There’s no denying that our culture is going through a Batman phase. Ever since The Dark Knight hit theaters and took the world by storm, our culture has been obsessed with Batman. He’s the kind of anti-hero that people in contemporary society can relate to, a morally ambivalent underdog battling corruption and oppression in a world that seems so dark and brooding. Our society today doesn’t want happy do-gooders like Superman. We want the edginess of the Dark Knight and the twisted villains who come along with him.
All of this sets the stage perfectly for the new Batman-inspired Fox show Gotham. But instead of focusing on Bruce Wayne’s alter-ego, the show has chosen instead to center around Jim Gordon, whom we know as Commissioner Gordon, the police officer who helps Batman in the Dark Knight trilogy. The show takes place over a decade before Batman begins taking on the criminals of Gotham. Gordon is a new detective on the Gotham City Police Force, and he has to figure out how to be a good cop in a city that is so corrupt.
Although the show doesn’t center around Bruce Wayne, it does open with the Wayne murders, which are portrayed in a very dark, dramatic way. Bruce’s scream after witnessing his parents’ deaths is haunting. The detective on the case is none other than our friend Jim Gordon. We get to see him meet Bruce Wayne for the first time and make the commitment to find the person responsible for his parents’ deaths. This is the overarching mystery for the show, or at least for the first season.
Another basic element of Gotham is that the city is quite obviously being run by gangsters. Carmine Falcone is the mob boss, and he has control of every aspect of the city from street thugs to police officers to politicians. A couple of his most powerful underlings, Don Maroni and Fish Mooney (an original character created for the show), have formed their own factions within the crime world and are starting to enact plans to take over. All of this is somehow tied in with Arkham, a new housing development in Gotham that is being supported by both the crime bosses and Wayne Inc. What exactly this all means and how it will play out is a mystery to both the viewer and to Gordon, which makes for an interesting tension.
There are some other characters on the show that Batman fans will recognize from elsewhere. Oswald Cobblepot (also known as Penguin) plays a major role in Gotham. I think Cobblepot is my favorite character because he’s so unpredictable, and you never quite know where his loyalties lie or what his goals are. Selina Kyle (Catwoman) is a young orphan on the streets of Gotham who witnesses the Wayne murders and will hopefully help Gordon solve them. We’ve met Edward Nygma (Riddler), who currently works with the police force as a forensics expert. A young Poison Ivy appears in the pilot, although she does not play a major role in the series. If you’re a fan of Alfred Pennyworth (and let’s be real, who isn’t?), he appears in most episodes. And the show’s creators have revealed that Harvey Dent and the Joker will also be showing up on the show soon.
But don’t think that Gotham is just a collection of Batman references. There are also some new characters on the show, including Fish Mooney (who is brilliantly played by Jada Pinkett Smith), a crime boss serving under Falcone; Harvey Bullock, Gordon’s corrupt, alcoholic detective partner; Barbara Kean, Gordon’s fiance; and two no-nonsense Major Crimes officers name Montoya and Allen who represent the uncorrupt side of the Gotham Police Force.
Some people worried that Gotham was trying to fit too much in from the start. As you can see, there are a lot of characters and a lot of references to the Batman universe. However, the plot isn’t overly complicated or difficult to follow. I don’t feel like the writers have had to make any big stretches in order to include certain characters. All of them make sense to the story, and I think it’s a very cool way of telling how Gotham City became so bad that it needed a vigilante like Batman to save it. If you’re into Batman and want to know more not only about his backstory, but about the world in which he exists, check out Gotham. It has a lot to offer both as a show set in the Batman universe and simply as a crime/political drama.
Gotham airs on Fox Monday nights at 7:00 central and was recently extended to a 22-episode first season, which indicates that Fox has confidence in the show. If you get a chance to watch it (or if you’re already watching it), I’d love to chat with you about the show. You can hit me up on social media or through the Contact page on my website. Thanks for reading, friends, and have a great weekend!