TV: Gotham Fall Series Review

We review the fall season of Gotham. 

"Where's the trigger?!!!!
Where is it?
Where's the trigger?!!!!"
Gotham is the best DC show out right now. By TV standards set by epic crime tales like Breaking Bad it ranks up there as not bad. By DC TV standards, it's the best we've got right now. The Flash started off with a bang, but has all too frequently dipped into tacked-on CW romance that is tied to almost nothing that moves the plot forward, though I am mostly enjoying it. Arrow often plays the same cards with actors who are as wooden as Oliver Queen's weapons with some of the most contrived writing I've ever seen in a TV show. And Constantine has failed to captivate, feeling cheap, playing it far too safe, lacking personality, and having almost no forward momentum to latch on to. Gotham isn't some of the best TV I've ever seen, but by comparison to its brethren, it's exceptional.

The Fall finale of Gotham let us see Alfred in a new, exciting light, and has brought the Bruce and Selina relationship into some extremely promising territory. While the conditions for Gordon's repositioning, shall we say, doesn't seem plausible, Robin Lord Taylor has also been getting less time to show off as Penguin. I see a ton of promise in Gotham despite some puzzling choices. Although I do love where they're going with Taylor's Penguin, there is just not enough of it. What the writers need to do if they want to bring Gotham up to the level of great TV and not just great DC TV, is refocus on the Penguin arc, which is by far the most interesting to watch unfold. It's perplexing that they would take what was the very best character of the show and slowly reduce his story to what is now treated like a subplot, when it's anything but. The rise of Penguin has the potential to be the Michael Corleone of DC television, and should be striving to meet the Heisenberg standard for major villain arcs. Don't squander this, please!

"Hey pal! No watching.
I'm using my litter box here!"

Even though I'm hungrily devouring every morsel of Penguin's story I can get, the Bruce and Selina story, though unexpected considering what the pilot sets up, is also surprisingly endearing. This is something few of us viewers have asked for, but it's turning out to be a very pleasant escape from the cop/crime drama. Like Taylor's Penguin, I couldn't ask for better actors to represent the young Selina Kyle and Bruce Wayne. David Mazouz' Bruce delightfully teeters between humorless junior detective and a boy still managing to hang on to a normal childhood. Camren Bicondova's Selina perfectly balances atop the very same precipice Bruce is trying to reach, taunting and encouraging him to join her. Their chemistry is a pleasure to divert to, even if at the cost of moving away from the evil pot that Penguin is stirring in Gotham City.

The weakest link is turning out to be Gordon's story, unfortunately. It started off pretty strong, and had us assuming Penguin's slimy infiltration of the criminal underground and Gordon's do-good, soldier of Gotham idealism would be an enticing friction to look forward to every episode. This has all but ended, putting Gordon at odds with contrived conspiracy plots with the Mayor and a shoehorned-in Harvey Dent. The connection between Penguin and Gordon came to a boil and was abruptly severed. The introduction of Victor Zsaz, though well rendered by Anthony Carrigan, was set up to be a big conflict for Gordon, but the aftermath was equally short-lived. Ben Mackenzie is lacking much to play with here as Jim Gordon and it's getting dull. The twist with Barbara was salt in the wound, being one of the most unnecessary, and absurd closing hooks to a TV episode I've ever seen.

This should be Gordon and Cobblepot's show, but it isn't. The Bruce and Selina story is charming, but how far can they take that? It's really hard to tell what the creators ultimately want out of this. Where's the end game? Their strongest asset is Oswald Cobblepot's insidious toying with Gotham's leading criminals, and yet he's taken a back seat. I understand that they might be afraid to splurge on their greatest value, but if the writers possessed the skill of subtlety, there shouldn't be any reason to fear giving the audience what they want and more of it. Unfortunately, it's being diluted with villains of the week and too many nods and ties to Batman, when that's not at all what the show is or should ever be.

"When I grow up, I'm gonna be so
much cooler than that lame ass
Superman. And Christopher Nolan
is gonna make movies about me!"

Overall, though, I'm enjoying my time with Gotham. The show looks excellent. The production value, and cinematography especially, are leagues beyond DC television. The set design ranges from the rotten haze of subterranean cultures, and the old smoke singed wood and file cabinets of the police station. It feels like a Gotham on the brink of collapse, but when it comes to Gordon's fight against its inevitable fall, I'm not believing the gravity of the situation.

At this halfway mark, I still remain damn near as excited as I was after the pilot episode, as the Fall finale was one of the strongest episodes so far. I just hope they can give this series what it really needs, and refocus their efforts on helping Robin Lord Taylor toward potentially becoming one of the most formidable, disgusting snakes of a villain on all of television. You guys have gold right there in front of you if you just let Taylor dig it out. You can spin the entire plot and cast on his rising insurrection of Gotham City and construct a seriously wicked web out of it. So, do it, then!

The following rating is based on the series up to this point.

-J.G. Barnes