If you were at all worried about Fish Mooney at the outset of “All Happy Families Are Alike,” don’t be. She makes her triumphant return to Gotham in the show’s season finale. With a new, albeit small and ragtag army at her side, Fish plans to finish what she started and claw her way to the top of the city’s mob families. Standing in her way are Carmine Falcone, the aging kingpin of the city who is more interested in inspecting chickens than fighting wars; Sal Maroni, the up-and-coming mob boss with most of the muscle on his side; and Penguin, the slimy manipulator who’s been playing both sides to his own ends. Oh, and yeah, the GCPD gets involved at some point. Let’s see how it all played out.
The mob war for control of Gotham has been the one consistent story arc throughout the series’ first season and although it’s progressed through fits and starts, “All Happy Families Are Alike” at least puts the war of succession to rest. Unfortunately there were no clever tricks or last-minute betrayals to add any sense of dramatic tension to what was intended to be the climax of a season-long struggle. The best moment in the mob war? Fish’s arrival, with a new style that seems to be inspired by her helicopter crash somehow (I know nothing of fashion). It’s a good look for the mobster, but a pity it took so long to see it.
With Selina Kyle by her side (an inclusion that makes pretty much no sense), Fish manages to capture Falcone, along with the bonus catches of Gordon, Bullock, Penguin, and Butch. While the coppers had their best intentions in keeping Falcone safe from Maroni’s hitmen after a rocket-launcher attack nearly killed the old man (I can’t even believe I’m writing this), they soon find themselves caught in the middle of the three warring families. Maroni arrives on the scene and quickly proves to have a bit too much bravado for Fish’s taste. Too much showboating and one too many “Babes” earns the mafioso a bullet in the head, courtesy of Fish.
And this marks the second time that all Hell breaks loose in this episode. While Gordon’s escape from the hospital exhibited plenty of cool (for the late 80s and 90s) Gun Fu, the rest of the action scenes looked rushed, haphazard, and completely devoid of any cinematic visual interest. But I digress. Maroni is dead and Falcone is looking to retire, leaving Penguin and Fish to battle it out. After a mind-numbingly lame rooftop fight in which the confused Butch has to decide just which evil-doer he remains loyal to (and ends up shooting both of them), Penguin wins out and throws Fish over the edge and into the waiting water below. For all intents and purposes, she should be dead, but this is a comicbook world after all and she’s come back from worse. Still, Penguin stands on the rooftop ledge, triumphant, crowing over his hard-earned city.
And yet, who cares? The chaos in the streets for the “all-out mob war” was talked about but rarely shown, and certainly never felt. The police clearly didn’t exhibit any sense of panic or concern as they were happy to mill about the station while Gordon and Bullock did all the work. In the end, Falcone is in the wind, Maroni is sleeping with the fishes, and Penguin is poised to control the criminal underworld of Gotham. Great for Penguin, not exactly terrible for Gordon, and boring for viewers. Let’s move onto some slightly more interesting things.
So Dr. Thompkins and Barbara Keane are hanging out, which Gordon is clearly not cool with, but what could possibly go wrong? Oh, just that Barbara is revealed to be a homicidal maniac who is basically taking up The Ogre’s mantle. She’s easily been the worst-handled character on this show all season and I actually feel bad for Erin Richards. Barbara has devolved from a needy girlfriend, to an unfaithful lover who remains bi-curious, to a drug addict who lets homeless girls hang out in her apartment to try on clothes, to a patri-/matricidal psychopath. All that being said, the “chick fight” in the finale was the low point for her character. I’m apologize, Miss Richards; you deserve better.
Speaking of (relatively) better, Bruce is busy smashing up his dad’s possessions and trying to figure out if he, in fact, led a secret life. He remembers reading books and playing board games with his mother while his father was busy “working,” locked away in his study and listening to classical music. Bruce thinks he’s on to something despite Alfred’s attempt to convince him otherwise. Eventually, he tires out and is disappointed that his intuition has proven incorrect. Alfred’s quote of Marcus Aurelius triggers something in Bruce’s memory that leads him to a device hidden in a book that cues music … and reveals a secret stairwell behind the fireplace that leads down into a bat-filled cavern … which would have been a cool reveal if we hadn’t known for many months that this show was supposed to be based on Batman. Though, I’ll give the writers this: at least this version of Thomas Wayne is now slightly more interesting.
The best moment of the finale and possibly the season did occur in the finale, however. Miss Kringle has discovered that Nygma was behind the supposed love letter from her missing boyfriend. When she brings this observation to his attention, we finally get to see Nygma’s mental breakdown. He chastises himself for leaving a clue behind, putting his freedom at risk and complicating his courting of Miss Kringle, though another voice in his head encourages him to take the violent, riddle-loving path. If Cory Michael Smith is poised to be season two’s big bad, I might just give it a chance.
Gotham was easily my most-anticipated new comicbook show of the season when it started last fall, but quickly fell to the bottom of the pile. The surprise hit The Flash has been consistently fantastic, and even NBC’s beleaguered Constantine proved an enjoyable ride into the macabre, but Gotham just fell flat across the board. Maybe I was expecting something more, something gritty, something noir, but what I got was just another police procedural with lazy, hazy nods to its comicbook inspiration. If they take the adaptation seriously and really try to bring some fan-favorite characters into the show, I might just give it another shot, but at this point all of my good will has been gone up in smoke.
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Episode Rating: ★★ Fair
Season Rating: ★★ Fair
Alfred: “Still looking for secrets, Master Bruce? Or just breaking stuff?”
Gordon: “He’s a bad man, but he’s the best bad man we’ve got.”.
Fish: “I am relaxed.”
Penguin: “I’m the King of Gotham!”
Falcone: “That knife is a good friend when you have no others.”
Falcone: “Word of advice, Jim. Your father was the most honest man I’ve ever met … but he carried a knife.”