With its utter refusal to even approach traditional Batman canon, Gotham has always been entertainingly bizarre. But season four was a cavalcade of craziness that would even give the Joker pause—or Jokers, rather. If you don’t watch this delightfully bonkers show, here’s all the madness you missed.
1) Gordon enlists the mafia to end Penguin’s reign of peace
We’ve watched the show’s version of Jim Gordon go down a dark path plenty of times. His adherence to the law is tenuous at best, he’s worked with criminals and even done errands for them, and generally solves most of his problems with murder. But when this season started, the Penguin had basically solved Gotham’s crime problem. By issuing “licenses” to criminals, Cobblepot had brought the city’s crime and murder rate to historic lows.
Jim Gordon was so mad about this—that people had lost faith in the GCPD, and only because they had completely failed at their job for years—that he went to the ex-crimelord Carmine Falcone and his burgeoning crimelord daughter Sofia to ask for their help in defeating Penguin… and ending the city’s era of peace and safety. Gordon succeeded, and both the crime and murder rates instantly shot back up. Great job, Jim. This is how the season started, and I still cannot get over it.
2) Poison Ivy drinks random Chinese “potions” and gets older and sexier—again
Back in season three, Gotham decided it was done with its early teens-version of Ivy Pepper, the girl who would become Poison Ivy, and decided to introduce a mutant who had the power to age people turn her into an early 20-something with more sex appeal. It was contrived (and a little gross). And then Gotham decided to do it again in season four, in an even more bizarre way! Ivy, tired of not being taken seriously by the other villains, wandered into a Chinese apothecary, asked where the potions that would make her “stronger” are, drank a few random bottles, and then turned into an older, sexier 20-something with plant powers. It’s just a very lucky thing she wandered into the shop that stores a potion that make you stronger, older, and give you plant powers.
3) Butch turns out to be Solomon Grundy
One of Gotham’s few completely original characters, Butch Gilzean had always been a perpetual henchman, most often to Penguin. In the season three finale, he’s shot directly in the forehead by Barbara, but instead of dying, he goes into a coma and is put in the hospital. Because this is Gotham, the hospital’s policy when it start starts to run out of beds is to dump the coma patients in the toxic waste-filled “Slaughter Swamp.” When Butch emerged, he came out as the semi-iconic DC villain Solomon Grundy, a pale, white, possibly immortal, definitely able-to-regenerate monster-man who can only speak the 19th-century nursery rhyme that provides his name. It was a completely bonkers way to introduce the character, but it was also a weirdly satisfying way to turn one of the show’s original characters into part of DC Comics canon.
4) Penguin saves himself from Jerome by using the power of mime
After getting thrown in Arkham Asylum again, Oswald unfortunately found himself the object of Jerome “basically-the-Joker” Valeska’s attention. After he fails to drive Oswald insane, Jerome gets bored and decides to murder Penguin with an axe, but runs into a wall. An imaginary wall. Just… just watch the clip.
5) Ra’s al Ghul’s incomprehensible plan
The leader of the League of Shadows is usually one of the smartest, most devious, most formidable of Batman’s foes; after all, he’s hundreds of years old, and had plenty of time to form his plans, which usually involve 1) destroying large cities and 2) forcing Batman to be his heir. Gotham’s version of Ra’s is somewhat less… focused. His plans still include making Bruce Wayne his heir, although this is weird since Bruce hasn’t shown any signs of being qualified to run an ancient order of assassins yet—but even more bizarrely, Ra’s also wants/needs Bruce to kill him with a magic dagger, like, right away, because he’s tired of life. You’d think he’d want to stick around a few more years to make sure Bruce is actually up for—or at least willing to take—the job. Nope!
But it gets crazier, because Ra’s also decides to resurrect Barbara Kean, and also selects her as his heir. And when Ra’s is in jail—for graphically slitting the throat of a child on a show that airs at 8:00pm ET, 7:00 pm Central, on a major network in primetime—it’s Barbara that he passes some kind of weird, glowy energy thing to, which both summons the League of Shadows to Gotham City and proves to the assassins that Barbara is “The Demon’s Head,” a.k.a. Ra’s heir and the leader of the league. Even though Ra’s is still 100 percent telling Bruce he’s his heir, right up to the point where he angers Bruce enough to stab him with the dagger.
6) Barbara becomes the head of an ancient league of assassins, with whom she does absolutely nothing
That… that’s it, basically. Once Barbara gains control of the League of Shadows, an army of the most elite assassins the world has ever seen, she basically uses them to rule her tiny little section of Gotham’s underworld, even though we never see them actually do or achieve anything in this regard. It’s such a waste that when Ra’s is resurrected by by angry (and sexist) League members, his zombie attacks Barbara and steals the glowy Demon’s Head energy thingy back.
7) Batman shows up
Gotham has always been a show about the years before Bruce Wayne first puts on the cowl as Batman, an endgame the show seems like it’ll never approach given that Bruce has done none of the studying that will make him the World’s Greatest Detective, and only sporadic combat training. Most importantly, during the four years this show has been on, Bruce Wayne has never once seen a single bat. Not. One.
That didn’t stop Bruce from having a vision of Batman when he was drugged by one of the newest Poison Ivy’s hallucinatory death flowers. Watching Bruce get tormented by his future self was actually incredibly satisfying, although it’s incredibly bizarre Bruce would envision Batman, specifically, when he’s had zero encounters with or even thoughts about bats. Also pretty satisfying: Bruce’s vision of Gordon, finally sporting his iconic mustache.
8) The pig-head-wearing serial killer gets a musical number
Professor Pyg is a fairly new addition to Batman’s rogue’s gallery in the comics, but as a killer who butchers his victims while wearing the cut-off face of an actual pig, he was tailor-made for Gotham. The show hired Fringe’s Michael Cerveris to play the villain, who targets Gotham City’s corrupt cops as part of an impossibly complex scheme by Sofia Falcone to take over the city’s underworld. But Cerveris is also a long-time star of musicals, so the show couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have one of its most grotesque characters so a little song-and-dance—while, it should be noted, he was forcing Gotham’s rich elite to eat pies were that literally made out of homeless people.
9) The guy who was basically the Joker has a twin brother who is... also basically the Joker
One of Gotham’s biggest mysteries has long been what the hell was it doing with the Joker. This is because its character Jerome, introduced back in season one, has been the Joker in all but name—from the grin to the laugh to the having-his-face-cut-off-and-then-having-it-stapled-back-on (a recent comics development). This season, he even got the character’s trademark gas, that makes people laugh until they die with a horrible rictus on their faces, and nearly poisoned a large swath of Gotham with it via blimp.
Then Gordon shot and killed Jerome (his second death, but totally for real this time), but it turns out he had a “good” twin brother named Jeremiah, who Jerome poisoned with a special version of the Joker gas that turned Jeremiah insane, gave him the Joker’s too-wide smile and his bleach-white skin, but didn’t kill him. Now Jeremiah is terrorizing Gotham in his brother’s place while dressing exactly like Jack Nicholson’s portrayal of the villain in the ’89 Batman movie, but keeping a cool, calm demeanor instead of Jerome’s—and the traditional Joker’s—gleeful exuberance. So Jeremiah might not end up being the Joker either, which would be very, very Gotham.
10) Gotham basically introduces the Bat-Signal before Bruce Wayne has even seen a bat
Only four major characters died in the season four finale—and only one of them has a solid chance of staying dead—which meant it was pretty tame by Gotham standards. But Jeremiah, with an assist from Ra’s al Ghul, does enact his plan to cut off Gotham City from the rest of the world by destroying all of its bridges and plunging it into darkness and chaos… which is the exact same thing Bane does in The Dark Knight Rises. (Presumably Ra’s and Jeremiah caught a matinee together.)
But for those who are trapped in the city, Jim Gordon wants to show there is a light in the darkness… literally, as he turns on one of the GCPD’s spotlight into the night sky. Bruce Wayne walks up and nods approvingly. He has not seen a bat yet.
Is there a method to Gotham’s madness? I don’t know. Probably not. But goodness gracious, do I enjoy its madness.