Gotham City Blues

I make no excuses for loving the Batman mythos: they’re ridiculous and politically problematic when when viewed through a rational lens. That’s not how they’re meant to be viewed, however.

When done right a Batman story is a waking fever dream: that point where personal neurosis edges up against the current societal anxieties. Mythic with a thin veneer of verisimilitude. Theres room for camp and pathos alike. This odd mix is why Batman has endured as a figure for three quarters of a century: he’s adaptable.

Gotham, the new Fox series almost hits the tone right, but it comes across as trying too hard. Broad strokes amped up to eleven. Brilliant casting and production design undercut by direction that would be more appropriate in the 60s show.

I haven’t given up on it yet. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the core idea: GCPD before Batman. Jim Gordon’s story. What’s wrong is that it’s treating the tapestry of the GCPD: Bullock, Montoya, Allen, Essen and the Rogue’s Gallery: Cobblepot, Nygma, Kyle, Falcone as bullet points on a PowerPoint slide instead of characters.

We’re only two episodes in, both written and directed by the core creative team. Which means we’ve basically seen the extended pilot. It’s not The Wire. It’s not even season one Arrow yet. I’d argue that its on stronger footing than the first half of Agents of SHEILD, but not as solid as where that show wound up.

What worries me most is the depiction of Renee Montoya. She’s being set up as the “sexually jealous lesbian with a vendetta against the male hero.” That would be a spectacular waste of a character right there.

The weirdest thing is that so many TV critics were excited about Gotham. They were seduced, perhaps, by Executive Producer Bruno Heller’s holding court at the TCA’s earlier in the year. Hell, I was seduced through their enthusiasm. What I haven’t seen yet is anything resembling the storytelling wisdom he was laying down in those talks—or in the gone before it’s time Rome either.

Because that’s what I came to Gotham wanting: Rome, with a hint of cloaks. Uh, not red ones though.