‘Gotham’ 5×01 Review: ‘Year Zero’

“Year Zero” is one hell of a start to Gotham’s final season. It’s a perfect mix of everything we love about the show. We get some mysteries (the main one in the opening flash-forward sequence), plus the emotional ties between the characters, the machinations of the villains, and the dedication of the heroes trying to save a city that’s already gone over the edge.

“Even in darkness there is light.”

Gotham has been on its own for nearly three months. No one can get in or out. The criminal element carved the city up into territories. The Gotham City Police Department is protecting the innocents left behind. Jim Gordon finds himself the highest ranking authority figure in the city, struggling to get help from a federal government that refuses to step in.

I have not always liked Jim. In fact, I strongly disliked him through too much of last season. Mostly because of his dispute with Harvey and his involvement with Sofia Falcone. But I liked Jim in this episode. All his trials have been a crucible, turning him into something finer and stronger than he’d been when we first met him nearly five years ago. And while those same trials could have made him bitter and doubtful, he has hope for better days. As a symbol of that hope, he lights a beacon atop the precinct every night.

We all know what that beacon will be someday. So when Bruce Wayne shows up on that rooftop, we can’t help being delighted. This partnership between Bruce and Jim is not just a foreshadowing of what will be, but also a payoff to the relationship that started at the site of the Wayne murders just a few years ago.

I’m the kind of fan who adores emotional connections between characters, so I am loving these moments between Bruce and Jim.

Two Heartbreaks

It wasn’t totally unexpected that Selina would start resenting Bruce over her injury. From the beginning, Gotham’s producers have said the two would have a tortured relationship (one that came to full boil in the comics over the summer).

Selina was never supposed to be a “good guy.” We’ve all known that. It still didn’t make it any easier to hear her tell Bruce, “Jeremiah shot me to get to you. After all the things that I’ve done, what did me in was being your friend.”

That jangling sound you hear is my BatCat heart breaking.

The other heart broken in “Year Zero” belonged to Barbara Kean. She goes ballistic (literally) when Penguin kills her girlfriend/partner Tabitha. It’s a surprise twist I didn’t see coming, and I have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, they killed off a queer woman of color. But one of Season Four’s problems was an overcrowded cast of characters, and a few new baddies are coming in Season Five. Killing Tabitha off gives Barbara one hell of a motive to go after Penguin, while keeping the villain count more manageable.

Three Mysteries

Mystery #1 concerns that flash forward I mentioned earlier, set about 13 months after the cataclysm. Penguin, Riddler and the GCPD join forces in a gunfight against some unidentified enemy. Could it be Bane, one of the new baddies coming to Gotham?

Mystery #2 is the riddle of The Riddler. In the Season Four finale, Ed Nygma’s body was laid out on a table, with Dr. Hugo Strange wondering what he should do. In this episode, the Riddler is very much alive. He keeps waking up in a different unpleasant place every morning – rooftops, garbage dumpsters, you name it. He blames “Ed” for his nocturnal wanderings. So, what DID Strange do, and what is Ed doing now?

Mystery #3 is the unidentified ally who calls Jim on the radio, promising to help.

These all have the feel of being ongoing threads for the season. But there are other questions, too:

  • Who is this “witch” who can supposedly cure Selina?
  • Why did Jeremiah’s right-hand woman Ecco show up at GCPD?
  • Where IS Jeremiah?
  • What happened to Lee Thompkins, who’d also “died” in the Season Four finale?

And there is So Much more to come! These are the things that keep Gotham fans coming back week after week. We know where this story will eventually end. It’s getting there that’s all the fun!

Gotham airs Thursday nights at 8/7 Central on FOX.

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