Thomas Galvin
Purveyor of Fine Pulp Fiction

Nobody's weak. Everybody's strong. -Justin Pope

The Gotham pilot was a great hour of television. It introduced a raft of interesting characters, dropped them into an interesting situation, and lit the whole thing on fire. It didn’t have the awkwardness of most pilots; I didn’t feel like anyone was still trying to figure out their character, and the cast all seemed to work comfortably with each other.

Gotham has a great premise. The whole city is corrupt; the politicians and the cops are all on the take, there’s a mob war brewing, and the best that people can hope for is that the more restrained, less violent crime boss comes out on top. Our protagonist is the only good cop in town, new to the city and too righteous to become a part of the status quo. The inciting incident is the murder–probably an assassination–of the city’s wealthiest couple, beloved icons and philanthropists. The series arc is the ripple effect caused by these deaths. The police, the criminals, the politicians, and the people of the city will all be affected in one way or another; these murders are the straw that breaks the city’s back.

It’s a great story. There’s just one problem, and his name is Bruce Wayne.

Jim Gordon is a fascinating character. Tough, moral, and too stubborn for his own good. He’s a knight in shining armor, a man who believes in the law and in justice. He’s a man who hasn’t yet given up on the system, and watching that crumble, watching him become a man who can accept a guy dressed up as a bat and beating criminals to a pulp, will be a hell of a ride.

Unfortunately, the show feels like a tease. Because as interesting as Jim Gordon is, he will always be overshadowed by the Batman.

As far as I know, no one has ever inspected Bruce Wayne’s early life. Like Jesus, he’s the focus of a childhood tragedy, and then he disappears until early adulthood. The opening half of Batman Begins, following Wayne’s progression from would-be killer of killers into the Dark Knight, was the best part of the movie, and I would gladly watch a series about that.

I’m less convinced about watching a series about thirteen-year-old Wayne. It makes sense that this is where Batman really got his start. He’s supposed to be one of the best athletes in the world (Dick Grayson, currently Nightwing and the original Robin, is acknowledged as a better pure athlete, although Bruce is still a bette brawler), and Olympic-level athletes almost all start their training very young.

It makes sense, but it isn’t very compelling. I understand that Bruce Wayne would have to start his preparations at a young age, but I don’t particularly want to watch a thirteen year old every week. That, of course, is why Jim Gordon is the focus of the show. But whenever Jim Gordon is on he screen, I can’t help but wonder what Batman would be doing in his situation.

And, like most of these origin stories, the world of Gotham feels too small. The Penguin works for Falcone’s rival, who has the Joker up on stage. The Riddler works in the police’s CSI division. Catwoman watched Bruce’s parents get shot, and will eventually teach Batman parkour. Poison Ivy’s dad gets framed for the crime. I get that they’re exploring how the Wayne Murders affected all of these people, and made Batman’s villains as much as they made Batman himself, but it feels just a little too forced, especially all within one episode.

Gotham is a good show that is, I think, hampered by the fact that it’s also a Batman show. I think I’d be able to enjoy it more if I wasn’t waiting for a cape and cowl that will never appear.