by Cody Chavers
At its core, Gotham is an origin story. Not just the origin of Bruce Wayne or James Gordon, but of the city itself. At a time when origin stories seem played out in movies and television shows (especially those based on comic books), Gotham offers a fresh take by shining a brand new light on a story we all have known for years. That, coupled with a troupe of fantastic actors, makes for a really great show. With a good mix of crime-of-the-week drama, interpersonal character development and comic book “Easter eggs,” Gotham has already cemented itself as one of modern television’s best superhero based shows.
The show began six weeks ago with rookie homicide detective James Gordon, played by Ben McKenzie, arriving at his first day working for the Gotham City Police Department. He soon meets his new partner Harvey Bullock, played brilliantly by Donal Logue, and learns that things run quite differently in the GCPD. The drama really begins here as Gordon tries immediately to turn things to a more moral and ethical code while still trying to fit in as the new guy at work. This proves difficult as the mob is revealed to have almost complete control over the local government, especially the police. Gordon’s trials and tribulations as a good man in a morally bankrupt institution lay the groundwork for the show.
Another strong selling point for Gotham is the age old story of the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne and the beginning of Bruce Wayne’s journey to becoming the infamous and wildly popular vigilante, Batman. The kid playing Bruce, David Mazouz, brings all the gravity that a young Batman should possess to the role while also displaying the vulnerability and psychic scarring that would come from seeing one’s own parents gunned down. Seeing the young Bruce establish a connection with Jim Gordon and, more importantly, his relationship with his butler, Alfred Pennyworth, make for some of the best and most emotional scenes.
Perhaps my favorite thing about Gotham is spotting all the little nods to the mythology that inspires the series. In the tradition of shows like Smallville and Arrow, Gotham continuously uses names and places from the original comic books in new and often unique ways, such as having the GCPD forensic analyst be a young, pre-Riddler Edward Nygma or, most recently, having the citizens of the city exposed to the strength and rage enhancing drug, Viper, which is the prototype of the Venom serum used by the super-villain Bane. The showrunners have also included subtle but significant nods to other comics and stories outside of Batman, like having a character named Cranston killed by a man dressed very much like The Shadow, whose real name is Lamont Cranston.
In only five episodes, Gotham has already acquired quite a fan base. It is a gritty, film noir inspired police show that draws on what is perhaps the most famous of superhero origin stories, that of the Batman. Through the virtues of talented acting and intuitive story-telling, Gotham continues to surprise fans of both crime dramas and comic books. I know that I am not alone in my excitement at the dark, amazing things this show promises in the near future.