Early this week, FOX television aired Gotham, a show exploring the formative years of Bruce Wayne (aka The Batman) by focusing largely on young Detective Jim Gordon, who comes face to face with the city’s established and highly organized criminal elements, the larval-stage villains who will one day battle the iconic Caped Crusader, and the corruption and cross-purposes of his colleagues in the Gotham PD.
Although I think the premiere was generally accepted as either likable or having potential, it has drawn a measure of criticism, and I don’t see why I’m any less qualified to express my opinions.
Especially, because I’m PATMAN. Tell your friends.
(Please imagine I’m saying that in a husky Batman voice. Not Christian Bale husky, I don’t have laryngitis or vocal cords scarred with acid or something. More like Michael Keaton.)
I was excited right away when I heard the premise of the show. I had friends who thought I was crazy, since they weren’t ready to get behind a Batmanless Batman show. These friends were fans of CW’s Arrow, and felt that Gotham needed to fully commit and Batman-up.
I understand where they were coming from, but I’m a big fan of James Gordon. Growing up, Batman and Detective Comics were two of my favorites comic books to read, and there’s just something comforting and reassuring about Commissioner Gordon to me. Having him around nowadays is even more important, because since the mid 80s, Batman has not been that comforting or reassuring. It’s nice to have that element in the Batman mythos.
So a show featuring Jim Gordon was right up my alley. Right up my Crime Alley. (That just sounds wrong.)
Is There a Band Called The Dead Waynes? There Should Be!
I read some reviews of Gotham, and several complained that Once Again We Have to See the Waynes Get Murdered! Do We Have to See that Again? We Get It!
Well, if I can directly address the complainers… straight up, screw you. This was the first time my daughter had seen the Waynes get killed, as she’s not seen any other incarnation of Batman’s origin story. Why shouldn’t she get the story presented to her fresh?
It’s an extremely powerful moment, it can’t easily be extracted from the story because it’s wildly tied in to Bruce Wayne’s obsessive motivations, and why can’t it be repurposed for whatever new media is telling a Batman origin story? Every other Batman property has pretty much done a flashback to bring that element in, but this show legitimately is taking place concurrently with the Waynes’ murder. Sheesh.
(Can’t get enough Waynes being murdered? There’s an amazing compilation over at Vulture:
There’s a reason we see it over and over. It’s important. So shut up already. In the future, if you don’t want to see the Waynes get shot and you’re watching a BATMAN-centric movie/television program/video-game cut screen/holo-deck adventure, and you see a living Thomas, Martha, and Bruce Wayne leave a theater and head down an alley, SPOILER ALERT, Bruce is about to become the angriest, wealthiest orphan of all time.
And… I like some of the subtle changes. Having Selina Kyle be a witness to the crime builds in a nice connection between her and Bruce Wayne. And they’ve built in a mystery behind the mugger. In the past, we’ve had some variations on who shot the Waynes, and why. Tim Burton’s Batman movie used it to unwisely tie in the Joker. (I’m still shaking my head about that.)
Christopher Nolan interestingly had Joe Chill gunned down by the Falcone mob, which I approved of. For me, part of Batman’s motivation is not being able to get justice for his parents, so every mugging he prevents is a symbolic, but ephemeral act of balancing the scales.
With the shooter’s identity unknown, with the motivation behind the shooting unknown, I as a Batman-fan can still be surprised. Heck, maybe Alfred did it! (I doubt that.)
So I’m ready for some murder-mystery investigation.
So It’s a Cop Show?
Sure. I guess.
Look, I’m okay if it becomes just a police procedural in the guise of being Batman lore, but I think it’ll be something else. They’ve already piqued my interest with Carmine Falcone having a conversation with Jim Gordon.
Most of the conversation was cliched (I’ll talk more about cliched stuff in a moment), you know: “Your father was a great District Attorney, we were friends, blah blah blah.” We’ve heard stuff like this before.
But then Falcone said something that surprised me… (I’m paraphrasing…)
Falcone: I love this city, and I see it going to hell. But I won’t let it fall apart without a fight.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen something like that from a mob boss. Organized crime has always struck me as the stealthy re-introduction of the Feudal System of government into modern society, and it interested me that this feudal lord was showing concern for the welfare of the realm, more or less.
Alan Sepinwall, in his review, mentioned that the show will ultimately take a depressing turn as the cops go under. After all, Batman needs to show up and save the day, so Gordon’s going to fail in his attempt to stick to his ideals, reform the cops, and save Gotham.
Sepinwall’s awesome, but he’s wrong on this. It won’t be Gordon’s failures that are going to create the need for Batman, it will be his successes.
Falcone is the obvious target for Detective Gordon. He’s the man in charge of organized crime. (He’s also a man trying to keep stability in the city, albeit undemocratically as a feudal lord.) Eventually, the forces of Law and Order will rally and weaken his organization, and organized crime will be on the wane.
Hooray for the good guys. Hooray for Jim Gordon.
But that’s when a different type of crime starts happening. I’m not going to call it super-crime, since most of Batman’s rogue’s gallery aren’t super-powered. But it’s next-level-crime. Unusual crime. Genius, artistic, theatrical crime.
Stuff that the cops have a hard time dealing with. Stuff that exists in the shadows vacated by Falcone’s men.
Falcone, when he prevented Harvey Bullock and Gordon from being gutted by Fish Mooney’s goons, told the cops that “There are rules.”
But there won’t be rules for long, once Falcone is on the run.
Speaking of Rogue’s Gallery, There are a Ton of Characters!
Really? I mean, I guess so. There’s whacky blood splatter expert Dexter Morgan, and his sister Deb, who is working vice but wants to be a detective, and that detective Angel who likes Dexter, but the detective Doakes who definitely does not, and Matsuka the crazy forensics guy, and the lieutenant who’s super ambitious, and the captain who was friends with Dexter’s dead father Harry who we see alive in flashbacks but also as Dexter’s Dark Passenger.
Oops. I mixed up my vigilante shows. My bad.
But my point is, most shows have a lot of characters. One benefit of Gotham is that we know some of them. Maybe not all of them, but many.
Someone online had complained that it was lame that the show had introduced every Batman villain in the pilot episode.
They’re right, of course. It was clunky that the show took the time to introduce Ra’s al-Ghul, Doctor Hugo Strange, the Mad Hatter, Harvey “Two-Face” Dent, the Scarecrow, Clayface, Mister Freeze, Killer Moth, Deadshot, Bane, Black Mask, and Cat-Man (yes, Cat-Man.)
Oh, maybe they’re wrong.
Alright, it might not be fair of me to start pulling out rogues from the gallery, but I didn’t think it was awkward with how many were introduced in the first episode. We really just got Oswald Cobblepot, mostly. Which was great, because we needed to have an origin story for the Penguin that was interesting and felt more like the Batman comics canon, rather than the awful Danny Devito Penguin from the second Tim Burton craptastic Batman movie.
Catwoman was a nice consistent thread, and I was happy that we had a whacky forensics guy on the show, who will happen to one day end up being the Riddler. Again, anything would be an improvement over the AWFUL Jim Carrey Riddler from the horrible Batman Forever movie.
There’s only so much deviations you can get away with from Batman canon, unless you really know what you’re doing. Christopher Nolan pulled it off by tying Bruce Wayne’s training in with Ra’s al-Ghul. Batman’s a ninja? I buy that. Joel Schumacher failed by having Batgirl be Alfred’s niece. That’s crap. CRAP.
But you can probably get away with more deviations involving Batman’s villains. But not too far. I like what they’re doing with Catwoman, Penguin, and the Riddler. I’m on the fence about Poison Ivy at the moment.
Fish Mooney is new, and it’s doubtful she’ll make it through the series (for that reason), but I’m fine with that. Batman’s villains are very much like Dick Tracy villains: Flattop, the Brow, the Blank, etc. So if Gotham ends up seeming like a Dick Tracy story (not the awful Warren Beatty movie though) that’s cool with me.
Invent interesting, artistic, genius, theatrical villains to put the fear in Carmine Falcone, and I’ll be happy. (And have some of them killed by the ruthless mobsters, or arrested by the valorous cops. Maybe a few newly minted characters can enter the Batman canon.)
Was There Anything I Didn’t Like?
Well, sure. I’m not a mindless fanboy. I hope.
The pilot episode did suffer from Pilot Cliche. Everyone had to introduce themselves, explain themselves, over and over. There was clunky dialogue.
Donal Logue, who I love, had to deliver a lot of crappy lines. Hopefully, things will calm down and the show will find a voice.
And a tone. I’m fine with it being gritty and dramatic, but a touch of humor helps. But I expect that stuff takes time.
I did turn a corner on one thing I originally didn’t like. Alfred was very brusque with Jim Gordon when he showed up to tell Bruce Wayne that his parents killer hadn’t been caught. I felt Alfred was acting waaaay out of bounds for a butler.
But then I kind of got what they are doing: they’re building a natural friction between Alfred and Jim Gordon, as competing father figures for Bruce Wayne.
I’ve always considered Alfred a father surrogate, because he raised him, but I also always considered Gordon a father figure in the sense of being a moral compass. And the father to rebel against, and who will still offer support.
Alfred has no choice but to support Bruce Wayne, it’s in his Butler DNA (mostly.) But Gordon chooses to support Batman.
I did explain before that I am really fond of the role Gordon plays in the Batman mythos.
Okay, I’m out of things to say for now.
My daughter liked the pilot episode, but said she wanted more Bruce Wayne and Stalker Girl.
Images from FOX’s Gotham, obviously.
I make no claim to the images, but some claims to the text, so there.
© Patrick Sponaugle 2014 Some Rights Reserved