I am a television junkie. I’ll watch just about anything. I’ve also recently been swept up in the new age of movies and television shows based on comics. I watch The Flash, Arrow, Agents of SHIELD, Daredevil, Gotham and recently marathoned my way through Smallville. Without a doubt, Gotham is by and far the worst comic show. It might be the worst show on television, period.
I’ll grant the show runners and network painted themselves into a corner with the premise. “Let’s do a Batman show without Batman!” It is an intriguing idea, but by doing that, a strong focus needs to be made on making other characters likable, relatable or at a minimum, interesting. Gotham fails on all accounts. The protagonist is a young Det. Jim Gordon, a stoic no-nonsense cop who wants to clean up Gotham and the police department. A fine useable character in most comic book worlds, but it’s the wrong choice to make the star/hero of a comic book show. The show is basically a by the numbers cop procedural, with occasional villains from the Batman Universe and that’s not what anyone wants from a “superhero” show.
Other poorly shaped characters include his partner Bullock (the corrupt cop who wants to do what is right, but has too many skeletons in his closet to always do what is right), Fish Mooney (an over the top mobster who has plans to take over Gotham, but just likes to monologue and dress oddly), young Bruce Wayne (who is mildly interesting, but feels too forced into the Gotham world of corruption), Don Maroni and Don Falcone (a couple of color by number mob bosses who bring nothing new to the character type) and the Gordon’s lieutenant, who is so boring and inconsistent that I can’t even remember her name. As bad as all these characters are, I’d be remiss not to mention Barbara Kean. She’s Gordon’s girlfriend at the beginning of the show and goes nuts over the course of the first season. She’s annoying and pointless from episode one and just got worse as the season dragged on. She’s the Dr. Melfi of Gotham.
One of the hallmarks of great shows is strong compelling characters. Breaking Bad, The West Wing, and Lost understood that, which made the shows standouts. The Flash has jumped out of the gate with a terrific season, in large part due to its characters and how much you care about them. I don’t care about one character on Gotham; in fact there are many weeks I’m rooting for some to die just to get them off the show.
Besides a lack of compelling characters, Gotham suffers from not having a through line in the season. If you compare to The Flash and Arrow, both shows had a Big Bad who dominated the season. Even if they were not in every episode, their presence was felt. It’s been weeks since the finale, and I can barely remember any of the villains. In the age of highly serialized TV (especially in the comic genre), I can’t tell you what happened this season of Gotham besides an overdone mob war and no one in the Gotham PD supporting Gordon. Does that sound like what people are looking for in a show based on the Batman comics?
Gotham also pulled off a seemingly impossible dichotomy of having absolutely boring baddies of the week, but also ruining any interesting characters with their commercials and previews. I can honestly name maybe two or three villains from the season that were one-offs. They brought in (possibly) the Joker for an episode, and had his reveal as a big twist for the episode. The only problem was they spent the whole week leading up to the episode showing clips of the Joker’s turn and laugh. Good job. The season finale had been teased for weeks for having a “game changing” twist in THE LAST FIVE MINUTES. But once again, they showed the mysterious Wayne Manor fireplace moving to reveal a secret tunnel for THE LAST MONTH! Don’t worry, they didn’t go in it, we have to wait until next season. (It may be appropriate for me to have written Spoiler Alert at the top of this paragraph, but the show does such a good job of spoiling its own stuff.)
So why do I keep watching? A few reasons, I’m a masochist, I love Batman, or believe that the same production group that makes Arrow and Flash can’t turn this around a la Agents of SHIELD post-Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Penguin and Riddler both have potential as characters and villains, but with the poor writing, boring characters, and uninteresting stories, I don’t see the potential for this show to turn around anytime soon. They are so handcuffed by the fact that we all know that 12 year old Bruce Wayne will one day become Batman, but we’re never going to see it on the show. And without Batman on a Batman show, there’s no way things can get better in Gotham and for any of the major villains to suffer any consequences.