A closer look at what might be in store for Jim Gordon.
At the end of Gotham: Season 4, with several giant game-changing explosions, the bridges connecting the city to the outside world fell into the river, isolating everyone left behind and sending the streets spiraling into chaos.
Ra’s al Ghul and “Proto-Joker Number Two” Jeremiah Valeska’s plot to level Gotham had come to pass and now it was up to Jim Gordon and Bruce Wayne, along with few loyal allies, to protect the remaining citizens from the villains who were about to run roughshod over the entire city.
Welcome to No Man’s Land. Which wasn’t just the title for Gotham’s Season 4 finale, and now the subtitle for Season 5’s entire run, but also the name of a famous Batman comic book crossover arc from 1999 created by Jordan B. Gorfinkel. Like most comic book references on Gotham though (like the Court of Owls and Killing Joke), this one will be done with a heaping helping of twists and tweaks, given that Batman himself isn’t a character on the show.
In Gotham’s Season 5 premiere (read our review of “Year Zero” here) our heroes have been trapped inside the isolated city for a couple months. Jim Gordon, his cops, and a few others have stayed behind to keep the peace. Or, at least, keep everything from falling into complete hell. But time is running out as food and supplies are drastically low and those Gordon is in contact with on the other side of the river don’t seem interested in saving anyone.
If the storyline already feels familiar it’s because it also provided the blueprint for parts of 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises, in which all of Gotham gets seized by Bane and the League of Shadows, and held hostage under threat of nuclear annihilation. The idea is basically the same at its core though: Gotham is cut off from the world, abandoned by the government, while Jim Gordon tries to make things right and keep people safe on the inside.
Here’s a brief rundown of how No Man’s Land played out in the comics:
A massive earthquake decimates Gotham and the U.S. government uses the disaster to declare the entire area a “no man’s land” in hopes of basically doing what the League of Assassins/Shadows longed to do: build up a new and better city from the ashes. A reboot. Soldiers get rid of the bridges and block every exit, quarantining the entire city.
Arkham inmates then flood the streets, with criminals carving up territories and turfs while Jim Gordon opts to stay behind, with Batman, to protect the innocent people still trapped inside. Oracle (Jim’s daughter) and Huntress (who dons the Batman suit during one of Batman’s long absences) aid the resistance as well, while Jim’s cop brigade becomes known as the Blue Boys.
GONE GOTHAM GONE
Meanwhile, villains like Joker (plus a new-to-comics Harley Quinn), Poison Ivy (who begins her friendship with Harley), Penguin, Bane, Two-Face, Zsasz, Clayface, Scarecrow, and even Lex Luthor (from the outside) try to take advantage of the situation with various plots, schemes, and murderous mayhem. Occasionally, some actually team with Gordon and Batman, like Ivy and Two-Face, against more pressing enemies, but in the end it all comes down to Gordon’s grit and iron will to make the city whole again.
Oh, and Riddler actually flees the city and isn’t around for any of it. Maybe he is the smartest of all of Batman’s foes.
When Batman leaves for an extended period of time, as Bruce attempts to use his wealth and public persona to convince the government to reverse its decision, Gordon feels betrayed and denounces all things Batman. During the Caped Crusader’s time away, Huntress protects the streets wearing the Batman suit while League of Assassins-trained Cassandra Cain, with Oracle’s blessing, becomes the new Batgirl.
The comics kind of bend and twist to keep Superman and the Justice League largely out of this crisis (Superman does try, at one point), but the show obviously won’t have to deal with any of these characters, or even Batman, so it’s all just going to focus on Jim, Bruce, and the ground game.
The entire arc ends in tragedy for Jim Gordon, who seems to wield a never-ending supply of self-owns, after his wife, Sarah Essen, is killed off by Joker. Now, obviously the show can’t make the same play because Jim isn’t married to anyone right now and Sarah Essen, as a character, was killed off by Jerome Valeska back in Season 2 (hey, she still got done in by a “Joker”). But the show does still have Jim Gordon, Jeremiah Valeska, and people Jim cares about (Lee, Harvey, Barbara to a certain extent, etc). So it’s entirely possible that Jim gets a painful pyrrhic victory in the end.
In the comics, Jim takes Sarah’s death hard (as it’s the umpteenth brutal blow delivered to him by Joker after years of battling him), heeds Batman’s call for justice and not revenge, shoots Joker in the knee, and then retires from the force (it doesn’t take). However this plays out on the show, maybe it’s Jim who takes a long leave from Gotham pre-Batman, and not Bruce. Maybe when Jim returns, Batman’s already there. There are many ways this thing could go.
YOU’RE SO BANE
With Bane (or a proto-version of Bane) entering the mix in Season 5, played by Shane West, we should look at how he played into the No Man’s Land comics story. Hired by Lex Luthor, the mercenary Bane enters Gotham in order to destroy the Hall of Records and stop Joker from messing up Lex’s plans to rebuild the city and nab key real estate. On the show, West’s Eduardo Dorrance, who will probably wind up being Bane’s father, shows up with some elite soldiers to help Jim restore order.
So “Bane” is still coming into the wasteland, from the outside world, but who he’s taking orders from, or how it’ll all wind up going to hell, remains a mystery right now. All we know is that things won’t work out between him and the good guys, Hugo Strange will probably factor in, and it’ll all somehow feed into actual Bane’s actual origin.
Gotham’s fifth and final season will focus on Jim, Bruce, Alfred, Harvey, and Lucius working together to stop the remains of Gotham from being ruled by Penguin, Jeremiah Valeska, Riddler, Barbara Kean, Scarecrow, Firefly, Mr. Freeze, Zsasz, and numerous other villains who’ve staked their claim in the city’s remains. How many angles and aspects of the comic book arc will play out? That remains to be seen.
Gotham’s Season 5 airs Thursdays on FOX.
Matt Fowler is a writer for IGN and a member of the Television Critics Association. Follow him on Twitter at @TheMattFowler and Facebook at Facebook.com/MattBFowler.