There’s a reason I haven’t written about FOX’s new television series Gotham despite my proclivity for analyzing anything related to Batman to within an inch of its life. Three weeks and as many episodes in and I just don’t feel like there’s much to say about the show, due in large part to the fact that Gotham doesn’t have much to say about itself either.
Love it or hate it, Gotham suffers from crippling insecurity.
So this isn’t so much an analysis or discussion as it is a pep talk.
Like any number of Batman stories Gotham starts off with the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne in front of their son Bruce. Where Gotham differs, however, is that rather than flashing forward twenty-some years from Crime Alley the series stays on the streets of Gotham City and follows detectives Jim Gordon and Harvey Bullock as they investigate the murder of the cities resident power couple.
But just because Gotham doesn’t immediately fast forward to The Dark Knight doesn’t mean it doesn’t desperately, desperately want to more than anything in the whole wide world.
Gotham has a lot going for it. Shot in New York City and inspired by the aesthetic of the 90s animated Batman series, the titular city feels timeless and alive. Against that stellar backdrop the show’s two leads, Ben McKenzie and Donal Logue are perfect as Gordon and Bullock. A show in this setting with these actors in these roles should be a home run, big brother or not.
But Gotham does have a big brother. Gotham has a lot of big brothers.
The Dark Knight. Arkham City. Year One. The Long Halloween. Mask of the Phantasm. Amongst these titans of Batman mythology Gotham is the de facto scrawny, dweeb of a little brother, always in the shadow of those popular, jacked jocks we all know and love. And now, moving into the high school whose trophy cases are inscribed with its siblings’ names, Gotham chooses to coast on their coattails, constantly referencing and eluding to all the things that were so great about the rest of its family rather than leaning into its own strengths.
Gotham, I know your big brothers. I own them on Blu-ray. Why would I, or anyone else, sit around for an hour every week to listen to you talk about your brothers when I could just call up one of your brothers myself at literally any moment?
We’d all love to be Batman. But none of us are. And that includes Gotham.
So rather than live out the rest of its days sandwiching veiled Joker bread crumbs between Edward Nigma being accused of telling riddles and Selina Kyle proclaiming everyone call her “Cat,” I’m hoping that Gotham somehow finds its way to a hip guidance counselor and learns that being yourself is neato-burrito.
Extended metaphorical pep talk over.
Good luck, kid.