The fifth and final season of Gotham is underway, and it looks like we just might get to see the Caped Crusader make his full, costumed appearance before it's all said and done. Now, for a show called Gotham, you might think a glimpse of Batman in a single episode would be pretty easy order to fulfill. After all, five seasons of watching young Bruce Wayne stand on the sidelines (for the most part) as his city morphs into a crime-ridden hellscape has been insanely frustrating.
There have been some serious high points and fascinating shake-ups over the past four years, but the overall reason for the show's existence has been confounding and often made us wonder, "Who, exactly, is this show for?" It might sound crazy, but maybe putting Batman in your Batman show would behoove more people get invested in it... but we digress. If the brief silhouette we saw at the end of Fox's most recent promo for the show is any indication, it would appear Gotham might have learned from Smallville's biggest mistake.
Do you know what's harder than putting Batman in a Batman show? Turns out, it's putting Superman in a Superman show. Look, we understand sometimes whiny and toxic petulance erodes the good humor of fandom. There's no way to please everyone. Specifically, there's no way to please every single fan of the source material. Comic fans can sometimes form a ravenous hivemind that doesn't really dig having its toys played with except under very peculiar circumstances. They are limits regarding what they will tolerate when in comes to adaptations, and more often than not, those limits are arbitrary.
For instance, fans were weirdly cool when a Bane was portrayed by a 5' 9" handsome, British actor wearing a mask which looked like it was designed by H.R. Giger on an ether bender in The Dark Knight Rises. But when they saw the version of Bane who would appear in Gotham (who, in all fairness, does look like a rejected villain from Battlefield Earth) they immediately turned on it. Now, we're not defending one version of Bane over the other (but let's be honest: Tom Hardy wins, right?), but both are a far cry from the source material in terms of aesthetics.
So what does stuffy English Bane and cyborg S&M Bane have to do with Batman finally showing up in Gotham? Well, it's all about expectations.
When Gotham first premiered in 2014, there was a certain assumed promise the series would be the road which led to the Dark Knight. Despite having seen the origin of Batman play out a dozen or so times in various mediums, the fact this was going to be a show focused on what many adaptations glossed over could have been rather fascinating as long as the end result was the same. Most of us don't care how long the road to Batman is, as long as we eventually get there. Before the promo featuring (presumably) David "Baby Bat" Mazouz donning the cape and cowl, it looked as if that presumed promise was not going to be kept. Now, yes, a good story is all about the journey. And sure, we can respect an solid origin story, but c'mon! Don't give us multiple Jokers and zero Batmen. That's a terrible ratio by anyone's standards.
However, this sort of thing is par for the course when it comes to televised superhero origin stories. And as easy as it is to rag on Gotham for marching four full seasons before us without giving us our hero's rise to greatness, the biggest offender for doing so is Smallville.
At the end of the Season 11 (yes, eleven), in the 219th episode, fans finally got what they were waiting for in the show about Clark Kent... well, kind of. A few minutes of television budget CGI special effects and an obscured red cape isn't exactly what we'd call the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but... it was better than nothing.
For some fans, however, the whole ordeal felt a bit insulting and has since sullied retrospective opinions of the show. You can't peruse a discussion thread on the show without reading "I loved the show, but hated the ending" a dozen times. It was like having a buddy hype up his aunt's awesome beach summer home all winter long. They spent those chilly months regaling you with stories about how massive the waves are, and how the property is right on the water, and it has a swimming pool, and a billiard table, and all the amenities... but when you get there, it turns out the "awesome beach summer home" is just a trailer next to a strip mall that's six blocks away from the oceanfront. And the pool is above ground.
With Gotham gearing up for its final act, the show has a chance to avoid this sort of transgression. If Titans can give us a fully costumed Batman, then so can a show that is literally about Bruce Wayne becoming the Dark Knight. It all sounds so trivial (because it is; this is escapism about grown men in capes and tights we're talking bout here; the fate of humanity doesn't hinge on Batman showing up on Gotham...or does it?), but it'd be nice to see the character arc of Bruce Wayne come to its inevitable conclusion with more than a cool little nod to the character. But hey, even if Batman only makes a cameo, one obscured by shadow or fog or whatever, at least it won't take as long to get there as it did for Smallville. Roads to greatness need not be measured, but shortcuts are fine by us.