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Warning: spoilers ahead for the Season 5 premiere of Gotham, called "Year Zero."
Gotham has finally returned to the small screen for a new season, several months after the show usually returns to the airwaves. Season 5 will be the last for television's most unpredictable comics-based show, and the premiere made it clear that the remaining episodes will be as wild as fans have come to expect. The first episode killed off a key character, and her death could result in the end of somebody who has been around from the beginning. Tabitha was killed, and Barbara's end could be nigh. Here's why.
Let's start at the beginning. The Season 5 premiere picked up 87 days after the Season 4 finale that turned Gotham City into a No Man's Land, with all bridges out of the city destroyed by Jeremiah Valeska. Over the course of those nearly three months, the city was split up into sectors controlled by different groups, and most of them are rather nasty. GCPD occupies a spot, but villains rule the rest.
Victor Zsasz, Mr. Freeze, Penguin (at City Hall), Low Boyz, Scarecrow, Street Demons, and the Sirens each run a sector, with Penguin and the Sirens seeming like the most prosperous. Penguin managed to repurpose a factory and start producing bullets, which are extraordinarily valuable in a No Man's Land where no resources are coming in from the outside. As for the Sirens, Barbara and Tabitha's night club was the only place in Gotham that wasn't hurting for food or booze.
When Penguin developed a hankering for some fine steaks, he reached out to the Sirens, wanting to trade a thousands rounds of ammunition for a thousand pounds of meat. Tabitha, still furious and heartbroken that Penguin murdered Butch to get back at her for killing his mom, didn't want to deal with Penguin at all, but good old Babs (and her brand new hairdo) reminded Tabby that they needed what Penguin had to offer.
So, they had to trade, and Tabitha took the bullet that Penguin's rep had delivered, loading her gun and indicating that it was meant for Penguin. She would come to regret this decision.
As for Penguin, he wasn't venturing out of his stronghold at City Hall, and he finally got his leg fixed, with a handy sheath in his new boot for a knife. He also wasn't being the most magnanimous leader, denying his workers enough food to the point that they physically couldn't work hard enough to produce perfect bullets. The ammo he distributed had every chance of misfiring.
The conflict between Tabitha and Penguin came to a head rather unexpectedly at the climax of the episode. In a warehouse, Jim and the GCPD were facing off against Penguin and his henchmen, both trying to seize the valuable resources contained in a downed Wayne Enterprises helicopter. They reached an impasse when Jim couldn't bring himself to back down and Penguin didn't want to kill him (like this). Enter Tabby!
Tabitha joined the fray out of nowhere, firing crossbow bolts through the chests of Penguin's men before grabbing Penguin and holding him at gunpoint. She pulled the trigger, but unfortunately, Tabby's bullet failed to fire. Thanks, Penguin. It threw Tabitha off enough that Penguin was able to turn the tables and stab her in the heart in a mortal blow. Barbara screamed in fury and unloaded her own handgun despite Tabby's last words of "Barbara, don't..."
Penguin wanted to call them even and move on, but Babs declared that she would kill him for what he did to Tabitha, and the crazy gleam in her eye definitely makes me believe she means what she says. Given that I have a hard time believing Gotham would kill off Penguin along with Barbara's absence from the flash-forward that began the episode, I have to wonder if Barbara's vendetta against Penguin due to Tabby's demise will result in her death.
Gotham has rarely stuck to DC Comics canon in crafting its stories, but the biggest beats from the comics generally make it to Gotham. Although the No Man's Land arc on Gotham is already different from the arc of the same name from the pages of DC Comics, I consider it unlikely at this point that the show would kill off Penguin, especially when crazy Barbara Kean isn't a character from the comics. Penguin is iconic; would Gotham really allow Barbara to successfully exact revenge and live to tell the tale?
I won't rule out Barbara killing Penguin to avenge Tabitha or at least Barbara surviving to the end of the series, especially since her death would rule out my crackpot theory about a baby Batgirl. If Ed and Lee hadn't stabbed each other to (temporary) death at the end of Season 4, I'd consider perhaps Barbara and Penguin killing each other. As of now, however, my money is much more on Barbara dying at Penguin's hand rather than the other way around. This is the fifth and final season, so all bets may be off about characters dying and actually staying dead.
At this point, the only major characters that we can count on making it to the big apocalyptic firefight that was revealed via the flash-forward that opened the Season 5 premiere are Jim, Harvey, Penguin, and Riddler, the latter two of whom will look positively dapper for the deadly occasion. Considering the four men and what appear to be the remnants of the GCPD are facing off against what looks like a military force, I'm guessing that this is either an attack from Shane West's character (who is also a major DC Comics villain) or the government.
Find out if Babs bites the dust before the flash-forward or lives to scheme another day with new episodes of Gotham on Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET on Fox, ahead of new episodes of The Orville. The premiere also featured Ecco invading the GCPD, only to scrawl "HAHA! HA! HA! HA!" in red on Jim's map of Gotham City, shaping the words into a red smile below two eyes she also drew. All in all, as creepy an image as we'd expect of Jeremiah's henchwoman. As for Jeremiah, he was nowhere to be seen. Only time will tell how he inevitably returns.