you scoff at how it retold the Dark Knight’s beginnings – and those of his villains, for that matter – but it’s important that creators keep things fresh. After all, our hero couldn’t have gotten this far if everybody rehashed the same tales repeatedly.

Over the five years that Gotham had been on the air, I couldn’t help making comparisons to another franchise called Smallville in various news articles and reviews, that I had seen. At a time like this, it’s hard not making another one. I say that because while both shows had a similar goal in fleshing out the backstory of a beloved icon for example Smallville had Superman which covered much more ground during its ten-season lifespan. On the plus side, like Smallville, Gotham had Batman, and with that the producers were given a heads up going into their final season. As such, each journey ended in proper fashion with the fan favourites embracing his costumed destiny.

Before I get too ahead of myself though, let me first discuss what accounts for the bulk of the three-disc DVD set.
For the first eleven episodes, expect to enjoy something akin to No Man’s Land or Zero Year, as both those comic book arcs served as inspiration. I’d say the former more so lent its influence, though those who’ve read both will draw more than a few parallels.

Basically, the saga picks up right where you’d expect it to, had you also tuned in for season 4. To put it succinctly, Jeremiah Valeska (Cameron Monaghan) blew up the bridges leading out of Gotham City, thereby isolating it from the mainland. Afterward, the resident supervillains have claimed sections of the metropolis for themselves.
Given that premise, I was somehow both thrilled and disappointed by the results. In other words, I was anticipating this gargantuan extravaganza of evildoers, with the likes of Mr. Freeze, Firefly and Scarecrow vying for control. Unfortunately, out of these three villains it was David W. Thompson who plays the character Scarecrow was the only actor of those three to stick around, so we instead saw other gangs crawl out the woodwork like the Undead, Low Boys and Street Demonz carving out their niches onto the city of Gotham.

Regardless, I found myself enjoying season 5 on a binge-viewing or binge-eating more than I did when watching it on a weekly basis. Maybe it’s just me but seeing Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) and Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) trying to bring order to a city that’s become crazier than ever was like popcorn. Sweet, blood-soaked popcorn because we didn’t know if it was possible.

Along the way, they deal with the usual menaces such as Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) and Riddler (Cory Michael Smith), but there are other baddies present to mix it up. For me, the highlight was the Jeremiah Valeska, the man who goes on to become the Joker. I don’t know how Cameron Monaghan managed to find a handful of different ways to play the Clown Prince of Crime over the course of the series, but he somehow pulled it off and with such class and ease.

If you’ve stuck around for this long, then you should remember how Jeremiah’s twin brother and criminal predecessor, Jerome, evolved over the course of the first four seasons, and how Jeremiah was distinctly different. But as he’s gone progressively more insane, Jeremiah’s flare for showmanship increases – and so too does that of his right-hand gal, Ecco.

Since the producers couldn’t get their hands-on the real Harley Quinn, they replaced this Ecco in her stead. Maybe it’s just me, but I found her to be more comparable to Harley’s eviler iterations that can be specifically seen in one the Arkham video games. And despite her being an analog, I think actress Francesca Root-Dodson may have out-Harley’s Margot Robbie, but we will never know unless they were to have a face off, of some kind.

How someone managed to be frighteningly psychotic and adorable at the same time is beyond my grasp.

In addition to a new spin that was put on the Joker’s fateful chemical bath, the series finally introduced its own manic version of Bane before checking out on the final season. Due to the costuming department making him resemble Mortal Kombat ‘s Kabal, he became the butt of many jokes on social media to date, though that spoke nothing of Shane West’s actual performance, which I found to be highly satisfying. Granted, his mission in the Gotham franchise had too many similarities to his counterpart played by Tom Hardy in The Dark Knight Rises movie, but I can forgive that for the most part.

Once the No Man’s Land stuff gets resolved, we jump forward ten years into the future – and are treated to the series finale that feels like a second pilot episode of sorts. Had Gotham served as a springboard for a full-blown Batman series franchise, it might have worked, but we will never know. Hell, I’m still pleading for DC Comics to continue this show’s legacy as a comic book, just as they once did with Smallville. I mean it when I say I’d read stories involving the characters this cast blossomed into on a monthly basis.

Although the finale was satisfying, I’m indifferent when it comes to the Joker’s final look. Yes, he genuinely looks like a guy who fell into a vat of acid, but the creative minds behind the camera already found the perfect look for him earlier in the season. Well, there’s also the matter of Batman’s costume resembling a valiant cosplay effort, but it’s saved for the final moments only.

To be completely honest, Gotham: The Fifth and Final Season didn’t equal or surpass some of the preceding seasons. Still, it was a fitting send-off worthy of adorning the shelves of Bat-fans who were willing to give this alternative take on the Caped Crusader a chance. And if you haven’t started collecting, know that the complete series will also be made available on home video, so keep your eyes peeled if you haven’t been scooping these up one by one as I have.

Sarah Small

Action, Crime | USA, 2014-19 | 15 | Warner Bros | Blu-ray, DVD | Dir.Various | Ben McKenzie, Donal Logue, David Mazouz, Sean Pertwee, Erin Richards, Camren Bicondova, Robin Lord Taylor, Cory Michael Smith, Cameron Monaghan

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