Remember when the GOTHAM TV series was first announced? Comic book fans were all “Oh wow!” about seeing the U.S.’s most crime-riddled city (pre-Batman) on the home screen. The joy turned to angst – a common development when it comes to moving comics from their home turf – and then the bad feelings kind of leveled off. If, like us, you’ve been wondering where GOTHAM stands now, here’s one comics pro’s take:
by Marc Alan Fishman
Back in November I lamented that Gotham was a train-wreck with glimmers of hope peaking out amongst the smoldering boxcars abandoned near Arkham Asylum. Well, here we are, a large smattering of episodes later, and I’m starting to change my outlook on Fox’s proto-Batman dramedy. Hear me out, skeptics.
My turn of opinion first peeked its tepid head out into the light when I came to the realization that the show was not, nor would it ever be, Gotham Central by way of Ed Brubaker. The fact is I’ve circled my wagons around the ideology that business and the boardroom will always help dictate the creative endeavors of the Big Two™’s creations. That means that as critically acclaimed a graphic novel may be, at the end of the day all Warner Bros is going to care about is ratings and the potential syndication of Gotham. Hence, the fact that producers are making a show that by-and-large is built to appeal to the widest audience possible by way of brazen continuity-shattering canon-damning characterizations was bound to happen. Or in lesser terms, we were never ever ever going to not get interpretations of Batman’s rogue gallery. So I got over it.
And when I did, the sky opened up, and the show instantly became more entertaining to me. Jim Gordon – the John Wayne of Gotham – and his trusty drunkish sidekick Harvey Bullock are the lone moral compass amidst a sea of corruption. Hell, Bullock up until the 8th or 9th time Gordon saved his ass was as much a part of the problem as anyone. But as the show settled into itself, there was a slight shift in the dynamic duo’s camaraderie.
After sticking his neck out on the line enough times, Bullock and the police chief both turned from broken records (“You’ll never beat this city, Jim!) into begrudging do-gooders. And it did the series a hell of a favor. Instead of one man against a city, there was a subtle cracking of a window, piercing the muck and mire with rays of hope.
Hope. It’s the biggest concept the show misplaced at the onset. But over time, the cases of the week gave way to those notions that yes, in fact, some people did want to fight against the rampant corruption. And to a degree even those who existed on the other side of the law started to show depth of character. Make no bones about it: Carmine Falcone is an evil and bad man. But he bleeds the same blood as we do, and through the plot line of Fish Moody’s planted girlfriend, we saw shades of grey in what was an otherwise black and white caricature of any gangster we’ve seen a million places elsewhere. OK, and let me not give too much credit here. The shtick of an Italian-American loving his mother is not exactly original storytelling. Again, lowest-common-denominator here. Take the small victories as big ones.
Because Gotham was given more than twenty shows to produce within the first season, the writing team has been very sneaky in utilizing slow-burn storytelling in-between the predictable ratings bait. While we’ve been treated to outright terrible iterations of the Scarecrow and the maybe-Joker to-be, we’ve been privy to the ebb and flow of several well-defined debauchees….