Monday, September 22, 2014

Gotham: Promise and Peril

Later today, Gotham, the new television show about how Batman's major law enforcement figure James Gordon rises from officer to Commissioner, premieres.  I for one am excited, though my excitement is tempered by the fact that too often, I get excited for television shows that die on me before the full season is over.

You're talking to someone who watched The Cape, Journeyman, and Golden Boy, all shows that bombed and didn't make it to Season Two (though with Journeyman, it was most unfair because it was a much better show than the one Reed Diamond is in now).  Further, I am about a handful of people who remember Due South, which did last three years but whose third year was a sorry shambles and which should not have ever been made.

As a side note, Gotham is similar to Golden Boy in that both are about the rise of a young man from rookie cop to Police Commissioner.  The major difference is that with Golden Boy, we had a flash-forward and flashbacks style that sometimes bordered on parody, while Gotham at least will stick to a chronological rise, with a season devoted to the rise of one villain from the Batman rogue's gallery (with this year apparently being Oswald Cobblepot, who would rise as The Penguin).

I thought about watching either Gotham or The Flash, and opted against the latter because since it is a bit of a spin-off of Arrow, I don't know if I could follow it since I've never seen Arrow.   I also figure The Flash will be a hit because it's riding on Arrow's coattails and it has a ready fan-base.  I think the show would have to be an absolute disaster for it to be cancelled in its initial outing.

Gotham, however, is a bit more tricky.  This show stays with Batman mythology by chronicling the early years of Commissioner Gordon, but it's clear that 'Batman' won't rise until the series' end (at least that's the show's very big ambition).  We have always known that Gordon was a detective when young Bruce Wayne's parents were murdered, so it is logical to make Gordon almost old enough to be Bruce's father.

I also think it will be a fascinating journey, if successful, to see how one of the few lights of morality in the cesspool that is Gotham managed to remain an upright figure in a world overrun by darkness and despair.  We know so much about Batman/Bruce Wayne, but not as much about Gordon apart from that he is a good man in a bad world.  Gordon is Batman's greatest ally, and we now may have a unique spin of how Detective Gordon will influence the young Master Wayne. 

Will Gordon know who will rise as The Dark Knight?  Will he have a daughter that herself will take on a superhero mantle? 

That remains to be seen, and Gotham may be the place to have a whole new mythology or affirmation of current mythology come from.   

What I see though is a potential source for trouble.  Perhaps this is my own naïve nature regarding comic books, but I took it for granted that the villains were all contemporaries of Batman.  I always thought they were around the same age.  At least in regards to both Cobblepot and Edward Nygma/The Riddler, they will be Gordon's age (Ben McKenzie, who is playing Gordon, is 36, while Cory Michael Smith, who is Nygma, is 27).  There are only two future villains who will be Bruce Wayne's age: Camren Bicondova's Selina Kyle and Claire Foley's Ivy Pepper (aka Catwoman and Poison Ivy respectively). 

In regards to Kyle, there simply was no other way to go. Catwoman and Batman have the strangest relationship in comics: in turns romantic and antagonistic, Kyle is sometimes villainess, sometimes anti-heroine.  If the show continues, it will allow the cat burglar and environmental psychopath a most interesting pair of relationships with Bruce.

However, while I am looking forward to seeing the rise of figures like The Penguin, will they continue to be part of Gotham once they achieve power?  For example, if Oswald by season's end embraces his persona, will he join or battle The Riddler, who is waiting in the wings as a Gotham Police Department coroner?  How will other villains be integrated in any future seasons?  Will they stick close to tradition, or will they be shifted? 

And what of Bruce Wayne himself?  Will we go a few years into the future to allow for Wayne to grow older (and more likely to take on the mantle)?  I imagine we will see more of Bruce Wayne than ever, particularly as he continues to grow?  Wouldn't it be interesting if we saw perhaps Captain Gordon interact with Wayne as he practices martial arts?

This seems a bit unlikely, as Sean Pertwee's Alfred is now an ex-British Marines brawler and less the refined 'gentleman's gentleman' we've come to know and love.  As a side note, this does mean Pertwee's chances of coming back to Elementary as Detective Inspector Lestrade are dim. 

I confess, my favorite Batman villain has always been Penguin, ever since Burgess Meredith quacked his way through the Batman television show.  As a child, I did an awesome impersonation, right down to using my pen as a cigarette holder.  So far, the news is good on Robin Lord Taylor's interpretation, which appears to be the highlight of early reviews (even those who dislike Gotham).  Judging just from the few clips I've seen, I am highly impressed and think Taylor has a good shot of making his Penguin a far more memorable one than either the deliberately campy Meredith and the extremely dark, almost frightening Danny DeVito version.  The reviews for Gotham have been all over the place: some I've read have loved it, others question whether it SHOULD last, let alone whether it WILL.  Some appear to think it's the most promising show of the season, and others think it will fall quickly once people see that Batman isn't there and that Jim Gordon won't be enough to hold their interest.

That would be a great shame if Gotham died quickly, because I think the show has great potential.  So far the market is being saturated with comic-book based television shows: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a mild hit, Arrow more so, and both The Flash and Constantine are debuting this season as well.  There's talk of a Supergirl television series, the S.H.I.E.L.D prequel Agent Carter is coming mid-season later this year, TNT is close to making Titans, a Teen Titans series (and if true, I hope it takes the place of Franklin & Bash, which is all but dead to me now) and Netflix is bringing such characters as Daredevil and Luke Cage to their subscribers. 

I honestly don't see Gotham getting lost in this shuffle: the characters are too well-known for it to disappear quickly.  The show would have to be absolutely hideous and laughably bad for Gotham to meet an early end (even if it currently scheduled, as I understand it, for a mere thirteen episodes, which is no great problem given that many shows have this try-out period.  Elementary was also set for thirteen episodes until CBS ordered a full season and now is going on Season Three).  That fate of a quick death I think would go to Constantine, the least-known of the group; the chance to plunge into the mythos of Batman while having not The Dark Knight, but Jim Gordon, as our protagonist has great promise.

The show devolving into a crime-of-the-week procedural with secondary stories for our favorite villains (and Donal Logue) are its peril.

I for one will be watching, waiting, and hoping...

Watch, or you'll answer
to ALL of them!



  1. Gotham is a series that I am looking forward to as well. However, airing on the series at the same time as TV's number one show, The Big Bang Theory, is not doing it any favors. Agents of SHIELD tried the same thing by going against NCIS and that did not work out well.

    Since I generally watch anything sci-fi fiction (and I watched the Cape too), there are at least a few series that I watch every year that end up getting cancelled, even if they were good. Hopefully Gotham will not meet the same fate, especially since Gotham cost them a ton of money, but Fox is known for cancelling good shows like Firefly, The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Terra Nova (not amazing but good), and Almost Human.

    I'll definitely be watching and reviewing Gotham. Hopefully it will not disappoint.


    1. You're the only other person I know who watched The Cape. Good for you.

      I get the sense that Gotham may be like SHIELD: starting out a bit lost before finding its groove. It was too big to cancel off the bat but it had to fight its way to Season Two.

      FOX does have a nasty habit of panicking and cancelling, but Gotham has one advantage: DC won't give up so quickly or easily on its TV franchise, especially w/Marvel pushing its dominance at them.


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