‘This city is even sicker than I thought,’ Detective Jim Gordon declares during the trailer advertising the first season of Gotham. It certainly looked intriguing as it showed a power battle between Gotham’s criminal families of Falcone and Maroni. In between this is Jim Gordon a new cop trying his best to save Gotham from the corruption and lawlessness that has engulfed the city like a virus.
Although Gotham opens with the murder of Bruce Wayne’s Parents I had hoped that this would just be a back story. We would see more of Gotham and how it is infested with criminality and why it needs someone like Batman to clean the city up.
It was also a new angle to explore. Ever since Tim Burton made Batman dark again in the late 80s with Michael Keaton in the starring role, there had been various adaption’s. Val Kilmer, George Clooney, and Christian Bale have all donned the famous Batman costume. Not forgetting of course Batman the animated series which has to be the best adaption so far.
Consequently in order to avoid comparisons to the recent films it made sense to do a story about Gotham and the inhabitants.
There is no question that it has been well casted from Ben Mackenzie who plays Jim Gordon to Sean Pertwee who plays Alfred. The actors seem to enjoy it and the show is well crafted. Yet there is a feeling of a missed opportunity and whether the producers have played safe.
Of course some of the well-known villains can be introduced but really should be minimal. For example Poison Ivy doesn’t fit in with her character biography. She is after all meant to be a Doctor in Botany raised by wealthy Parents and not a scruffy street kid.
Also the relationship between Bullock and Gordon is somewhat different to what is portrayed in the comics and other adaption’s. Bullock has been previously been portrayed as a lazy, incompetent cop who is constantly at odds with Gordon. In Gotham the pair are the best of buddies with Bullock proving more than a competent detective.
The other problem is the amount of known Batman villains that are in the show. We have the Penguin, Riddler, Selina Kyle (later to become Catwoman), Clayface, Firefly, the Mad Hatter, even Ra’s Al Ghul to name but a few before we come to the Joker or Jerome as he is known in the show. By the time Batman becomes a known presence in the mean streets of Gotham most of these villains will not only be well-known but a little past it.
Initially it seemed that Gotham was veering towards a gang feud between Falcone and Maroni. Through Jim Gordon we were going to lift up the carpet and see how he was not only fighting the villains but the political corruption that allowed the likes of Falcone free rein. However despite the conniving going on between the warring factions it started to veer towards villain of the week.
Maybe the problem was keeping Bruce Wayne as a major character. That’s not to say that the actor who plays the future Batman doesn’t play the part well. Indeed the relationship between his Guardian Alfred also played superbly by Sean Pertwee is one of the best performances. We have Alfred playing the surrogate Father and trying to protect Bruce as we watch how he will become Batman. However having a young Bruce Wayne distracts from what the show is supposed to be about. After all Gotham was advertised as ‘Gotham before Batman.’ Only we still have him hovering in the background.
Barbara Kean is also a bit of a weak link and it will be interesting to see if and how she ends being married to Jim Gordon. After all in they are meant to have a young daughter together.
The mayoral elections became a bit silly especially when Galavan tried to run the city into the ground and ended up getting killed not once but twice. When Penguin or Oswald Cobblepot stood it became a take of Donald Trump’s Presidential campaign with its ‘make Gotham great again.’
Watching Jim Gordon bending the rules time and time again to such an extent that it could be argued he is as bad as the villains he is meant to chasing. For example he uses the Penguin to gain further information from a corrupt cop.
Gordon is meant to be the small ray of light who tries to do good, by legal means. Indeed the question has to be would Gordon be the sort of cop that Batman in the future would be after?
Due to Netflix’s being the only avenue to watch Gotham in the UK it is a only up to series three. This incidentally ended with the Mad Hatter releasing the ‘Tetch,’ virus which caused mayhem in Gotham. Jim Gordon incidentally just about saving himself and Leslie Tompkins after they had injected the said virus.
Again part of this was all a little bit daft with the spurned relationship between Penguin and the Riddler leading to the pair temporally teaming up to escape after previously trying to kill each other.
Despite the initial promise of seeing how Gotham gets up to the point that it needs a vigilante dressed as a Bat to save the city we get a show that might as well be titled Batman. After all a young Joker has already caused mayhem and Jim Gordon just seems to be seen as a prototype Batman (albeit crossing a few lines).
Maybe the producers panicked or it just panned out that they were giving what they thought most viewers wanted.
What is disappointing is that Gotham could have been so much more. The viewer could have seen what and how the city becomes the way it is. Rather than seeing Bruce Wayne, Selina, the Penguin, Riddler etc. we see the real inhabitants of Gotham.
It doesn’t even have to be about Jim Gordon trying to clean Gotham but random stories about different individuals. The tales could be how they cope with Gotham and how the culture makes it unique. After all there has to be some good points to living in Gotham otherwise nobody would live there. Furthermore it could show that sometimes not everything is as black and white.
For example one week it could consist of how someone gets entangled with crime, the next episode a clean politician doing their best to cut through the corruption, another of a new inhabitant arriving. Then of course there is the feud between Falcone and Maroni. Indeed the episodes don’t necessarily have to be about crime but could be a daft romantic tale or a story of someone incarcerated in Arkham.
The only mention of Bruce Wayne could simply be an old newspaper rolling through the gutter about his Parents being murdered. Then we roll onto the story that Gotham can give.
Although the cast is great it still feels as though it is a missed opportunity of what it could have been. Once the series eventually ends I don’t think it will be held in the same fondness and quality of Batman adaption’s such as the animated series.