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Gotham's fall finale underscores the season's more focused storytelling

Illustration for article titled Gotham's fall finale underscores the season's more focused storytelling
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Because The A.V. Club knows that TV shows keep going even if we’re not writing at length about them, we’re experimenting with discussion posts. For certain shows, one of our TV writers will publish some brief thoughts about the latest episode, and open the comments for readers to share theirs.

  • A quick note to begin: I’m calling this Gotham’s “fall finale” though the marketing says it’s the “season finale.” It’s all a little confusing because this is clearly only half of the season, but it also looks like Gotham is off for the next few months, with Fox billing new episodes for return “in the spring.” TV schedules these days, am I right?
  • The most immediately appealing thing about “Queen Takes Knight” is that it wastes no time diving into the action. Last week’s episode stumbled a bit, but it did set up a looming gang war, and Gotham makes the smart choice of starting with some good ol’ fashioned shootouts. Sofia, Barbara, Tabitha, and Selina are laying their claim to Gotham, doing their best to expose the weaknesses of Penguin and convert the gangs to their side. Sofia is confident that they’ll turn: “I’m still a Falcone.” Barbara: “Yeah, you mentioned that, about a billion times.”
  • Sofia’s plan hits a snag early though, as her father, Carmine Falcone, shows up and reprimands her for not being ready for the job, and for bringing shame to the family name. It turns out that Penguin called Don Falcone in, and he obliged, seeing that his daughter was losing control. He pays for that vote of no confidence later on.
  • Erin Richards has been delightful once again this season. Her “I’m sorry, what?” after learning that Sofia slept with Jim is pitch perfect, and she gets a great moment later when directing a tied-up Tabitha to shoot a gun from behind her back.
  • When Jim shows up at the Falcone residence, where Carmine is taking his daughter away from Gotham, everything goes off the rails. A black van pulls up and starts shooting at everyone, hitting Sofia and killing Don Falcone.
  • It’s pretty obvious from the get-go that Sofia was the one who put out the hit on her father, and yet the episode doesn’t lose a lot of its dramatic tension because “Queen Takes Knight” is more about the shifting power dynamics in Gotham, and therefore doesn’t need to rely on shocking deaths or reveals to deliver the goods.
  • I really like the way this season has played out. It established a new world order in the season premiere, with Penguin ruling much of Gotham with his licenses to commit crimes, and then built out from there, complicating the dynamic between Penguin, Gordon, Sofia, and the GCPD as it went.
  • If there’s one thing that I struggle to connect with though, it’s the finale’s insistence on laying all the destruction and death at Jim Gordon’s feet. Bullock says “this is all on you,” and then later Sofia tells him that there’s a direct line between Gordon going to the Falcones for help, and all the cops Professor Pyg killed. It’s quite the stretch to pin all the violence of this season on Jim and his decisions, and yet the show can’t seem to avoid the specific narrative beat of “Gordon has blood on his hands.” The show has gone to that well again and again, and it’s rarely worked.
  • With that said, just about everything else in this finale works. I think Bruce’s descent into truly dickish, isolating behavior is severely underexplored, but the moments with Alfred in this episode certainly land. That’s thanks in large part to both David Mazouz and Sean Pertwee, who have an incredible understanding of the relationship between Bruce and Alfred. Watching Alfred do everything he can to keep his friend from slipping over the edge, only to be shunned in the end, is truly heartbreaking stuff.
  • Similarly, it’s hard to be all that invested in the “awakening” of Butch. Having him back is obviously necessary for later events, but his arc in this half-season has mostly been a slog. It doesn’t help that Butch/Grundy’s story is overshadowed by the more compelling aspects of everything going on in the Narrows, from Thompkins taking over as a kingpin of sorts, and Nygma slowly moving back to his Riddler persona.
  • The whole finale comes down to Gordon finding his moral center again (I guess) and working to stop the war, and bring law and order back to Gotham. He ends up arresting Penguin for the murder of Martin, something he’s only able to do because Zsasz says Penguin killed him, a lie he’s telling because he’s working for Sofia.
  • Of course, this hardly suggests that Gotham is fixed. Sofia seems to have gotten everything she wanted. Her plan is probably too reliant on coincidence to be pulled off, but hey, this is a silly show and sometimes that’s okay. So, Professor Pyg is, as we know, Lazlo Valentin, a contract killer who’s also available to impersonate serial killers. He created the Pyg persona for Sofia in order to get the GCPD to turn on Penguin, which in turn led to the downfall of Pax Penguina and the rise of the Falcone name once again.
  • As the finale comes to a close, some law and order has been brought back, but everything’s in flux. Bullock has left his gun and badge on Gordon’s desk; Butch seems to know who he is again; Nygma is slipping into his Riddler persona; and perhaps most importantly, Penguin has found a new friend in Arkham by the name of Jerome Valeska. That doesn’t bode well for the city of Gotham, but we’ll have to wait until the undefined “spring” to see how it all plays out.
  • Until then, thanks for reading and commenting! I think this is easily the best stretch of episodes Gotham has produced, and I’m looking forward to how the show builds on that momentum in 2018.

Kyle Fowle is a freelance writer based out of Canada. He writes about TV and wrestling for The A.V. Club, Real Sport, EW, and Paste Magazine.