Gotham season 5, episode 1 review: Year Zero


Gotham returned to our screens for its fifth and final season premiere, but did its live-action adaptation of No Man’s Land live up to expectations?

After a long wait, Gotham returned to our screens this week for the premiere of its fifth (and final) season. The previous season’s ambitious finale saw Ra’s Al Ghul’s prophecy come through and, in a rage of fire, Gotham City perished. However, from those flames rose the city’s true heroes as Bruce, Jim, Harvey and the rest of the GCPD elected to stay behind and help while the government cut the hellish crime-scape off from the rest of the world.

Following on from that, “Zero Year” introduces us to a very different Gotham City and, in extension, a very different Gotham.

No Man’s Land

Given the city’s history, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that, after a few days without outside supervision, the inmates were (quite literally) running the asylum. 87 days after the events of the Season 4 finale, and Gotham was struggling to survive. Fragmented and dying, the city was split into sectors, with the Sirens, the Scarecrow, the Penguin and the GCPD all overseeing their own areas. Some were better off than others, but all of them needed something and, predictably, chaos ensued.

Highlighting everyone’s desperation to survive was a great way for the writers to reinforce the whole “every man for himself” feel that a situation like this encourages. With Barbara agreeing to trade with her lover’s enemy to the Scarecrow’s invasion of the GCPD’s sector for supplies, it didn’t take long for us to see how far each of these characters were willing to go. And that was before the turf war that broke out over the chopper carrying the Wayne Enterprises supplies.

In addition, with the government having turned their backs on the city, it left James Gordon and the waning GCPD as the sole protectors of Gotham City’s residents, allowing them to step up at a time when the city was in dire need of heroes.

As far as a No Man’s Land adaptation goes, it’s done very well so far. The storyline doesn’t feel limited by its TV format – in fact, it has quite the opposite effect, reinvigorating the show and magnifying that feeling of alienation that so many of its characters felt throughout its run. So much so that there were also a number of engaging side-arcs that tied into the overarching story rather well. The Riddler’s apparent sleepwalking (at the behest of his alter-ego Ed) saw him end up alone in random places all over the ravaged city, while Selina’s struggles to accept her recently-diagnosed paralysis (thanks to Jeremiah) were only made worse by the fact that she was trapped in a city that had limited resources to help her.

End Of An Era

In the aftermath of Butch Gilzean’s death at the hands of the Penguin, Tabitha was understandably out for revenge. Unfortunately for her, the state of the ammo wasn’t up to scratch and, after a literal misfire, she was shockingly killed by the Penguin – right in front of Barbara.

This was a bold move that brought an end to the fan-favorite character’s run on the show. Despite the fact that actress Jessica Lucas wasn’t featured on any of the promotional material for this season, this one still caught us off-guard. Over the years, Tabitha has been an unexpectedly great asset to the show and, through her relationships with Barbara and Butch, she really held her own against so many iconic comic book characters. So, it’s undoubtedly a shame to see her go.

Having said all that, it’s easy to see where the writers are coming from here. As great a character as she was, Tabitha is not yet canon to the Batman mythology and, with the end of this Dark Knight prequel in sight, her death is the perfect catalyst to further the arcs of two more important comic book characters in Barbara and Penguin. We don’t know where the feud will take them yet, but it will give both of them a huge chance to go out with a bang. It’s just a shame that Tabitha had to pay the ultimate price to make it happen.

Beginning Of The End

Since the beginning, the Gotham showrunners have never shied away from ambitious storylines. As a result of this, we have seen empires rise (and fall), servants become leaders and every type of metahuman imaginable roaming the streets of Gotham City. As far as this show was concerned, the sky was the limit.

However, watching its reimagining of No Man’s Land, one thing was clear: the end is nigh. I don’t mean that in a negative way – in fact, I say it with the greatest of positivity. While low ratings have ensured that this is the show’s curtain call and undoubtedly cut short the showrunners plans for a long drawn-out story surrounding Batman’s origins, “Zero Year” somehow made it feel like it had actually been building towards this all along.

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The unnervingly Gothic visuals of a burning city that made their presence felt throughout the episode allowed us to finally see Gotham in its truest form. It wasn’t crying out in pain, it was gleefully soaking up the animosity that was breeding on its streets and, somehow, it was beautiful. Finally, the outside of the city reflected the five years of hell that had been festering within it. And this was the perfect backdrop for the show’s last stand.

With its heavier-than-usual tone and bold story moves, Gotham’s final season came out of the gate strong – letting us all know that this isn’t a show that is struggling to survive, it’s a show that intends on making the absolute most of its unjustly short final season. It’s time may be limited, but the possibilities are endless and, with the surface barely even scratched, it truly appears like Gotham is destined to go out on one of its biggest highs. This is what it has all been leading to.

Welcome back Gotham, we’ve missed you!

Gothic Getaways

  • The opening montage, that showed Jim, Harvey, Ed and Oswald join forces to unleash firepower on the army, was nothing short of impeccable. It was a nice tease of the destruction to come and, after taking us back to the beginning of No Man’s Land, it’s becoming clear why the Gothamites have been pushed this far.
  • Cameron Monaghan’s Jeremiah Valeska did not feature in the episode at all, but he was referenced on a number of occasions. 87 days into the No Man’s Land and he had yet to make his presence felt on what was left of the city – which worked really well because the character thrives on his intimidating presence alone, and the mystery surrounding his whereabouts is the perfect way to set the stage for his eventual resurgence.
  • Morena Baccarin’s Lee Thompkins also didn’t appear. We last saw her when she stabbed (and was stabbed) by The Riddler. The pair presumably died but were taken to Hugo Strange to apparently be revived. Since The Riddler is back to full health (physical at least), we should expect to see Lee at some point as well.
  • As bold and shocking as the moment was, Tabitha’s death still feels like it robbed us of one of the show’s strongest characters. While it will undoubtedly benefit both Barbara and Oswald from a storyline standpoint, the show just won’t be the same without her.
  • The Witch can save Selina apparently. Now, who is this Witch?
  • Gotham‘s final season looks set to be a blast – in every way imaginable. Now let’s sit back and enjoy the most ambitious show on TV’s last stand as it will undoubtedly give us everything it has.

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Gotham returns to Fox next Thursday, Jan.10 at 8:00 p.m. ET. Did you enjoy the Season 5 premiere? Let us know in the comments below.