When Fox first announced its Gotham TV show, I was both skeptical and excited. I mean, it was a Batman show…WITHOUT BATMAN. Well, sort of without Batman; Bruce Wayne is on the show, but that’s splitting hairs. Now, while the first season as far as storyline goes was hit or miss for me (I WILL be watching season 2, if anything for the last scene of the finale, and the fact I will give anything Batman a try), what I want to focus on is the DIRECTION the storyline is heading.
We all know what the end game is: cape, cowl, Batarang, cave, etc. What’s interesting is HOW Gotham is choosing to get there, which differs from what we have seen before from the comics and movies. They are opposing sides, similar to Harvey Dent‘s coin. Let’s take a look at both sides of the coin and decide what we would call if we were flipping it.
Comics and Movies
Since 1939, we have followed the same basic story of Batman: Bruce Wayne’s parents are murdered right in front of him and he vows to fight injustice so the same thing doesn’t happen to anyone else. He goes on a multi-year journey to train with the greatest detectives and fighters around the globe and eventually becomes the World’s Greatest Detective. After a rough start, Bruce decides that he needs to become a symbol, an idea, to put the fear into criminals, and begins wearing the costume of Batman. As depicted in Batman: Year One, the targets of Batman’s one-man war on crime are not colorful characters with equally colorful henchmen, but “normal” criminals in the form of the mob.
At the start of Batman’s career, this was enough. However, as this scene from Batman Begins shows, things change.
Because of the arrival of Batman, the villains of Gotham City stepped up their game, to the point where the Dark Knight would have his hands full with the likes of these:
Throughout the years, the question remains, “Would this escalation have occurred if Batman never existed?” Gotham takes that question and tries to answer it. Let’s look at the other side of the coin.
Gotham‘s first episode starts off as you think it will, with the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents. After that, the show goes into the opposite direction in regards to how Batman eventually arrives. So far this season, we have seen:
Season 1 has also brought us the Dollmaker as well as two original characters, the Balloon Man and the Spirit of the Goat.
While the latter two were not part of the comic book Rogues Gallery, they definitely fall into the “supervillain” column. It was also recently announced that for Season 2, we will see the arrival of the Joker and Mr. Freeze.
I realize that none of the characters listed above have reached their “true form” as of yet, but compared to the comic books, they are closer than they ever were. Penguin is well on his way to running Gotham’s mob; Riddler has started to show his dark side, and his obsession with riddles started with episode one. Catwoman has the nickname of “Cat” throughout the season, and is honing her craft as a burglar. Harvey, while still on the side of angels, is starting to show signs of his dual personality.
This remains an origin story, and there is still a long way to go. If you look at where the characters are currently and think about 15 years from now when Bruce has completed his training, Gotham will already be overrun with these supervillains. For Gotham, BATMAN is the escalation in response to the Rogues Gallery.
Which Way Works Better?
That’s a great question. Is it better for the villains to respond to Batman or Batman to respond to the villains? Regardless of how you feel about the TV show, Gotham may be getting it right as it pertains to the point of Batman. Batman is a symbol that is supposed to inspire hope in people. How is that symbol effective when the result of his actions is someone like the Joker? Batman being the symbol the city needs to fight these colorful villains is a more heroic narrative.
A good way to look at it is to take Gotham City and personify it. Now let’s say this person gets sick, infected with a virus. A responsible person would take medicine to treat the virus. What makes more sense: Gotham “treating” Batman with supervillains, or Gotham “treating” supervillains with Batman? Clearly it makes more sense for Batman to be the “medicine,” rather that the virus, which is what Gotham is doing. Over the long term of the series, Gotham will result in Batman becoming the solution to the problem, rather than having to constantly question whether or not he is the cause.
I have loved Batman for as long as I can remember, from watching the ’60s show in reruns, through the Animated Series, to when I go to the theater to see Batman v Superman. To me, he has always been the symbol of a hero. Regardless of how you feel about the show itself, the direction of Gotham respects that symbol too, and is doing its best to ensure that legacy.
So what say you? Do you agree that it’s better to be a solution than a catalyst? Do you believe in “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”? Are you at a stalemate?
Let me know on Twitter or in the comments below.