A dark night is coming to Gotham. On Sunday, Fox announced that the upcoming fifth season of Gotham will also be its last, serving as a midseason program for 13 episodes. But just how will the show’s young Bruce Wayne get to become Batman? There are three possible ways.
Since 2014, Fox and Warner Bros. have told the very early days of Batman, Jim Gordon, and the villains of Gotham City. Set in between the deaths of Thomas and Martha Wayne and Bruce Wayne’s debut as Batman, Gotham follows a young Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie), an idealistic cop who tries to enforce law and order in a city built on chaos. David Mazouz also stars as an adolescent Bruce Wayne, who is only starting to learn what he’s truly capable of.
When Gotham started, showrunner Bruno Heller was adamant about not putting a mask on any of its protagonists. “If there is a superhero in the show, it is Gotham,” Heller said at the TCAs in 2014. “To me, heroes are more interesting than superheroes because the difference is superheroes do the impossible and drama is really about the physically possible. This is about people and people trying to overcome real problems versus trying to learn how to fly.”
The library of awesome superhero shows and films with fully-realized characters beg to differ, but we’re not the ones producing TV. Still, a year later at Wizard World in Chicago, McKenzie revealed that Batman would appear in Gotham at the very end of the series. With the end of Gotham rather imminent, it seems his arrival is is coming a lot sooner than expected.
As the origin story for Batman, here are three ways that Gotham, in its current state, can evolve its adolescent Bruce Wayne into a proper caped crusader.
1. Ra’s Al Ghul
Season 4 of Gotham has predominantly featured Alexander Siddig as Ra’s Al Ghul, the antagonistic sorcerer and master over the League of Assassins who in different canons has mentored Bruce Wayne in his transformation to Batman. It was a few short weeks ago when Ra’s Al Ghul swore to turn Bruce “into a dark knight of Gotham.” And it was last week when Ra’s revealed a vision of Gotham City in flames, with a vague grand plan involving Bruce.
Will Gotham go down the route of Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins and give Bruce Wayne over to Ra’s? It’s unlikely, as Ra’s is about to raze Gotham City in spectacular fashion. But if Bruce can let bygones be bygones, he’ll probably let himself train with the League of Assassins and pick up the necessary skills to become Batman that even Alfred can’t teach. Besides, when they’re done, Bruce could just burn their house down too.
2. A Time Jump
This one is necessary. At 17 years old currently, Mazouz is still far too young to portray even a young Batman, who canonically started fighting crime in costume in his mid-twenties. While recasting Mazouz isn’t in the cards, there at least has to be some sense of time passing before Gotham can have a Batman.
No Man’s Land/Zero Year
The title of the Season 4 finale of Gotham, airing on May 17, is “No Man’s Land,” an homage to an epic 1999 crossover that saw Gotham so utterly destroyed before its born anew. In Batman: No Man’s Land, Gotham is ravaged by earthquakes, forcing the U.S. government to declare it a “no man’s land” and isolate the city from the rest of the country. This leaves the city’s criminal elements to carve up territories, leaving Gotham victim to a modern feudal state.
At more than 80 issues, No Man’s Land is a modern epic for Batman. But it’s unlikely Gotham can even pull off a fraction of the scale of No Man’s Land. A more suitable model would be the more recent Scott Snyder crossover Batman: Zero Year from 2013, which takes aspects of No Man’s Land and updates them to be part of the Bat’s modern-day origin story. That storyline culminated with the Riddler taking control over Gotham and cutting it off from the rest of the world (you can see a pattern here), forcing Batman to really step up from vigilante crime-fighter to hero.
While of course Gotham can’t replicate Zero Year one-to-one either, it’s a more appropriate model than No Man’s Land. The themes are recurring: One villain takes control over a city, forcing the city into isolation, leaving Bruce Wayne to save the city as a costumed hero. It feels like what Gotham has been building up to all along.
Gotham airs Thursdays on Fox at 8 p.m. Eastern.