The fifth episode of Gotham airs tonight, and the show will continue to try and prove its need to exist; a Batman show, without Batman. While I kind of loved the pilot, the subsequent episodes are full of moments that both land well and miss completely, and it’s created an experience that is often wildly inconsistent. That’s off-putting when try to set up a new universe like this, and Gotham struggles in terms of trying to figure out what it actually is. Is it a superhero show? A crime drama? A comic book adaptation? All of the above? To me, there are a few glaring things Gotham needs to fix directly if it’s going to graduate from mediocre to good, then hopefully on to great and amazing after that. It’s similarly-genred competition, The Flash, already seems to be ahead of the game, debuting firmly at “good” and managing to stay there so far. Gotham is a step behind, and needs to perform some surgery to advance forward.
Gotham Needs a Consistent Tone
Say what you will about The CW, but its shows always manage to get their tone right, and work on a thematic and dramatic level because of it. Arrow has a feel to it, and now so does The Flash. From moment one, even working with relatively ludicrous source material, it has a distinct personality to it.
Gotham…does not. It tries to be dark and gritty, yet a bit more surreal than say, Nolan’s Batman universe. Sometimes this works, like when we see The Penguin’s rise to power, other times it dips into outright goofy territory with vigilantes tying balloons to corrupt city officials and watching them float away.
Gotham wants to be noir, but in a way that’s usually an outright parody of noir, and that’s often awkward. Jim Gordon plays it straight, but Bullock hams it up a bit with his “crooked cop” routine, and Fish Mooney is on another level of camp and absurdity completely. Nothing feels like part of a cohesive whole. They’re pieces that don’t fit forcibly glued together.
Penguin vs. Fish
To me, the Penguin vs. Fish Mooney divide is the battle for the future of the show’s soul. On the one hand, the Penguin and his rise to power is everything right about Gotham. Robin Lord Taylor plays the character brilliantly, and in a way we’ve never seen before in the comic or onscreen. He steals every scene he’s in, and is a far better character than anyone else on the show.
Fish Mooney, by contrast, is far and away the absolute worst character on the show. She’s hammy to the point of putting me off bacon for good, and constantly seems like she’s in a different universe entirely. She gets her own plotlines, but they’re completely unrelated to the larger plotlines of the show. For example, last week she had two singers sing and seduce either other and fight over who gets a new role in her club. It was stupid, silly and only served to reinforce the absurdity of her character. Granted, it’s hard to create an entirely new villain free of Batman lore entirely, but so far the experiment hasn’t panned out.
Fish either needs to be cut, or Jada Pinkett Smith needs some serious coaching in order to get on Robin Lord Taylor’s level. She’s obviously a talented actress, but it’s like she heard “comic book show” and then started cackling manically, turning in an over-the-top villain performance that comes off more silly than menacing.
Bruce Wayne Needs Something to Do
Many questioned the decision to include a young Bruce Wayne in a show centered around Commissioner Gordon, and so far, that questioning has proved to be kind of valid, given Wayne’s role on the show.
So far, Wayne has existed only to cry in the pilot over his parent’s death, and to stay in his giant mansion to be visited by Jim Gordon whenever he’s feeling guilty or one of his cases manages to loosely connect to the Waynes. We’ve seen the young Master Wayne hinting at some of his future training, but mostly that’s just consisted of him burning his hand on a candle or standing on the roof of his house.
I love the new “tough guy” Alfred the show has invented, but the pair of them contribute little to the show right now. It seems obvious that young Bruce will soon cross paths with young Selina Kyle, but if his plotline is little more than “baby Bruce learns to stand up to bullies in high school,” his inclusion is never going to feel warranted. But it’s not as if the show can simply lose him like they could FIsh Mooney.
These are just a few of my proposed tweaks to the show, and perhaps Gotham can get better without them. But they’ve been really noticeable to me over the first few episodes, and I worry the problems could grow large enough to sink the show if left unchecked over a long period of time.
What would you change about Gotham?
[Photos via FOX]
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