“Gotham” disappointing for Batman lovers and casual fans alike

Andy Monserud

I am a Batman fan. I’ve seen the movies, watched the cartoons and read a few of the comics.  So when Fox announced the launch of “Gotham,” a police drama documenting the titular city before the rise of the Caped Crusader, I could hardly wait. Unfortunately, “Gotham” is an unfaithful, uninteresting drag of a TV show. Comic-book and casual fans alike will find the series difficult to love at best, as it haphazardly shoves Batman’s allies and Rogues’ Gallery into a story destined to go nowhere.

Gotham City itself has always been outlandishly awful. The Batman mythos depends on a landscape rank with crime, corruption and systemic social ills which only a Dark Knight can save. The story follows a young Jim Gordon, best known as Gotham’s police commissioner and ally of Batman, as he struggles against the near-universal corruption of the Gotham police force and the organized-crime empire of Carmine Falcone. But Gordon’s narrative is paralyzed by the fact that viewers know nothing can change until the Batman arrives –– an eventuality that is unlikely to occur before the show’s inevitable cancellation, since Bruce Wayne appears only as an angry and slightly creepy preadolescent.

The show attempts to keep things interesting by constantly dropping members of Batman’s Rogues’ Gallery into improbable places: Edward Nygma, alias the Riddler, works in forensics for the Gotham City Police Department, where he serves as a poor excuse for comic relief. Harleen Quinzel, aka Harley Quinn, kidnaps a young Selena Kyle, or Catwoman. Even Poison Ivy makes a brief and entirely inconsequential appearance as the child of a murder suspect –– under the wrong name.

These appearances serve no purpose other than to catch viewers’ attention for the brief moments they appear. As practically every form of Batman media has pointed out, the Rogues’ Gallery is purposeless with no Batman to legitimize the idea of dressing up in a costume and attacking strangers.

The sole exception to this panorama of blandness is the Penguin. As the eventual leader of an organized crime syndicate himself, the Penguin, or Oswald Cobblepott, has a place in pre-Batman Gotham. He’s portrayed skillfully by Robin Lord Taylor of “The Walking Dead,” and is the only character in the entire show with any promise for development. Unfortunately, he was made entirely irrelevant to the narrative in the first episode when Fish Mooney (a series original and entirely uninteresting underboss played by Jada Pinkett Smith) exiled him from the city. So much for your only interesting character, “Gotham.” He’s not gone, but in a show about Gotham City, does it really matter who the Penguin brutally murders somewhere in the hinterlands, especially when nobody else knows he’s alive? Even upon his return to Gotham, Cobblepott is relegated to making small, quiet moves, predicting doom from the sidelines as Gordon’s enemy-turned-occasional-informant. It’s too much to rely on one recurring character to support the vitality of such an ambitious idea as this.

Overall, “Gotham” is just another cop show with a bad gimmick. In this case, that gimmick will undoubtedly self-destruct, and soon. The real question is when the genre as a whole will fall through, because it’s about time for it.