The Evolution of Gotham Since Its First Episode

gotham cast season 5

After just five years, at last, Batman has appeared in Gotham. Starting from the old story all Batman and DC comic fans the world over knows off by heart where Bruce Wayne’s parents were murdered by a petty crook in an alley, we get to see a well thought out show where Bruce Wayne gradually becomes the Dark Knight who protects Gotham for the first time on live television.

How has the Show Gotham has evolved since Season 1?

Well, Gotham is one of those shows inspired by DC comics over the past few years. It isn’t connected to anything like Smallville, Arrow, or any of the other shows. No, it is purely a standalone show. Unexpectedly the focus of the show isn’t on the young Bruce Wayne even though he is a central character. It’s actually focused on a younger version of James Gordon who, in the comics, is destined to become Gotham Police’s commissioner and one of Batman’s staunchest allies.

While some of the audience wondered what the point of a Batman TV show without Batman was, and many felt frustrated by the inconsistencies which made the show ranked 13 on Chaostrophic, no-one can deny the show has grown. In Gotham, Gordon has to deal with not just the increasing number of mad people who will lay the foundations of the city’s future – younger versions of Penguin, Joker, and the Riddler, and Catwoman are still central characters, with several stories revolving around them as they become the people they’re meant to be. And Bruce Wayne? Unexpectedly, although he is destined to become Batman, Bruce Wayne is sometimes relegated to the sidelines of the show. It’s a clever little move by the show writers.

Summary of Gotham’s development over the five-year run.

Developed by Bruno Heller, and debuting on FOX in 2014 and is now going to be finished in 2019, the first season of Gotham focuses primarily on Jim Gordon and Harvey Bullocks’ investigation into the murders of Bruce Wayne’s parents. At the same time, Bruce tries to recover from the trauma he suffered due to the murder he witnessed. He befriends Selina Kyle who will become Catwoman and Ivy Pepper, whose father was a petty criminal framed for the murder of the Wayne parents, and is destined to become Poison Ivy, and is on her way there since she develops an interest in botany, leading her to become fascinated with developing mind-controlling chemicals. The investigation features problems for Gordon’s relationship with his fiancé, while a gang war involving the Penguin breaks out.

In the second season, Penguin has taken over Fish’s gang while there are new conflicts and revelations waiting for Bruce Wayne – such as the existence of a Wayne Enterprise’s sponsored facility where criminals are experimented on with the help of Hugo Strange, designed to transform inmates of Arkham Asylum into members of society. The investigation leads to the discovery it’s under the control of the Court of Owls, a criminal secret society.

Season three shows how even Jim Gordon is not immune to the ravages of living in Gotham – in this season he is a bounty hunter working on tracking down escapees. But the problems of the city are still present – Edward Nygma who has been showing signs of becoming the Riddler for the last two seasons begins to accept it. At the same time, the Mad Hatter appears, as does Ra’s Al Ghul who promises to make Bruce his heir, and even gets him to kill Alfred, who is later revived.

Season four is where we begin to see Bruce becoming more like Batman – unlike in the comics, where Bruce didn’t become a vigilante until he had returned home from his travels, he becomes one much earlier. Jonathan Crane, aka the Scarecrow, begins to accept his role, while Poison Ivy becomes a full adult, and Jeremiah is driven mad by his brother, Jerome, and becomes even more twisted. No Man’s Land appears much earlier in Gotham’s TV series than it did in the comics.

No Man’s Land is a central plot outline in the fifth and final season, which shows the criminals have taken territories of the city and run them as their own while the police try desperately to restore order in a city cut off from the rest of the world. After enduring conflicts where Jeremiah’s Joker tries to create a twisted bond with Bruce, and Ra’s Al Ghul’s daughter tries to destroy the city, while elsewhere things turn out for the better for Jim Gordon who gets married to Dr Leslie Thompkins and has a daughter, Bruce Wayne finally leaves the city to become Batman. Ten years later, Gotham has pretty much recovered, and Batman appears just as Wayne Towers is threatened with destruction, and saves Jim’s daughter from being dunked in a vat of acid by the Joker.

How it’s Changed

According to TV Over Mind’s article on how Gotham has changed, there are story arcs, and according to the article, some of these arcs where characters are developed and the story unfolds, some of them are expected and yet not all of them are. The villains in this show, many of them are just essentially common criminals and mob bosses such as Fish Moony and Falcone, who overshadow criminals like Penguin and Joker because, in the first seasons, they were just beginning. Or were they? It has taken time, but we now know the boy who we all felt was going to become the Joker was not going to be the Joker – his brother was.

His twin brother. Surprising arc. Of course it took time for the story arcs to develop, and by the fourth season we were just beginning to see Gotham’s future criminals take shape, just like we saw Bruce Wayne change over the course of the show while he uncovered secrets, learnt more about how to survive without his parents, discovered the cave hidden beneath Wayne Manor, encountered his future foes before, in season 5, Bruce left Gotham just like he did in the comics, and went abroad for ten years on his journey to learn all the skills he would need in order to become Batman.

But surprisingly Bruce had already become a masked vigilante who patrolled the cities late at night which was another surprising development since in the comics when he returned to the city, he would venture out into the city disguised as a street tough – and he barely returned to Wayne Manor alive.

But its great the showrunners have decided to change things the way they have.

Gotham’s final finale in 2019 also highlights how the cast themselves have evolved since the show had begun in 2014 because in the finale Batman finally appears. With the exception of Selina Kyle’s Camren Bicondova and Bruce Wayne’s David Mazouz who will have new actors playing their roles as Catwoman and Batman, the rest of the cast have also changed, to become more like their comic book counterparts; on Hollywood life’s page on how the cast has changed over the years, there is a gallery showing a slideshow.

Gotham hasn’t just turned out in a completely different way by showing us the origins of the villains, its also changed and improved upon the origins of Batman himself. Let’s face facts – just creating a TV series about Batman without Batman has been impressive enough, according to a Fandom article. This particular article also points out the usage of Batman-centric stories for its episode arcs.

The unique thing about Gotham is the fact the villains are already there, some of them already showing signs of what they will become in the future, while others would evolve into what they would become – look at Oswald Cobblepot, aka Penguin; part of the criminal underworld already, waddles because of a nasty injury inflicted on him, and as the early episodes focus on him as he schemes and plots his way to power we get to see one of Batman’s famous villains grow.

But the presence of the villains in Gotham without the Dark Knight has done the opposite of what other Batman shows and movies have done in the past, because while he is trying to protect Gotham, it can’t be denied Batman is what attracts them in the first place, so Gotham has changed that image for the better. In the comics, Batman appeared and just launched guerrilla-like attacks on mobs, and the villains appeared with a gimmick in response.

In the series, Gotham city has been overwhelmed by criminals such as the Joker for years.

It’s a neat little trick of the showrunners to depict Batman as being the result of the crime wave with Bruce apparently leaving Gotham in the fifth season – for a decade – and coming back with the knowledge that he would need to use fear and a dramatic disguise in order to fight back the darkness shrouding the city like a shadow, instead of having the Dark Knight just coming out of nowhere and fighting conventional criminals while inspiring the super villains to dress up in costume, or some new gimmick to challenge him.

Of course, having a Batman TV show about Batman without Batman is tricky, but like with Smallville where Clark Kent would save people before he became The Blur in the final seasons, the writers have written a scenario where Bruce Wayne didn’t wait for years and years to become Batman – he went out as a teenager, dressed in armor and donned a black mask with his family’s company providing the tech he needs to go out onto the streets years before he actually becomes Batman. We have touched on this already at the top of the article, but it has to be mentioned again.

With this change of origin, shifting the comic book story of how Bruce Wayne ventured out of Wayne Manor after returning after his years abroad and nearly getting killed, Bruce’s path to becoming Batman has become much shorter. With the introduction of Ra’s Al Ghul and his involvement in the creation of No Man’s Land, devastating event in the history of Gotham city in the later comics where an earthquake shattered the city and reduced it to an anarchistic ruin of its former self to the mess with the Joker twins where Jeremiah instead of Jerome is fated to become the Clown Prince of Crime, when Bruce Wayne left Gotham for ten years and then returned after his long years of training, he would only need to adjust his image to include a bat motif, and he will be ready because he is already experienced with donning a costume and dealing with the insanity on the streets of his city after his long struggle.

How Gotham differs from Smallville

One of the most important differences between Gotham and Smallville is the length – Smallville had a ten year run time as it told the story of how Clark Kent became Superman, and it seemed to go on forever. It had so many plots and subplots, and yet disappointingly enough Superman himself was barely seen in the last episode.

Not so for Gotham – the writers have seemed to have learnt from the mistakes of Smallville, whose biggest mistake was cramming in so many stories into it, making the show two dimensional by focusing on Clark Kent. While Gotham has its flaws like every other show, you can’t deny that the series tells interesting stories about the origins of the villains Batman has to face, how Gotham was reduced to an anarchical ruin by No Man’s Land, and when Batman appeared, it seemed as if he was the result of all that chaos instead of the villains themselves coming out into the open shortly after the Dark Knight appeared.

There were fears, according to Comic Book’s article on Gotham and how the finale would be nothing like Smallville, who was worried Batman would not have much action like Clark Kent’s Superman, but those fears were laid to rest when it was revealed Batman would have a whole episode. Another major difference is the time scale – the final episode of the fifth season has a time gap of ten years, and there is no blow by blow showing of what happened during those ten years, so the show runner’s mindset is an improvement.

Whether there will be a Gotham sequel in the far future or a spinoff, we can only hope.

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