A new superhero-centric season of television is about to begin and the first series out of the gate will be “Gotham,” Fox’s hit series based on the early life of Batman and his future allies and rogues. Season one was a ratings success and garnered a huge fan base, but the series — especially during the first handful of episodes — was met with uneven critical response.
Despite some criticism, the series had many high points. From the superb origin of the Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) to the gripping forging of the Riddler (Cory Michael Smith), “Gotham” allowed some classic Bat villains to truly shine on the small screen. Additionally, there was tremendous chemistry on display — particularly between Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) and Alfred (Sean Pertwee) as well as between Jim Gordon (Benjamin McKenzie) and Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue). “Gotham’s” second season could improve on what went before by expanding on the successful narrative aspects while learning from past missteps and jettisoning excess story baggage. As we countdown to season two, which debuts on September 21, we offer some suggestions for how “Gotham” could climb to the next level of quality and become the series Bat-fans deserve.
A Stronger Connection to the DCU
Unlike the CW’s “Flash” and “Arrow,” Fox’s “Gotham” exists in its own little corner of the DC TV-verse. Still, the show could benefit from connections to the larger DCU. That sort of thing is working really well over on “The Flash” and on “Arrow,” and the inclusion of some non-Bat-centric, DC legends could go a long way to pull “Gotham” out of its isolation. Batman has always worked well as part of the overall DCU and it would be pretty cool to see “Gotham” connect its titular city to other iconic cities and characters pulled from the comics. Including characters like, let’s say, Ralph Dibny (Elongated Man), Ted Grant (Wildcat), Alan Scott (Green Lantern) or — now that NBC’s “Constantine” is six feet under — a pre-Spectre Jim Corrigan (to name just a few) would be a nice gift to longtime DCU fans and would allow “Gotham” to differentiate itself from past “Batman” films that have ignored the DCU.
In addition to returning bad guys like Penguin and the Riddler, many new villains have been announced as coming to “Gotham” this season — such as Clayface, Mr. Freeze and the Joker. With this influx of new rogues, it could be time to see some brightly colored — and potentially garish — comic book costumes mixed in with the show’s palette. Yeah, “Gotham” is a very grounded show, at least visually, but this is Batman! Why can’t these characters let their freak flag fly? There’s really no point in introducing characters like Black Mask if they aren’t going to wear their familiar and iconic wardrobe. Selena’s cat ear goggles are great, but enough with real world subtlety! Who wouldn’t wanted to see good ol; Eddie Nygma decked out in the Riddler’s green and purple this season?
Less Ancillary Characters
After a season of episodes, it’s clear that “Gotham” understands the Penguin and the Riddler. It’s obvious that “Gotham” comprehends the dynamic between Bruce and Alfred. It’s evident that “Gotham” knows what makes Selina Kyle tick. All this means that the series has an impressive mastery over the Bat-mythos’ more iconic characters. Therefore, when the show uses precious time building up original characters like Fish Mooney and that dude that used to be Fish’s bodyguard who now pals around with the Penguin, it feels like the legends of the DCU are getting short thrift. The DC Universe has literally thousands of characters to choose from, so it’d be nice to see them get a turn in the small screen spotlight instead of a character like Mooney, who was built up just to suffer an anticlimactic death.
More Beats Taken From “Gotham Central”
It’s safe to say that “Gotham” is rooted in the story and character DNA established in DC Comics’ “Gotham Central” series, but there havn’t been many story beats taken from the much missed comic series. In fact, one of “Gotham’s” greatest failings in the first season was not fleshing out its “Gotham Central” alum; Renee Montoya (Victoria Cartagena) and Crispus Allen (Andrew Stewart-Jones) were left unexplored and won’t be regular cast members in season two, which is a shame because “Gotham Central” certainly introduced some superb character templates for all these great Gotham cops. The idea of a series centered on the good cops of Gotham City certainly wasn’t invented in Greg Rucka, Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark’s seminal “Gotham Central,” but it was definitely perfected there. It would be great to see characters like Josie Mac or Maggie Sawyer join “Gotham’s” GCPD.
Less Name Dropping, More Awesome
Yeah, having an in utero Dick Grayson in the “Blind Fortune Teller” episode was kind of cute, but did it really do anything for the overarching narrative of “Gotham”? Fans are smart; they don’t need winks and nods every five seconds to remind them that this is a show about the world and mythology of Batman. When the series zones in on a character, like James Gordon, Leslie Tompkins, the Penguin or Nygma, great things usually happen. But when the series just inserts a character as a wink and a nod to loyal fans, things just fall flat. Hopefully in season two, the series will focus its efforts on a deeper exploration of DC’s legendary characters and expend less energy churning out fan service drive-bys.
“Gotham” returns to Fox on Monday, September 21.