As our Dear Leader will not have had a chance to see the season finale of Gotham yet, I will refrain from posting spoilers.
When it was first announced that there was going to be a series on Fox that would serve as a “pre-Batman Gotham City story,” I was somewhat skeptical. As RedState’s Foremost Batman Expert and DC Comics optimist, however, I was sure something good would come out of this (just like I think that something good will come out of the Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice movie, as well). Gotham, in its freshman season had some great points and some not-so-great points.
The most compelling part of the story was the fact that the writers took the time and effort to develop the long game*. There was, from the very beginning, an overarching story that you wanted to see through to the end. The development of Fish Mooney, Oswald “Penguin” Cobblepot, Carmine Falcone, and Sal Maroni, and the development of their conflict was, most of the time, more welcome than the main plots within each episode (more on that in a moment). I am most pleased with the way Robin Lord Taylor took on Penguin and really brought a fresh feel to a classic character. The same holds true for Cory Michael Smith playing Edward Nygma. His little quirks over the course of one season become major character points at the end, and it is amazing to see.
There were some characters I could’ve done without, and Selena Kyle is right at the top of that list. She served very little purpose in this season, except as a young romantic interest to a young Bruce Wayne, and a made plot devices happen. Otherwise, she didn’t provide a whole lot. The little girl playing the future Poison Ivy appeared a few times, but her frequent appearances did nothing except, like Kyle, advance the plot conveniently. Often times, it was like they just threw in characters for the sake of “Hey, this is based on Batman! Recognize this character?” and I got the sense that they weren’t confident enough in their overarching plot to really focus their resources on it – had they done so, you would’ve had just as epic a finale, but with a lot more depth behind it.
Now, while that long game was great, the individual episodes frankly left a lot to be desired. As a typical crime procedural, the show sucks. Law & Order, its spin-offs, and other notable procedurals have the benefit of a wide-range of investigative forces, so you’re not looking at the same 2-3 characters solving everything every week. Likewise, the development of mini-arcs, like the relationship between Gordon and Thompkins, didn’t develop well enough because there were too many focal points. I know a few critics complained that there was no chemistry between the two actors, and that was a direct result that Attention Deficit Disorder style of story-telling.
Had more of the episodes focused more of their time on the main stories and less on one-shot villains in the procedural setting, I get the feeling that this show would have been an all-around bigger hit. As I’ve said, the long game here was great. It was that procedural writing that really threw it off.
As far as the season finale goes, the way the long game was both tied up and yet left amazingly open leaves me with a real hope for the future of this show. It has been signed on for a second season at Fox and, if they fix the things that didn’t take – I cannot stop saying “GREAT RID OF THE CRIME OF THE WEEK” out loud to my TV every Monday night – then there is a chance to really make this a lasting hit. Marvel has dominated the movie theaters, but DC has done a stellar job of making compelling television since at least the 90s, when the animated Batman, Superman, and Justice League series were ruling Saturday mornings.
Gotham has grown with each episode, if you look at the overarching plot. The drastic changes at the end of the season solidify that the more things change, the more they’ll stay the same: Penguin is still power-hungry, Gordon is still going to try to save the city, and Bullock is still going to be amazingly written (probably).
Seriously, as much as Jada Pinkett Smith and Robin Lord Taylor have really transformed their characters over the course of the season, Donal Logue is by far the most entertaining guy coming back.
*There is a political tie-in here somewhere but Batman is far too sacred for me to sully it very often with politics… except for that time I explained just how Batman was a conservative force.