My original intent with the TV series “Gotham” was to to a weekly write-up on each episode. That went down the tubes after the second episode. Then the third was so bad, I nearly gave up on the show. “This is not the Batman show we want,” I told myself in a horrible Gary Oldman-as-Commissioner Gordon impression.”Nor is it the Batman show we need.”
Yet, I found myself, for reasons I couldn’t really explain, tuning in each week. This show started rough, unable to find the balance between the surrealism of the comics, the campiness of the 60s TV series and the gritty realism of the Nolan trilogy. And it still struggles with that, though not nearly as bad as that Balloon Man episode toward the start of the season. That was just awful.
Then things started getting better. There were two episodes in a row that were good. The first dealt with an early version of the Venom that gave the comic book Bane his strength, and I’m guessing what gave Nolan’s Bane his “Sean Connery sucking helium” voice.
The following episode did something that, at that point, the series had been neglecting: Character development. It was a nice flashback to Det. Harvey Bullock’s early years, where his idealism (much in the same vein as Det. Gordon now) put him at odds with the rest of the police department. It was a good move for a show that, at that point, had been mostly cardboard cutouts of characters.
This past week’s episode was good, introducing Black Mask’s dad (?) and a future Hush (the latter gets a psychotic beat down from young Bruce Wayne, who will one day grow up and dress like a bat). Also, the fact Alfred not only allowed that to happen, but gave Bruce the weapon to do so, was pretty psychotic. And bad parenting. And it was awesome.
For every step forward, the show seems to take another few steps back. One of my problems is the obnoxiousness of future Riddler, Edward Nygma. I like now they relegate him him to fewer lines and toned down his excruciating love for, you guessed it, riddles. It got to a point every time he was on screen, I sort of blanked out. And when he’s awkwardly hitting on a woman in one of the episodes, I just wished for the character to be cut from the show.
His coffee mug even has a question mark on it. Just painful to watch.
The highlight has been Robin Lord Taylor’s Penguin, which has been the most interesting story lines with the most bearable acting. His plotting and plotting with the two rival crime bosses and being a thorn in the side of Fish Mooney has been the most pleasant experience of this series so far.
My question is how long can they sustain an origins story? Sure, seeing young Bruce Wayne developing his vigilante ways is interesting (also why “Batman Begins” is my favorite Batman movie), but the rate they are dropping characters — we already have Penguin, Riddler, Black Mask (kind of), Catwoman, Poison Ivy, Victor Zsasz, Falcone, Maroni with Harvey Dent coming next week to name a few — eventually people are going to just want a Batman show. Because Batman fighting these characters is much more interesting than Jim Gordon and the Gotham Police Department.
Then there is the talk about introducing Joker. To me, Joker was always a byproduct of Batman. Be it Batman throwing him into a vat of chemicals that disfigures his face and mind, to the cerebral Nolan take that Joker is the reaction to a man taking the law into his own hands. And to introduce him before there is a Batman would take much better writers than the ones currently penning this series.
Even when it’s at its worst, I watch. Because, even when the writing is bad, the acting is crummy and the plot makes absolutely no sense, it is still fun to watch. I’m invested in this show now, and it seems to be getting better as it learns from its mistakes.