The Fall Season: Gotham


The first out of the block for the superhero series, Gotham has shifted a few cast members around and re-tooled itself for season 2 with a sub-title: Rise of the Villains.

For those not in the know, Gotham is the Batman-before-the-Batman series, beginning with the street murders of Thomas and Martha Wayne, which more or less neatly coincided with the arrival in Gotham City of the idealistic, fanatically honest Detective James Gordon. Over the seasons, we will see Gotham develop into the kind of town the Batman will need to clean up.

Season 1 was always the marginal one amongst my featured series, capable of some interesting elements, especially Robin Lord Taylor’s magnificent performance as the nascent Penguin, and some real crass stupidities (anything Jada Pinkett Smith was involved in). I always found it extremely questionable to give so much time to young Bruce Wayne, if this was to be the Batman-less years.

So, season 2. As you might expect, this was something of a scrappy, rearrange the furniture effort. Pinkett Smith’s gone, leaving the scenery relatively safe from chewing, as is John Doman as the magisterial Don Carmine Falcone. Also gone are the two least relevant cast members who were so well woven into the story that they disappeared completely in the back half of the season.

Morena Baccarin gets promoted into cast as Gordon’s new girlfriend, Lesley (Lee) Thompkins and James Frain and Jessica Lucas come on board as evil masterminds building a super-villains team out of nutters broken out of Arkham Asylum. In what may or may not prove to be a good idea, these included Gordon’s ex-fiancee, Barbara, played by Erin Richards.

To be honest, my ability to take this in was severely hampered by a mis-aligned sound track, with the dialogue and sound effects arriving a good four seconds ahead of the visuals, but it left me a bit cold. Gordon was demoted to traffic cop, kicked off the force (Bullock has already quit, to become a bartender and sober person) but got back thanks to a Deal with the Devil with Penguin that has already seen him kill a man (a gang boss, to be sure, but still…)

And Bruce took the entire episode to discover the Batcave beneath stately Wayne Manor, last season’s least baffling cliffhanger.

If there’s any of the returning shows I can see myself giving up on, Gotham‘s the favourite. For now, let’s see what develops and how quickly they can get Erin Richards showing off her legs again.

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.