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“Gotham”: Enough Lore for Bat-Fans, Accessible to Newcomers

GothamBannerGotham Banner from Follow the Nerd http://www.followingthenerd.com.
 

From Marvel’s “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” to DC’s “Arrow,” comic book heroes have become a staple for major television networks—not as animated children’s cartoons, but as live-action shows targeting teens and adults. “Gotham” is unique in that all the action takes place before the career of the hero that made the fictional city a household name. Instead, the role of hero is handed to one of Gotham’s finest, the young detective James Gordon. He may not don a cape, but he certainly is a crusader.

Bruce Wayne is the human face that drives Gordon in his relentless quest for justice in a city where the mob owns the cops. Gordon in turn serves as a guiding voice to Bruce’s development as a future crime fighter. “No matter how dark and scary the world is right now, there will be light,” he tells the grieving boy at the scene of his parents’ murder. Brilliantly played by David Mazouz, young Bruce displays intellect beyond his years as well as the brooding intensity characteristic of his later years as the Dark Knight. Alfred Pennyworth is there to raise Bruce in absence of his murdered parents, but the “Gotham” version of the character shows more grit and cynicism than the Alfred of the comics.

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Detectives James Gordon and Harvey Bullock. Images from Follow the Nerd http://www.followingthenerd.com.

Gordon (Ben McKenzie) partners with corrupt veteran detective Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue). This contrasts with Frank Miller’s graphic novel “Batman: Year One” and Christopher Nolan’s “Batman Begins” that have Gordon partnered with Arnold Flass, another dirty cop. A lesser-known member of the GCPD, Renee Montoya, plays a prominent role in the Major Crimes Unit and has a past link to Gordon’s fiancé, Barbara.

The storyline of the pilot episode is full of character conflict and moral dilemma. Gordon is an idealist in a sea of crime and corruption. His quest for truth and justice are relentless and is more than willing to play rough get at the bad guys. Bullock repeatedly tries and fails to convince Gordon to play by the rules set by the mob. This conflict between veteran and rookie partners culminates with a moral dilemma in the end.

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Commissioner Gordon and Detective Bullock as depicted in the Batman Comics.Images from Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org.

 Artistically the show depicts a Gotham that is true to the comics—a modern city inspired by pulp noire and art deco. Harvey Bullock sports a fedora and many characters wear classic suits like in old gangster movies. Gotham is a modern metropolis with gargoyles and sleek clubs and art galleries. The city isn’t as stunning as Tim Burton’s version, but neither is it as devoid of the comics’ fantasy elements as Nolan’s film trilogy. This new Gotham falls somewhere in the middle.

“Gotham” only strays from the comic lore in minor ways and offers a lot to please fans. It can also appeal to more casual Bat fans and viewers of crime shows. This is a difficult balancing act, but “Gotham” succeeds in bringing together elements that could appeal to both fans and non-fans alike.

This is not a family-friendly Batman show. Parents and guardians should take the profanity and graphic violence into consideration when determining if the show is appropriate for their children. Blood spatters from gun and knife wounds. Two characters face getting butchered by a meat cleaver while chained to the ceiling. A man is beaten repeatedly with a baseball bat. There is a faked murder in which a shot to the head is the supposed method of death.

“Gotham” gives viewers a unique perspective on the Batman universe by exploring the events between the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne and their son Bruce’s career as the Dark Knight. It doesn’t feel like a typical origins story. Fans still get to see the genesis of favorite characters without having to endure another round of hero training scenes. The show promises some interesting developments in the future, particularly as the IMDB lists Frank Miller as a writer of one or more episodes.

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Two versions of Catwoman, one from “Gotham” and the other from the 1960s “Batman.” I try to pretend that the ’60s show never happened, but the two versions of the character are too strikingly similar not to post side-by-side. Gotham promo poster from Follow the Nerd http://www.followingthenerd.com. ’60s Catwoman image from Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org.

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