After a disappointing first season but a better and improved second season, it appeared as though Gotham was manoeuvring itself onto a much more enjoyable and coherent track. Unfortunately this third season has painted an arduous, troublesome and bleak future for the Batman prequel show and it has lost this disappointed viewer.
When Gotham was first announced as a television series focused on Detective James Gordon battling the grimy underbelly of the famous fictional city, in the wake of the Wayne murders, many audiences braced themselves for a weekly dose of Batman influenced heavily by the work Christopher Nolan had done on the big screen. Indeed, trailers for Gotham painted a relentlessly gritty affair with brooding political conflicts, mob orientated stories and intriguing interpretations of Batman’s rogue gallery.
Unfortunately the show was anything but this. Gotham began, and continued, as a gaudy and kooky take on the DC Comics property that highlighted the most off beat and obscure corners of the universe, whilst accenting the narrative with uninteresting and laborious television tropes that stagnated the story and zapped the atmosphere of any tangible tension.
Genuinely intriguing performances from the likes of Robin Lord Taylor as Penguin and Corey Michael Smith were dampened by ridiculously performed larger-than-life characters like Jada Pinkett Smith’s Fish Mooney and Erin Richards’ Barbara Kean. Solid and emotional sub-plots orientated around David Mazouz’s frankly inspired take on a young Bruce Wayne and Sean Pertwee’s gruff Alfred Pennyworth were subdued in favour of horrendously contrived conflicts between Gordon and wife-to-be Barbara. The first season was a mess. It sold itself as a grounded crime affair but transpired to be anything but showcasing villains like The Balloonman and The Goat. It did, however, hold the attention through the ascension of Penguin and quiet moments with Bruce and Alfred.
After such a haphazard and inconsistent first season, the trajectory could only be one of improvement and it was as such. Recognising that they had well and truly dropped the ball with the source material, the second season operated with a mantra: Rise of the Villains. Season one standout Cameron Monaghan reappeared as Jerome, who for all intents and purposes was a young Joker, and Batman’s classic villains began to emerge. Penguin continued to be well handled. Riddler snapped and fractured extremely well. Firefly and Mr. Freeze were adapted well. BD Wong stole every scene as Hugo Strange. And James Frain was great as Theo Galavan aka Azrael. All the pieces of the puzzle were well manufactured and well designed but they oddly never stuck together. it is true that one could admire the individual pieces for their performances, their structure and their finished state but it never really felt like the next level.
Season three was meant to be that next level. It was meant to show that Gotham has finally positioned its greasy wheels on a straight and steady track but it derailed and became the mess it was when it first hit our screens.
Gordon, who had been positioned as the moral saviour of the GCPD became a brute for hire without any values simply because it allowed the show to work in conflict with the bland and completely wasted Captain Barnes (Michael Chiklis). Donal Logue’s usually funny Harvey Bullock receded into the background working like a cameo machine in every episode. Penguin has been wasting away in a nonsensical arc positioning him as the Mayor of Gotham and stuck in an awkward love triangle with Nygma and a Kringle lookalike. Bruce and Alfred have been lumbered with a boring and frustrating sub-plot about a Bruce Wayne doppelganger and a case of identity theft. Barbara Kean refuses to die and works as the show’s consistently exasperating middleman who benefits no one but seems to survive purely to stab at an already tired audience. Poision Ivy found herself crudely aged up, sexed up and sent back into the world to wreak havoc in the most silly and outrageous turn of events. Intelligent characters began to make stupid decisions for the sake of plot. Stupid characters continued to make stupid decisions for the sake of plot. New characters did very little to offer anything new and fresh but rather appear to mesh into the established routine of love triangles, tangential arcs and halting mechanisms. Season three, it looks like, would be as bad, if not worse, than the show’s very first season.
It is a hard decision to drop a show one has sunk a lot of time, effort and mental thought into. It is even more difficult to drop a show that appears to have potential and saving graces like Mazouz, Lord Taylor and Michael Smith. But when it becomes a chore to turn on the box and tune into another episode of a television show that has ceased to entertain, offer anything new and realise its greatest facets, the time has come to say goodbye. And it is with great regret that I say goodbye without any remorse or even any doubt that I will miss the show at all. It is now a hollow viewing experience that takes your time and gives you nothing in return.
Goodbye Gotham. You failed this city.