Gotham Season 5, Episode 1 ‘Year Zero’ Seals the Deal (SPOILER REVIEW)

So it’s been 391 days since Jeremiah Valeska (Cameron Monaghan) turned Gotham City into a literal “No Man’s Land,” and a hard-scrabble alliance of Gotham’s notables assembles. Captain James Gordon (Ben McKenzie), Oswald Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor), The Riddler (Cory Michael Smith), and Detective Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue) arrive atop a barricade, heavily armed and backed by the Gotham City Police Department.

Below the barricades, military troops equipped with body armor and tanks await.

With just two words, Gordon sets the world on fire:

“For Gotham.”

Flash back to day 87 of Gotham’s isolation, and we find Captain Gordon arguing with a government representative. Gotham is cut off from the rest of the country, and no one is allowed in or out of the city. The government will not be sending aid, and the situation in Gotham is dire: GCPD is controlling only 10 square blocks of the city, trying to aid a few hundred citizens who couldn’t evacuate. Penguin has taken over City Hall, and controls all of the munitions in the city. Barbara (Erin Richards) and Tabitha (Jessica Lucas) have control of most of the food and liquor, and run their own small empire out of the Sirens club. Scarecrow and his gang control a large part of the city, and are preying off of the citizens trapped within. Firefly and Mr. Freeze are at war with each other. GCPD is running out of food, medicine, and bullets. The refuges are getting restless, and Gordon’s sphere of order is beginning to crack.

Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova) needs emergency surgery to stop her spine from collapsing after being shot by Jeremiah. Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) wants to stay by his friend’s side, but the city needs him. Bruce finds himself torn between loyalty and duty – somehow deciding he can do both.

The Riddler has been waking up in mysterious places, unaware of what alter-ego Edward Nygma has been doing while he sleeps. This leads to an entertaining and perplexing riddle for The Riddler to solve, which both thrills and vexes him in equal measure.

Scarecrow (David W. Thompson) and his gang assault the GCPD safe zone, with two objectives: Kill Gordon and steal all the supplies. The stakes couldn’t be higher, and Gordon faces off with the Scarecrow while Bruce fights off a small army of goons at the hospital.

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Bruce decides to call in emergency aid through Wayne Enterprises, but the relief helicopter is shot down over the city, leading to a showdown between Penguin, the Sirens, and the out-gunned GCPD.

In the past, I’ve relished in poking fun at Gotham. It’s a hugely entertaining show, and somehow manages to wallow in camp while playing it straight. It’s the soap opera version of Batman, and there’s always something to roll your eyes to.

That appears to be gone, though.

Gotham is still plenty of fun, but the fifth season appears to be racing for a finish line and doesn’t have time to bog itself down with unnecessary bloat. Sure, Taylor and Richards chew entire city-block-sized chunks of scenery – but it works. At least for this first episode, Gotham has a clear story framework in place, and without a full 22-episode order to fill should be able to pull it off.

McKenzie and Taylor give excellent performances, both playing off of their character’s long history together. Mazouz also does some solid work, and he’s starting to look like he could actually be Batman at some point; he’s still plenty slim, but his build is packing on some athletic muscle, and it’s not hard to see him capable of taking down some thugs – and he takes down plenty of thugs here.

The foundation of Batman is in place. During a fight at the hospital, Bruce is using fear, disorientation, and distraction to his benefit. Lucius Fox (Chris Chalk) has been outfitting Bruce with special gear, so Batman’s evolution comes through loud and clear – and it’s thrilling to watch.

Costuming, lighting, and music were all top notch – but that’s nothing new for Gotham. But there is something new going on; it’s the intense, steady determination that’s taken hold of the show.

There’s a story to tell, dammit, shut up or get out of the way…

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SPOILER LAND

NO, REALLY. WE’RE GOING TO SPOILER LAND. TURN BACK NOW.

DON’T SAY WE DIDN’T WARN YOU…

Scarecrow is so intensely freaky now. This is probably the single best-looking version of Jonathan Crane ever put to film, and his big scythe fight with Gordon had me freaking out like a gibbon on a sugar rush. Scythe Fight. Thank you, Gotham. I love you. (I realize only one of them had a scythe, but still… Scythe Fight.)

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The big showdown between the GCPD, Penguin’s gang, and the Sirens was so damned good. Seeing McKenzie and Taylor play off of each other like that was perfect. They’ve been at this a long time, and this felt like the payoff for years of trying to out-smart each other. Gordon shoots Penguin in the leg and takes all of the supplies for the people of Gotham. If you look hard enough, you can see that mustache trying to phase into place.

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Penguin killing Tabitha was a shock, but will she stay dead? No one stays dead on Gotham. Barbara’s revenge on Penguin will be a lot of fun to watch – but the show is nearly over, so Tabitha might be gone for good.

Who was the masked woman lurking around GCPD headquarters?

Who is this “witch” that the nurse at the hospital keeps mentioning to Bruce?

Also…did you freakin’ catch this??? (Big shout-out to Gotham Hub )

We’re sure to get plenty of answers pretty quickly, with only 11 more episodes of Gotham left to go – so what are you looking forward to the most? What questions do you still need answers to? Let us know in the comments below!

About Leigh Kade

Leigh George Kade is a writer, illustrator, and sculptor who lives in Salt Lake City with his wife and two small Skrulls. Leigh has also been a panelist on the wildly popular Geek Show Podcast since 2008. He has been an Entertainment Writer for Bleeding Cool since 2018.

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