Posted by: markfender | May 12, 2015


Lord, that wasn’t good.

Gotham-2The premise of Gotham wasn’t my favorite – Batman as a kid. There’s been enough Batman stuff recently that I didn’t really feel the need to explore this hereto unexplored territory. And yet, I ended it up watching it. And I wish I hadn’t.

Gotham never seemed to figure out what it wanted to do. It vacillated between a mob war, case-of-the-week, and exploring the motivations of a prepubescent Bruce Wayne. And the character beats never felt too authentic. I have no idea who or what Selina Kyle is supposed to be – she seemingly switches whether she’s friends with Bruce or enemies from scene to scene. Jim Gordon is on a crusade he can’t win, and poor, poor Barbara Keane.

And yet, the show looked amazing. The mix of ’70s cars, flip phones, and CRT monitors really established the weird, out-of-place status of Gotham. Similar to the art deco look the animated series went with, the show’s location department did an amazing job of establishing a grimy, perpetually troubled city. Likewise, the casting was great. Robin Lord Taylor is great as Penguin, David Mazouz is an excellent young Bruce, and I don’t know how or where they found someone who so much looked like Michelle Pfeifer for Catwoman, er, Catgirl.

Even the secondary casting was pretty great. Jada Pinkett Smith channels her inner Tina Turner to great affect with more and more ridiculous costuming as the show went on. The costuming department even did a great job of making even seemingly ordinary people have the whiff of supervillain about them.

Sadly, all of this great work by the background crew was severely let down by the terrible, terrible writing. Bullock, despite being the ‘compromised’ cop, helps out Jim Gordan and his various crusades whenever the plot demanded it of him. Fish’s big plan to stop Don Falcone consisted of…having some guys with guns come into the room (a situation quickly overturned when Falcone brings his own guys with guns – What an Amazing Plan That Took Months to Pay Off!!!). Commissioner Loeb flips the books on Jim Gordan by having him investigate an old case, that Gordan then goes on to solve (Good plan there, Loeb.) And Balloonman.

But, by far the worst character is the main one – Jim Gordan. While I think Ben McKenzie is doing a fine job, the writers don’t seem to realize the character that they’re writing for. Because this is the prequel to Batman, it’s essential that Jim Gordan can’t win. Otherwise, there’s no need for Batman in later years. And yet, the character of Gordon on Gotham is a crusading cop who can’t ever let anything go. A criminal is on the loose – he’s gonna find him and bring him in. A serial killer working in Gotham for the past twenty years? Gordon will get his man. He refuses to compromise any of his principles. That’s not the Commissioner Gordan from the eventual Batman stuff. In fact, that sounds more like Batman.

What Gordon can do is clean up the police department. But the corrupt nature of Gotham is essential to creating the eventual character of Batman, so having actually effective cops running around cleaning up all that crime flies in the face of that idea. Yes, I realize it’s TV and you need to have the hero “win.” But, Gordan needs better battles to fight – not just getting his man every week. Otherwise, Young Bruce Wayne has some issues that he should talk to his therapist about, and then he should work on becoming a billionaire playboy. All his impetus for becoming the Dark Knight has been stolen by Jim Gordan.

Young Bruce Wayne is pretty great. I would totally watch a show about Batkid and Catgirl going around solving teen mysteries. Batman, Boy Detective, almost universally worked. Shame the writers never felt like pursuing that plotline all that hard. But it was way more interesting than seeing Bullock and Gordan stop another existential threat to Gotham.

The casting was excellent. The locations felt like Gotham. The costuming established a usable, superheroic look. But the writing just sucked from day one. It’s a beautiful looking show that should never, ever be watched.


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