Is Jim Gordon Interesting? – A Review of Gotham Seasons 1 & 2

How did we get to Gotham?

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Since first featuring in Detective Comics issue #27 in May 1939 Batman has held a special place in peoples hearts across all types of media from film, comics, books, TV and more, you can barely go anywhere without seeing a Batman merch piece being visible. The no nonsense detective in bat themed mask and cape captured the imagination of children the world over, all very interesting but not really the point of what we are talking about here. No because of his popularity, as to be expected, many spin offs have emerged and there’s one that has me gripped lately and that is the show Gotham.

Gotham is a Fox created TV show that follows the early career of Jim Gordon (played by Ben McKenzie), at this point a lowly detective, the character who like Batman first appeared in issue #27 but then as Commissioner Gordon,. In fact he was in the first panel of that issue! He is teamed up with Harvey Bullock (played by TV Veteran Donal Logue, seriously check out IMDB, his TV credits are pretty varied), a character who appeared in his first comic issue Batman #361, a crooked cop worn down by years of trying to serve a broken Gotham City.

Not giving much away but the series starts with the Bruce Wayne/Batman origin story of Thomas and Martha Wayne being shot *sigh*, but don’t forget as he is a teenager here he is not yet the man who becomes Batman! I will say the casting is pretty spot on for all characters (I mention some of the characters below, but be warned there may be spoilers!)

The show is very much filmed around the style of the Christian Bale Batman moves or Walking Dead in that its very ‘gritty’. The crimes when committed are fairly violent in their portrayal, its a big difference compared to the 1960’s TV show version of the villains and city, as you can imagine. However I think it all works fine as much in that the ‘grit tv’ style of show is very popular with audience tastes evolving people seem to prefer ‘grittier’ things out of their TV, in fact most of the best shows in recent year s have been fairly dark, look at Breaking Bad, Walking Dead, etc. Heck even when Poldark came back on BBC it was criticised for being to hard hitting and raunchy.

Gotham’s Seedy Underbelly (SPOILERS)

So to best explain why I find this show fascinating I’m going to have to go a little into mild spoilers, don’t worry i won’t reveal total plots or anything but I will have to refer to specific characters and if you don’t know they are in the show it could be considered a spoiler, so look away now if you don’t want to know……………

………….still here? Good! So to confess all when i started watching season 1 I didn’t like the first few episodes.

I mean who hasn’t seen Bruce Wayne’s parents being shot by now and understand what that means?? This was made even worse by some of the first villains you meet being pretty rubbish sounding and not fan favourite, like ‘Balloon Man’ jeez…..

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But i’m glad I stuck with it because after a few episodes you start to meet people who will become the super villains such as Edward Nygma (played by Cory Michael Smith), The Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor), Black Cat (Camren Bicondova) and Harvey Dent (Nicholas D’Agosto). What hooked me on it was that you see THEIR origin stories something I don’t think has really been done before on TV. Like why and how did Penguin become crime overlord? What tipped Nygma over the edge to becoming the Riddler? What drove Scarecrow mad? and so on, whilst still following a young Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) and a young Alfred (played by the always funny and great Sean Pertwee) as he starts the journey on becoming the man he will later be.

All this is strung together nicely by following Gordon and Bullock around as they attempt to dish out justice in Gotham (not always easy to do), whilst dealing with Gordon’s moral code and at the same time we see nods, winks etc to other villains (who may or may not be planned for later series).

Series 1 very much focuses on the ‘Mob Wars’  angle with alot of Penguin and Falcone especially and no real super villain heists etc as they haven’t got there mentally yet, although as it goes on their descent into madness is clear to see and sets up the next chapter well. It’s a slower start but by the end of the series it is really gathering pace so if you stick with it I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Series 2 takes that descent into super villainry further  (If villainry isn’t a word it is now!). It deals with Arkham Asylum with Hugo Strange especially and the Indian Hills project (which spoiler…..is responsible for creating alot of the villains in this universe). Inevitably this leads us towards the close of that season where you really start to see some of the super villains taking shape. From what i can tell Series 3 seems like it is going to go super villain full on but we shall see.

In short it for me is all brilliant story telling and gritty action and it got me hooked for good by mid point of series 1. Much like some other TV before it the show doesn’t dumb it all down or make the villains corny which given the general backstory of many of the characters from the comics it could easily fall into the trap of doing. In fact they even do a good job of joking at times about the corny nature of the characters where in one such moment Penguin says “Maybe I need a new laugh”, poking fun at the ridiculous bird laugh the Penguin has in the old TV show.

The Future of Gotham City

Sorry if the above is a little vague on full on plot points but I really didn’t want to spoil the show to much for you if you decide to watch it.

So where do we go from here with Gotham, series 2 ends on a dramatic moment that could spell big trouble for our heroes in the form of many super villains, this time actually super ones not the infamous Balloon Man from earlier. This leads me though to a big question and 3 fears for this show.

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The first and easy fear is that if you actually look at the ratings despite people like me enjoying the show the general TV viewing figures have gone progressively down since it began, never a good sign and with TV being so competitive if it doesn’t draw ratings it just gets cut, look at cult favourite Firefly!

The second is problem with the concept, so right now it appears we are getting super villains in the next series BUT we have not got a super hero to defeat them! The question is how will Gordon and the regular GCPD forces battle a bunch of super styled (and some super powered like Mr Freeze) killers? They have yet to really have what you might call a battle with them in that regard so my fear would be that they will somehow cheapen both what Batman brings in battling them and the villains characters themselves by making it ‘easier’ to defeat the villains.

The third fear is sort of a pairing of the 2 but how long can this show run for realistically? Bruce Wayne is in his early teens at most, I know the point of this show was not to see Batman really but as the villains become more powerful surely eventually Batman has to feature. For example if they introduce the Joker, a risky move maybe given fan backlash at how Joker is portrayed these days (see Suicide Squad announcement hatred on every social media platform ever), then surely GCPD cannot battle him. In the comics and films the GCPD are hopeless against Joker but can you really do a Gotham show without Gotham’s most feared villain if it runs for 5+ seasons?

Fears aside I will be watching series 3 for sure the second it arrives on UK shores, hopefully you’ll be joining me. Fan of Gotham? Don’t like Gotham?  Comment below and share your thoughts with us.

Images courtesy of Fox / DC Comics.

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