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Giving up Gotham: Time to Go Dark on this Knight

 

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Posted December 2, 2014 by

I wanted to like Gotham.

Now, after the pre-Batman Batman show has reached its midseason break, I definitely don’t like Gotham, but I can’t even muster up enough venom to hate it. Instead, it’s been relegated to a bin of other shows of which I share a similar feeling: indifference.

The show came with a novel idea (well, more like a graphic novel idea, seeing that the comic book series Gotham Central is part source material): telling a Batman story without Batman. While Gotham Central showed how a police force dealt with Batman (and Batman-related villains), the TV series Gotham instead chose to look at the city when Bruce Wayne was just a boy in the immediate aftermath of his parents’ murder.

That difference has proved crucial, and not in a good way.

A quick aside: when I reviewed The Passion of the Christ for a newspaper, I said the film provided little back story as to why this Jesus character was important, counting on the audience’s pre-film Biblical knowledge to guide them. My friends laughed at me, but I maintain that any piece of art must stand on its own merits without relying on our existing knowledge. In that sense, Passion failed.

So, too, does Gotham. To an outsider with limited Batman reference points, it is a complete mess. To those of us more familiar with the Dark Knight story, the in-jokes and winks started off as fun but have since grown into storytelling crutches for the writing staff. Why bother with character development when you can have Edward Nygma come in and make over-the-top references to the Riddler he will someday become?
Gotham Fish Mooney
Gotham is also plagued by a mish-mash of tones, going from gritty realism to broad camp, sometimes in the same scene. The steady presence of John Dorman as Carmine Falcone clashes up against the Eartha Kitt-ness Jada Pinkett Smith brings to Fish Mooney (also, let’s not ignore the fact that “Fish Mooney” is the worst character name maybe in the history of television). Both actors are turning in solid (if solidly different) performances, although neither seem to be set in the same world, let alone the same TV show.

The show has shown some promise, particularly with David Mazouz’s role of Bruce Wayne. He has started inhabiting the obsessive compulsiveness that no doubt helped transform Wayne into the Dark Knight. That said, showing a pre-pubescent kid with an investigation room straight out of The Wire still seems a bit much, even for The Boy Who Would Be Batman.
Gotham Bruce and Gordon
But for every step forward, Gotham takes two steps back. It has no idea what to do with any female characters other than Fish Mooney (and again, SHE IS NAMED FISH MOONEY), and Ben McKenzie’s James Gordon basically has two acting styles: frowny and growly. The man talks through clenched teeth as if he’s doing an impression of Bruce Springsteen as a ventriloquist.

After Gotham finishes its first season, I’ll check in on reviews to see if it’s improved, perhaps leading to me finishing the remainder of the episodes. As it stands now, though, I have no choice but to give up on Gotham, which is an absolute shame because of the wasted potential. This isn’t the show Gotham deserves, but it’s the one we have right now.

Unfortunately, that’s not enough.



Strother Kevin Hall

 
Strother Kevin Hall (just call him Kevin if you meet him) lives in Georgetown, Ky., where he is an avid comic collector and a writer for hire. He is the co-author of "Lost Change and Loose Cousins," a collection of short stories and essays.


4 Comments


  1.  
    Daniel

    I can only speak for me, but as a person who has seen most of (all? I think all) the Batman movies, but never read any graphic novel or seen any TV series or basically taken part in any part of Batman culture otherwise, I come into Gotham with very little background knowledge, and the show has worked for me. Honestly, I thought Fish Mooney was a pre-existing Batman character, and had no idea until I looked it up that Harvey Bullock was NOT a show creation — I though it weird there would be a Harvey Bullock and a Harvey Dent.

    Anyway, I think some of your criticisms of the show are definitely on point — tonal inconsistencies chief among them. But I still enjoy it overall, and I don’t feel like I’m lost learning who these people are.




  2.  
    Grace

    I have similar mixed feelings about the few episodes I’ve seen so far. On the one hand, it’s Batman, or at least Batman related. I like the idea of seeing Bruce spiral down his dark bat-hole because I’m a sucker for an origin story. It seems like a great oppuritunity to see a lot of less popular villains.

    On the other hand, like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the dialogue can be very…fluffy? Hokey? Unrealistic? I do a lot of eye rolling.

    At least it’s still better than the The Flash show.




  3.  
    A+

    I don’t know if the show is too in-jokey or not since, like you say, I am way too familiar with the material to have an outsider’s perspective. One thing I do know, the Fish Mooney character was poorly conceived and just as poorly executed. Also, the show made a big mistake opting for a half-assed tone that refuses to play this stuff with a straight face. I guess that’s two things I know. Here’s a third: GOTHAM just flat wasted its huge potential. It’ll never recover.




  4.  
    Nathan Gifford

    “The man talks through clenched teeth as if he’s doing an impression of Bruce Springsteen as a ventriloquist.” That there is straight up poetry.





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