“Gotham” improves yet again by tweaking its characters and moving them closer to the versions that comic fans will recognize, yet it takes steps back as some of the better characters are stripped of their appeal.
Probably the character make the biggest progress is Bruce Wayne. His continued training and “no-killing” stance finally give him some direction. He loses his way for a bit, and is them rushed through a League of Shadows training regimen before he even more hastily dons all black and runs out into the night to beat up muggers. The wait for the young Bruce to become Batman is agonizing at times, but it’s much too early for this teenager to defend the city in the cape and cowl. With the series getting renewed for season 4 with only a few episodes left, they rushed Bruce into action. As amazing as it was seeing him in watching over Gotham from the rooftops, it seems like he wasn’t quite ready to take this step.
Another character to make the jump to their iconic persona was Ed Nygma, who finally becomes The Riddler. Unfortunately, after his fantastic character turn last season, and an impressive start this season as he allies himself with The Penguin, the final transformation ends up falling flat. The biggest momentum killer was the sudden introduction of the lookalike of Nygma’s former lover. It just seemed silly that this perfect woman shows up and wins his love, while clearly having no reason to exist on the show other than to drive Nygma and The Penguin apart.
Jim Gordon actually had a fun start as he switched from cop to bounty hunter. Allowing him play by his own rules was better than his constant disobeying of his superiors and breaking the law as he sees fit…actions unbecoming of Gotham’s “honest” cop.
The new version of Poison Ivy is also an improvement. Her original version was so bland, but the aged-to-her prime variant was a pleasant surprise. Especially how the switched from just sexing her up to playing up the naïve preteen in an adults body aspect.
On the downside, Barbara, who became one the show’s best characters after transitioning to semi-insane mob boss, suddenly becomes short-fused and abusive to everyone around her. He scenes just consist of her yelling at her friends and subordinates for no reason.
She still fares better than Lee. Once Gordon’s most likable love interest, she devolves into a one-note character as well. The second half of the season consists of nothing more than telling Gordon how much she hates him every time they cross paths. It makes sense at first, but just drags on too long.
The Selina Kyle character was all over the map. She liked Bruce, she hated Bruce, she liked him again. She’s working for criminals, she cleans up her act. She’s supposed to be about survival, but the code of honor you would expect from her doesn’t have any consistency.
This is the show’s biggest flaw: Lack of consistency. Granted they’re criminals, but the amount of times the characters switch alliances is staggering. It doesn’t matter if somebody lobbed off a hand or tried to murder you, all can be forgiven. New characters are introduced, and then they don’t seem to know what to do with them, so they just flounder around and randomly get inserted into episodes. The Mad Hatter, Captain Barnes and Hugo Strange are good examples of this.
There is one thing the show did almost to perfection: The resurrection of Jerome. The Joker prototype came back and Cameron Monagham channeled his best Mark Hamill-inspired Clown Prince of Crime. Although he still lacked the trademark white skin and green hair, the stapled-on face with a hint of a smile was enough. Although he was only in 2 episodes, he owned the first half of the season.
Overall, some strong moments and character transformations won out over bad character transitions and boring villains like The Court of Owls, to create a Batman mythology that celebrates the rich history of the franchise while carving out its own unique take on these legends.
*** out of *****