Gotham is the best DC television show on TV, since Smallville. While Arrow, Supergirl, Krypton, DC Legends of Tomorrow, and others have entertainment value – and bring a new flair to how their subject matter is presented – Gotham regularly provides an opportunity to see the hometown of one Bruce Wayne AKA Batman from a new perspective without so diluting the Batman brand to annoy those of us who have been steeped in the various strains of lore from the past.
This season is the second-to-last of the series, and as the show progresses, it seems less and less interested in playing it safe. Yes, the focus (on the good side) remains on police detective James Gordon (Ben McKenzie) and socialite heir Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz, who has actually become more of a focus in the last season), and, on the side of the devils, The Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) and The Riddler (Cory Michael Smith). But the diverse side stories that make this marvelous city tick, they are immensely diverse and integrated into the storyline.
In the fourth season, we see the introduction of some favorite Batman nemeses: Professor Pyg, a sadistic creation of Graham Morrison’s in 2007 who tortures and murders police officers known for their corruption; Sofia Falcone, an heir to the Falcone crime syndicate created by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale in 1997; Solomon Grundy, a villain/monster/victim from way back in World War II era; The Scarecrow, victim-turned-villain from even earlier still, with thanks to Batman creator Bob Kane. But this show is much more than just a running list of new episodic problems for the young man who will become Batman – and his police officer counterpart Gordon.
There are primary threads throughout the season: the revival of The Riddler, who has lost his mojo and must fight to get it back; the redemption of Harvey Bullock, who buys into Penguin’s criminal license-program; and the transformation of Wayne to Batman as he melds all of his Butler Alfred’s lessons and realizes that there’s the Batman mask and there’s the frivolous playboy mask, and how he uses both will shape the future of Gotham. Blending the seriousness of a Christian Bale film with the comedy (and sometimes, hammed-up jokes) of an Adam West television show, Gotham walks on the wire and keeps it moving.
While it’s truly entertaining to watch McKenzie play Gordon, the real power in the show comes from the Bruce Wayne/Alfred dynamic, as the old soldier teaches his young apprentice what it means to battle crime in his city. Pennyworth wants what is best for Bruce, but he also wants to keep him safe; it’s an overarching feeling of paternalistic care, struggling with the blend of desire for safety and pride in doing good work. We can see the elements in the back story of Wayne’s character, repurposed for the story of Gotham but still focused on those justifications for vigilanteism while maintaining a moral code free of killing. Both Wayne and Gordon have choices to make about ethics – should criminals get licenses in exchange for not killing? Is everyone worthy of police protection? Does everyone deserve justice? – and in the end, the audience is treated to seeing the growth of several heroes in the making.
Special features on the Blu-ray/Digital Combo include a look at the San Diego 2017 panels, deleted scenes, the “Sirens” of Gotham, and a look at the transformation of Butch into “Solomon Grundy: Born on a Monday.”