Pre-Batman Gotham – Why Bother?

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[Editor’s Note: Frequent Flock of Nerds contributor, Chris, had a few words to say about Fox’s new television series, Gotham, before it premiered on September 22nd.]

If you’re at all into keeping tabs on the upcoming television season, you’ve been inundated with notifications, ads, and giant banners shilling the newest police drama on Fox: Gotham.

Gotham is set in… Gotham. Apparently it will focus on future Commissioner Gordon as he investigates his first case – The Murder of Martha and Thomas Wayne. Gordon as investigating officer of the murder has been noted in the comics on several occasions, so that’s all well and good. Apparently Gordon will also be going deep into the underbelly of Gotham and getting his hands dirty, roughing up future super criminals like Oswald Cobblepot and Selina Kyle.

I’ve got a few problems with this show, on a conceptual level. First of all, Bruce Wayne is about 10ish years old when his parents die. Gotham is NEVER going to really be about Batman, unless it focuses on the fact that this 10 year old never goes for grief counseling (or if he does, it’s pretty bad). Maybe the show will eventually feature Batman, but don’t bet on it. DC probably wants its premier property to remain on the big screen.

So, fine, no Batman. It’s going to focus on the Gotham P.D. and Gordon. If you know anything about Batman in general, you’re WELL AWARE that Gotham P.D. is the absolute WORST police department in the world; it’s corrupt and inept. Gordon is pretty much the only officer at all who is interested in stopping crime. This is going to be a gritty crime show about one man versus the system. That sounds like a great Wire-esque premise for a television show. The huge problem is that they’ve tied this awesome premise to the Batman franchise.

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For the first few seasons (if it even gets there), this show is going to have to be about a decaying city going from pretty shitty to verging on the apocalyptic. Are you going to sit through season after season of watching Gordon get beat down at every turn? If the show is going to focus on the years prior to Batman: Year One, then this is going to be a pretty bleak show. Here’s the ending of this show: Gotham gets worse and worse until it gets so bad that its only redemption is a rich man in a batsuit. The entire purpose of Gordon’s early character is to be the lone, normal representation of good in the absolute worst conditions. Are you prepared to watch as Gordon’s family falls apart, he develops a drinking problem and things never get better? There’s no pre-Batman justice in Gotham city. If there were, there would be no reason for the Batman.

Unless this show shifts after a season or two into a show about Batman, I just don’t see it going for very long. Sure, you’ll get to see Cobblepot become a crime boss, but we already know that he becomes a crime boss. We know the end of this particular story, and it’s not that fun. The big thing right now is GRITTY, but the other crime procedurals on television are popular in no small part because there’s a payoff almost every week. There isn’t going to be a payoff in the universe of Gotham until the very end, when Batman finally shows up, and that story is WAY more interesting than the stuff that comes before.

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