Warning: the following post contains spoilers for Gotham seasons 2-4
A couple of years ago, I was introduced to a show called Gotham. Whilst I had an interest in the Batman universe, the dark knight himself was never the main draw for me, it was the villains. Each one of them is interesting and unique in their own way, they ooze with personality. So a show dedicated to the origin stories of these characters, and how they came to be the supervillains they are notoriously known for, really piqued my interest. I was instantly hooked with gripping stories of intrigue, mystery, betrayal and the struggle for power, all with a dash of noire. It had just the right blend of action, drama and that little hint of craziness. However, with Gotham season 4’s mid-season premiere due to air in a few hours (at the time of writing), I find myself pondering. Pondering whether to even bother watching it or not. That’s because Gotham is really not what it used to be, far from it.
Where do I even begin? I guess at the start is a good place! Back in the first two seasons of the Gotham, the show was clever with it’s storytelling. The characters had so much depth to them, and the storylines actually made a lot of sense, to the point where they flowed organically. Admittedly, the advantage of the earlier seasons was that they acted as a way to introduce the cast of characters, before they became corrupted (well, in most cases, anyway.) This gave the writers a lot to work with, and helped to develop the lore which is what the show, and the Batverse itself, is founded upon. Ok, so they did some things differently, but it was nice to have a new twist on these stories. After all, it’s nice to have a fresh take on something that has been told countless times. Of course, by the time the first two seasons were done with, most of the major villains had already been established. I have no idea if it’s because the writers ran out of ideas, but things started going downhill around the half way mark of season 3.
The problem is, the balance shifted dramatically, it shifted from interesting, gripping storytelling, to trying to give the show as much shock value as possible, with unnecessary twists and turns. Even when it didn’t focus on those elements, it dragged on with needless exposition, focusing on dull plot-lines. Take the doomed romance between Jim Gordon and Lee Thompkins , for example. The show spent a ton of time on their fading relationship, with Jim pinning over his lost love. It switched the tone to that of a bog-standard TV soap. If I’d wanted to see something along these lines (which I really don’t), I’d have watched some junk like Eastenders. What happened to my show about villains rising up, running amok and making names for themselves? I mean, isn’t that what this show is all about? It was really out of character for the show.
Speaking of out of character, the actual characters have felt very off too recently, and Bruce Wayne’s transformation from rising hero to prized prick is one of them. How he came to this point was a massive lore breaker too. Now as I said earlier, it’s fine for the show to change a few things around to give us something fresh, but the way they went about this was unacceptable. Going from standing idly by, and watching a child get murdered before his very eyes, to killing Ra’s al Ghul in a fit of rage is the complete polar opposite to everything he stands for. His number one rule from the start was to never kill, and yet the show completely threw that rule out the window, totally breaking his character. Needless to say, he mopes around for a bit, before getting addicted to a life of partying. His butler, and father figure, Alfred takes the brunt of this when the tries to help Bruce towards the right path… with Bruce being an absolute dick to him. Again, this is completely out of character. Sure, people can go off the rails, but this direction was stupid, needless, and only written in attempt to add drama. It was a desperate attempt to shock viewers and gain more ratings. Needless to say, that seriously backfired on them. I myself, felt nothing but rage towards these moments, and right now I absolutely despise Bruce Wayne. He’s supposed to be the hero that we’re all rooting for, the one that becomes the dark knight, and yet he couldn’t be further from that if he tried.
Some of the closing scenes of the current mid-season finale were disgusting too. First off, to continue the theme of Bruce being an arsehole, there was the fact that he bribed Alfred with child abuse after a fight between the two of them went too far. Secondly, there was the scene where Tabitha had Solomon Grundy tied down to a chair, and proceeded to beat the hell out of him with a lead pipe. Why? Because she loves him, of course! You see, he really used to be Butch, and they used to be an item, but then he was shot into a coma, lost his memories and took on this new persona. So of course this is the only way to save him! Seriously though, domestic violence is not a cool thing. Don’t get me wrong, different mediums are allowed to express it, but only as long as it’s done in a realistic, respectful manner that highlights how harrowing and awful it truly is. Using the threat of child abuse as leverage, or beating someone up because you ‘love’ them is neither tasteful or clever. It almost feels like popularising it, and it was used as a mere plot device to progress the story. When writing is so bad, that it uses these themes just for plot convenience, you know something is very wrong.
However, one of the biggest, most stand-out elements that just goes to show how far Gotham has fallen, is the way they proceeded with the Oswald Cobblepot and Edward Nygma storyline in season 3. Before continuing, I’ll admit that I love Nygmobblepot (the pairing of Os and Ed as a couple), but this isn’t a mere fanboy rant, the problems with the show go much much deeper than that. The thing is, there is a clear portion of the fanbase that love this pairing, and the show-runners must have clocked onto it, because in season 3, they made it a focus. It started off well, with the hints and teases that the show could possibly make it happen. Then they completely fucked it up in the most spectacularly disastrous way imaginable. Os realising he loves Ed attempts to tell him, but doesn’t have the courage to. So instead, he invites him to dinner, and Ed offers to get some wine. Whilst browsing in a store, he is approached by a woman, Isabella, who is the exact carbon copy of the ex he accidentally murdered, and they fall in love. Needless to say, Oswald is enraged by this and, being the Penguin, gets Isabella killed, to try and win Ed back. Naturally he keeps this from Ed, who eventually finds out. What followed was an absolutely harrowing and heart breaking plot of revenge. Their relationship was torn to shreds, and hopes of them ever being together were shattered in the worst ways possible.
What’s most insulting about this, is the fact that they did absolutely nothing to explain the existence of Isabella. You’re telling me that an exact replica of Ed’s ex, that he killed, happens to wander into Gotham at the exact time Oswald wants to confess his love to him, and there’s no hidden agenda? I’m sorry, but that is just absolute bullshit! It’s such a cheap way to come between them. Yes, it was inevitable that they’d never be together forever, or live happily ever after. It is Gotham city we’re talking about here. However, they could have at least given us something of a relationship, even for a brief moment, and have broken it up in a decent, respectful fashion. Again, this was another cheap tactic for ‘shock’ value. The absolute worst part, however, was how they completely lead the fanbase on. During the time when things looked hopeful, there were teases during the promotion of the show. Hint like ‘will they, won’t they?’ and how ‘love’ was in the air. They were clearly aware of the existence of Nygmobblepot, and used it as a plot device to turn The Penguin and The Riddler against one another. To fill their fans with so much hope, only to shoot it down in such a brutal way, is just downright disrespectful. It’s obvious that they don’t care what the fans think, or how they feel, they just used them to gain higher ratings. They dangled the carrot in-front of us, only to lead us into a burning pit of fire. I’d argue that this move was massively disrespectful to LGBT rights in general!
Going back to The Penguin, one of the only things I can praise the show for right now is Robin Lord Taylor’s portrayal of the character. His performance is, quite frankly, incredible, and he is by far the best portrayal of the Batman icon I’ve ever seen. He puts so much depth, personality and emotion into the role, that he feels genuinely believable, and at times is even easy to relate to. He somehow manages to turn the terrible quality writing he’s given into gold, and if it wasn’t for how dire the show has been for the past season and a half, I’m sure he’d have won awards by now. Honestly, he can do so much better than something as lowly as Gotham, and he deserves better, to be honest!
As the show progresses into the latter half of season 4, the more I hear, the worse it gets. It was made apparent that Edward Nygma is in love with Lee Thompkins before the show went on a break, and it appears the show is actually going to pair them together. Considering past transgressions between the two, this literally makes zero sense. There was the fact that Ed killed his ex, Kristen, chopped her up then buried her. She just so happened to be good friends with Lee. Also, there’s the fact that he attempted to frame Jim Gordon whilst Lee was still going out with him. After deeds like that, there is no way she would trust him, let alone jump into bed with him. Even worse is the case of Jerome. He’s been hyped up to be The Joker, and Cameron Monaghan’s performance has been stellar so far. Even Mark Hamill, who voiced The Joker in Batman: The Animated series (and my favourite portrayal of the character) has given him his blessing. However, the executive producers have confirmed that Monaghan’s character is, in fact, not The Joker. Why the hell not? His portrayal is spot-on, so there’s really no need for someone else to be him. Why spend so much time hyping it up, only to suddenly completely change it? I swear this show makes more U-turns than a Tory MP! That seems to be the major flaw right now, the show is completely directionless. It’s lacking consistency, with the show-runners busy redacting past ideas, and completely changing direction with others. It means the overall quality is suffering majorly because of it.
So as I sit here now, at the time of writing, waiting for the Gotham mid-season premiere to begin, I find myself filled with dread. Dread for how much lower it can go. Although honestly, with how low it’s already gone, I don’t think it could get any worse. It needs to do a ton of stuff right to redeem itself, but I feel it’s too late for that now. It feels like the show is on the verge of cancellation, and perhaps that’s the best thing for it right now, before it drives itself any further into the dirt. It does hurt a little to say all this, because I used to love Gotham, but I hate what it’s become. I’m kidding myself if I say I won’t ever watch it again, as I’m half way through a season. Regardless of all I’ve said, I’ve started it, so I’m damn well going to finish it, even if it’s going to be a rough journey. However, if it somehow miraculously gets renewed for season 5, I can already feel the train tracks starting to become unstable, so my stop is the end of season 4, before it goes completely off-the-rails.