By Aitch Cee
I had an opportunity to watch Gotham in its entirety last night and I will watch the premier on Monday and while I think it’s a sort of fresh take on the prequel types of stories, where the show seems to focus more on James Gordon’s and Harvey Bulloch’s early career and that of some of Batman’s rogues gallery, instead of Batman itself, one can’t do anything more than possibly compare it to Smallville.
Depending on who you are, you either liked Smallville or you didn’t. I will be honest and say, I didn’t much care for it and I didn’t care for it almost for the same reasons why I didn’t care for the Star Wars prequel. I felt like Smallville was telling the story of how one character came to be and it did so over the course of 10 seasons without ever giving us Superman until the very end. I don’t know if Gotham will get that kind of mileage especially in an age where other DC properties such as The Flash and the Green Arrow will have their characters already in play and here are a few reasons why I fear for the success of Gotham.
One of my reasons is that Gotham may wind up being like Agents of SHIELD where Gotham rests heavily on name dropping and possibly world building. Many fans love the fact that many of their favorite comic franchises are being brought to the small screen but what many of us don’t like is that they are bringing a lot of these shows without a lot of characters to add weight to the shows. Agents of SHIELD, while being promoted as a show in the Marvel Universe, in my opinion suffers greatly because very few familiar Marvel characters have been introduced in the show. Gotham promises to introduce us to a lot of familiar faces that lead up to being in Batman’s life but as of now, there is no promise of fans getting there short of the big screen.
Which leads to my next example, referring back again to Smallville, Gotham is relying heavily on people staying vested for who knows how many years while these characters are being developed to what we know now. While it may have worked for Smallville, I am not so sure what the hook will be to keep fans coming back knowing that they will be watching a story that has already been essentially told from the middle to the present and are being asked to watch from the beginning. And actually part of Smallville’s success was that it still centered on Kal-El learning about his powers. Gotham looks to heavily rest more on characters who became part of Batman’s mythos which is why I question how far Fox thinks this show could go. Some may be fascinated to see how the Joker came to be or why the Penguin was given his nickname but essentially many fans will be left asking, ‘So when are they going to show Batman?’ and possibly be left disappointed if the show makes its entire run and at the end all they are left with is this.
Granted I know that many comic franchises seem like they are saving their heavyweights for the big screen but I just wonder why go through all the effort of making a show about a character’s city but without the central character? Would you watch a show about Bedrock if Fred and the rest of the principles weren’t there? Would you watch a show about Amity Island if there is no great white to terrorize it? I mean even the closest comic resembling the Gotham TV series in recent history being Gotham Central made 40 issues and while it’s ok for a run, it never broke the top 100. People want to see their star characters show up if you want them to be successful. But the title of this piece is asking can it succeed? Gotham can but it has to do a whole lot to keep characters interesting year in and year out without Gotham’s primary star but then again, given Fox’s track record of killing shows just when they get interesting don’t instill me with confidence.
When you settle down Monday night for Gotham, you may like it, or you may not, just pay attention to what you see. Pay attention to how characters are introduced. Over the season if you stick around that long or unless Fox sees fit to prematurely cancel it like they have done so many other shows, pay attention to how Gotham evolves and then ask yourself if you want to stick around for the long haul, just to get a glimpse of the Bat at the end. If you want to know why Flash and Arrow will probably beat out Gotham and Agents of SHIELD this fall, pay attention to who you see, and who you don’t. Variety questions the absence of Batman the best: “…the question is just how long “Gotham” can get by on smoke, mirrors and coy references without him — a riddle, frankly, that even the future E. Nygma couldn’t solve.” Don’t get me wrong, I liked, not loved, the opening episode but that question stayed at the forefront of my mind the whole time.
Our review will be coming after the premier.