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Gotham Season One

May 23, 2015

I just finished season one of the Fox television series Gotham and as one of the world’s biggest Batman fans, I feel compelled to share my feelings on it. Spoilers below.

I can’t say I loved the idea of a Batman show without Batman, so although intrigued, I was mostly skeptical about how Gotham was going to turn out. I felt like the first season was very up and down. It started out a bit corny – Jada Pinkett Smith as Fish Mooney was borderline intolerable at first – but somewhere around midseason it picked up and became the show I was looking forward to watching the most… and then it got a little lackluster towards the end again.

One of the biggest problems with Gotham is that the creators don’t seem very prepared with the grand scope of the show. I get the feeling they are making it up as they go and really have no idea where it’s headed. Most of Batman’s rogues gallery exist because he exists – but on Gotham, most of his major villains are going to be fleshed out long before Bruce Wayne ever dons the cape and cowl. Bruce is maybe 12 years old in this show – a good seven to nine years before Batman might make his first appearance – but by the end of season one, the Penguin is already the crime boss of Gotham City, Carmine Falcone is retired, and Sal Moroni is dead. So the latter two characters – crucial to Batman’s world – are already out of the game; and Bruce is 12.

Obviously the show must take some liberties with the Batman mythos to function as something watchable, but that’s why it was a problematic concept in the first place. Bruce and Selina Kyle already have a strong friendship and some attraction towards each other. In Gotham, Catwoman won’t be a product of Batman’s existence, she’ll be a lifelong friend – and Bruce will never wonder about her true identity. Tommy Elliot, a childhood friend of Bruce’s that eventually becomes the supervillain Hush, is merely a school bully that inspires Bruce to ask Alfred to teach him how to fight. This is a pretty strange gloss over considering this is one of the relationships Gotham could have fleshed out without rubbing purists the wrong way. How about The Riddler working with the GCPD? Again, when The Riddler comes to fruition, the whole police department will know who he is.

And then there’s Jada Pinkett Smith’s Fish Mooney or as the the trailers for the show described her: “the mother of all villains.” But is she though? Somehow every Batman comic, movie and television episode had managed to be written up to this point without the existence of Fish Mooney. Something tells me Oswald Cobblepot could have become The Penguin without her. I have to say I hated the character at first. Jada was giving a really over-the-top performance for the first several episodes and it was unbearable. Now, I can’t say if I got used to her acting as the show progressed or she actually toned it down as the season went on, but Fish Mooney grew on me. Still, I can’t help but feel that this character exits because the showrunners felt compelled to include something original, but when Fish plummets to her presumed death at the end of season one, you have to wonder: what was the point?

Gotham did plenty of things well in its first season. I really like Ben McKenzie as Jim Gordon. He’s the focal point of the series at this point and the writers have done a great job of making him the hero even though we know who is waiting in the wings. Robin Lord Taylor crushes his role as The Penguin, who is by far the most interesting villain on the show. The Penguin is the perfect antagonist for a pre-Batman Gotham, as his rise to crime boss has very little to do with The Caped Crusader. Taylor does a great job of toeing the line with The Penguin – he can be helpful, cunning, feign weakness, cold-blooded, back-stabbing – and shows no limits as to what he’ll do be Gotham’s top boss. Sean Pertwee as Alfred and David Mazouz as a young Bruce are amongst the other cast highlights.

Season one of Gotham wastes little time introducing core Batman characters. Off the top of my head, season one included appearances from Batman, Catwoman, The Penguin, The Riddler, Poison Ivy, The Joker, The Flying Graysons, Two Face, Scarecrow, Hush, The Red Hood, The Dollmaker, Victor Zsasz, Copperhead, The Electrocutioner, and possibly some others that I’m overlooking. Season two plans for even more introductions. It all seems like too much too soon and Bruce is simply too young. Most of Batman’s rogues gallery is going to be completely fleshed out by season 3 or season 4 and Bruce will probably be in his mid-teens at that point, pre-Batman.

Overall, I enjoyed watching Gotham but the show feels rushed and unorganized. I’m curious to see how everything is handled in the future because it seems like the writers haven’t thought it through entirely. I just have a hard time imagining all the Bat-villains roaming Gotham long before Batman ever shows up.

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