One of my nerd dreams finally came true two weeks ago: Gotham Central is kinda coming to TV. Warner Bros has announced that they have begun production on a series based on Commissioner Gordon for Fox. The series, titled Gotham, will trace the early career of James Gordon as he patrols the worst city on the planet, Gotham City. While it’s not the direct adaptation of Gotham Central I was hoping for, it’s fairly obvious that the Ed Brubaker/Greg Rucka series will be used as a basis for Gotham. But like with all comic book adaptations, there are some early aspects of Gotham that leave me a little wary.
For starters, the press release states that Batman will not appear in the show at all. While this is expected in a show that focuses primarily on James Gordon, the release does say that the show will feature many of the ”early” versions of some of Gotham’s main baddies. However, if the Gotham Crime Unit can take out such villains as The Riddler, Penguin, and Two-Face without the help of Batman, then doesn’t it make the Dark Knight seem a little unnecessary? Not to mention that fact that it would fly in the face of the long held belief that Batman is the cause of many of the psychotic villains that he faces. Without the Batman, there would be no Joker, Two-Face, or other villains.
But at the same time, Gotham could focus on some lesser known criminals that wouldn’t be directly tied into Batman. Victor Zasz would be an interesting choice, and could be the “big bad” of the first season. I may be getting a little ahead of myself, but the show could also build to the appearance of the Batman, much like NBC’s phenomenal Hannibal is building to the first Hannibal Lector novel Red Dragon. Gotham could slowly build to the arrival of the Dark Knight in Gotham City by hinting at Bruce Wayne’s arrival in Gotham at the end of the first season, show glimpses of the Batman in season two, then have Batman periodically show up in season 3 to assist Gordon on major crimes (possibly making Joker their first collaboration?). Shows like Smallville and Arrow can be used as good examples of slowly introducing the more fantastical aspects of the comic book world to live action.
I’m not a huge fan of using the Batman rogues gallery without the Batman to fight them, but I’ll admit there is a lot of potential for some cool “Year one” versions of the characters. It could lay the groundwork for the long-term motivations for many of the villains, effectively doing away with a need to explain their origins if they appear later in the series as their costumed alter egos. Edward Nash could appear in early episodes as a crime scene investigator/analyst for the Gotham Police Department, using his knowledge of puzzles to help solve crimes before eventually using them to cause crimes as the Riddler. Victor Fries could make an appearance when a murder is attempted at his lab, or called in to help with a case involving cryogenics. Oswald Cobblepot and Roman Sionis could be the two big crime operations in Gotham that Gordon is trying to bring down before they start a war for the criminal empire underworld. And of course Harvey Dent could be a recurring character before his fall from grace as two-face.
While it may seem to be too soon to start dream casting Gotham, that doesn’t mean that I haven’t already started. While he may be a little too old for the rookie Gordon, I think Ethan Hawke would do a phenomenal job. The story of the show could change James Gordon from a rookie cop just joining the force to a transfer from Chicago (much like the famous Year One storyline). However, the producers will most likely be looking at younger actors, and therein lies the problem. I can’t think of anyone in their late 20’s to early 30’s that could conceivably play the character. Perhaps going for an unknown would be best.
If I can continue to dream cast, even though he’s “not going to be in it”, I think we can all safely assume that the show runners will find a way to throw Batman into the series once ratings start to dip, or when they run out of ideas (whichever comes first). For this, grab either Jon Hamm (who’ll be finishing Mad Men by the time Gotham would need a Batman), or if you want a younger Batman, get the Syfy Channel’s Being Human’s Sam Witwer. Or you could just completely throw those ideas out the window and have Ben Affleck pop up when it’s time for the signal to be lit.
When it comes to our early villains, maybe now I can finally get to see David Tennant as Edward Nigma, Donal Logue as Oswald Cobblepot, and maybe someone could convince the already mentioned Jon Hamm to portray Harvey Dent. Throw in Kristen Bell as Arkham intern Harleen Quinzell and we’re ready to roll.
If anything, Gotham is the closest thing to a Gotham Central TV show as we’re going to get, so I’m happy. Hopefully this will lead to a an uptick in sales for one of the best comics of the last twenty years. Nearly every one of the stories in the series could be reworked into a live-action show (with the exception of the later issues), and could make Gotham a truly unique take on the well-worn “cop show drama”.
Of course, it could also be a complete train wreck like Birds of Prey. For now, all we can do is wait.