Return to ‘Gotham’: What’s Changed?

Posted in The Screening Room by - September 24, 2015

Last year, Fox found one of television’s biggest hits in Gotham, a prequel to the Batman anthology that followed a young Jim Gordon as he joined the Gotham City Police Department (GCPD). The first season was hardly a train wreck critically, but it had its fair share of issues. While the portrayal of Gordon and Gotham were highlights, the show spent too much time delving in to the life of a young Bruce Wayne. The central conceit of the show is that there is no Batman to combat crime, but too often we found ourselves in the “adventures of child Bruce Wayne” because the subtle approach was deemed not ideal. They didn’t want to make a Smallville for Batman, but they essentially have it shoehorned in as one of the main subplots of the show. I guess viewers couldn’t figure out what a show titled Gotham was about?

Ben McKenzie and Donal Logue, as Jim Gordon and Harvey Bullock respectively, are the clear highlights of the show. They initially had an adversarial relationship, but watching their friendship grow as they solve cases was the most enjoyable part of season 1. In a sense, Gotham was a procedural set in a fictional universe that already had goodwill built towards it due to the massive success of Batman as a character in pop culture. Now that some of the problematic elements of the first season have been removed, I’m looking at you Jada Pinkett Smith’s Fish Mooney, I’m hoping that the second season can improve upon the positives of the first while eliminating some of the issues it had. 

Another glaring issue from the first season, the characterization of Barbara, has been addressed in the second season interestingly as well. Since the writers were clearly unaware of what to do with her, they decided to make her insane and just go with it. Now that she finds herself wrapped up with the Arkham inmates, I’m interested to see if they warp her into a future Batman villain. I definitely got shades of Harley Quinn in her new portrayal, but that seems a bit too on the nose. The big breakout at the end of the season 2 premiere also shows the beginning of the massing of villains that will be spotlighted throughout the current season, subtitled “Rise of the Villains”. Penguin himself has taken the power vacuum left by Falcone’s retirement, and while Robin Lord Taylor was deliciously all over the map in the first season, he seems to be reigning it in and transforming from ambitious killer to full on kingpin. Jim and Penguin’s relationship was a complicated one in the first season, although it didn’t see many true consequences for Gordon, but we seem to finally be getting some payoff as the season progresses. 

Granted, much could change from one episode to another, but the newest season of Gotham already seems to be addressing some of the first season’s issues by focusing on the more interesting characters and giving us potentially new interpretations of older villains. That’s not to say it’s perfect now. We still are going to get entirely too much focus on a young Bruce (at least this Alfred is a much sassier interpretation of the character), and the young Selina Kyle character is a total mess that’s better left not even mentioning. Gotham may never be more than a decent show that relies entirely too much on the success of its source material, but I can applaud the writers for showing some semblance of focus in the new premiere and hopefully more interesting development and emphasis on the characters and events that actually matter. 

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He's a native Texan (YEE-HAW) who loves everything Michael Bay has ever touched. When he's not blogging, he's working on his mobile app, BoxHopp, or tinkering with his fantasy football lineups.
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