At first glance the upcoming Gotham Fox TV series sounds like a complete waste of time. Gotham without Batman? Bruce Wayne is a kid? The series focuses on Commissioner Gordon? Someone at Fox, DC, or both is jealous of ABC’s Agents of SHIELD.
But this time, we the fans may be the lucky beneficiaries of the Marvel/DC Media Wars. Agents is certainly all right, but Gotham is going to be very, very interesting. Not only will it be an exploration of characters and of the DCU in general, but its exploration of Gotham’s history will lead viewers into the psychological origins of the Dark Knight.
In the DC universe, the city of Gotham is as much a character as Batman himself. In fact, in some ways, it’s the mother of all villains. The city spawns the most deranged superhuman community in the DCU, never seems to improve, and baldly terrifies everyone who isn’t Batman. (Heck, the U.S. dumped the entire city during the events of “No Man’s Land.”)
Looking at comics in a literary light, it’s pretty clear that Gotham is a reflection of Batman’s inner state of turmoil. Though cosmopolitan on the surface, its depths roil with neurotic anguish. Batman’s villains tend to represent psychological injuries that correspond oddly well with Wayne’s own issues. (The Joker, for example, is basically negative Batman: instead of being a terrifying symbol that aids the just, he’s a theoretically comforting symbol, a clown, that aids the unjust. The Penguin mocks Bruce’s high-class veneer, Poison Ivy mocks his inability to love – see what I mean?)
I could write a thesis about Batman and Gotham. Seriously, you guys.
There’s one very interesting thing about the upcoming Gotham TV show: in the story, Batman won’t be a thing yet. The Waynes will have just been killed and young Bruce will still, presumably, be in a state of shock. Though he’ll be nowhere near our beloved, well-known borderline disturbing vigilante who beats the mentally ill to within an inch of their lives, he will be, shall we say, emotionally prepared. Always paralleling the Dark Knight, Gotham will also be reeling from the high-profile murder. It won’t be complete bedlam…yet…but the signs of its dystopian future will build throughout the series.
If you still need a reason to watch, consider that writer and executive producer Bruno Heller also recently worked on the BBC/HBO production Rome, and that Danny Cannon of Nikita fame will direct. These may not be comic book guys per se, but they do know drama and action. They’re likely to lay down a solid TV show. (Let’s just hope they read up before they start shooting.)
The same goes for the rest of the recently announced cast members: The venerable Donal Logue joined the show today as detective Harvey Bullock. Ben McKenzie of Southland and The O.C. stars as the focal point of the series: Officer James Gordon, a role that might be a good fit with his cop show experience. Zabryna Guevara, who was featured in four episodes of Burn Notice and a few other minor movies and TV shows, will play Gordon’s boss, Captain Essen. While she hasn’t really broken into the screen in a big way yet, she also has off-Broadway experience, most recently in Cimichangas and Zoloft (2014). Erin Richards of Open Grave and the upcoming The Quiet Ones will play Gordon’s fiancee, Barbara Kean.
Alfred Pennyworth, who is depicted here as an ex-marine, will be played, appropriately, by the badass Sean Pertwee. Aside from playing various gritty roles in sci-fi-esque military action films like Dog Soldiers (2002) and Equilibrium (2002), Pertwee voiced Colonel Hakha in Killzone (This makes him awesome automatically). But it’ll be especially interesting to see what Robin Lord Taylor will bring to the inevitably complicated role of the Penguin. Heath Ledger’s Joker basically invalidated the idea of the campy DC villain, and in that light, Taylor may find Cobblepot more challenging than Danny DeVito’s likeable birdish weirdo of Batman Returns (1992).
If Fox and Warner Brothers do Gotham right, then it will offer us not only a look at Gotham’s downfall, but an in on how Batman happened, blow by blow. Maybe it’ll even manage to tie into the Batman vs. Superman movie somehow. The possibilities are extreme. Let’s hope that they’re realized to their fullest.