With FOX's Gotham now one episode into the second half of its first season, both viewers and producers alike have been on a whirlwind of action, mystery and, well, awesomeness, if that qualifies as a defining attribute. But Gotham is young; its viewership is not yet reaching beyond the fan well-versed in his Batman literature and the somewhat-interested viewer new to the cornucopia of characters in the mythos, and it still needs to take a look at itself to reach its full potential.
A pre-batman Gotham has never been explored on as wide a scale before, and while such an endeavour shows promise, it's easy to lose focus when trying to flesh it out fully. So, looking back at Season 1 alone, concluding with Gordon's relegation to Arkham by Mayor Aubrey James, why is a carousel not the way forward for the show?
Why is a carousel not the way forward?
A pre-Batman Gotham gives showrunners FOX a lot to work with, in that they can freely explore the backgrounds and pasts of some of the Dark Knight's most notorious foes. One could take the examples of Victor Zsasz and Black Mask. Both these characters are notable members of the Batman mythos, with the former a deranged psychopath hellbent on murder for pleasure and the latter a mob boss controlling large swathes of [Gotham](series:1127075)'s underworld. Without Batman to interfere with their exploits, there is a lot that could be achieved in terms of showing them interacting with a younger Gotham.
In particular, it would be easy to create deeply-engrossing story arcs where, for example, Zsasz could "snap" and take a number of hostages, leaving a complex trail for Gordon and Bullock to follow (similar to the Arkham City missions), and Black Mask could set in place an operation to get further footholds in Gotham City, which would need to be put to a halt by our dynamic duo. The point I'm making is that I have managed to come up with two viable (but perhaps not too engaging) story arcs in the matter of seconds.
With a writer of the quality of Bruno Heller, showrunners could easily come up with better arcs to explore these fascinating members of the mythos in depth.
Exploring Zsasz and Black Mask's Appearances on the Show
Victor Zsasz was revealed to have been hired as an elite hitman for Carmine Falcone, and while we did manage to get a glimpse of his abilities (a backflip followed by a gunshot without getting hit by 3 flying bullets is pretty cool), he was only used for one episode, and didn't even get much time on screen. A botched attempt on Gordon's life, followed by a few minutes revealed as the man who took Barbara hostage is not nearly enough for a character of his calibre and importance in the Batman universe.
Consider Black Mask's time on the screen too. Emerging as the organiser of a corporate "fight-club" rewarding champions with jobs in his conglomerate, this was an interesting take on a character who is clearly fundamentally unhinged, and the theme of hiding behind masks was also well explored, but the end to the episode was shamefully inadequate. With Black Mask getting almost no time on screen besides a couple of minutes in which he conversed with Gordon and Bullock about hiding behind masks, it was frustrating to witness yet another misuse of a potentially outstanding villain.
Viper and Venom
Moving on to the Viper episode, the showrunners dropped one of the biggest quasi-easter eggs yet in letting slip that Viper v2.0 was actually Venom. We opened up a part of the mythos we hadn't seen yet - Peña Duro and the inspiring rise of a condemned little boy to previously-unimaginable heights - the story of Bane. The character that would eventually break the Bat was given a link to the show, opening up a whole new world of possibilities. The scientist passing vials of Viper around the city seemed an interesting character too, but received too little development, and the fact that he committed suicide at the end of the episode left a loose end with regards to the Viper and Venom topic; one that could perhaps even have surpassed Zsasz and Black Mask in interest had it been handled correctly. The whole concept of Venom and Bane's origins has such ideological significance for the whole mythos that it was disappointing to see such deep and dense subject matter skimmed over so quickly. It seemed like we just got to see the tip of the iceberg.
Why not the carousel?
Putting it rather unskilfully, Gotham is unfortunately beginning to feel less like a pre-Batman TV show conveying a rich and diverse gallery of characters and more like a weekly CSI/NCIS show where cops investigate different events weekly. It feels like the show has become a collection of story arcs, mostly limited within their own episodes, and besides the running plot of the journeys of the main characters, we're struggling to find a deep and substantial plot running through all the episodes. Character development seems to be the only thing all episodes have in common, and that doesn't bode well for a show that could be doing so much more with the subject material it's dealing with. A good start would be to introduce a running plot going through two or three episodes at the very least, involving all the major members of the story so as not to slow character development, but also one notable member of the rogue's gallery. The show is already doing this through it's weekly arcs; all that needs to be done is to expand this to a couple more episodes. This would help the show to further richen an already-outstanding story (believe me, I'm not trying to shoot down the current storyline and where Gotham's headed), give fascinating characters more exposure and, most importantly, would also get the show up to its full potential.
As always, thanks to everyone for reading. I hope you enjoyed my article and would love to discuss Gotham with you in the comments. For any further questions you can contact me at [email protected] What do you think about where Gotham's headed? You can vote below:
What do you think about where Gotham's headed?
All statements made about characters and events are true as of 14 January 2015, and all statements made concern Episodes 1 through 10 of Season 1 of FOX's Gotham.