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Spoilers ahead for the series finale of Gotham on Fox, called "The Beginning..."
Sadly, the time has finally come for fans to say goodbye to Gotham after its five wild, wonderful, wacky seasons on Fox. The fifth season saw the characters with big names from DC Comics finally approaching their destinies as heroes and/or villains. The series finale flashed forward in time ten years to introduce Batman and the new Gotham that he was tasked with protecting as the Dark Knight.
The finale ended in such a way that viewers can easily imagine what might happen next and what kind of Batman Gotham's Bruce Wayne will become. It also brought the series full circle regarding the cast of characters who surrounded and shaped Gotham City for years.
Still, flashing forward ten years meant that some things had to change, and not just because Selina Kyle was recast. Gotham showrunner John Stephens explained to CinemaBlend the challenges of jumping ahead in time by a decade, as well as J's big moment and that gruesome death. Let's start with what he had to say about the challenges of the time jump:
The biggest challenges involved giving the characters a new color, which was difficult because in 100 episodes of television where they were constantly changing, they’d been through a lot of colors. Take all of Barbara’s permutations, or all Penguin’s different changes, and when you assume that he’s still going to be a villain in the finale, then how can you give him a different aspect? And a lot of the answer came from us looking back to the pilot and tying certain elements of the characters to those roots in the pilot—e.g. Penguin on the pier with Jim—and giving them colors that showed how they changed.
As much as the characters were still perfectly recognizable in the flash-forward episode -- including Selina, despite the fact that a new actress was tackling the role -- there were still natural changes. Ten years had passed, after all! Some of the most altered characters were those who operated as villains (or antiheroes at best) up to and during the penultimate episode.
The finale revealed that Barbara Kean held true to her determination to stick to the straight and narrow after becoming a mom so that she could raise her daughter to be a good person, with the help of Jim and Lee. Crazy Barbara was no longer so crazy; she became a shrewd businesswoman after buying up all kinds of cheap land in the aftermath of No Man's Land and profiting when rebuilding started.
In fact, Barbara had a new building under construction that was going to take away the new Wayne Tower's status as the tallest building in Gotham City! Still Barbara, but a Barbara who channeling her energies into mostly lawful pursuits. Young Barbara Lee was good for Barbara, and she seemed to be on good terms with Jim and presumably Lee.
Penguin and Riddler also went through some big changes, although in the opposite direction of Barbara Kean. Despite their efforts to save Gotham in the penultimate episode, they both wound up behind bars for most of the decade that passed before the finale.
Penguin was in Blackgate without his many resources (or his dog), and Riddler was in Arkham. Since Gotham's finale wouldn't have felt right without those two baddies in the mix, Penguin was released with some extra meat on his bones and Riddler was sprung from Arkham by J, a.k.a. the latest version of Jeremiah after his dip in the chemicals. They were determined to be the best of the worst of the criminal element in Gotham City, and even an attack from the Batman didn't dampen their hopes.
It did just about scare the pants off of them, though, which was good for a laugh. Bruce clearly didn't lose his sense of humor during the ten-year time jump, if his choice to tie Penguin and Riddler together and dangle them from a lamppost is an indication.
Of course, the real baddie of the finale was J. It was no secret that Jeremiah was somehow going to come back despite being dunked in the vat of glowing green liquid at Ace Chemicals prior to the time jump, and he was somehow even crazier than ever. As it turns out, he spent years faking his catatonic state at Arkham, biding his time until Bruce Wayne returned to Gotham City and then enacting his crazed plan on the night of the big Wayne Tower gala.
To do so, Jeremiah -- now going by J and coming oh-so-close to claiming the Joker title -- kidnapped Barbara Lee and lured Jim to Ace Chemicals, and he very nearly succeeded in dropping her into a vat of chemicals. Jim dove for the rope holding her and caught her before she hit the liquid, and somebody out of sight knocked Jeremiah back.
What was Jeremiah knocked back by? Batarangs! The first stopped him from continuing to stab Jim, the second impaled him through the hand -- much to J's twisted delight -- and the third clocked him in the head. Batman stayed out of Jim's field of vision, but J saw him and cackled gleefully.
Now, it seemed like J was so gleeful because he recognized the shadowy figure as Bruce Wayne, and he was certainly hit quite hard by the batarangs, which seemed all the more vicious considering what relatively little Batman did to Penguin and Riddler. It wasn't 100% clear if J was still alive following the encounter.
Fortunately, John Stephens cleared up the situation and answered whether J recognized Bruce as Batman:
I believe so, yes.... Indeed, they [the batarangs] are ridiculously sharp. Or maybe he just threw it really, really hard. ...Nope, [he's not dead].
J may have survived the series finale, but the same can't be said for his faithful assistant. Although Ecco, a.k.a. Gotham's take on Harley Quinn, bit the dust well before the showdown at Ace Chemicals, she was instrumental in the setup. When Barbara dropped by her old club office with Barbara Lee to pick up a handgun, she was surprised to hear "Crimson and Clover" by Joan Jett & The Blackhearts begin to play from out on the club floor.
Alas for the reformed Barbara, it was Ecco, and she wasn't alone. Ecco grabbed Barbara and J emerged from the shadows. A temporary save came in the unlikely form of 10-year-old Barbara Lee, who flung something at Ecco, giving Barbara the chance to stab Ecco and try to escape.
Between Barbara Lee's great aim at nailing Ecco's arm and determined but ineffective punches to J, the stage seems pretty set for her to take on a cape and cowl of her own once she grows up a bit more!
Jeremiah was too quick, though, and he shot Barbara in the leg and grabbed hold of Barbara Lee. It was too late for Ecco. She was clearly dying from the stab wound, but apparently not quickly enough for J's taste.
She gave an adoring smile when he said that there would never be another one like her... and then he shot her dead, and blood began to pour out of her smile, giving her a ghoulish look as she dropped dead to the floor. J then reflected that "there are other fish in the sea." Maybe he'll still get his Harley Quinn someday!
When asked if the decision to kill off Ecco was to punctuate just how single-minded J had become, John Stephens said this:
Pretty much yes. And we wanted the final confrontation with J to be with J alone.
As great a character as Ecco was, there just wasn't room for her in the final epic villainous confrontation of the series. That distinction belonged to J and J alone. Honestly, would it have really worked if Ecco was on the scene, helping J as he tormented Jim and Barbara Lee? J was scary all on his own, and it felt fitting that his first encounter with Batman happened when he was flying solo as a villain.
Sadly, we'll never get to see the dynamic between Batman and J moving forward, but at least there's not going to be any canon to stop us from imagining that J gets the Joker name some time after the final credits rolled. The stage is set for the next stage of good vs. bad in Gotham City, and even if we won't get to see it, that's a good thing.