The Fall Season: Gotham 2

It wasn’t.

Well, I’ve can’t remember when I last saw a show fall that far down a cliff so quickly.

‘The Fall Season’  wasn’t intended to be a weekly blog of every American show I watch this season, but the way that Gotham through everything off the bus this week demands a comment, even if it’s only that I’m now one episode away from dropping this show.

We are no longer a Police Procedural with Gothic elements. We are a cartoon with extensive use of fake blood and a serious uplift on the OTT dial. Enter the Maniaxx, which is the name of the new team of villains broken out of Arkham last week by new smoothie rich guy whose name I’ve already forgotten. Smoothie Rich Guy has kidnapped the Mayor and is keeping him prisoner with a leather-bound box on his head in Scene 1, threatening him with death or disappearance.

Scene two features the Maniaxx throwing strait-jacketed bodies off a roof so that they all land in a neat little line, unsquashed by their fall (though still deadly dead) so that the spray-painted letters on their torsos read, neatly spaced, ‘Maniax!’

I don’t know where we are, Toto, but this is not last season’s ‘Gotham’.

Now it may be popular, and it may be good, in its own, high-voltage crazy-shit psycho Batman villain, New 52 style, but the disconnect is too abrupt. Before the issue is out, Young Master Bruce has sacked Alfred and reinstated him (making the whole division feel pointless), the One-Who’s-Going-To-Be-The-Joker has killed two of the other Maniaxx, and the whole of GCPD has been slaughtered, except for Jim Gordon, Lee Tompkins and the future Riddler and his retro-fashion squeeze, Miss Kringle.

The newly-installed Commissioner Essen however bites it, a la Barbara Gordon/Killing Joke.

Basically, it’s saying that every single idea the producers had about Gotham was crap, and we’re going to not merely switch horses in mid-stream, we’re moving to an entirely different river, and you’d better leave the vestiges of sense behind.

Actually, I don’t think I’ll bother with that one more episode: I’ve bailed. Can’t stand any more of that laughing.

Uncollected Thoughts: Gotham

There’s getting to be a lot of comic-book based shows on TV all of a sudden, and it’s interesting to see that Channel Five have taken up the two newest, taking a gamble on both The Flash and Gotham. I’ve already given my opinion on the former, which has yet to start in the UK, but Gotham‘s already made a heady start, pulling down an audience that exceeded Channel Four and BBC2.

Of course, the one word reason for Gotham‘s pulling power is, ironically, the one word that will never ever be spoken on the series (not unless they do something incredibly stupid, that is), and that word is *Batman*. Because the point of Gotham is that it’s not about Batman. It’s about the city that creates him, about the years that lead to his first appearance, about the slow disintegration of the city to where it needs Batman, and about the Police and villains as they slowly grow or deteriorate into the people who populate Batman’s world.

Which makes Gotham pretty much a Police-procedural, albeit it with a difference. And instead of Bruce Wayne being at the heart of it, the centre is – and had better remain if this is going to work at all – Commissioner Gordon. Or, as he currently is, newly-promoted, new-to-Gotham Detective James Gordon.

Before watching the pilot episode, I did read one or two responses, one of which pretty much nailed to the wall the total absence of Batman as the over-riding weakness in the concept. Certainly, a lot of the comments I’ve read on the actual episode do ring with the disappointment of it not being about the Caped Crusader, even though that’s the whole point.

However, watching it for myself, I’m certainly ready to give it a few weeks’ extra chances, my main reason being Ben McKenzie’s determined and direct performance as Jim Gordon, which I enjoyed. The episode – which begins with the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne and the orphaning of their twelve year old son Bruce – throws a hell of a lot in, too much to be honest, mostly aimed at giving the naive and honest Gordon an idea of where Gotham stands and what he and the audience has to expect.

Basically: the Waynes get murdered and Gordon, and his senior partner and potentially corrupt guide to hell, Harvey Bullock, catch the case. When it goes nowhere, Bullock enlists the aid of rising gangboss Fish Mooney who sets up a patsy. This set-up is leaked to Major Crimes Detectives Montoya and Allen by Fish’s underling, Oswald Cobblepot. When Gordon learns of this, he insists on challenging Fish, who has him and Bullock set-up for a grisly death that is only halted by Carmine Falcone, the crimeboss of Gotham. Falcone wants Gordon in the ‘programme’: he can live provided he executes Cobblepot. Gordon is smart enough to make it look like he does so whilst letting Cobblepot live.

So far, so(deliberately) unspectacular, but promising. The tone is set, the challenge laid down, Gordon’s path shown to be incredibly difficult to walk. The fun, we hope, will be in watching him walk it.

Where the episode was OTT was in its rush to throw in as many future supervillains as it could, at least a decade before Bruce Wayne can possibly become that person we’re not going to mention but can’t stop thinking about. Oswald Cobblepot is already being called the Penguin by Fish and her thugs. And coronor Edward Nygma, with his fetish for riddles, is too blatant. A young street/rooftop woman thief doesn’t even have to speak for us to know her as the future Catwoman, and the nervous stand-up comedian is apparently just the first of mny hints as to who might become the Joker.

That’s where I feel Gotham is betraying a serious weakness. As long as they don’t go too overboard with the city-crying-out-for-someone-to-save-it stuff, making the absence of Batman into too much of a theme, this can work. But if Batman truly can’t arrive for, say, another decade, then it seems very short-sighted to be setting up major villains with their key characteristics so fast.

How Gotham intends to deal with time, I don’t yet know. As we’ve already got a 12 year old actor playing the 12 year old Bruce Wayne, I assume each season will represent a year. That’s why Walt had to be written out of Lost: because show-time was so incredibly slow in comparison to child-actor-growing-up-and-I-do-mean-up! time. To accommodate David Mazouz,something of that sort will be required.

It’ll also be interesting to see the core audience react to Gotham packing in Batman supporting characters whilst not being strictly faithful to their roles in the comics. Especially Alfred.

Basicaly, though, I enjoyed it and thought it has potential. If I change my mind, I’m sure I’ll let you know.