I don’t know if you are aware of this, but there are a lot of people out there who are not very fond of you. Misguided by your premise, because you are expected to be a Batman show, and by your supposedly failed characterization of our beloved villains, they think you should be cancelled. We don’t get a Batman-centered show but rather, we get a young Bruce Wayne and mad villains who rise, fall and manipulate their ways through different levels of Gotham’s society. And in my humble opinion this is a good thing and because of that, I want to try something new here. I want to ask and answer four questions about the show, and therefor try and persuade others in following you, Gotham. The world you provide is something special and I want others to understand this brilliance as well. So, let us begin with the first question:

What the hell is going on?
I think the title of the show is the first indicator, that this show is not about Batman. It is not about the villains or the Gotham City Police Department. Gotham is the origin-story of a whole city. A city we love, hate and fear. A city we admire but not necessarily one we want to live in. We love Gotham City because of its unique, old-fashioned buildings. We love Gotham City because of the hundreds of alleys, but we never get lost with trusted heroes by our side. We love Gotham City because of the timelessness it exists in, but nevertheless seems modernistic. Gotham City is all of that, and so much more. There are thousands of stories out there, some of them take place in other dimensions or alternate realities, however, this city has always something new to offer. Something we didn’t see or expect until we experience it. And though Gotham can fall, it is never defeated. Like the characters within it, Gotham is a living organism. It is a character on its own.

In my opinion, Gotham (the show) embodies this perfectly. It is a perfect symbiosis between the city itself and the iconic villains we know and love. But it also provides new villains and characters we didn’t know so far. Fish Mooney for example. I know there are a lot of fans out there who don’t necessarily like this character, but I really enjoyed her. Especially in the first season we needed someone like Fish. Someone who fights against the Mafia in Gotham and provides a different point of view. Besides, who doesn’t love the over-acting performance of Jada Pinkett Smith. The voice, her facial expressions and gestures, especially the way she moved her index finger to make a point was awesome.

However, Fish wouldn’t be such an interesting character, if it were not for Oswald. This power-hungry bastard. Definitely one of my favourites. Robin Lord Taylor IS Penguin. His movements, combined with this extraordinary costumes and don’t get me started on the make-up-artists. Aside from him, we have the development of Edward Nigma, played by the wonderful Cory Michael Smith. The creepiness and arrogance he puts in his character is very convincing – especially in the second and third season.And these are just three examples of the powerful characters inside the world of Gotham and its villains. But this three characters prove another point: the interconnectedness of everything that is going on. If you would want to draw the connections on a board, be it friends, foes or lovers, this would get very complicated very quickly.

What I also love about Gotham is, that there are no villains of the week (at least not very often and if there are, they could and will come up at a later point again). Everything serves a bigger picture and an overall story-arc. This is very refreshing, because this way we don’t have filler episodes. There is always something in an episode, that is a crucial part for the overall story, that you cannot miss.

Before we get to the next question, just let me mention B.D. Wong very quickly. His performance of Hugo Strange is terrifying and the fabric of nightmares.

Mommy, where is Batman?
Honey, there is no Batman.

That was the short answer. No comes the longer one: does anyone remember, how often we saw the parents of Bruce Wayne die? There are movies, a lot of movies, with this particular scene, there are games, comics, fan-fiction (I guess) and TV shows, where this comes up again and again and again. Can we make a deal and don’t show this for the next five to ten years?

For me, Gotham provides one of the best interpretations of this particular part of Batman’s mythology. A lot of this impression is based on the performance of David Mazouz. He is a great example of another strength of Gotham: child actors. Child actors can be difficult. I cannot really explain why, but to me, every time I see a child on screen, I think that somehow they will mess this up. But in Gotham even those are perfect for their roles. I mean, can there be a better casting choice for Selina than Camren Bicoudora? No, there cannot.

But to be honest, in the first two seasons I couldn’t imagine David in a Batman suit. He just looked so fragile and vulnerable. It is amazing how much he changed in just three years. Now he has real muscles, can fight and is a strong willed person. You can clearly see the first signs of Batman in him. And with the end of season three, they definitely made a leap forward.

Although I don’t think that we will see him in a real Batman suit up until very late in the show. Maybe season five or six? But let’s talk about Alfred. Sean Pertwee, as are so many other actors in this show (I cannot mention this enough), is the perfect choice for his role. Never has there been a more badass, ass kicking, but also kind, carrying and dedicated Alfred on screen before. The chemistry between Sean and David is amazing. Because they have so many scenes together, this had to work – and it does. The adventure of those two are awesome and very enjoyable. You have to keep in mind, that they are not separate from the rest of Gotham but also deeply intertwined, with the GCPD and the villains.

Another essential part of Batman is the Joker. In the first season there were just some hints here and there, but with the introduction of Indian Hill, we get a terrifying new interpretation of the iconic character: Jerome. Cameron Monaghan impersonates the characteristics perfectly: the smile, the way he talks, and of course the great work of the make-up-artists. I loved the way, they used the “Death of the family” storyline and hope to see more of those iconic plots soon. But more on that later.

For now, let’s move on to the next question:

Is this real life?
At the beginning of this article I talked about how Gotham City looked. The people responsible for this released a video just recently, where they show us, how they accomplish this amazing look. Please take a quick look at the video:

But there is another crucial part, why the world of Gotham seems to be real life: the lack of superpowers. When you look at shows like Flash, Legends of Tomorrow or Supergirl (which I also like), the CGI doesn’t really look that good. Especially the high-speed fights between two speedster or an army of apes. It is impressive, but always looks kind of weird and, dare I say it, cheap. We are very engaged in the characters and therefore accept or tolerate this kind of CGI.

The first seasons of Arrow, and Gotham show perfectly how this can be done differently. They don’t have heroes, villains or anything in-between with super-powers and therefore don’t rely upon CGI – or at least not in a way that the viewer can determine: “Oh, that’s CGI”.

The sum of all those parts (practical effects, less obvious use of CGI, great actors, a powerful story every season, and great aesthetics, which are perfectly shown in the amazing sets) help to ensure a cinematic look.

One thing I didn’t mention in detail so far is the GCPD. The way they operate and the way they do their jobs add to the timeless, and real world impression I have of Gotham. They don’t use computers, or fancy technology, they instead use a lot of paper, old mobile phones and their detective stills. And let me just mention Ben McKenzie and Donal Logue very quickly. There incarnation of Gordon and Bullock, is just awesome. They are a great team.

Where do we go from here?
So far Gotham showed us a broad variety of Batman stories. And with the fourth season, which is hopefully not the last, I hope to see a lot more.

With the Iceberg Lounge the Penguin is setting up at the end of season three, we get another crucial part of the Batman mythos. If I had to name two storylines I want to see, and think is a chance we get to see at some point, I would mention “zero year” / “dark city” from Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo. With the rise of the Riddler and Bruce taking on at least some kind of cheap suit, this story could not be that far away.

But there is character, I didn’t mention so far and who would be an awesome addition to the roster: Harvey Dent. His transition to Two-Face is long overdue and with the other villains fighting each other, he would fit in perfectly.

But with Ra’s al Ghul on the way, the stories mentioned above could be postponed to season five. I don’t know what to think about Ra’s al Ghul making an appearance in the show. Recently he seems to be everywhere and I have to say, I am a bit over saturated of this character. So far Gotham didn’t disappoint my, though, and I trust them to use him wisely.

This letter turned out longer, than I expected. But I think it was necessary to talk about Gotham and the positives of it. Maybe I will write another one, once the fourth season has started and get into more specifics.

Thanks for reading! Until next time…

Chris

Christoph Staffl
christoph.staffl@gmail.com

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