Gotham: 25 Reasons It Is The Most Bonkers Superhero Show On TV

gotham bruce fish joker

Expectations were high for Gotham when it premiered. After all, there’s still a lot of untapped potential for the fictional DC city, home of the world’s greatest detective. Arguably, Gotham City is the greatest supporting character that isn’t actually a character. A detective needs a grimy city, and cities don’t come any grittier. Gotham is well known as a den of violence and depravity, reflecting the worst aspects of human nature. Since Batman’s creation, artists and writers have meticulously dissected this most famous and perilous town, and as such, it has survived earthquakes, invasions, a missing Batman, and endless mass murders. These and many other traits make Gotham one of the most fascinating settings in fiction.

So important is it to the physical and narrative landscape of DC that numerous creators have emphasized Gotham City over even Bruce Wayne or Batman. Greg Rucka’s and Michael Lark’s Gotham Central immediately come to mind, for example. Batman made occasional appearances, but those and other comic books had a tight focus on Commissioner Gordon, Renee Montoya, Harvey Bullock and the rest of the GCPD. It wasn’t too much to expect that the TV show would draw inspiration from that source. In the four years since it’s been on the air, Gotham has often drawn more ire than praise, especially from loyal comic book Batman fans. At the same time, the show has garnered a fiercely loyal and passionate fanbase, made of both casual fans and hardcore Batman fans, alike! Love it or hate it, we examine 25 reasons why Gotham is just bonkers.

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The greatest mistake Gotham’s creators made was the original premise of the show. They promised to explore the early days of Gotham City with its principal character, James Gordon, played by Ben McKenzie. The show aimed to explore the underbelly of a city without a costumed crime fighter, with posters and ads promoting Gordon and the Gotham City Police Department. This was supposed to be a cop show with a twist.

However, Gotham failed to live up to its original premise, instead relying on tried elements of the Batman mythos.

Considering the legion of Batman fans, it’s almost impossible for Gotham to shy away from referencing the Dark Knight. There are certainly plenty of materials to mine from the comics, and there’s nothing wrong with using Batman’s roots as inspiration. But this was a show purported to be about the early days of a city without its main hero. The characters and situations we know from Batman’s long history might have worked best if used sporadically. Instead, we got a show with a confused premise, one less willing to tease about the future and more insistent on bludgeoning us with the weight of history. This would have worked for a show about Batman, not one about his city.


Many of us grew up with a love for the Batman portrayed in the '90s movie franchise. By most accounts, Michael Keaton played a fine Bruce Wayne -- though the same might not be said for his Batman. After several spinoffs, even the most loyal Batman fans were left with serious doubts about a damaged Batman movie legacy. When Joel Schumacher directed, and George Clooney donned the cape and cowl, the end was near -- this was not the Batman fans knew, and it certainly wasn’t Gotham City. Looking back now, the Schumacher legacy can best be forgotten.

In 2005, Batman Begins premiered to rave reviews. This movie reflected the past decades of gritty Batman storytelling, from the Neal Adams take to Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. This was a movie loyal to the character’s origins and past. Though it too eventually took some creative liberties, no one could doubt the accurate tone. The dark and twisted Gotham City mimicked what was portrayed in countless comics. It’s a mystery why Gotham opted instead to follow the camp of the Schumacher movies. Unless producers were going for comedy, a show about cops in the most crime-ridden city should have taken inspiration from recent big-screen interpretations.

23 '60s CAMP

There’s a lot to be said about the 1960s Batman TV show. First off, some context is needed. Batman in the 1960s was a very different creature than the Batman of current comics. He lived in a four-color world inhabited by flamboyant villains in lieu of homicidal, bloody nemeses. The Dark Knight wasn’t dark; he had teen acolytes who helped lighten the mood and the Adam West Batman reflected this tone. Looking back, it hardly seems possible that the show was such a success. Though it only ran from 1966 to 1968, to this day, fans have fond memories of the show; it still plays in reruns.

Unfortunately, Gotham fails to deliver the fun in any of its stories.

What to take from the 1960s show is the humor. You never felt that it took itself too seriously. Batman and Robin threw out cheesy lines, fully aware that they were hamming it up. Watching the show today, one can’t help but giggle. Humor is an important component of camp. Unfortunately, Gotham fails to deliver the fun in any of its stories. The dialogue is over the top, the acting equally self-conscious. Although it’s possible that the campy elements of Gotham were intended, they should have remembered that campy doesn’t work if no one’s laughing.


For a show that promised to be about cops, Gotham has spent less and less time talking about them -- it’s focused on exploring the familiar aspects of Batman without ever mentioning him. Instead of walking a fine line between the past and the future of Gotham City, it falls heavily in the future. From the very first season, it used a watered-down version of the characters and stories from Batman’s time. Gordon the cop is less powerful than Gordon the commissioner, yet he’s expected to deal with the insanity of Batman’s world without a Batman.

An early episode of Gotham has one villain using giant helium balloons to get rid of his foes -- surely there are better ways for a bad guy to kill. Another story has one man drinking a green liquid that grants him super powers. Only milk will prevent him or anyone who’s had the green liquid from breaking their bones. Gotham has an inordinate amount of characters who are mentally unstable, and no reason is given. Classic Batman villains are introduced with little to no context. There’s also a problem with timing and age. If Bruce Wayne is a child, shouldn’t his classic villains be similar in age? The one thing to take from watching Gotham is not to ask too many questions.


Alfred Pennyworth is one of the most recognizable and useful supporting characters in comics. He’s been in the British military and has the skills to prove it. He’s stitched Batman’s wounds while subtly reminding the Dark Knight to heal his troubled mind. He keeps watch over a massive mansion and he’s expected to take in wards and be a father figure to Bruce and his sidekicks. If you list all his accomplishments, Alfred Pennyworth is the most superhuman of all of Batman’s cast. Without him, you get the sense that the detective wouldn’t have survived this long.

There’s a glimmer of the Alfred we know and love in the early episodes of Gotham. But it soon dissipates.

When unscrupulous businessmen try to take advantage of the passing of Bruce Wayne’s parents, Alfred is there to mentor Bruce. It’s aptly portrayed that Alfred manages the house, but as the show progressed, it seemed less obvious that his nature was entirely altruistic. For one thing he hid shady aspects of his past. This led to a heroin addict invading the mansion and almost murdering Alfred. Pennyworth then slaps a very young Selina Kyle, blaming her for the man’s death. He also decides she’s not good enough to be in Bruce’s life, manipulating situations so she stays away. This hardly sounds like Batman’s loyal, protective butler.



In case you’ve never heard of Ra’s Al Ghul, he’s a master of a league of assassins. His mission is to rid the planet of a plague -- that plague happens to be humanity. Ra’s has been around for as long as recorded history, and is able to keep his youthful appearance by bathing in a pit of magical water (the Lazarus Pit). The only problem is that it also makes him mad... like crazy mad. A small price to pay for eternity, perhaps, but one the madman is willing to pay. Ra’s Al Ghul has never been a Gotham-based villain. He’s never strayed from the Lazarus Pit -- suddenly the show’s creators have decided that Gotham is home to one.

In Gotham, Ra’s is also the leader of a secret cult. Somehow, he’s aware that Bruce Wayne is destined for greatness, so he tries to recruit him. He temporarily takes possession of the young Master Bruce, ordering him to slay Alfred. After Bruce kills Alfred, he regains control of his senses, using the powers of the pit to restore his butler. Ra’s Al Ghul also uses the pit to rejuvenate another dead member of the supporting cast, making her his ally. One gets the sense that this is sloppy writing. If anyone dies, a trip to the conveniently-placed Lazarus Pit will fix any dead end.


gotham barbara ras al ghul header

Barbara Kean is the woman who will one day marry James Gordon. Although it’s initially unclear in the comics, Barbara leaves Gordon because he has an affair. Still, the couple manage to have a son -- they even adopt Barbara Gordon, the ferociously smart redhead who becomes Batgirl. Forget any image you might have of Barbara Kean as a loving mother-figure. The show portrays her as a bit of an upper-crust snob.

She then becomes homicidal... and this is the woman that’s supposed to marry the show’s protagonist?

There’s nothing wrong with showing that Barbara Kean isn’t squeaky clean. Few people are in Gotham, and that’s okay. From the onset it’s clear she has a troubled past with substance abuse. For no apparent reason, she’s also the former lover of a cop, Renee Montoya. What follows is a sudden slip into insanity. She becomes jealous of Jim Gordon’s new lover and tries to kill her. She then joins a group called the Maniax -- you guessed it, they’re crazy. Making Barbara insane doesn’t serve the ongoing story of Gotham very well. Having her as one of the only sane characters on the show would have served as a nice contrast to all the insanity surrounding Gordon.


Having to witness the murder of your parents is enough to drive anyone into seclusion. This would cause a child to become withdrawn, lacking the ability to enjoy the simple things a kid should love. The young Bruce Wayne we read about in comics is so distraught by the loss of his family that he leaves Gotham, returning only when he’s ready to face his demons. When the first episode of Gotham premiered, the young Bruce resembled his comic book counterpart; he was sullen and quiet, disinterested in playing the part of a millionaire Wayne.

As is typical for this show, it doesn’t take Bruce long to change, taking an interest in the business side of Wayne Enterprises. Instead of a brooding youngster, Bruce is whiny and impatient. Going through the rebellious teenage years, Bruce eventually challenges Alfred, drinking like an adult and taking on the public persona of a jerk. Though that might work fine when Bruce becomes the Dark Knight, let’s remember that at this point in the show, Bruce is nowhere near becoming his alter ego. The show’s creators often skip ahead too fast, forgetting that there’s a logical process that should explain a character’s motivations and actions.


Introducing a young Bruce Wayne is fine when a show is called Gotham. Exploring the character’s past is interesting if only because it’s often neglected in comics. What we know is that Bruce Wayne’s most formative years happen outside the city. The comics establish this as a logical path since it’s the only way Bruce can gain his masterful skills. Although the young Master Bruce leaves Gotham to study, he’s a constant presence on the show, casting a much larger shadow than he should.

If the creators wanted a show about Batman, that’s what they should have pitched, rather than changing things mid-run.

Bruce Wayne starts to fight crime early in the show, so determined is he to find his parents’ killer. Along the way he befriends Selina Kyle, who teaches him a few things about prowling around at nighttime. It doesn’t take long for the show to fast-forward. This season Bruce wears a hood and coat that resemble a cape. Then he wears a cowl -- the only thing missing are the ears. Perhaps the writers should’ve called this show Little Gotham after the comic book depicting child versions of Batman and his cast. If they wanted Batman, that’s what the show should’ve been about. Making Bruce a crime fighter before he’s ready to be Batman makes no sense for a show about Gotham’s early years.


Jerome Valeska is a creation of Gotham. When the show first teases the character, we’re left with little doubt about his future. Promotional videos flaunt Valeska’s laugh, which sounds just like Batman’s greatest foe. His smile and face look just like the Joker, too, reflecting the madness within. Valeska is the stuff of nightmares; it’s what you’d expect from someone you think is destined to be the Joker. At 18, he murdered his parents and was sent to Arkham Asylum. Like every other patient at the asylum, he didn’t get much better.

Valeska breaks out of Arkham and becomes the leader of The Maniax (along with Barbara Kean). Jerome’s objective is to sow fear; he does this by throwing people from a Gotham City rooftop. Soon Valeska becomes infamous, leading the viewer to think that he is the Joker -- except that he isn’t. instead we’re supposed to believe that he’s the inspiration for the crown prince of crime. To think that the Joker is merely a copy and not an original is insane. It’s an idea that should’ve been left out of the show. If they really wanted to play with the Joker, why not introduce him like they have every other Batman villain?


The original, comic book version of the sirens of Gotham are a breath of fresh air. Comics have generally been dominated by testosterone heroes, so when Paul Dini and artist Guillem March launched The Gotham City Sirens in 2009, they turned the superhero formula on its ear by featuring the sometimes villains, sometimes anti-heroes Catwoman, Poison Ivy, and Harley Quinn. Since two of these characters were already in the show, was it too much to expect that Gotham would try to mimic the comic book?

It’s like the writers of Gotham heard about the Sirens but never bothered doing any research

The writers of Gotham have probably never read a Gotham City Sirens comic book, nor have they ever seen the fun Gotham Girls web cartoon (released in 2000). Generally, if you’re going to name drop or use titles or names familiar to comic book fans, it’s a good idea to pay homage to the characters. Previous incarnations of these ladies have explored humor and wit; though they were sometimes at odds, there was also genuine affection. Except for Catwoman, the other members of the TV version are homicidal and humorless, and their reason for being together is weak and pointless. It’s like the writers of Gotham heard about the Sirens but never bothered doing any research on these women.


Canon is defined as “a general law, rule, principle, or criterion by which something is judged.” From the onset Gotham’s creators rejected any notion that this show would follow canon. They wanted the writers to have the freedom to play around Gotham City without the weight of history bogging down the show. That’s not a bad idea when you’re translating a comic to another medium. The only pitfall is that you’re likely to anger fans who are hoping to see their comics come to life -- comic book fans aren’t the easiest to please.

It’s almost impossible to follow exclusively the history of a character, The Batman, that has been around for 80 years. The irony is that the show’s creators ended up being tied down by the very thing they tried to avoid -- canon. Instead of forging their own path, they dipped heavily in the Batman canon by bringing in virtually every major villain from the comics. The Penguin, The Riddler, Harvey Dent, Catwoman, Poison Ivy, Hugo Strange, Scarecrow, and many more make an appearance. The writers left themselves open to criticism because their versions were completely off the mark. A show about the lesser known Gotham City residents could have been just as interesting, without the heavy ties to continuity.


Gotham -- Bullock and Gordon

In the Batman mythos, Commissioner James Gordon is a stand-up guy. He’s an honest cop in a city seemingly lacking any morals. It’s the reason why Batman trusts him, even if his relationship with the caped crusader is complex. They’re sometimes at odds because Gordon believes in the law, while Batman is willing to bend it. Gotham City has a way of breaking anyone who fights the corrupt system, but it takes a strong and unflappable James Gordon to make sense of the nonsensical.

The James Gordon of the TV show is well cast and resembles the comic book Gordon -- at least in the beginning.

In a show filled with psychos and crazy plot twists, Gotham needs a character like Gordon. It doesn’t take long for the show’s writers to corrupt Gotham’s finest. In the first season he goes from being a cop to a guard at Arkham, and finally a detective. How he gets his promotion is through blackmail -- not exactly what you’d expect from Gordon. Gordon’s list of questionable offenses grows as he eventually commits murder and becomes a bounty hunter. The problem with tainting Gordon is that it takes him closer to the insanity that’s all around him. Gotham already has its share of questionable characters, it doesn’t need another.



Gotham without Batman is still Gotham, a city close to the breaking point, choking with death and violence. The show has done an admirable job showing that violence; the sun never shines in this Gotham City, as in the comics. It resembles more a hellish nightmare than an actual place where people live and work. Enter the cops, who are the only line of defense. James Gordon is billed as the lead, the pillar the show is supposed to rely on. He’s a cop who should’ve been given cop things to do, like solving murders and standing up for victims. Instead, he’s become an incidental passenger in the convoluted plots that keep twisting.

James Gordon gets caught up in the Falcone family war, helping the Penguin rather than bringing him to justice. Occasionally there are murders that need to be solved, but it’s window dressing for the week’s latest crazed criminal (a villain that’s usually part of Batman’s traditional roster). The cops -- even Gordon and Harvey Bullock, his partner -- often become subplots rather than leads, riding the insanity train. The show can’t make up its mind. Is it about cops, the early days of Gotham City, or Batman’s supporting cast? Your guess is as good as ours.


Gotham Carmine Falcone

Bringing in Carmine Falcone was probably the smartest thing Gotham did in the first season. Since this show was supposed to be about the city’s cops, using a mob boss that’s not a costumed supervillain puts some comfortable distance from Batman. Carmine “The Roman” Falcone first appears in the seminal Batman: Year One -- another good reason to use him, since Year One details the early days of Gotham. Falcone returns in Batman: The Long Halloween. In each appearance he’s a masterful criminal who doesn’t rely on hijinks and isn’t obsessed with getting Batman’s attention. Sounds like the perfect criminal for James Gordon to battle.

Unfortunately, Gotham’s Carmine Falcone is not the same man he is in the comics.

He might be the head of a criminal empire, but at each turn he’s overshadowed by Oswald Cobblepot. Fish Mooney also steals any scene he’s in -- she secretly plots for Carmine’s seat at the table. Falcone is blind to the machinations of his underlings, and we barely ever see him clashing with James Gordon. When a turf war erupts, Gordon saves Falcone’s life. Subsequently, Carmine announces that he’ll retire from his life of crime. Are mobsters, especially head of families, ever able to retire? Fear not, Carmine makes a comeback, continuing to play second fiddle.


Selina Kyle is Batman’s most enduring love interest. What makes her especially fascinating is that Catwoman is a strong character on her own, with history as complex and rich as Bruce Wayne’s. In Year One, Selina is a lady of the night who protects the roughest corner of the city. In Gotham, she’s an orphan who chooses life on the streets over life at the orphanage. As in the comics, she’s a self-serving thief, running atop Gotham City’s rooftops. That’s where she witnesses a murder and becomes linked to James Gordon and the younger Bruce Wayne.

In Gotham, Selina is well cast; the actress has cat-like eyes and convincing agility. She’s also closer to Bruce’s age, unlike most of the other supporting cast. She first makes her appearance as Cat -- as if it weren’t already obvious who she is. The problem with this homeless cat is that she’s the opposite of mangy. Her leather coat, gloves and goggles suggest she’s more of a spy than homeless. Though you can explain how she got her hands on expensive clothes -- maybe she stole them -- it’s not so easy to make sense of her hair. In every scene she looks like she just stepped out of a salon, with perfect curls and subtle makeup. Maybe she knows a homeless stylist.


Catwoman Gotham

You read that right. In Gotham, Selina has super powers. This isn't the first time that Catwoman was portrayed with unusual abilities, of course. In Batman Returns, she transforms from mousy to vixen; she’s able to perform amazing feats, including controlling her cats. She also has nine lives -- not too subtle. In comics, Selina Kyle, like Bruce Wayne, relies on her amazing abilities to survive Gotham City’s harsh streets. It grounds her, making her more relatable.

The writers of Gotham forgo the powerless option, choosing instead to make Selina more fantastic than mundane.

It’s not just that they give her abilities, it’s the way they reveal her powers. In one episode, she casually mentions that she’s able to see in the dark; again, that’s unnecessary. We all know what a real cat can do. In another episode, she falls out of a window, plunging to her death. Stray cats then surround her, presumably giving her a new life. Could she have nine lives like Michelle Pfeiffer’s’ Catwoman? It seems that the show’s writers did little research on the source material (comics), choosing to lazily swipe a scene from Batman Returns. Making Selina supernatural doesn’t make the character more interesting -- she’s all that and more on her own.


Harvey Dent is Batman’s most tragic villain, and it’s no surprise at this point that the show’s writers have decided to include him. The classic Harvey Dent begins as a noble attorney. Aside from James Gordon or Bruce Wayne, he’s one of the few characters trying to rid the city of corruption. Like most Batman stories, Dent’s fate is ultimately tragic. In a crowded courtroom, the gangster Boss Maroni throws acid in Harvey’s face, disfiguring him on one side. The resulting trauma splits Dent’s personality in two.

When Gotham introduces Dent, he’s already a full-grown man, and working for the District Attorney’s office. In every other iteration of the character, he’s Bruce’s age, and the pair become friends. Even after Dent transforms into Two-face, Batman hopes that he’ll be redeemed. In Gotham they hint at Harvey’s underlying madness when he appears to snap, only to pull back from the madness. For the show to throw him into the mix makes no sense. If they wanted to use a righteous attorney, why not create a new character -- perhaps even Dent’s father, who could have served as inspiration for his son? The young Bruce Wayne could have bonded with a young Harvey. Instead, we’re left with a greatly-aged, watered down version of the original character.


Gotham Edward Nygma The Riddler

The Riddler, aka Edward Nigma, has been both a foil to Batman and a reformed criminal. To be sure, Edward Nigma is an arrogant genius. His goal is to outwit the world’s greatest detective rather than sowing chaos or gaining a fortune -- hardly the makings of a madman. The Edward Nigma in Gotham is prematurely aged, though maybe not as old as Harvey Dent. He’s a forensic scientist who works for the GCPD -- a nerd who speaks in riddles and is practically invisible to his colleagues, and being ignored doesn’t sit well with Edward. Gradually we witness his descent into madness.

In Gotham, Edward’s motivations don’t make sense.

At times getting a girlfriend is what he wants; he’s willing to do the most unethical things to get her. When learning that Oswald Cobblepot kills the woman he loves, Nigma’s only goal is revenge -- he’s willing to kill. But that’s not enough. Edward forms a strange alliance with Barbara Kean and other villains to take control of the city. Eventually Edward Nigma transforms into another two-dimensional Gotham villain. His motivations change to suit the week’s plot. Nigma might have served better by challenging James Gordon, forcing the detective to answer riddles to solve crimes.


GOTHAM: Oswald Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor, L) returns home to his mother (guest star Carol Kane, R) in the "Spirit of The Goat" episode of GOTHAM airing Monday, Oct. 27 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2014 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Jessica Miglio/FOX

Gotham’s version of The Penguin has plenty of reasons to be mad. He’s been overshadowed by more ambitious and successful people most of his life. In Season 1, Fish Mooney is his greatest rival for Falcone’s empire. Eventually he comes into his own, running a nightclub catering to the underworld. When Oswald finally makes the big leagues, the first person he wants to share his success with is… his mother. There’s nothing wrong with a healthy mother-son relationship, but Gotham takes this odd coupling to another plane.

Gertrude Kapelput, played by actress Carol Kane, dresses like she just came from the set of a Tim Burton film -- and that’s no coincidence. Having comfortably settled in the campy chair, Gotham’s writers use the Penguin’s mom to explain her son’s mania. Gertrude takes overbearing to new heights, lying about Oswald’s dad -- she tells him he’s dead. Her expectations also lead the Penguin to go to extremes to please his mother. In a twisted way, the love he shares for his mom is what makes Oswald more than a simple caricature -- he’s probably the most fleshed-out, well-acted Gotham villain. Though he wants to shelter his mom from his criminal activities, he’s unable to protect her. It’s that failure that plunges him deeper into darkness.


Gotham Fish Mooney

Fish Money’s a bit of a mystery. She’s one of Falcone’ underlings, probably inheriting the job because she’s both fearless and ruthless. She regularly intimidates the Penguin, becoming his greatest rival for big boss of Gotham’s underworld. The problem with Fish Mooney is that she doesn’t serve much of a purpose beyond that. It’s a fishy motivation for keeping a character around; if Jada Pinkett Smith weren’t portraying her, Mooney wouldn’t have survived the first season.

Mariah Mercedes “Fish” Mooney is one of the show’s original creations -- she’s not part of the Batman canon, and that’s just fine.

Smith plays her for all she’s worth, delivering lines with so much camp she steals every scene. Fish is probably the most violent character on the show, regularly taking pleasure in pain. Though she makes alliances, Fish only cares about herself. When Falcone kills one of her lovers out of jealousy, she barely flinches. Fish Mooney’s most gloriously twisted scene happens when she’s trapped in a bizarre prison that keeps victims solely to harvest their body parts. Determined not to let anyone take anything from her, she scoops out one of her eyes and squishes it. Definitely she deserves the title of Queen of Bonkers.



Harvey Bullock is a lot like a well-worn shoe. He’s comfortable to have around because you know what to expect. He plays a similar role to James Gordon because he’s one of the few elements of the Batman mythos that’s relatively stable. Bullock might be a little crusty, but he’s a good cop and one that Commissioner Gordon relies on. Bullock makes his entrance in the first episode and you think you know what to expect. In this case it’s Bullock who’s older but the difference isn’t glaring. Truer to form, Harvey’s unkept and gruff.

Jim Gordon’s first few days at the GCPD are rough. He’s there to wage a war on corruption in the department. Because Bullock isn’t squeaky clean, he warns James to mind his own business. It’s to be expected that Harvey won’t be as noble as Gordon, but in typical Gotham fashion, the show’s writers turn the duo’s dynamic on its head. When Jim begins the first of his several downfalls, Harvey eventually lends a hand. And when James is at his lowest, breaking the law, it’s Bullock who pulls him back into the light. There’s a see-saw that takes place throughout the four years Gotham’s been on the air, and you never know whether Gordon or Harvey will be the good or the bad.


Gotham Logo

Gotham is the soap opera of primetime television, with one of the largest casts in recent memory. TV shows based on comics have almost endless characters, and that’s because there’s decades of history to serve as inspiration. Gotham’s writers don’t apologize for playing in Batman’s sandbox. In just one season they manage to introduce almost every major -- and minor -- Batman rogue in the 80 plus years of history. As if that weren’t enough they throw in other DC villains, in Season 4 they introduce Solomon Grundy, basically a superhumanly-strong zombie.

At times they kill or dispatch characters when they’ve written them into awkward corners.

This should give more time for new villains or supporting cast to shine, but even the dead don’t stay that way for long in Gotham City. In this way Gotham resembles the venerable Batman TV show of the 1960s. That show played with a simplistic formula; each episode was a vehicle for introducing or catching up with the villain of the week. Gotham throws so many characters up in the air that it’s impossible to juggle them all. The story’s become so convoluted, one gets the sense that even Gotham’s writers sometimes forget why certain people are still around.



Gotham has succeeded in creating a TV show that’s as unpredictable and mad as its catalogue of crazy villains. Many plots make no sense in the context of Batman’s history. Because the show doesn’t pretend to follow conventional storytelling rules, it’s possible to forgive and forget that some situations and characters are ridiculous. The show’s sets, costumes, and makeup lend a helpful hand to create that almost otherworldly effect. Though the show can leave you breathless at the end of each week’s episode, there’s a drawback to Gotham’s storytelling style.

In one season James Gordon goes through more drama than most characters experience in a lifetime. He’s a perfect example of the problem with Gotham. He begins the show with Barbara Kean as a love interest. When she succumbs to madness, he’s quickly paired with Leslie Thompkins. He joins the GCPD but loses his job. He fights crime then becomes an unwitting part of the Penguin’s criminal ambitions. Gotham also introduces most of Batman’s criminal cast in the first season. Plowing through stories at a frenzied pace makes the show tired with few tales left to unravel. After four seasons, it’s beginning to feel like Gotham has overstayed its welcome.


There’s no doubt that Batman the superhero is integral to the overall story of Gotham City. Since it has more than its fair share of costumed villains, the city needs someone who dresses up as giant bat to fight them. Out of costume, Bruce Wayne is just as important to the narrative. Wayne Enterprises funds everything from weapons tech to homeless shelters. There’s nothing wrong with hinting at Batman and using the Wayne name even when you tell the story Gotham’s early days.

The show’s fatal flaw is that it can never release its tight grip over the young Bruce Wayne.

When Alfred sends his ward to a boarding school, you believe that Bruce might be a supporting character. One Batman villain after another makes an appearance and that hope fades. By the end of the first season, Bruce and Selina are at the center of most stories. After four seasons, Bruce Wayne has already embarked on his crime-fighting journey, wearing a rudimentary version of his famous cape and cowl. By all measure the show’s no longer about Gotham City and its cops. It’s really about a young Batman and his villains. Gotham should’ve been called Bruce Wayne: The Early Years.

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