The Dark Knight Regresses: 20 Ways Gotham Has Tarnished Batman's Legacy

Gotham is easily the most divisive comic book show on television these days. By and large, viewers love the Arrowverse shows. Daredevil and Jessica Jones are critical darlings that also create massive fan buzz. Lucifer had enough of a passionate fanbase to be rescued by Neflix when it was cancelled, and Preacher is proving that its audience is sustainable on the AMC Network, also home of ratings behemoth The Walking Dead. On the other hand, shows like Iron Fist and Inhumans were resoundingly rejected, with everyone in agreement that they were bad -- real bad.

But Gotham is another story entirely as it divides people down the middle: you either love it or you hate it. It has a dedicated core viewership that love it for its foibles, just as there are countless people ready to pour scorn upon it at any moment. The show has excellent production values and wonderful costuming. It has also given us fan-favorite interpretations of characters like Oswald Cobblepot and Edward Nygma (who were recently part of a storyline that was very important to the LGBT community). But it has also angered many fans with its disregard of Batman continuity and sometimes laughable writing/acting. We tend to fall into the latter category, as we feel like Gotham has done much more bad than good to the Batman brand in the four years it has been on the air. And in a time where DC/Warner Brothers can't seem to get Batman right on the big screen either, this is a big problem. Here are 20 ways Gotham has tarnished Batman's legacy.

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When Gotham was first announced in September 2013, it was billed as a show detailing Jim Gordon's early years as a Detective in the Gotham City Police Department. It was said to also involve some of the city's most famous villains, but would definitely not star Batman. Most fans naturally assumed the show would be a gritty crime drama reminiscent of Gotham Central, the superb early-2000's comic by Ed Brubaker, Greg Rucka and Michael Lark.

But, when news got out that a young Bruce Wayne and young Selina Kyle had been cast in March 2014, it became apparent the show didn't have the courage of its convictions to focus entirely on Gordon. As a result, over the years poor Jim has gotten increasingly lost in a show that was supposed to be his star vehicle.


Over the course of the four seasons so far, Gotham's tone has veered so wildly that some critics have described it as 'tonal whiplash'. A true Frankenstein's Monster of a show, the creators have tried to incorporate the tones of multiple incarnations of Batman. Sometimes it's a gritty, realistic crime drama with superhero elements, akin to Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Trilogy.

Sometimes it borrows the Gothic tone and atmosphere of Tim Burton's movies. And, worst of all, it then tries to insert the broad campiness and outright silliness of Joel Schumacher's movies. In fact, it can often come across like an ultra-violent version of Batman & Robin or the 1966 Adam West/Burt Ward Batman TV show, which simply does not work. At all.



Despite it being a hodgepodge of baffling creative decisions, Gotham does feature some talented performers in its cast. Ben McKenzie showed in Southland and The O.C. that he is a very good TV star. Donal Logue is a veteran of the industry who plays Harvey Bullock with a good mix of world-weariness and slobbishness, but always with a good heart.

David Mazouz is one to watch for the future, Morena Baccarin is a beloved geek actress after her roles in Firefly and Deadpool, and Robin Lord-Taylor is maybe the best thing about the show as Oswald Cobblepot. But every one of these actors is constantly struggling against sub-par scripts in which their characters barely act like rational human beings and spout dialogue so terrible it sometimes beggars belief.



It's very hard for comics fans to reconcile Gotham with any sort of conventional Bat-timeline. If the show had focused on Jim Gordon and had included a few notable Bat-villains here and there, it could've still fit in with the timeline we know. However, by entwining young Bruce Wayne so much with Gordon's investigations and showing Bruce make such quick strides in his vigilante training, the timeline got weird.

But when every major villain starting showing up with alarming regularity, any hope of the continuity making sense went out the window. If Mr Freeze, Scarecrow, Ra's Al Ghul, Bane, Hugo Strange, Poison Ivy and The Riddler are already tangling with Gordon, what does that mean for Bruce as an adult Batman?


Gotham Season 5

Before Gotham, the last time there was a major live-action Batman TV show was in 1966. The Dark Knight has, aside from animation, been reserved for the big screen, but with so many comic book shows finding success in recent years, it made perfect sense for Gotham to exist.

Batman is also the crown jewel of superhero properties and the brand recognition alone should have been enough to make it a ratings behemoth like The Walking Dead or Game Of Thrones. Instead, its mixed reception meant ratings have fallen with each season, and its final season even has a reduced episode order. This may make DC/Warners nervous about attempting another Batman show in the future.


Jim Gordon Gotham season 3

Jim Gordon is one of the best characters in the Bat-mythos. Batman's most steadfast ally, Gordon has always been a good cop in a corrupt city who tries his best to do the right thing at all times. He is flawed like all of us, but has a moral core that cannot be compromised. Jim Gordon, as played by Ben McKenzie on Gotham, is the exact opposite of the unflinching Gordon of the comics.

From week to week, Gordon is whatever the plot requires him to be; morally strict one week and a rule-breaker the next, wracked by guilt over his violent actions one week and then back at it the next. There is no consistency to Gotham's version of Gordon. We should always know what he will do in the end (the right thing), but this is never certain in Gotham.



David Mazouz' performance as Bruce Wayne is undoubtedly the best thing about Gotham. For someone so young, he has tremendous acting chops and has always managed to bring something compelling to any storyline he is given. However, just like with Ben McKenzie as Gordon, he is working with seriously inconsistent material.

By focusing so much on Bruce's teen years it has forced the show to fast-forward through a lot of life experience that the comics show Bruce enduring as a young man in his 20s. The show even had Bruce don a makeshift vigilante outfit and seems to be hinting that before Season 5 finishes we'll see Mazouz in a full batsuit, which is crazy. Even Smallville waited longer to show Clark Kent in a Superman costume.


Gotham Lee Thompkins The Doc

Unlike many of the other characters in Gotham, Leslie Thompkins hasn't been featured in any previous live-action incarnations of Batman. She was an important (if small) part of Batman: The Animated Series in the early '90s, but Gotham had the potential to introduce her to a wider modern audience. Sadly, Leslie 'Lee' Thompkins bears very little resemblance to the kindly Doctor from the comics, who served Gotham City's less fortunate while also being a surrogate mother figure to Bruce Wayne.

In the show, Lee is a physician at Arkham Asylum and initially a love interest for Jim Gordon. She eventually goes down a dark path after injecting herself with the blood of Alice Tetch (the Mad Hatter's sister) and then proceeds to date The Riddler in season four.


Sean Pertwee plays Alfred Pennyworth in Gotham and yes, you guessed it, the show's interpretation of Bruce Wayne's loyal butler is pretty bonkers. Clearly taking inspiration from the Earth One graphic novels and some other recent comic book versions of Alfred, he is a former military man. He isn't really a father figure to Bruce so much as he is an authoritarian guardian whose teaching methods are way harsh.

Because the world is harsh, right? We can see the logic in this approach, but we miss the kindlier Alfred who is always on hand to cut Bruce down to size with a dry witticism. Oh, and this Alfred totally slaps a 13-year-old Selina Kyle in the face at one point, then tells her Bruce's life would be better without her in it. Too far, Pennyworth!


Gotham Barbara Kean

In a show brimming with ridiculous characters, Erin Richards' Barbara Kean is perhaps the most bugnuts. To be clear, we think Richards is actually a fine actress who makes Barbara entertaining to watch, but the choice's made with her character make absolutely no sense. She started as Jim Gordon's ex-fiancee but soon went insane because of The Ogre who forced her to do some bad things.

She then joined Jerome Valeska's Arkham gang, before forming her own criminal organization to rival Oswald Cobblepot's. Producers even admitted they considered turning her into Harley Quinn, or even the lesser known Magpie, which says all you need to know about how they never had a clear idea about who or what Barbara Kean should be.



The saga of Jerome Valeska has been one of the more beloved aspects of Gotham, mostly due to actor Cameron Monaghan's frenzied commitment to playing a scenery-chewing lunatic. But, that doesn't excuse the fact that Jerome's story (which includes resurrections, a twin brother named Jeremiah, and countless nods toward classic Joker looks and stories) makes no sense whatsoever.

The show's creators were told they couldn't use the Joker, as he was saved especially for the big screen, so their solution was to throw everything Joker-esque at the wall to see what Monaghan could pull off. All while never saying the word 'Joker'. Sure, it's entertaining at times in a ridiculous way, but is so scatterbrained and nonsensical that it boggles the mind.


Gotham has a habit of introducing original characters and developing them for a bit, before turning them into well-known characters from the comics. For reasons, we guess? They did this with James Frain's Theo Galavan, the main antagonist of Season 2 (the season Gotham embraced its insanity). Galavan was a businessman who became Mayor of Gotham City, but was also a descendant of the Dumas family.

He sought revenge on those who had wronged his family, like the Wayne's. He was taken out by Jim Gordon but then resurrected by Hugo Strange and given the mantle of Azrael, the brainwashed assassin who did the bidding of the ancient Order Of St. Dumas. Like everything on the show it was a haphazard mish-mash of better ideas from the comics.


Gotham Fish Mooney

Fish Mooney is another example of how utterly bonkers Gotham can be. Played with gusto by Jada Pinkett-Smith, it could be argued that Fish was ahead of the curve; the character was already wildly over-the-top even in season one, before the show had fully committed to its insanity. However, her schtick was often unwatchable.

A mob boss who made a play for Carmine Falcone's criminal empire, Fish was always a heightened character; she even gouged her own eye out with a spoon! She was resurrected in Season 2 but augmented with cuttlefish DNA (yes, really) which gave her the power to control anyone she touched. She then perished again in Season 3 when Jim Gordon accidentally impaled her with a sword. Madness.


Gotham The Executioner

When Michael Chiklis' Nathaniel Barnes was introduced in Season 2, he was a by-the-book cop with a strict moral code who was determined to clean up Gotham City. He became a mentor to Jim Gordon, showing him that he could do good without resorting to bribery, extortion or uneasy alliances with the underworld. Basically, he was the Jim Gordon that Gotham's Jim Gordon should have always been.

Naturally, the show then transformed him into Z-list Batman villain The Executioner, a madman who dressed in a silly Mad Max-style getup and executed criminals after 'trying' them. It completely threw away everything compelling about Barnes and did nothing except tarnish the legacy of Gordon once again.


Hey look, it's another awesome character that Gotham had no idea what to do with! Except this time their treatment of the character was deeply questionable at best, downright offensive and gross at worst. Classic Bat-villain Poison Ivy was introduced as Ivy Pepper in Season 1, a 13-year-old girl who befriends fellow teen runaway Selina Kyle.

Then, Ivy was suddenly transformed into a 20-something adult after being touched by metahuman Marv. She was now played by Maggie Geha and spent a while coming to terms with her new body. Yuck. She was then re-cast yet again for the upcoming Season 5, with The Flash star Peyton List stepping into the role.


The Flash Season 4 suit

The Arrowverse has its fair share of problems, but we'd argue that every single show in that CW lineup is better than Gotham. Arrow, Supergirl, The Flash and Legends Of Tomorrow all play fast and loose with the comic book source material, like Gotham does, but because they respect the characters, fans aren't angered by the futzing with their beloved comics.

Sure, there are bad episodes and poorly realized characters here and there, but each show feels like it knows the exact tone it's trying to hit and they succeed more often than not. The creators of the Arrowverse also showcase incredible ambition and have the talent to achieve it. Just picture Gotham attempting anything as monumental as "Crisis On Earth-X" or "Duet", the charming-as-all-hell musical Flash episode.


Gotham Jerome Valeska

While we have no doubt there are people out there who enjoy Gotham in an earnest fashion, we can't help but feel there are more who extol its virtues because of how nutty it is. The 'anything can and will happen' nature of events on the show can certainly lead to delirious entertainment, as long as you attune to its looney wavelength. But that says to us that the main way to enjoy Gotham is to do it ironically.

Who cares if nothing that happens makes sense? Who cares if their character motivations and actions are so slapdash and chaotic? Who cares if it takes the best universe in the history of comics and throws it to the wolves? Jim Gordon just punched Jerome's stapled-on face off his head! Literally! How awesome is that?! Not very awesome, in our book.


1970s Batman

In the four seasons of Gotham thus far, Jim Gordon has come up against the following villains (not counting Penguin, Riddler and Catwoman who are recurring cast members from the start): Mr Freeze, Poison Ivy, Ra's Al Ghul, Firefly, Hugo Strange, The Mad Hatter, Solomon Grundy, Scarecrow, Clayface, Azrael, Professor Pyg and the Court Of Owls.

This is an extremely large section of Batman's extensive rogues gallery, but in the context of the show, if an ordinary Gotham City police officer can fight these costumed crazies, what need is there for a Batman? By including so many iconic villains in the show, the creators might have boosted their ratings and had more fun in writing the show, but they rendered an adult Batman completely pointless to Gotham City.



When Netflix' Daredevil was recently cancelled, there was an outcry from fans about how Netflix, Marvel and/or Disney were making the wrong decision. People loved Daredevil and were consistently impressed with its strong writing, nuanced characters and hard-hitting action scenes. But not only did fans register their displeasure, writers, artists and directors working in the comic book and film/TV industries were also publicly outraged.

Will that happen when Gotham bows out after Season 5? We doubt it, as it is very rarely spoken of in positive terms by industry professionals. Putting our conspiracy theorist hats on, we wonder if many people are embarrassed by the show and take the tactic of saying nothing, as they don't have anything nice to say.



Gotham is very much its own beast. The show has carved its own path right from the start, for better or for worse, and it stands alone in the world of comic book TV shows. However, bringing new readers to comics is one of the by-products any publisher will hope for when a TV show or film is made of their IP, and we'd argue Gotham has failed in that regard.

Even though the show has taken inspiration from numerous comics, their adaptations are always so mangled that they bear little resemblance to any of the original stories. As well as that, there has never even been a comic based on the show's continuity, unlike the Arrowverse, which has spawned several digital-first comics. Any fan of Gotham who wanted to read the comics would have no idea where to start.

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