Gotham started off its tenure on Fox with a lacklustre first half season that bumbled over its characters and leads never really finding its feet. The second half of the first season improved greatly on the adventure and fully embraced the kooky and quirky tone Gotham inherently possesses. The second season listened to all the show’s fans and detractors and overhauled the focus of the show. The second season came with the subtitle ‘Rise of the Villains’ and it has never looked back.
Having said that, Gotham still has many problems that are entirely avoidable. These problems can often overshadow the show’s greatest facets and ruin the weekly experience, so here is how they can be changed and improved.
Lessen Jim Gordon’s role in the show
When Gotham started it was marketed as a Batman prequel that would focus heavily on the DC Comics fictional city via the point of view of Detective Jim Gordon. They cast a terrific talent in Ben McKenzie and everyone was anticipating a dark and brooding show that showcased McKenzie’s talents.
Unfortunately, Gotham spearheaded the first few episodes of its freshman seasons with a whole host of underdeveloped villains, and obscure ones at that. This meant that Jim Gordon never really had a relatable foundation for viewers to empathise with. As a result, the show’s supposed lead has developed into an opaque character absent of any real personality and empathy. Gordon really isn’t interesting enough to hold the attention of the audience and this becomes a huge problem when the writers dedicate whole episodes to the bland and boring character.
Just when the second season elevates fully above its first season, with the focus falling on pretty intriguing villains, the show shifts focus onto Jim Gordon and completely kills the momentum. Other characters are far more interesting and magnetic and can carry the show better than McKenzie’s rendition of Gotham – and we’ll get to that in a bit.
Greaten Bruce Wayne’s role in the show
By pushing Jim Gordon to the back of the line, Gotham can finally do what it should have done from the beginning, yank David Mazouz’s Bruce Wayne and Sean Pertwee’s Alfred Pennyworth to the foreground.
Mazouz has always been the most underappreciated performer on the show with the writers focusing on their bland and boring rendition of Jim Gordon rather than the layered and brilliant Bruce Wayne they have cast. Not only does Mazouz exude far more energy than any other thespian his age, he also shared wonderful chemistry with Pertwee’s Alfred Pennyworth. The two capture the classic banter Bruce and Alfred possess in all iterations of the character but also retain that emotional core that stems from the pseudo-father/son relationship.
In recent episodes, the writers have been pushing young Bruce towards a more seasoned and gritty older Bruce Wayne and have turned out some brilliant dialogue. The moral questions, the brilliant narrative and chemistry associated with the characters prove that the writers are excited about writing for Mazouz and Pertwee far more than they are for McKenzie’s Alfred.
Gotham needs to embrace its title and finally make Bruce Wayne and Alfred Pennyworth the focus of the show.
Kill Barbara Kean … violently
My biggest problem with Gotham is its ludicrous and frankly laughable need to include Erin Richard’s horrendous creation Barbara Kean. Barbara Kean, who may or may not become Barbara Kean-Gordon, the mother of Barbara Gordon Jr. aka Batgirl, is a horrible character. She plays more like a spoof than an actual creation that writers felt comfortable sharing with an audience.
And what makes it worse is that the writers had the chance to kill of Barbara Kean earlier this season when she fell from a church. She could have snapped her back ala Gwen Stacey, she could have impaled on a sharp fence ala Misfits or she could have fallen into a singularity created by The Flash in a single second crossover confirming that Gotham exists in the multiverse. Instead, they kept her alive and are continuously teasing her return. The tease is supposed to be entertaining but it is the equivalent of a murderer teasing your death. It’s horrifying, brutal and unforgiving.
And how on earth could they make the character worse? Bruno Heller, Gotham showrunner, has consistently thrown around ideas like: Barbara could become a gender swapped version of the Joker, she could be Harley Quinn or heaven forbid her character will run the course of the show.
Listen, I don’t joke when I say that Barbara Kean needs to die violently. She is a disservice and an insult to the art of television, not only in creation but performance. She deserves a painful death.
Bring back Jerome aka The Joker
Aside from David Mazouz and Sean Pertwee, there is only one other reason I stuck around for the second season of Gotham – Cameron Monaghan’s Jerome, who so obviously will grow up to become the Crown Prince of Crime, the Joker.
Monaghan, a young upcoming actor, took on the difficult task of playing the Joker after universally loved renditions delivered by Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger and Mark Hamill. What Monaghan did was something really special. He brought the kooky and guffawing laugh of Hamill’s Joker to the screen. He brought the beautiful disaster of Ledger’s Joker to the screen. And he brought the creepy factor of Nicholson’s Joker to the screen.
Monaghan brought his A-Game and so did the writers. They made him into a confused villain, as the Joker is want to be, who flitted from right to left destroying everything in his path. However, he met an untimely demise in a brilliant episode called ‘The Last Laugh’, or did he? In an episode featuring Mr. Freeze – bring on more villains – we see a body sporting a familiar shade of red hair in the Hugo Strange-headed Indian Hills facility. This gives me hope that the show will bring Monaghan/Jerome/Joker back with the green hair and the white skin and allow the brilliantly engrossing performer lose on Gotham.
With him Jerome will bring a sense of unpredictability. Right now Gotham is extremely predictable and that can get infuriating. The performances and villains hold the attention but Jerome/Joker can fracture storylines and be a precious wildcard. One hopes the writers can bring him back and embed him into every crevice of Gotham they can – the show will be better for it.