GOTHAM is the prequel series that promises to tell the story of Gotham City before Batman came on to the scene; we’re supposed to learn how things got so bad that only a man in a bat costume could save it. There’s fertile ground for lots of stories here to expand the Batman universe – but it could easily go off the rails. Sadly, the premiere episode set a direction of shrinking that world.
The series focuses of straight-arrow newbie Det. James Gordon (Ben McKenzie) and his crooked veteran partner, Det. Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue), and we learn about the corruption-plagued town through the eyes of Gordon and the evolution of Gotham City’s more bizarre criminal elements. Seems like a solid premise.
But then GOTHAM succumbs to the temptation of far too many prequels – to link things together that were random in the original material. It’s the curse of foreknowledge that leads writers and producers to slip in “secret” relationships and “previously unknown facts” that might seem at first to be cute little winks to fandom or good ideas at the time – but ultimately they harm the universe as a whole.
Take the iconic murder of Bruce Wayne’s (David Mazouz) parents, as depicted in the premiere episode. For no reason at all, the producers put Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova) the future Catwoman, at the scene of the crime. Now, before you call it a cute little tie-in or anything else positive, think how that coincidence shrinks the world by connecting more characters to one single event. As Selina was seen at the Wayne mansion near the end of the episode, producers might be tempted to lay the groundwork for the Batman/Catwoman love/hate relationship here, when both characters are children, making it seem like they were “meant for each other” instead of adult strangers who crossed paths in the course of their “jobs.”
I’m saying it now: If GOTHAM goes on for five or six season, I guarantee you that at least one or maybe even two other characters will be “revealed” to have also been in that alley at the time of the Wayne murders, hiding in different shadows. So then even more characters will be tied to that one event, further shrinking the universe.
This was a similar problem in Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman movie, when he decided that the Joker had killed Wayne’s parents instead of a random thug, as in the comics. It made the Bat universe smaller to give him the same archenemy from childhood through adulthood.
Even having young Bruce connect with Gordon now sets them on a path of friendship that pre-empts their adult relationship.
The same danger lurks within the story of the villains: the Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) works for Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith), and the future Riddler (Cory Michael Smith) works for Gotham PD – investigating the Wayne murders! And that one thug who was framed for the murder – his daughter is named Ivy (Clare Foley), as in Poison Ivy? Again, how convenient.
The premiere wasn’t all bad news though: I give the episode a big thumbs-up for not staging the Wayne funeral in a heavy rainstorm – at least that one cliché was resisted. The acting was fine all around – even if McKenzie was a bit too stiff. And I give director Danny Cannon props for staging scenes directly from the comics, such as patterning the Wayne murders after the now-iconic sequence from Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli’s “Year One” storyline – complete with broken pearl necklace and Bruce kneeling between his dead parents.
However, Bruno Heller’s (THE MENTALIST) script was a bit too on-the-nose: Catwoman steals milk? Seriously? And in this one story, young Bruce learns all the moral lessons he needs to develop his creed as Batman: the cops are powerless so justice can only be meted out by circumventing the system and taking the battle to the criminals. Clearly, Alfred (Sean Pertwee) is aching to teach the boy how to fight and Bruce is already forcing himself to overcome his fears, so all the dominos are in place to create Batman after just the pilot.
Really, no further episodes of GOTHAM are needed.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“Fear doesn’t need conquering. Fear tells you where the edge is. Fear is a good thing.” – Det. Gordon