The Problem With Gotham
We’re now eight episodes into Gotham, the “Gotham Begins” show that’s been airing on Fox, and I think I’ve realized that I’m not going to like this show. Granted it’s still pretty early to feel this way, but by now we’ve gotten a pretty good idea of where the show runners are taking this series, and it’s just not something I’m all that interested in.
These feeling comes after watching the episode “The Mask”, which features the Gotham spin on Batman rogue Black Mask. In that episode, we meet Richard Sionis, the father of Roman Sionis, who ALSO has an affinity for masks. Which means that in this universe, Roman’s fascination with masks is apparently genetic, and not tied with how he views his parents, who’s constant talking behind the backs of their friends warps his view of people.
Having this change seems like nothing for the average viewer, but for a Batman fan, it ruins a lot of things about Black Mask. Gone is the interesting psychological bent on the character. The mask is no longer tied with his outlook on life, it’s now just because it’s something his dad used to do, so what the hell, why not.
It seems pretty lazy to me. Instead of creating a new villain, or just having Richard Sionis be a creep, the creators just decided to use the Black Mask gimmick, but only with his father instead of Roman. I should also mention that the show runners have also announced that Jonathan Crane will make an appearance on the show, and be using a fear toxin that HIS dad created. It kind of makes you start to wonder why the show runners have such a dad complex.
I honestly think one of the reasons why I have such a big problem with the show is because of how much I love Batman. Look, I’ll be the first person to admit that I know too much about the character, but I also understand that sometimes things need to be changed in order to serve a different medium, or to put a new spin on the established stories. And while I’ve always been fine with Batman being reinterpreted (in fact, I think that’s what makes the character work so well), there’s just something about this interpretation that feels off to me.
One of my friends recently said that Gotham is “trying to be every version of Batman at the same time, and failing at it”, and I think that’s 100% correct. There’s the overly serious “Nolanverse” setting, some campy villains that could have been ripped from the Bill Dozier 60’s series, mixed in with the timelessness that is the Animated Series, all put on sets that look like they’re holdovers from the Burton/Schumacher films. Gotham is a mash up of every Batman spin that’s come before it, when it should be creating it’s own take on the world of the Dark Knight.
There are a few things I do enjoy on Gotham though. I think Robin Lord Taylor’s Oswald Cobblepot is really good. So good in fact, that I kind of wish this entire season was just focusing on him. Taylor brings a strange sadness to Cobblepot, which one can easily see turn into rage at the powerful people he’s trying to overcome. I also think that David Mazouz is surprisingly awesome as a young Bruce Wayne, even though the script feels like it constantly has to remind us that he’ll become Batman. Hell, I’m even still impressed with Jada Pinkett Smith’s Fish Mooney, a character that I was sure I was going to hate. But she absolutely electrifies any scene she’s in, and even makes the other actors better when they’re with her.
Unfortunately the real weak points for me are anything revolving around the Gotham Police Department, which is where 85% if the show revolves. As much as I like Ben McKenzie and Donal Logue as James Gordon and Harvey Bullock, nothing can save them from the awful dialogue that they’re saddled with (just look at “The Mask” again for Bullock’s cringe worthy speech where he calls Gordon an “asshat”). I feel like if there was less time focused on the GCPD and more on the mob wars in Gotham that this would be a better show (not to mention it would drastically cut down on the Edward Nygma portions of the show, which are the most annoying part of Gotham in my opinion).
Gotham has it’s fans, twitter has shown me that much. But like last year’s first season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., I find myself looking at the social media response to Gotham and wondering if I’m watching the same show that everyone else is. I know I’ve mentioned this time and time again, but Gotham should’ve added “Central” to it’s title, moved up the timeline about 15 years, and brought on Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka as consultants. You’d be able to do literally every episode that this show has done so far, except there would be no “hey, do you get who this guy’s going to be in ten years” winking at the camera and actually HAVE them be the villains they are. Not only that, but you’d be able to explore how the police in Gotham feel about being constantly undermined by a guy dressed up like a Bat, which is a really interesting spin on the world of the Dark Knight.
I get that the producers of Gotham wanted to put their own spin on the world of Batman, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s not working. Maybe there will be a flash-forward in the upcoming seasons that will more closely mirror Gotham Central, but right now I find myself being more annoyed by Gotham than enjoying it. At the very least, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has now moved up my watch list.