Before Batman came along, the city of Gotham was overrun with crime. Muggings, drugs, theft and murder ran rampant on the streets while the police – the small minority of those who weren’t corrupt, I mean – struggled to keep the city safe. As they say throughout the series, “This is Gotham”.
Gotham has a hugely intriguing premise that takes place as a kind of prequel to Batman’s story. In the first scenes we watch a young Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) lose his parents at the hands of a mysterious masked killer, and the plot takes off from there. But it isn’t Bruce Wayne that stars as the protagonist of this story – it’s the cops who are investigating the high profile murder of the Wayne parents. On the case is new-recruit cop James Gordon (Ben McKenzie), who has made it his own personal (and seemingly impossible) mission to clean up the streets of Gotham, and seasoned if slightly sketchy detective Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue). With vastly different views on how to police the city, the odd pair must work together in order to bring down the Wayne killer whilst keeping the various other criminals of Gotham in check.
I was quite impressed by the set-up of this series. The seedy streets of Gotham was an eerily sinister and dramatic backdrop for this crime show, and the characters were all very twisted in the classic comic-book style sense. The city seemed full of those you can classify as either the “good guys” or the “bad guys”, and the show is all about working out who falls into which category. We even get introduced to notorious Batman villain ‘The Penguin’, or Oswald Cobblepot as he is known, played by Robert Lord Taylor. I find the idea of the show quite fascinating and enjoyed exploring this dark, fantastical world for the first few episodes.
Where I believe the show falls down is in the execution. While there is an overarching story that runs throughout the season – including watching Bruce Wayne gradually transform into the hardened superhero – episode-by-episode Gotham is really just a procedural cop show. I’ll hand it to the writers, they did come up with some very inventive crimes and creative murders, but the formulaic nature through which these take place is just too been-there-done-that-got-the-t-shirt. The screenplay itself also leaves a lot to be desired, and Ben McKenzie’s acting style is something I can’t fully get on board with. It’s unfortunate considering how conceptually interesting the show is in theory, but on paper it just doesn’t quite live up to it’s full potential.
In saying that, I think Gotham is worth the look-in. If procedural cop shows with a twist are your thing, or you’re a comic book lover or Batman fiend, then watching Bruce Wayne’s origin story should be right up your alley.