Gotham, Season 1, Episode 22, “All Happy Families Are Alike”
Written by Bruno Heller
Directed by Danny Cannon
Aired Mondays at 8pm (ET) on FOX
In the Pilot episode of Gotham, the Penguin warns Gordon that there will be a war coming to Gotham City, a war that would possibly result in a change of power amongst the crime bosses. As it turns out, Penguin was not merely playing Cassandra predicting doom for Gotham, but planned for the war to happen all along. Ever since the Wayne Murders, the Falcone crime empire began crumbling, due to having lost one of its pillars. This left Falcone weak in his reign, which prompted all of the crime bosses under him to sniff around and try to tear him down. Although the Wayne Murderer remains a mystery, the finale resolves Falcone’s time in power, relinquishing him to possibly make way for the dawn of a new class of villain to overtake Gotham, one that will be full of colorfully criminal characters and Machiavellian madmen (and madwomen); the Gotham City by which the comic book mythos are based. Now that Falcone has fallen, is the new Gotham City finally rising?
With all of the impending doom that Penguin spouted in the pilot coming to fruition in “All Happy Families Are Alike”, it appears that it just may be the case. The Penguin takes claim as Gotham City’s new ruler with his championing cry of “I’m the King of Gotham,” a moment of triumph that harkens the new era. The moment is perfectly paralleled with Gordon accepting the responsibility of maintaining the balance from Falcone, with the symbolic passing of the knife that Falcone carried in his sock. Gotham finds closure with its season finale, concluding the era of Falcone and embarking in what will most certainly be a livelier, more hectic, and more dangerous Gotham City in its upcoming season.
Although the overall turn of events of the season come together nicely in this episode, there are some very odd missing beats between this episode and the last one. For example, the last time we see Fish Mooney, she was wounded while flying a helicopter, and the episode begins with her on a boat, healed and fully transformed into an upgraded version of the character, with new Mohawks and piercings. Then the episode time lapses two weeks, and viewers learn that the war between Falcone and Maroni has been going on, which somewhat betrays the earnest final moments of “The Anvil or the Hammer.” Bruce’s story has him trying to uncover secrets about his father, a plot that the audience is led to believe hasn’t developed within the two weeks since Bruce began investigating him. Lastly, there are few off notes about Gordon’s uncertainty with the GCPD. In an early scene, Gordon is being saluted by an officer, and Gordon somberly advises him not to bother, as he may be saluting a man that will be fired after the gang wars cool down. This is an unusual moment, as when Gordon was last seen, he was being celebrated as a hero for taking down the Ogre, not to mention he was recently instated as the new President of the Police union in “Everyone Has A Cobblepot”. Yet Gordon thinks he’s a “dead duck” as an officer in the GCPD. It seems like there may’ve been an episode or two needed to better finesse these beats for this episode to fully work, but these are all minor nitpicks that do not take away from the overall great character moments and story development that this episode offers.
Bruce Wayne has recently decided to put his own father under investigation, as he has learned that Thomas Wayne may’ve been complicit in Wayne Enterprises’ shadier dealings. For Bruce, learning his father’s secrets is vital to resolving his feelings about his father. As he looks back at his father, Bruce realizes how secretive he was, and one of his most vital secrets lie in his library, which he would spent most evenings locked inside of. The mystery is only deepened when Bruce discovers a secret passageway in the fireplace. What kind of man was Thomas, that he had a hidden entrance? Could it be that the vigilante spirit overtook him, and he would go out into the night and fight crime himself, a mantle that his son will someday follow in? We’re all going to have to wait until after the summer for the answer.
The shortest arc of the episode is given to Ed Nygma, who had recently murdered Detective Dougherty and disposed of his body in what may’ve been the perfect crime. That is, if Nygma had not had the impulse to sign his work by placing a puzzle to solve in the faux Dear John letter that he gave to Kristin Kringle. Having Kringle solve the puzzle and present her findings to Nygma brings a curious development to their dynamic, as she has every reason to suspect him of foul play, but no hard proof to pin him with. The madness that is overtaking Nygma is exceptionally presented in his scene, following Kringle’s suspicions of him with a bombardment of voices pulling him in all kinds of directions. This development does not bold well for Kringle, sadly, but it does place Nygma as the villain to watch, as he will certainly come into play more next season.
In this episode, Barbara Keane’s story has taken a really interesting turn towards strange. Following the events of the Ogre arc, we find Barbara healed from her wounding physically, but not psychologically, which brings an odd pairing with her and Leslie Thompkins as Barbara’s therapist to help her work out her trauma. It’s a development that is in its way wonderfully theatrical and absurd, with Barbara turning homicidal after admitting her part in her parents’ murder. Although this brings out some fun interplay between Barbara and Leslie, it is ultimately baffling as to where Gotham is taking Barbara. Have the writers decided to do away with Batman mythology and completely remove Barbara from the running for Gordon’s heart? Because it may be hard to believe them coming back from this to bring Gordon and Barbara back together.
The case of the week is thoroughly connected into the main story, tying most of the major plots together. Gordon’s mission is to protect Falcone in order for him to retake his position as crime boss. This proves difficult, because not only is Sal Maroni gunning for him, but so is The Penguin and the freshly returned Fish Mooney. There are lots of great moments that come from this storyline, with Penguin admitting his betrayal to Falcone at the hospital, Fish and her spectacular face off with Sal Maroni, and the incredible showdown between Fish and Penguin on the rooftop.
The cast are all great here, particularly Jada Pinkett Smith and David Zayas, with their discussion of partnership and the tension that comes with Maroni constantly slipping up and calling Fish “Babe.” That scene could not have been better executed. The showdown between Fish and Penguin is also a fine moment, with the two battling each other for ownership of Gotham. Not to mention the powerhouse performance between Pinkett-Smith and Drew Powell as Butch, who really sells the dilemma of mind control and loyalty to Fish to perfection, and the heartbreaking performance by both after he shoots Fish and she forgives him, understanding his difficulty. There are many memorable moments for Fish in this episode, which may be the writer’s intention to give her a proper sendoff from Gotham. But one shouldn’t count Fish out just yet, because in the comic books killed off characters come back from the dead all the time, and the way she was “killed off” is very much one that is not permanent, and after all, she is our girl.
The season finale is properly written by the showrunner Bruno Heller, who is credited for the “Pilot”, “Selina Kyle”, and “The Blind Fortune Teller”, all fine examples of the best that Gotham has to offer. This episode has yet another extremely well written script, one that does well in paying off plot points that have been presented in earlier episodes and tying up most loose ends. The direction by Danny Cannon is excellent, with a great sense of pacing and dramatic tension. There are many great set pieces of action, such as in the hospital, when Gordon has a shootout with several of Maroni’s goons, and at the warehouse, where Fish and Maroni have their partner talk, and finally, the fight between Penguin and Fish on the rooftop. There is even an instance of a Dutch angle shot in the hospital, a camera shot that has often been associated with the original Batman 1966 television series, to push the point of how crooked the villains were.
“All Happy Families Are Alike” closes off the season with one explosive scene after another, making changes to the power dynamics with the crime bosses of Gotham, and hinting at secrets and more discoveries to come, as well as further developments for the villains paving their psychopathic pathways. Gotham has presented a very interesting take on the Batman mythos by taken curious liberties and paying clever homage to the source material, with a tendency towards the gory and grim and horrific, and it appears that it will continue to do so with its new status quo.
- There was way too little time spent with Cat under the tutelage of Fish. It would’ve been fantastic to see their relationship bloom, and to see Fish influence Cat’s development into Catwoman.
- Okay, so the last scene revealed Thomas Wayne’s secret entrance to what possibly might be the Batcave??? Can you imagine a pole leading right into the cave?
- It’s great to see Penguin using Gordon’s police principle logic against him, but let’s hope that keeping Penguin in custody isn’t the favor that Gordon is due him.
- “Hope is for losers, Jim!” – Commissioner Loeb to Gordon.
- “I don’t even want to argue with you!” – Bullock to Gordon. Donal Logue maintains the comic relief with his spot on delivery.
- Gordon smiling at Cat to help him out is another really good comic moment.
- Where are Victor Zsasz and his crew? Falcone could’ve really used his help this week.
- Fish pronounce punishments to her prisoners. To Penguin: “You will die a slow and painful death on account of what you did to Butch.” To Falcone: “You too, Carmine!” To Gordon: “You. We’ll keep it simple.” To Bullock: “And you? We’re cool.”
- The way Fish Mooney is killed here is very reminiscent of how the Joker was killed off in “The Laughing Fish” episode of Batman the Animated Series, and he came back from that. No way Fish is gone for good.