It’s official — I added a Batman category.
I’ve been watching and enjoying the hell out of Gotham. For those who haven’t seen it, it’s Batman without Batman. It follows Jim Gordon as a new cop in Gotham City right around the time of the Martha and Thomas Wayne murders. Said murders, in fact, occur in the pilot. It’s an origin series — for the villains. And my, what villains. The only villain that’s slowly becoming established at this point is Penguin, but they are doing a marvelous job with the slow burn. He gets ahead because he’s completely unassuming, very clever and absolutely ruthless. They introduce Selina Kyle, but she’s still a kid (probably 12 or 13). The probable future Poison Ivy is even younger. You have Carmine Falcone as a major villain, the Marrone family (which is his competition), and a made-for-tv character, Fish Mooney, who’s an underboss for Falcone but wants to supplant him, played by Jada-Pinkett Smith. Oh, and there’s a certain Edward Nygma who works for the GCPD; so far he’s just a pain in the ass, not really a villain, but again, seeds are being planted.
What I really like about this series is the emphasis on the Waynes, of which Bruce is the last member. Both directly and indirectly, the murder of the Waynes is the culmination of a long trend; Gotham has always been more or less shitty, but removing the Waynes is what throws the entire city into the toilet. The Waynes stemmed the tide of criminal corruption by being wealthy, selfless philanthropists. Bruce (who’s probably 13, maybe 12) and Alfred try to replace their contributions, but they can’t, because Bruce is a kid and Alfred is a dick. Sean Pertwee’s Alfred Pennyworth is such a radical take on the character, as a side note. Alfred is out and out an asshole to Bruce from time to time, like he wants to just spank the bejesus out of him, but Alfred has to come to grips with how strong willed Bruce is.
This series has a frightening amount of potential — if it gets time. Pacing is going to be so ridiculously critical. Penguin has slowly worked his way up in the Marrone family; it’s clear he’s being positioned to become a major factor, but not clear how he’ll get there. The other villains — so far each episode has had its own — have all been one note characters. They’ve resisted the impulse to work other major villains into the plot. That’s exactly right; I think by the end of this season, we’ll see Penguin’s rise to the top of the criminal underworld, and maybe one other major villain (I’ve seen a trailer that seems to indicate Hush — how awesome would that be?) and a couple of minor ones.
The only way the show could fail is if Fox pulls the plug (surely they aren’t that stupid… surely?) or rushes things. People will want Batman; they will expect to see Batman. But they shouldn’t get Batman, not for many seasons yet (if at all). I’d even say keep the Joker out for at least two full seasons, maybe even three. I love how Arkham: Origins handled Joker’s origin; he’s a mysterious psychopath who kills people for fun, but he’s so non-descript nobody even knows who he is. It’s his first meeting with Batman that transformed the Joker into the Joker, gave his life purpose and meaning. Nobody’s had the chance to tell Joker’s real origin; this is that opportunity. Make him a minor character, or even a major one, but he has to be at least partially sitting on the sidelines. A complete free agent, unattached to any crime family.
Smallville got 10 seasons, but it was largely marketed to teens and young adults. Gotham is manifestly not. Hopefully that means patience will be the watchword. I’d like to see each season cover maybe two years, if they’re going to ultimately give us Batman. If they aren’t, one year per season is sufficient.
All I know is, I can’t wait to see what happens.
3 thoughts on “Gotham: The TV show Batman deserves?”
These are my thoughts having not seen the show yet. I’m going to wait until season 1 hits Netflix, as I don’t have the desire to plan to sit in front of a TV at a certain time anymore…
I hope this series lasts for a while and also does not introduce Bruce Wayne as Batman until the series finale. I know the temptation is there, but it would be nice to watch the city through the eyes of Jim Gordon. I understand the desire to speed through this part, but once you introduce Batman, the raison d’etre of the show is over and a live-action Batman television series could end up looking terrible. The recent movies looked great, but they had gigantic budgets; a TV series is going to be much more limited in what they can do, and I’d rather have no Batman than Batman in a cheap rubber suit with silly CG effects.
Incidentally, this reminds me of the 1985 Batman: Year One, which should have been named Gordon: Year One. That comic included a young Bruce Wayne as he starts his career as Batman, but really focused on Jim Gordon’s one-man stand against corruption in the GCPD. This was also one of the best Batman comics ever, in my opinion.
Incidentally, the purist(?) in me chafes at E. Nygma as a policeman. He was a puzzle designer and later programmer (in the animated series) with a superiority complex. The problem is that Nygma as the Riddler is nothing without the World’s Greatest Detective to act as his foil, and Nygma as the World’s Second-Greatest Detective only works as a face turn (okay, I’ll stop stealing your wrestling lingo now). I don’t like the idea of him starting as a detective and then going bad; there is already a much better example of that in the Batman universe: Two-Face.
Nygma’s a forensics nerd, not a cop. I have a feeling he’s going to get kicked out of the GCPD pretty soon because everyone hates his guts.
There’s been a lot of good and some not so much bad as worrying so far (Having watched the first three episodes).
Cobblepot/Penguin – I’d never seen Robin Lord Taylor before this and me first thought on seeing him was that there is no change this scrawny fairly lanky kid can ever be the Penguin, but within 20 minutes he just completely owned the role to the point where I may never see the original again without being slightly disappointed. Penguin wouldn’t have been my first choice for a story like this, always came across as rather bland other than his grotesque shape for me but this take on him is far more interesting so far. I worry they may rush things but so far it’s been pretty awesome.
Harvey Bullock – Perfect representation of the corruption of the city but somehow still retains something of a redeeming quality, it feels like he is how he is because he has been beaten into submission in the past but still has an ounce of conscience in there somewhere. I could easily see him becoming the character from the Animate Series, which is my favourite version of him.
Fish Mooney – Deliciously megalomaniacal and ruthless and perfectly cast, shame she is unlikely to be hanging around (I’m guessing she is the fall villain for the series) but it will be fun while it lasts.
James Gordon – So far he’s been pitched about right, moral as ever but beginning to realise that he can’t b a boy scout if he wants to make a difference, how this pans out is key to everything about the series.
Bruce Wayne – Yes I get he is 12 and in mourning, but so far he’s shown no sign of any charisma whatsoever. If Wayne it to continue to be a major part of the series then something needs to be done to make his character likeable, interesting or sympathetic. Personally I’d be tempted to have him won over by Gordon at the end of this series then disappear to boarding school or something for a while.
Lesbians/Love Triangles – Do we really need this? It isn’t even believable that Gordon doesn’t know that his partner used to be an item with a female cop who is investigating him. The whole thing reeks of edginess for the sake of it.
Selina Kyle – Similar to Wayne in many ways but more interesting, my first concern is she seems so much older than Wayne, a role traditionally reversed. My second is that she is too involved in things too young, all previous origins of her start a few years later and are heavily influenced by seeing Batman in action, that obviously can’t be the route here.
Alfred – I actually quite like the character from Gotham, he’s reacting just as you would expect to the situation he has been thrown into and clearly has a lot of growing to do (Pertwee is good enough to do it as well) before he becomes the wise old Alfred we know and love. My problem is he just doesn’t seem like the kind of person that the Wayne’s would hire as a Butler, a problem that would be so easy to fix by changing things slightly to make it that he was hired more as a protector for Bruce than as house help.
It will get time, it’s batman after all, plus it is aimed at the exact same people who spent those 10 years watching smallville.