DKN Spotlight Review: ‘Gotham’ Season 5 Episode 12 – “The Beginning” – Final Episode

“The Beginning”

Writer: John Stephens

Director: Rob Bailey

Starring: Ben McKenzie, Donal Logue, David Mazouz, Sean Pertwee, Robin Lord Taylor, Cory Michael Smith, Erin Richards, Morena Baccarin, Lili Simmons, Chris Chalk, Richard Kind, Francesca Root-Dodson, Kelcy Griffin, J.W. Cortes and Jeté Laurence.

Review by Steve J. Ray

It is both a sad day and a celebration. 2019 has given us the 100th and final episode of Gotham. The sadness comes from losing what has been one of my favorite T.V. shows over the last half decade, but this finale celebrates not just this crazy, quirky series, but the 80 year legend of Batman as a whole.

This final episode was a nod to five plus years of television, eight decades of comics and a loving tribute to over 40 years of Batman on the big screen. Writer and show-runner John Stephens has written a deep, heartfelt tribute to the Dark Knight, and the show was beautifully and evocatively directed by Rob Bailey.

The End… And The Beginning

I have to admit that this finale was entirely NOT what I was expecting, and I’m ecstatic about it. I thought that this would be big, action-packed blowout of an episode, akin to what we got in the season one finale of Titans. Yes, there was action, but the beautiful aspect of “The Beginning” brought much more than that. It delivered on a promise, set up by the pilot from 2014, and was a love letter to Batman fans, all at the same time. More than that, this episode felt as much like a pilot for an all new show as it did as the swan-song for the series that was.

I’m not usually one for spoilers, but there are some moments that have to be shared. These will NOT wreck the story, that much I can promise.

From the opening scene, with Bruce arriving in a far off land (in my mind it’s Nanda Parbat) we’re treated to a Batman history lesson. The determined look on his face, his thoughts – recorded for posterity and delivered to Alfred, and to us, the viewers – and the knowledge that a decade of training is ahead of him, was all masterfully handled. Everyone knows that Bruce Wayne travelled the world, honing his combat skills and becoming a master detective in the process. We don’t have to see all of that again on-screen, for it to touch the heartstrings or remind us of the legend. What we see is just enough. That’s how the rest of the episode plays out, too.

A Superstitious And Cowardly Lot

A top hat, a monocle, a bowler and a question mark festooned green suit. Even without seeing the image, you know exactly who I’m talking about. Seeing the final culmination of the long, complicated evolution of Oswald Cobblepot and Edward Nygma brought joy to my heart. Having met and interviewed these wonderful actors, I could feel their joy and sadness all at the same time. I knew that they wanted to fully become Penguin and the Riddler. They wanted the costumes, the props, the look and feel of these legendary characters. They more than delivered.

This episode gave us the vintage villains that we’ve loved to hate our entire lives, but with the quirky original touches that only Cory Michael Smith and Robin Lord Taylor could create. Gentlemen, I salute you. The love, passion, blood, sweat and tears you’ve both put into your portrayals has been a joy to watch… no, scrap that. It has been a joy to experience, over the last 100 episodes.

Thank you.

The Cat’s Whiskers

While I was saddened to hear that the wonderful Camren Bicondova would not be portraying Selina Kyle in the final episode, after hearing her heartfelt thoughts, and seeing Lili Simmons in the role, I can totally understand the reasoning. All the other characters were adults when this series started, and adults change very little (usually) between their thirties and their forties. Make up and prosthetics will only do so much when it comes to making teenagers look like adults, with varying results. Lili gave us a wonderful Selina and a comic book perfect Catwoman. She looks enough like an older Camren Bicondova to suspend our disbelief, while giving us a performance all her own.

I’ve said in past reviews that I would like to see Camren and David Mazouz become Catwoman and Batman again. Now they can. Camren, thank you; Lili, congratulations on a job well done.

The Joke’s On You

They didn’t use the name “Joker” and the word “Batman” wasn’t uttered once in this episode. John Stephens, you are a clever, clever man. We didn’t need the names, because we know exactly who that was up on the screen. Kudos.

What can I say about Cameron Monaghan that I haven’t already said in my reviews and numerous podcasts? To say that this actor IS the Joker would be doing him a disservice. Cameron Monaghan has portrayed EVERY version of the Clown Prince Of Crime; whether it be from the comics, T.V. or the silver screen. Cameron has given us his take on all of them. What’s even more incredible is that he’s also given us himself, and versions of the character we’ve never seen before.

We’ve had maniacal, we’ve had faceless, we’ve had brooding and sombre. I see touches of Romero, Capullo and Kane in Cameron’s Joker. I also get hints of Nicholson, Leto, Ledger, Neal Adams, Brian Bolland and Dick Sprang. I see an actor that has become the character, throughout the 79 years of his crazy, twisted lives.

Every actor that has played the Joker has added something new and special to the role, but each of them has played them as one character. Cameron Monaghan has inhabited every persona of the Joker and made all of them his own. He’s taken dozens of versions, from close to eight decades, and breathed life into all of them. This young actor has already achieved great things, and I will be following his career and all his future projects with great interest.

Who’s Afraid Of The Big, Black Bat?

Arkham Asylum. Commissioner Gordon, Alfred, a shining spotlight on a dark rooftop. They’re all there. Plot threads and resolutions to events from this season, and the four before it. Yep, we get all that too. Penguin, Riddler, Joker and Catwoman; the worst of the worst, played by the best of the best. Check, check, and triple check. Every item on the list.

Now the really clever bit.

Remember Batman ’89? Batman Returns? Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy? Can you remember how they looked? Do you remember how they made you feel? If you watch this final episode of Gotham, it will all come flooding back. A growl from the shadows, reminiscent of Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One, a  brand new Batarang, actually shaped like a boomerang. That’s all there too. What fans are given in this story are fantastic tributes to 80 years of Batman, married with things that are brand new.

After eight decades of this legendary, immortal character, that’s pretty darned impressive.

To those wondering why David Mazouz could come back for the finale, while Camren Bicondova didn’t; once you’ve watched it you’ll understand. This Batman is a shadow, a wraith, a ghost and a goblin. He is fear, he is darkness and he strikes terror into the hearts of criminals. We get glimpses, we hear wings, a movement at the periphery of our vision and a chill down the back of our spines. There are no hands on hip poses, or well lit close-ups… and they’re not missed. What we get is pure, undiluted Batman… and it’s magic.

Awesome Batman voice, Mr. Mazouz! Spot on.

Conclusion

I’ve loved this series from start to finish and I will miss it terribly. I’m very glad though, that the ending was well thought out, brilliantly written and lovingly crafted. I cannot hope to name all the incredible talents that have made these 100 episodes, but I can thank many that have made them special for me. Danny Cannon, John Stephens, Bruno Heller, Graeme Revell, David E. Russo, Ken Woodruff, Tze Chun, Iturri Sosa, and all the writers and directors, thank you.

Donal Logue, Jada Pinkett Smith, Erin Richards, Morena Baccarin, Jessica Lucas, Chris Chalk, Drew Powell, Michael Chiklis, Maggie Geha, Benedict Samuel, Crystal Reed, Alexander Siddig, Anthony Carrigan, B.D. Wong, Clare Foley, Peyton List, Ben McKenzie and the magnificent Sean Pertwee. I haven’t forgotten you, thank you all.

All the producers, cinematographers, stunt performers, special effects creators, costume makers/designers and behind the scenes production talents too numerous to list. You’re all amazing. Thanks for 100 epsiodes that told one story. I cannot wait for the Blu-ray box-set! While the show has had a few ups and down over the years this final season has been fantastic.

“The Beginning” was a truly fitting end.

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Steve J Ray

Dad/husband, writer/artist, amateur chef and Bat-Fan Extraordinaire. Animal lover and fan of all things comic-book and sci-fi related. His wife thinks that he owns too many comics, books, and movies. He thinks this is an oxymoron.