Gotham Review (Seasons 1-3)

One of DC’s better productions, Gotham is a television series which began in 2014, and is soon to conclude its third season. Developed by Bruno Heller, the show revolves around the origin of numerous characters within the Batman world, but mostly focuses on a young James Gordon (Ben McKenzie) starting out as a detective, and an even younger Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) whose parents have just been murdered. As Gordon makes his mark in the GCPD in his mission to rid the city of corrupt cops, street thugs and mafia bosses, Bruce takes it upon himself to find his parents’ murderer and to challenge those who manipulate Wayne Enterprise to their unlawful affairs. Simultaneously, the criminals of Gotham City are changing, for there is a rise of psychopaths who dominate the streets, many of whom are the iconic villains that Bruce will eventually have to face as the Batman.

One of the reasons why the show an excellent watch is because of Gordon. First seen as a naïve detective who relies on the justice system, to eventually developing a more cynical and angry attitude in his work, Gordon stops at nothing to drive crime out of the city. In contrast to Gary Oldman’s ‘soft-spoken’ performance in the Dark Knight trilogy, McKenzie manages to display a more ferocious side of the detective; bringing out a ‘no-nonsense’, tough son-of-a-bitch. With a strong sense of justice, the detective is constantly willing to put his life on the line to save the innocent, a likeable attribute which really draws support from viewers. Partnered up with veteran detective Harvey Bullock, Gordon’s moral compass is constantly tested and compared against the people he works with, a challenge he faces on top of his job. Aside from his work in the GCPD, the show also concentrates on Gordon’s personal relationships, which are continuously threatened by the criminals he pursues. While it’s slightly cliché, the detective’s efforts to keep his loved ones safe increases the value we place on him. Overall, the beginning of Gordon’s career in Gotham City is probably one of the most effective elements of the series, for it’s an action-packed storyline that rarely gets boring.

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Although he’s one of the main characters, Bruce Wayne’s role in the series is mediocre at best. Under the protective watch of his butler Alfred, Bruce attempts to stand as the new owner of his parents’ company, which leads him to discover corporate corruptness within the business. While the origin of Batman is one of DC’s major success stories, it would not make much difference if Bruce Wayne was in the series or not, considering how he is not a significant influence to the storylines of other characters. In other words, the rise and fall of most of Gotham’s villains are almost completely independent of his existence for the time being. Additionally, his personality is slightly off-putting, for he carries himself with a maturity that feels fake and unrealistic. The main reason why the future batman is not a total disaster is due to his task to eradicate the criminals in his company, as well as his friendship with Gordon.

The series invests a lot of focus into the origin of Gotham’s iconic villains. We follow the storylines of Penguin, Riddler, Mr Freeze, Ivy, as well as characters who have not made appearances in the major Batman films. However, it’s Jerome Valeska (Cameron Monaghan) who steals the show, a psychopathic son of circus performers. Even though it is obvious to viewers that he’s the young Joker, he does not assume this name; at least not yet. Arguably one of the better portrayals of the Joker, Jerome’s appearance and charisma closely resembles Heath Ledger’s act in The Dark Knight (instead of that embarrassment in Suicide Squad). Jerome’s jokes are sickly clever, and his goals are to cause nothing but chaos and anarchy. His manic laugh is also brilliant. It was revealed in a feature clip that the inspiration for the laugh came from Mark Hamill’s voice portrayal of the Joker from the Batman games. While there is no single origin of the Joker, Gotham’s Jerome is a refreshing rendition, and it also leaves us feeling slightly nostalgic towards Ledger’s performance.

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Due to the many characters, Gotham holds multiple storylines, each one focusing on either a hero or a villain. This is both a positive and negative aspect of the show. The reason why it works well is that we get a better view of the happenings in the city and how everyone’s situation intertwines and connects. Also, we are given multiple options of stories and characters to care about. However, this can backfire at times, for if there is only one character whose story is interesting, the show will still cut to the more boring characters, and we could be stuck watching them for multiple episodes.

A major failure in the show is the fact that they ‘kill off’ villains who we know will return. There are two reasons why these resurrections are predicable. Firstly, many of the villains are Batman’s iconic enemies, and since the show takes place in a pre-Batman Gotham, it wouldn’t make sense for any of them to stay dead. The second reason is that the narrative presents many convenient ways to resurrect a person through scientific means, and the process is done continuously. That being said, when a criminal is ‘killed’, it just tells us that they’re going to waste time trying to thrill us with a plot twist, and all we can do is roll our eyes.

Despite its flaws, the early days of James Gordon are worth watching. The series not only gives us the back story of our favourite DC characters, but also creates this unexplainable persona of Gotham City, one that the police constantly need to keep under control. The show is close to ending its third season, with the last episode to be aired on the fifth of June.

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