Gotham: Transference Recap

Synopsis of 2×22: Strange evacuates Arkham and plants a bomb to cover the Court of Owl’s tracks. Fish Mooney escapes and unleashes the Indian Hill experiments on Gotham. 

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

I don’t know whether we’ve been conditioned to only accept or if we’ve been treated to a host of great game changing season finale cliffhangers. I’ve never been much of a fan of The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones but both have managed to do the sort of mic-drop season finales that leaves fans talking for months as the show’s off the air.

It’s hype that keeps fans coming up with theories, debates and desperate hunts for clues in casting sheets and set pictures. It’s contagious enthusiasm, the kind of thing that almost makes me watch a show that, as far as I can tell, is entirely about dragons, boobs, and producing internet outrage.

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It’s the sort of excitement every program is trying to capture in 2016 and you can see even staid network TV trying to grab the same headlines. Gotham is not different. While the show’s heart beats with cop procedural blood, it has the characters and setting that affirms its nerdy bonafides. A solid hook could invigorate the show and “Transference,” the second season finale, tries desperately to find just that but struggles quite a bit.

The main issue here is that there’s really not a lot to resolve in the finale. Strange is desperate to find out what Gordon and Bruce know and then wants to blow up Arkham and evacuate his test subjects. Meanwhile, Clayface impersonates Gordon at the GCPD and tries to throw Bullock off of Strange and the Court of Owl’s trail. If that sounds like a lot, it’s really not. It’s resolved in fits and starts, with the Clayface storyline resolved immediately and the rest of it is wrapped up ten minutes before the episode even ends.

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That leaves an awful lot of pressure on the final moments and there’s just not much really there. For all intents and purposes, the finale sees the status quo mostly reset. Fish Mooney is back in Gotham’s underworld, there’s a bunch of colorful killers running around the city. Bruce is planning to go up against the real power behind Wayne Enterprises.

Strange’s villains being unleashed doesn’t fundamentally change the show in any real way, especially in a show that’s already had so many serial killers and would be super villains in the streets. The big reveal is the Bruce Wayne double who most Batman readers will recognize as probably Thomas Wayne Jr., Bruce’s lost brother and a super minor Silver Age character who recently became a major player as the new Owlman in Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s “Court of Owls” storyline. 

It’s just not much of a cliffhanger. The speed at which this show chews through villains and characters means there’s a decent chance this shocker will last only an episode or two and it doesn’t manage to really shake up the status quo much. While comics readers might see Thomas’ introduction as another chance for Bruce to question his father’s legacy and history, it means basically nothing for people who are just watching the show.

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It’s another example of this show planning for long-term, slow-burn story-telling without guaranteeing the short-term thrills that make viewers stick around for those revelations. This is a problem the show has had all season and it seems likely it will again next season. Gotham tends to work best as a straight forward procedural, with short stories of Gordon and Bullock going on next to Alfred and Bruce taking on increasingly Batman focused challenges.

The problem is in Season 2’s divided structure, which focused on a pair of mastermind villains in two mostly separate stories, with the first half entirely revolving around Theo Galavan and the second around Hugo Strange.

There’s nothing wrong with having longer serialized stories but that’s not really the show’s strength. Its haphazard plotting and loose, often changing tone is a better fit for a more episodically structured show. It’s the direction that I think could suit Gotham considerably better.

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But that seems unlikely. The promise that Bruce and Alfred are going after the Court of Owls points to another season spanning storyline when the show returns and Gordon hunting down Lee promises more of the love story the people were, well, what’s the opposite of clamoring for? As such, “Transference” fails to build the hype the show desperately needs or satisfyingly offer much of a conclusion for what this show’s done over the last 22 episodes.