A Look at Gotham- Season 1 Finale: “All Happy Families Are Alike”

And we’ve arrived at the end of the first season of Gotham.  Not the best outing, either, as it comes off as a jumbled mess to me, but let’s jump right into it.  Fish Mooney is set to return, Falcone and Maroni’s camps are at war, Leslie sets out to learn what’s up with Barbara, and Bruce  tries to learn the mystery surrounding his father.  Sounds compelling, but it all isn’t.

All Happy Families Are Alike- Selina sees something in the distance approaching

The episode begins on a dark night.  Selina Kyle and some other kids huddle around a fire when Selina spots something in the distance.

All Happy Families Are Alike- Fish Mooney bids Selina a good morning

Fish Mooney has returned.  She bids Selina good morning, even though it’s night.  Gotham is weird like that.

All Happy Families Are Alike- Bruce searches for his father's secrets

At Wayne Manor, Bruce smashes a photo of his father and begins to look through the reading room for clues to his father’s secrets.  Alfred doesn’t see a point.  After all, if Thomas Wayne had a secret life, Alfred would have known.  He does remember that Thomas Wayne would work all night.  Bruce tried to sneak in at times, but the door was locked.  Why?  He figures that the secret is somewhere in this room.  Given how much time we’ve spent in this particular room compared to anywhere else in Wayne Manor, this seems probable.

All Happy Families Are Alike- Falcone's car blown up

Down by the docks, Falcone checks on his birds.  That’s cut short when some men speed up on a motorcycle.  They pull out a rocket launcher and fire, destroying Falcone’s car in the process.

All Happy Families Are Alike- GCPD putting criminals into holding cells

Well, at the very least, the cops are busy.  GCPD ends up filling their holding cells with various henchmen and thugs.  Gordon watches this play out and turns down a salute from Officer Katz, played by John Clarence Stewart, since he knows that he’s on the chopping block.

All Happy Families Are Alike- Jim finds Leslie examining Barbara

He then heads to the medical examiner’s office, where he finds Leslie examining Barbara.  Barbara is doing surprisingly better, despite her ordeal, but doesn’t want to take Leslie’s advice on getting trauma counseling.  Leslie insists that no one would just be fine after that sort of ordeal.  Barbara, though, is just glad to be alive and thanks Jim for saving her.  She eventually agrees to be counseled, but in her home.  Leslie isn’t fond of this plan, but also agrees.

All Happy Families Are Alike- Bullock informs Gordon about the hit on Falcone

Bullock informs Gordon about the hit on Falcone, who is now being held at a hospital.  Gordon also learns that, according to Essen, a lot of big wigs in the city have decided to switch their support to Maroni.

All Happy Families Are Alike- Penguin and Butch visit Falcone

At a hospital, a restrained Falcone gets a surprise visit from Butch and Penguin, who come bearing flowers and a gun.  Penguin admits to Falcone that he instigated this recent mob war and has been planning this since day one.  He grabs a scalpel and prepares for the kill.  It’s not personal, he says.  After all, Falcone was a good mentor and friend, but business comes first.  Penguin will soon rule Gotham, though Falcone vows that will never happen.  Penguin at least admits that he does worry about that, but Falcone will go first.  At least Penguin considers his future.

All Happy Families Are Alike- Jim frees Falcone and arrests Butch and Penguin

But no, Gordon enters the room out of nowhere and places Butch and Penguin under arrest for attempted murder.  He also frees Falcone.  Penguin’s defense is that Falcone is out by official decree, but Jim won’t get on any winning side.  Falcone knows the game.  If Maroni tries to rule, thousands of rivals will challenge him, thus leading to civil war.  Jim agrees.  So, he asks, if Falcone were back in charge, could he turn things around?  Falcone says that he can, but he will need two days at his safe house to make moves.

Jim takes a moment to answer a phone call from Bullock, who warns him to get out before others come to finish off Falcone.  So Jim will have to get him out of the hospital.  He agrees that Falcone is a bad man, but he’s the best bad man that they have.  Maroni is too wild to run Gotham, and that would lead to anarchy.  Falcone may have lost control, but he can get it back.

When the call ends, Jim readies to take Falcone out of the hospital, but Penguin reminds Jim that he placed Penguin and Butch under arrest.  Hence, they’re under Jim’s custody.  In addition, Penguin finally decides to call in one of Jim’s favors.

All Happy Families Are Alike- Jim confronts Loeb in the hospital

However, Jim hears Commissioner Loeb’s voice from down the hospital corridor and confronts him.  He won’t leave so the men can kill Falcone, though Loeb claims to have no knowledge of that.  Jim even goes as far as calling Loeb a disgrace and hopes that he either ends up behind bars or dead.  Hope, Loeb says, is for losers.

All Happy Families Are Alike- Jim escapes from the hospital

Then we get a shootout that has nothing on Jim’s shootout with Zsasz.  Eventually, Bullock comes to save the day.  There are ambulances in the basement, so Jim is prepared to take Falcone, but he also needs to bring Penguin and Butch since they’re in his custody.  They manage to get away in one of the ambulances and escape the gunfire from Maroni’s men.

All Happy Families Are Alike- Arriving at Falcone's safe house

Soon, they arrive at Falcone’s safe house and are in the clear since no one knows about this place.  Anyone who did know is dead.

All Happy Families Are Alike- Fish's new hairdo

Wait, never mind.  Fish does, and so does her new hairdo.  Fish frees Butch, but chains up Gordon, Bullock, Falcone, and Penguin.  While Fish goes off to call Maroni, Falcone reveals that Fish’s henchmen didn’t get his knife, which is just in his sock.  That should be easy to get.

All Happy Families Are Alike- Selina refuses to free Gordon

And Selina?  She’s having too much fun with this gig and doesn’t want to blow it, even though she and Gordon sort of know each other.

All Happy Families Are Alike- Fish promises to kill Falcone and Penguin

When Fish returns, she reveals that she’s made a sweet deal with Maroni: she can have all of her territories back in exchange for delivering Falcone’s head to Maroni.  She turns on Penguin, livid about whatever he may have done to Butch.  Fish also promises slow, painful deaths for Penguin and Falcone.  She’ll keep it simple with Gordon, but she’s cool with Bullock.

All Happy Families Are Alike- Barbara talks to Leslie about her dreams

Onto Barbara and Leslie.  Barbara feels like this is all a dream and she’ll wake up soon.  More than that, Jason will be alive and coming for her.  Jason saw right through her, like she was naked.  It was scary, but thrilling.  And aren’t all the best guys just a little bit scary?  Barbara admits that she was more scared of Jim on their very first date.  He was so butch and stern.  Those types often have a bad temper, but Jim was sweet.

Then Barbara asks Leslie the completely appropriate question of whether Jim hit her…out of passion.  She then apologizes.  She didn’t mean to pry- she only heard that Leslie and Jim were dating.  Leslie does admit that the two have been on a few dates.

All Happy Families Are Alike- Maroni calls Fish an underboss

Maroni arrives at Falcone’s safe house and relishes seeing Falcone in such a vulnerable position.  Penguin has his own proposition for Fish: kill him if he must, but spare Falcone’s life.  Once Falcone is dead, Maroni will no longer have use for Fish.  Why would he need another rival in town?

But Maroni corrects Penguin: Fish isn’t a rival because she’s not a boss.  She’s an underboss.  Fish isn’t fond of that because an underboss takes orders.  Maroni tells her to relax, all while calling her babes.  Fish doesn’t like being called babes.  From this, Maroni can see that Fish isn’t relaxed at being given a term of endearment.  Fish says that they’re partners, and Maroni is fine, but he’s partner number one.  Fish is number two.  Simple math, babes.

As Maroni vows to build a new Gotham and whip the town like a rented mule, he continues to call Fish ‘babes.’  But don’t call her that, or toots.  It’s a women’s lib thing.

All Happy Families Are Alike- Fish shoots Maroni dead

So Fish shoots Maroni in the head.  Well, that was a bit unexpected.  The shootout begins.

All Happy Families Are Alike- Falcone is out of the game

Jim, Harvey, and Falcone manage to escape.  If they can make it to 7th Avenue without being spotted by Fish’s fishes, they’ll be home free.  Jim considers Maroni’s death a lucky break since Falcone is the least worst option.  However, this day has given Falcone a long time to look at the world that he’s created.  He’s done with the business and plans to go down south.

All Happy Families Are Alike- Selina finds Gordon, Bullock, and Falcone

When the three hear some of Fish’s fishes, they hide in the back of a truck, where they’re soon spotted by Selina, who just had to say ‘Cat got your tongue.’

They’re brought to Fish, who now fancies herself as the possibly new Queen of Gotham.  Luckily, Falcone’s backing out, so not like she’ll have major competition.

All Happy Families Are Alike- Penguin with a machine gun

Oh, hey, Penguin.

Leslie and Barbara have been skirting around the subject, but Leslie asks about what happened to Barbara during her captivity.  But then Barbara wants to know if Jim ever said that he loved Leslie.  Fair is fair since she’s telling all of her secrets.  Leslie says that no, Jim hasn’t said that- even though we know that’s not true.  Barbara feels that Jim will since Leslie is gorgeous and smart.

All Happy Families Are Alike- Barbara tells Leslie about what happened between her and Jason

When Barbara begins to talk, we don’t hear any of it.  We just join her as she finishes.  She has no idea how long she slept.  When she and Jason went on a trip, she realized halfway there that they were headed to her parent’s house.  They were tied up and Barbara talked about her childhood issues.  So she said whatever came into her head: stupid stuff like her mom calling her piggy when she was little.  More than that, her parents never nurtured her self-esteem.  They just grinded away at her soul.

Even when Barbara was killing them, they just gaped at her like fools.  What?  Leslie corrects Barbara, saying that Jason Lennon killed her parents, but no.  Barbara admits that she stabbed them several times and then slit their throats.  Well…

All Happy Families Are Alike- Then Barbara pulls out her knife

Then Barbara pulls out her knife!

Leslie runs into the bathroom- instead of just leaving- and smashes the mirror so she can have some a mirror shard.  The two fight and it ends with Leslie bashing Barbara’s head against the floor, over and over again.

All Happy Families Are Alike- Hey, Jim

Then Jim enters.  Hey, Jim.

All Happy Families Are Alike- Butch points his gun at Penguin and Fish

Back with the mob war, Fish ambushes an incoming Penguin.  The two make their way to the edge and stop when Butch points a gun at them both.  He’s unsure which of them to shoot, so he ends up shooting them both.  That works.

All Happy Families Are Alike- Penguin declares himself the King of Gotham

So then Penguin knocks out Butch, and then pushes Fish over the edge and into the water below.  He climbs on top of the edge and declares himself the King of Gotham!

All Happy Families Are Alike- Miss Kringle asks Nygma about Dougherty's note

Kringle confronts Nygma about Dougherty’s note and how the first letter of every line spells out Nygma.  What an amazing coincidence, but Nygma still says that he knows nothing about this.  He has a Jekyll/Hyde moment that, I suppose, is supposed to make Nygma appear menacing.

All Happy Families Are Alike- Falcone talks about Gordon's father and knives

Falcone and Gordon talk.  Falcone knows that Gotham needs a strong lawman, not a criminal.  Someone needs to grab the city by its neck and shake it hard, and that someone should be Jim.  Gordon disagrees, knowing that there are powerful men who would disagree with Falcone.

But then Falcone gives Gordon a knife that once belonged to Gordon’s father.  It was a spur-of-the-moment birthday gift.  Falcone didn’t think that he needed it since he had armed men around him, but Gordon’s father insisted.  A knife is a good friend when you have no other.  I guess that should sound profound.  But the point is that Jim’s father was the most honest man that Falcone ever met, but he still carried a knife.

All Happy Families Are Alike- Bruce and Alfred in the library

Alfred and Bruce have done everything but tear down the wallpaper, but still found nothing.  Alfred, for one, is tired of looking.  Thomas Wayne may have been a flawed man, but that doesn’t mean he had a secret life.  Bruce is still certain because his intuition is nearly always correct.  Bruce, I’m not sure you can use nearly and always right after each other in the same sentence when you’re not sure of something, but whatever.

Anyway, Alfred argues that even Arkham is full of men whose intuitions are always correct.  There are none so blind.

Wait…none so blind.  That’s it!  Bruce looks for a book on Marcus Aurelius, the Roman emperor.  More than that, he was a stoic, and Lucius Fox called his father a stoic.  But then, lots of people are stoic.  The point, Alfred, is that it’s a way of life!

All Happy Families Are Alike- Bruce and Alfred find a hidden staircase

And then Bruce finds a switch hidden in a book.  He presses it and the fireplace reveals a hidden staircase as the first season of Gotham comes to a close.

Well, that was a season.

“All Happy Families Are Alike” isn’t what I’d call a great way to end the first season of Gotham.  Heck, I wouldn’t even call this a good or decent episode.  It existed to give us a payoff to the ongoing mob war between Falcone and Maroni, Fish trying to regain her ground, and Penguin being the mastermind behind it all.  Amidst this, we’ve got Barbara going off the deep end, Nygma sort of going off the deep end, and Bruce trying to get to the bottom of his father’s secrets.

You can balance all of these storylines and have them make sense if they’re written well, but the writing on Gotham is such a mess that barely any of these stories come off as all that interesting in the finale.  The tone of this finale was haphazard and nowhere near as focused as it was in “Spirit of the Goat” or “Penguin’s Umbrella,” and I keep using those as comparisons because I find those to be among the better episodes of this show.  We’ve got violent shootouts, but Fish feels that she needs a complete makeover before resurfacing.

All Happy Families Are Alike- Fish's stupid hairdo

You know, let’s talk about Fish Mooney while we’re at it.  Not the best way to make her reappearance and try to assert her dominance.  She’s been gone from Gotham City for so long that it’d be foolish of her to believe she could try and be the Queen of Gotham with ease.  She couldn’t really think that either Falcone or Maroni would be willing to let her dictate her own terms.  Like it or not, they wielded more influence and power in the city than her.  Even if she attained more power, she’d always be seen as a subordinate.

Executing Maroni was, I’ll admit, a bold move considering that I did not expect him to die in a pre-Batman universe.  But when I’m wrong, I’m wrong.  It’s a game changer because Maroni was a major player, but killing him throws off the power scale.  Oh, and it shows why you should never call Fish ‘babes.’

And let’s talk about the elephant in the room: Fish’s supposed rapid recovery.  Fish took a pretty bad shot to the stomach when she left the island.  I mean, that didn’t look like a minor wound.  Not only is she alive and kicking, but we get no explanation as to when or how she managed to recover.  She doesn’t even feel any different.  I would think getting shot would impede her or cause some discomfort, but it’s as if nothing happened.

This makes her getting shot completely pointless.  Not that there was ever any tension since we knew she would return, but why have her get shot and leave her fate up in the air if you’re going to make it inconsequential in a later episode?  And when did she even get the time to patch herself up and get a new hairstyle?

All Happy Families Are Alike- Selina sides with Fish Mooney for some reason

And so long as we’re talking about Fish and her crew, let’s now discuss Selina Kyle and her decision to join Mooney’s group.  First, to my knowledge, Selina and Fish have never even interacted.  Okay, she’s a kid and wants to jump onto something that seems cool to her, but what does she have to gain here?  She doesn’t know Fish and is always suspicious of new people.  Given the time she’s spent on the streets, I wonder why Selina isn’t smarter than this.  She’s a loner, so I’d expect her to just think nothing of Fish.

Side-note, Selina is also apparently back to living on the streets, even though nothing stopped her from staying at Barbara’s.  Her and Ivy, who we also don’t see.  Maybe she’s a deep sleeper.

All Happy Families Are Alike- Selina with Fish

Also, is there a reason that Selina also needed to get a new hairdo?  She wouldn’t get it done differently for that charity ball, so why would she change it here?

All Happy Families Are Alike- Nygma unhinged

Nygma really set himself up for Kringle to learn about that riddle, if you can even call it a riddle.  Part of what makes The Riddler so interesting is that he can’t help himself but leave clues to his crimes.  Again, though, Nygma is an intellectual, not some jealous murderer.  There’s a reason he’s one of Batman’s most intelligent adversaries, but then, this is very early in his journey.

It was still foolish of him to bring Dougherty’s body into the GCPD and even leave that sort of clue because it’s a pretty easy one.  But then, none of Nygma’s questions or riddles have been difficult.  I just wish Nygma was a bit more crafty and cunning instead of obvious.

All Happy Families Are Alike- Falcone gives Jim his father's knife

What isn’t obvious- because I suck at transitions- is why Falcone has chosen this moment to leave Gotham.  He’d already been betrayed by Fish one time, but that reinvigorated his drive to stay in Gotham and solidify his reign.  He’s not as bad as Maroni in that he actually wants to turn the city around, but I don’t see how this particular encounter made him rethink his decision.  Was it Fish’s hairdo?  It probably was.  Could he have remained in power and been on somewhat good terms with Gordon?  Possibly, especially after revealing that he knew Gordon’s father, but with him leaving, this partnership looks to be up in the air for now.

All Happy Families Are Alike- Barbara unhinged

Barbara, Barbara, Barbara.  What in the hell?  Good on the show for actually following up on her seeing her parents killed, but then we get the reveal that she committed the murders all along.  She has, to be frank, gone off the deep end.

All Happy Families Are Alike- Barbara and Leslie talk

Barbara has been a very indecisive character, and I imagine a lot of that has to do with the writers not knowing how to handle her, but making her go down this route is strange, but not an unwelcome one.  She was seduced by Jason’s…well, it wasn’t charm, but something.  She looked to be in her own little world and wanted Jason to return to her, despite what he did to her.  And her reason for killing her parents was that they didn’t treat her well and hacked away at her self-esteem?  Grow up, woman.  Not everyone had a perfect childhood.  I wonder what happens to her next, if she doesn’t end up in Arkham Asylum.

All Happy Families Are Alike- Leslie with Barbara

By the way, I’m curious as to why Leslie didn’t tell Barbara that Jim said he loved her.  Maybe she wanted to keep an already unhinged Barbara from going further off the edge, but that was inevitable.

All Happy Families Are Alike- Penguin shoots a henchman

Penguin was at least a bit more careful this week with him calling on one of Jim’s favors and creating a division between Fish and Maroni.  I still think Robin Lord Taylor has the most memorable performance on the show, but I’m hoping that, in the second season, we see seeds planted of the future intellectual mob boss.  If he’s able to work behind the scenes and create splits within sides, that’s fine.  So long as he’s not reduced to just being a bumbling club owner.

All Happy Families Are Alike- Alfred and Bruce uncover a secret

Bruce and Alfred found a secret cave.  What’s it lead to?  No idea.  People have already guessed that it could be Thomas Wayne’s Bat cave, which I think is a stretch, but hey, the show killed off Maroni, so anything is possible in this universe.  Though, really, this is all the two do this episode and it could have just been one long scene instead of several separate ones.

It has to be said, this was a disappointing season finale to Gotham.  It wasn’t a strong way to wrap up the ongoing storylines.  The Dollmaker’s introduction and side-story amounted to nothing, Fish’s return and death were short lived, Barbara’s craziness produced more eye-rolling from me than actual enjoyment, and Falcone, for some reason, now chooses this moment to leave Gotham when he had plenty of opportunities to do so before.

I said at the show’s halfway point that the show needs to find its identity, and it still hasn’t done so.  I’ll give the show credit for actually managing to get through an entire season, but the story suffers from some questionable writing and characterization.  There’s good to be found in Gotham, but there’s a lot of mediocre stuff in between you have to navigate through in order to find it.

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