A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
Gotham tonight was a fairly troubling indication that the show hasn’t learned from its mistakes. From the first few frames of the midseason premiere, it appears we are yet heading towards another troublesome road for the FX drama that is nevertheless bringing in the solid numbers to not only get an expanded season, but a second one as well. Apparently Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. improved greatly in the second season and jury is still out on Gotham. It’s just problematic that the jury is still out eleven episodes in. What makes it all the more exasperating is that the positives and the negatives are on such open display to the audience that one could only think that the creators of the show would notice as well. But perhaps what they’ve entered into is something akin to an alternate universe a la The Twilight Zone, where they have created assumptions that whatever the audience finds to be problematic is actually exactly what they ought to be doing more and more and more. As noted in the pilot (which, despite its problems and score, remains oddly the most promising thing about the show), Gotham, much like a moody teenager, cannot bring itself to decide what it inherently wants to be.
The case of the week isn’t helpful, as had become the case for a decent amount of time. I’m not quite sure why it has become so difficult to do decent work on gritty crime cases in a universe where you have a plethora of gangsters trying to basically sabotage each other. Factor in a universe where you can basically get away with villains of every sort and the puzzling nature of Gotham’s weekly woes more often than not utterly confounds. If at the halfway mark of the season the writers had completely shifted the gears towards the criminal underground wars, that would have been fine. It perhaps would have struck some people as an odd transition but at halfway in a twenty-two episode season, there has to be a decent amount of condensation taking place. It simply doesn’t serve the show well to veer off into these weekly cases that largely are written in such a shallow fashion and for the moment certainly seem to be an excuse for the show to continue spelling out things until it gets to the real meat of the season – the criminal showdown for Gotham City. And certainly for the sake of the show, I hope they get there as quickly as time allows.
The character work is astoundingly stupid on so many levels. Perhaps no one suffers as much as the women on Gotham, a point that has been made in a plethora of places. For some reason the writers on this show have more difficulty writing women than some animators have at animating them. Barbara and Montoya specifically are two characters who have had a mockery made out of them from the very beginning, reduced to mere tropes of LGBT stereotypes. This week Barbara undergoes a realization that she is truly useless and demands more respect from the writers. Wait, never mind, that’s a joke. She realizes that she truly needs men in order to fulfill her validity of existence and all of a sudden there it is – the breakup. You forget about it approximately three seconds later. In all likelihood, you probably just remember a searing sensation of anger. There are some bright sports this week, however. Mooney’s storyline is interesting and thank goodness for that. Morena Baccarin as Dr. Leslie Thompkins doesn’t get much to do, but she shows immense potential for the role and hopefully she gets the writing that shows those its and bits of promises and not, well, basically everything else.
At its center Gotham wants to be a gritty crime drama with Gordon and Bullock at the center with Batman elements thrown in for setting and panache. The show doesn’t even pull that off expertly. For a show around a central pairing or focusing on multiple pairings to work (Homeland and Game of Thrones come to mind), the writing and focus has to be there. The understanding of who these people are has to be a fundamental crux of the narrative working. Unless the writers and crew know who these people are, how can they expect the audience to reasonably do so? And if we don’t even know who these characters are, do we really give a crap about their lives and the decisions they make within it? Are the creators of the show that ignorant that they expect the mythology to simply sell itself? Because that’s what it seems like and that’s in all honesty, annoying as hell. It’s lazy, it’s effortless, and it’s spineless. Perhaps Gotham is afraid of being offensive and like an annoyingly politically correct person, it shies away from any opportunity to be its own thing. The problem is that while the audience understands that this show is its own thing and isn’t constantly beholden to the grander Batman mythos, Gotham does not.
Title: Rogues’ Gallery
Written By: Sue Chung
Directed By: Oz Scott
Image Courtesy: IGN