By Winter Naomi Vera
When it comes to origin stories, many comic fans may ask “why should I care why a hero is a hero when I just want to see them beating up the bad guys and saving the world?”
“Gotham” was announced as a show following James Gordon, (the future Commissioner of Gotham City and ally to Batman) in a series that began immediately after Bruce Wayne’s parents were shot and killed and fans were up in arms.
Comments sections on the internet were up in arms over the idea, including phrases like:
“What a stupid idea. Why would someone make a Batman show without Batman?”
“Why make a series about the least interesting part of the Batman story?”
Despite this, Gotham’s success wasn’t centered around doing what fans wanted. Its success was in doing what fans never expected.
In the comics, many of Batman’s villains became The Penguin, The Riddler, The Joker, Mr. Freeze, etc. after Bruce Wayne became Batman, if he even met them before that point. In watching the show fans can appreciate the homework showrunner Bruno Heller (“The Mentalist”) and others did in bringing the comic world to life but their “Gotham” is more than just a live action adaptation of the Batman mythos.
The showrunners create a world in the vein of the 60s “Batman” TV series, Tim Burton’s “Batman” films, Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Trilogy,” Zack Snyder’s “Batman v. Superman” and anything and everything else. The looks of the villains are familiar, and entirely new. James Gordon (Ben McKenzie) often portrayed in his fifties or sixties with a mustache starts out as a clean shaven rookie cop.
The series opened with Selina Kyle, (Camren Bicondova) the future Catoman, witnessing the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents. Gordon is a newly minted Lieutenant who is dispatched to investigate. What follows is part procedural crime series, part horror, part sci-fi and everything in between as we see Gordon explore the unusual Gotham City, while Bruce begins his journey to become Batman.
Additionally the Series follows Oswald Cobblepot, better known as The Penguin (played by Robin Lord Taylor) and his devious arc of betrayal and murder, from an employee of club owner, Fish Mooney, (played by Jada Pinkett Smith) to becoming one of the most powerful crime bosses in Gotham. Taylor adds all kinds of facets to Cobblepot and portrays madness incredibly well.
There are characters associated with Commissioner Gordon or with Bruce Wayne that play completely different roles than they do in the comics. In “Batman: Year One” which was one of a select few comics that explored Batman’s early years, Gordon’s wife Barbara is expecting their first child in a struggling marriage. She is largely a secondary character in the comics, but she has a bigger role in the TV series.
In “Gotham” Commissioner Gordon’s fiancee Barbara Kean is a rich socialite engaged to Lieutenant Gordon who struggles with the life her fiancee leads and her issues with her parents, before being kidnapped by a notorious serial killer, in the first season developing a relationship with him, murdering her parents and becoming one of the main antagonists. The whole show runs along these lines.
Leslie Thompkins, (played by Morena Baccarin from “Serenity” and “Deadpool”) in the comics becomes a sort of mother figure to Bruce, is a doctor in Arkham who develops a relationship with Gordon and later becomes the leader of Gotham’s Narrows. Ed Nigma starts out as a forensics expert before becoming The Riddler. When watching Gotham, an audience member feels compelled to expect the unexpected.
Even before the show premiered, script leaks detailed a scene where a comedian, who was performing tired jokes for first season villain Mooney. The comedian was suspected to be The Joker, but didn’t make many appearances after that.
Cameron Monaghan, who appeared as Jerome Valeska 16 episodes into the first season and his twin brother Jeremiah seasons later, has kept fans guessing as to which of his characters may take the mantle as the Clown Prince of Crime. Over the course of the series, he has channeled famous Joker actors, Jack Nicholson, Mark Hamill, Heath Ledger and Jared Leto as well as a bit of himself in the madman.
“Gotham” additionally pays homage to what came before. Paul Reubens, who played The Penguin’s father in “Batman Returns” played Cobblepot’s estranged father in the series. There are visual callbacks to everything from “Batman: The Animated Series” to “The Dark Knight Trilogy” to Snyder’s series, and due to the nature of the source material and the city it’s set in, there is nothing too out of the ordinary.
“Gotham” stands apart from other series, because whatever decision the showrunners make just add to the crazy twists and turns the story takes. Kyle’s best friend Ivy Pepper, starts out as a little girl before being aged to a young woman in a plot involving genetically mutated Arkham Asylum inmates before exposing herself to various chemicals to become Poison Ivy.
Over the seasons, we have seen Gordon, Wayne and their allies face realistic threats to the city like a bomb or gang war to threats out of the ordinary like the aforementioned genetically mutated Arkham inmates, a virus that drives people mad, and in the fourth season, an ancient villain, Ra’s Al Ghul who destroyed the bridges of Gotham causing the U.S. to declare it a No Man’s Land when season five began.
“Gotham” is a series that is not easily forgotten for those who have watched it and the relationships, formed between the characters in the years, since its season premiere have taken many different roads. Friends became enemies. Enemies became friends. Mazouz and Bicondova have grown from children to teenagers and their characters from friends to much more.
As the series draws to its conclusion, each hour long episode will keep fans guessing from the minute it begins to the minute it ends. There will be a number of twists and turns in these final episodes as we meet new and returning villains, but the thing which comic fans initially railed against it for, its passing resemblance to the source material, will be what makes it so memorable when it ends.
The first four seasons of “Gotham” are currently streaming on Netflix. New episodes of the final season are currently streaming on Hulu and Fox’s streaming service.