Probably the hardest thing to accomplish when depicting a famous superhero before they became one is sacrificing the tropes we've come to identify with them. Mark Clamen in Critics at Large suggests that Gotham more than compensates with a compelling backstory.
Gotham comes to the small screen with all the advantages and disadvantages of stepping in to a well-established, deeply beloved and (to some) exhausted franchise. It has a built-in audience of viewers but an equally large audience of waiting naysayers whose expectations can never be satisfied. But it also has advantages over other "young" series (e.g. "young Merlin", "young Superman" or even now, amazingly, "young Mary, Queen of Scots"), which come with a primarily teenage cast and inevitable teen storylines. Gotham is in contrast an unapologetically adult show – even if its youngest characters, young Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz, Touch), and Selina "Cat" Kyle (Camren Bicondova) with her preternatural agility, pixie haircut and unexplained goggles, are already shaping up to be the show's most intriguing. Batman and Batman stories come in all flavours and styles – from the colourfully camp to the morbidly existential – but its universe is no stranger to moral ambiguity, something that this show thoroughly embraces.
"…with a very few examples of cruelty he will be more compassionate than those who, out of excessive mercy, permit disorders to continue, from which arise murders and plundering; for these usually harm the community at large, while the executions that come from the prince harm particular individuals." Machiavelli, The PrinceI was surprised how much I enjoyed the premiere episode of Gotham. I had pre-set expectations for FOX's much publicized Batman-without-Batman prequel series, and they were mainly skeptical. Ten years of Smallville(especially the more tortured plot and character elements of its final season) loomed large in my mind as September approached. As fun as the notion of a story set in Gotham years before the arrival of its caped and cowled crusader might be in theory, Gotham seemed a project destined to be over-burdened by a famously established future continuity and a wealth of film and television adaptations of the Batman universe. Developed for television by Bruno Heller (The Mentalist, HBO's Rome), the show promises to tell the largely unwritten story of a young James Gordon, destined of course to become Police Commissioner Gordon and Batman's best official defender, but who for now is still a rookie detective finding his way in a thoroughly corrupt police department. However, if the pilot is any indication of its ambitions, Gordon (Benjamin McKenzie, Southland) is merely the face of the show's real main character, the city of Gotham itself.
"You can't have organized crime without law and order." Don Falcone, Gotham
|Robin Lord Taylor and Benjamin McKenzie in Gotham