CNN | 8/18/2019 | Listen

'Gotham' finale leaps into the Dark Knight

Updated 10:12 PM ET, Thu April 25, 2019

(CNN) - The following contains spoilers about the "Gotham" series finale.

"Gotham" was created with a Batman-shaped donut hole at its center -- a Fox drama constructed around the city Bruce Wayne calls home, only years before he became the Dark Knight. So there was something intriguing but forced about the April 25 series finale, which jumped ahead into "Batman Begins" territory, while still playing coy about its most famous character.

In hindsight, the penultimate hour, in which young Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) leaves Gotham would have been a sufficient and more appropriate sendoff. As it was, the finale tried to have it both ways, as Batman largely remained an off-screen presence, in an episode -- titled "The Beginning" -- that somewhat awkwardly leapt a decade into the future.

"I will return when I know I'm able to protect the people I love," the young Wayne vowed. "When Gotham needs me, I will return."

He does, but stuck to the shadows, in a manner that blunted the impact of his scene with a 10-years-older Selina Kyle/Catwoman (played here by Lili Simmons, in place of Camren Bicondova), seeking to provide a degree of closure to their crime-crossed romance.

Then again, the series that has always seemed more enamored with characters other than Bruce, starting with cop-turned-commissioner Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) and the rogue's gallery of villains, among them the Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor), a.k.a. Oswald Cobblepot; and the Riddler (Cory Michael Smith), whose origins were slowly unfurled during the show's run.

Fox's promo department clearly thought Batman was the biggest draw, but the finale was punctuated by nice callbacks to their early days that didn't involve him, including the encounter between Gordon and Cobblepot on the docks.

To their credit, the fact that the producers were able to extract five seasons from this concept represented a considerable accomplishment, even if they show didn't live up to its initial promise.

After all, we didn't know a lot about Bruce Wayne's life during those pubescent years -- between the murder of his parents and donning the cape and cowl -- but frankly, it was never really clear why we needed to.

"Gotham" ultimately fell into a class of TV show that has demonstrated the challenges of trying to wring too much material out of a franchise. The Batman waters have felt particularly overfished, with the upcoming Epix series "Pennyworth" -- a prequel to the prequel, essentially, about Batman's loyal butler's early years -- premiering in July.

Still, "Gotham" was successful enough to inspire other examples of hero-adjacent real estate, including "Krypton," the Syfy series predicated on the same formula, using Superman's home planet as its setting.

Although "Gotham" admirably juggled its characters, the show gradually began to run out of operating room without bumping into aspects of the Batman mythology chronicled elsewhere.

For the audience that stayed faithful, there was surely some sentimentality in this last plunge into "Gotham's" dark recesses. Yet the finale felt more obligatory than soaring, bringing the show to a landing that felt mildly satisfying, but more than anything, overdue.


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