SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains spoilers and speculation based on recent episodes of Fox’s Gotham.
People have long railed against Gotham for throwing so many key elements of the Batman mythos out the window, and this is fair criticism — unless this was never actually a story about Batman.
Love it or hate it, you’ve got to admit that Gotham is almost nothing like the accepted Batman canon. Sure, his parents died, and Jim Gordon is there. Sure, there’s a town named Gotham, and an Alfred raising the orphaned billionaire, but the connections basically end there. Everyone on Gotham is tougher, rougher and even darker than any version of Batman we’ve ever seen before.
What if there’s a reason for that? Detractors like to say that what this means is that the showrunners have no clue what they’re doing — heck, who’d want to watch a show about a baby Batman anyway? Well, what if the reason the show is so different is because it’s actually not a Batman show? What if the reason everyone is so dark, so grim, and so, well, evil is because this isn’t the prime Earth? What if this is Earth-3?
Or, to put it in simpler terms, what if this isn’t the story of how Batman begins at all? What if Gotham is actually telling the origin of Owlman?
For those unfamiliar with the character, Owlman is pretty much what he sounds like — an even darker version of Bruce Wayne than the one who became Batman. In some versions, he’s actually Thomas Wayne, Jr. — Bruce’s brother had died in most continuities, if he existed at all — and in others, he’s just, well, Evil Bruce Wayne. His world is dark, and everything is askew — all the heroes are villains, and there is no hope or light left t counter the darkness.
In the dark Gotham City of Earth-3, Owlman has ruled his city through darkness and terror. In a sense, he’s working pretty much how Batman does, but expanding his weaponized fear to all of Gotham’s citizens, not merely its cowardly and superstitious lot.
He looks pretty much like Batman, too, and has the same backstory — more or less. One version of Owlman in particular, though, syncs up almost perfectly to our theory, with Thomas Wayne, Jr.having been rescued by the Court of Owls, then raised and trained by them to become their perfect machine, their perfect killer.
Sounds a little familiar, doesn’t it?
Consider another startling sequence of events. In the show, Wayne Enterprises is out and out evil, ruled by the Court of Owls, themselves a subsidiary of The League of Assassins. In the comics, however, while Wayne Enterprises has occasionally been mismanaged or sabotaged, it is typically presented as an ethical company that does nothing but attempt to help people while turning a profit.
In Gotham, we find out that even under Bruce’s parents’ reign, Wayne Inc was funding Indian Hill, the secret society of super villains, breeding monsters underneath the labs of Arkham Asylum. In Gotham, Arkham is more than a home for monsters — it out and out creates them. Like in Earth-3, everything on Gotham is dark… and then taken up to evil.
Take, for instance, Jim Gordon. In the comics, Jim is the one good man on the GCPD, but here, well — how many people has he killed, just flat-out murdered, in cold blood? He’s one of the most monstrous characters in the entire show, and yet, he’s presented as the hero! He killed a mayor in cold blood at the urgings of the Penguin, who is basically Jim’s dysfunctional best friend. He’s also having an on-again, off-again father-son relationship with the head of the mob. His ex-girlfriend is literally the head of all the underworld in Gotham, and since Barbara and Jim are no longer a couple, it means the chances of Babs Gordon, aka Batgirl, ever being born is low. And you know who never had a Batgirl to train? Owlman.
All of that’s is before we even get to the fact that Gotham seems hell-bent on corrupting one of the truly good characters in Batman’s extended cast, physician Leslie Thompkins, who has recently injected herself with the Alice Tetch virus. In the comics, Leslie is one of Bruce Wayne’s closest confidants, perhaps the only person on his side other than Alfred who stands up to him, even betraying him when she thinks it’s the moral thing to do. Above everyone else in Gotham City, Leslie Thompkins is supposed to be the beacon of morality — yet, on Gotham, she’s voluntarily gone down deep into the darkness, along with everyone else.
Again, everything in Gotham is dark, dark, dark. Heck, even the villains are getting in on the action early, which is just another hint that this is a world gone terribly, terribly wrong. On Earth-3, villains aren’t much of a concern; Owlman simply arrests, lobotomizes or murders them. With Earth-3 being such an intrinsically evil place, it’d make sense that Gotham City’s villains would rise sooner here than on other Earths. And with so many of Gotham’s villains are running wild before Bruce Wayne has passed through puberty, it’s pretty obvious that this is not the Batman story we all know and love.
As increasingly apparent as it’s been that Gotham has its own story to tell, the most recent episode is the one that truly solidified the theory that this is not Batman’s story. Bruce Wayne has now become complicit in serial murder, has had all emotion of his parent’s death drained from him, is now serving the Court of Owls and may well be mentored by Ra’s Al Ghul. His goal is no longer to help the people of Gotham City, but to purge it. It’s a dark, dark turn that anyone could see coming if you accepted that this is what Gotham has always been building to: an evil Bruce Wayne.
We’ll never see David Mazouz put on the cape and cowl, because he’s never going to be Batman. Since Season 1, Episode 1, Gotham has been building to an emotionless Bruce Wayne, working for the Court of Owls. The show has never been about Batman, no — this show is about Owlman.