Who Needs Gotham?
When I first heard about Gotham going into to production my eye brow was raised. I mulled it over in my mind and thought well it would kind of be great to see a pre-Batman police procedural series featuring a plucky young Jim Gordon railing against the criminal element no matter where it lay. When I sat down to watch this pre-Batman Gotham show my eyes were filled to the brim with a not so spot on recreation of the infamous alley scene. Our gunmen having lost his Chill and young Bruce Wayne advancing in age a few years, all of which again raised my eyebrow.
I’ll be the first to admit I wasn’t in it for the whole season but what I did see left me wanting less. Way less. Somewhere around the fifth episode “Viper” where I caught onto some prevailing themes. A pattern seems to emerge in episode structure. A crime is committed that somehow ties back to Wayne enterprises, little Bruce is infuriated. Straight arrow Jim Gordon and the tawdry gendarme Harvey Bullock take the case. Jim confronts the establishment of cruelty and police corruption, they threaten his life and his clever retort usually is “get out of my face”.
Bullock and Gordon go to Fish to ask permission to investigate the crime on her turf. Fish uses the opportunity to curry favor and plot against everyone in Gotham including herself. While Penguin plots against Fish, everyone else in Gotham and himself. With a “blessing” Gordon and Bullock examine the crime scene with a plucky young Edward Nygma who’s every thought and desire seems to be consumed by saying riddle and puzzle as many times as humanly possible.
Barbara Kean shows up to reassure Gordon he’s not cleaning up this city for nothing and to the desired sex object of detective Renee Montoya. Barbara the overwhelmed bi sexual invariably turns to darker comforts like binge drinking, light drugs or sex with one or both of her detective love interests. Harvey schools Gordon in life issues and decries all women too be shrill gold digging harpies all while shaking down the local hot dog/falafel/ pizza vendor for his next free meal.
While investigating the crime Gordon has a face off with his gruff veteran police captain Sarah Essen. She’s riled up about Gordon’s challenging the established order of cruelty and police corruption she’s used to having her back turned to it and had no plans to change it!. Half heartily eventually Bullock agrees solving crimes and putting bad people in jail is good and is what police should be doing and helps Gordon solve the crime.
Young Bruce Wayne under the callow care of his butler Alfred uncovers something about the inner workings of his family’s company he finds disturbing. Alfred gets very cross about this because Master Wayne isn’t grieving or acting like a normal 14 year old boy. Alfred finds a reason to exude dominance because that’s exactly what 4th generation British gentleman’s gentleman’s does.
Then the morose twist ending happens where Penguin or Fish do some plotting with the favor they curried in this story that leads into next weeks.
Where this show starts falling apart for me the whole thing tends to be very juvenile and takes a stern position that a character that won’t exist for another 12-15 years is somehow the central and defining figure in Gotham. A lot of things seem to just be very poorly planned fan service. But really what are they doing with these things story wise? As an example how as they using Edward Nygma our once and future Riddler?
He works for GCPD as a forensic technician his every line of dialogue meant too evoke riddles and puzzles and his sociopaths with them. His story ark revolves around Nygma’s infatuation with a co-worker Kristin Kryngle (really best name you could think of ?) and her boyfriend Doughrety. Eventually killing him out of jealously and reasons he sent Kristin a “cryptic” dear john letter. Saying she should read between the lines and find happiness somewhere else. Now of course down the vertical of the letter it must spell NYGMA. It must. Less the characteristics of a brilliant but wildly flawed man who’s singular drive in life is to prove his intellectual superiority over everyone. Leaving indigent clues and killing indiscriminately is really more the territory of The Cluemaster the mega blocks to The Riddlers Lego if you will.
What does he really end up adding to the world and the story. Not a heck of a lot really considering every week there seems to be another merciless dexterous killer with a gimmick in Gotham already. Making Edward a little less bright and shiny in comparison. To the Dollmaker, Balloonman, The assassin formerly known as prince and his marvelous mechanical pike and The Goat Man just to name a few.
Come to think of it What does Fish Mooney do? Again I’m forced to say not a lot. Putting aside the logical issue of a black women of gregarious sexual orientation somehow becomes a high ranking lieutenant in the Italian mob. Of course predominately white criminal enterprises are world renounced for there diversity in hiring programs and not systemic xenophobic racism at all. She wants to rule the criminal under world, okay I get that I’m told power is sexy. The problem I have with her really why should I care or even engage with her character. She does bad things she wants to do even more bad things has no moral ambiguity at all. She’s not a Dexter or even a Walter White Fish she is one of legion who is absolutely unbearable to listen too.
If I’m getting the point right of Fish was to show how systematic pervasive and gritty the criminal element in Gotham. But wait there’s already the Maroni and Falcone crime families respectively well established back to the founding of Gotham city itself. Along with the colorful hit men and murders who appear week to week. At best what she does provide is minor story exposition usually connected to Gordon’s investigation of organized crime of either the Maroni or Falcone crime families again respectively. Devil’s advocate if all she really does is plot against the families and provide light exposition directly related to crime families. Couldn’t that role be filled by different lower level members of the gangs or ne’er do wells in general . Providing the same story exposition and doing the same plotting and career aspirations but showing a much grander image of the criminal element in Gotham at large.
Ultimately I’m a bit dumb founded about what the show is really about. Is it about a Young Jim Gordon valiantly fighting a one man war against crime in a major metropolitan city. Either succeeding and precluding the need for a Batman. Or the story of his failing misery and the show is actually a light rendition of The Sopranos that plays extreme lip service to characters and stories that have existed for 75 years.
In the end I’m not so interested in watching this show. It’s not a cop show it’s not a crime drama or even a straight up comic book adaptation. It’s an awkward mix of all three that’s working extremely hard to have everything and absolutely nothing to do with Batman and his future stories. The show focuses on bad people who do bad things for personal gains with no moral ambiguity there just bad people. For that same reason I have zero interest in seeing the Suicide Squad film. It’s evil people who like doing evil things being forced by other evil people to do more evil things in the name of “patriotism”.
Who really needs Gotham on the air if their characters? their are destined to lose, to wreck the Batman story or are morally devoid husks of humanity that are nigh impossible for an audience to empathize with. Gotham had an interesting potential quickly buried in buzz words and pale mimicry of stories and relationships that made decades of Batman stories enthralling reads.