Gotham season 5 has finally provided an explanation for the flashforward scene that saw Jim Gordon join forces with Penguin and the Riddler. Returning after a week off air, Gotham continued with "13 Stitches," an episode that covered plenty of narrative ground; Eduardo Dorrance was transformed into the iconic villain known as Bane, Lee Thompkins made her long-awaited return and Barbara Kean revealed that she's pregnant with Jim's Bat-baby.
Gotham season 4 concluded by triggering the "No Man's Land" comic arc, in which Gotham City is isolated from the outside world and criminals run amok within. The fifth season premiere then opened on a particularly curious note; taking place almost a year after the city was cut off, a flashforward saw Jim Gordon and Harvey Bullock fighting alongside sworn enemies Penguin and Riddler against a mysterious threat.
Seeing this hastily assembled motley crew of Gothamites working together was hugely surprising. Although both Riddler and Penguin have worked alongside Gordon on occasion, they have become steadily more villainous as Gotham has progressed. As for the two villains themselves, relations could hardly be worse, thanks to a series of failed assassination attempts from both sides following Penguin's infatuation with Nygma. It's safe to say that no one in this three-way alliance gets along on a personal level, making their enigmatic opponent all the more foreboding. Subsequent episodes have hinted at how and why these wildly different figures might come together, but "13 Stitches" finally filled in the blanks, with the makeshift allies uniting for the first time.
The key piece of context in understanding the flashforward scene is Shane West's Bane and the woman controlling him, Theresa Walker. Initially presenting herself as a potential ally of Jim Gordon's out on the mainland, this episode revealed that Walker's real goal is to destroy Gotham City and cleanse its infestation of criminality and villainy. While Walker herself is, as far as viewers know, merely a rogue politician, she is able to call upon a crack team of military mercenaries, led by Dorrance, to do her bidding.
Alfred Pennyworth used his army smarts to identify Dorrance's goons as belonging to a particularly nasty set of "bastards" who are less "humanitarian aid" and more "deadly assassination squad." Back in the season premiere's flashforward, the group Gordon and co. are seen fighting against appear to be wearing military uniforms and are using equipment that wouldn't be unfamiliar to an organized mercenary unit. As such, it's easy to come to the conclusion that the army in the flashforward scene is an extension of the one currently controlled by Walker and Dorrance.
"13 Stitches" also sees the genesis of the GCPD's unusual alliance with Riddler and Penguin. Riddler doesn't offer his help willingly, but after discovering that Theresa Walker had a microchip inserted into his brain so that she could use him as a puppet, Riddler decides that siding with Gordon is the least bad option. Penguin was somewhat occupied with the emergence of Magpie, but his motivation for joining the alliance was established previously, when he declared an unwavering resolve to kill whoever was responsible for the attack on Haven. Now that Walker has been identified as the culprit, his cooperation is a guarantee, despite having personal grievances with both Gordon and Riddler.
Interestingly, this early version of the Gotham City alliance also includes Barbara Kean, a character who was not present in the season premiere's flashforward sequence. While Barbara's pregnancy could certainly be a factor in this, her absence might also hint at the character possibly switching sides further down the line or, alternatively, could be a sign that she won't actually live long enough to see the final battle.
However things develop from here, business has certainly picked up in Gotham since the arrival of Bane. Now that Walker has also emerged from the shadows, the alliance between Gordon, Penguin and Riddler may be immediately put to the test.
Gotham season 5 continues with "Ace Chemicals" February 21st on Fox.