So last night, we saw the season finale for Gotham. For those of you unfamiliar with this particular TV show, it’s basically Batman without the bat, a prequel of sorts, that takes place when Commissioner Gordon is still just a fledgling detective and Thomas and Martha Wayne are killed in Crime Alley. Think of it as an exploration of why Gotham City needs Batman so badly. It’s supposed to be dark and gritty, filled with angst and crime and death.
Sad to say, I’m not entirely sure it’s a city I want to live in anymore.
Don’t get me wrong, I liked some of what I saw this season. The relationship between Alfred and Bruce Wayne was fun to watch, especially in the early going when Alfred clearly didn’t know what to do with his childish charge. Some of what they did with Batman’s nemeses was a lot of fun. I kind of dug how clueless and pathetic Penguin has been, and Edward Nygma has had his moments. And I particularly liked the origin story of the Red Hood Gang. By far, though, the best part of the show has been Donal Logue’s Harvey Bullock. He’s mostly scuzzy, but you can tell that underneath the worn-out exterior is a hero waiting to emerge.
But for all that Gotham has been doing right, it’s also been dropping the ball far too regularly. If the producers want me to stick around (and why wouldn’t they? I’m just so pleasant), this would be my suggestions for how to move forward:
1. Enough with the supervillains! In the early part of the series, we had all sorts of Bat-villains being dumped into the stories. Hey, here’s the Riddler as a police crime scene tech (a bold choice and one that I don’t mind). Here’s Penguin as the guy who holds the umbrella. Here’s Catwoman as a little girl who just so happens to witness the Waynes’ murder for some reason. But wait, there’s more! Here’s Victor Zsasz as a mafioso. And here’s Two Face while he was still an ADA! And here’s Poison Ivy as a little girl! And here’s Scarecrow as a teenager! And here’s one or two people who might turn out to be the Joker someday! Just in case you forgot that you’re watching a Batman show, we’re going to keep pouring on the Bat-villains with every second.
Stop. It’s enough. In reality, it’s too much, and it’s too ridiculous! There was a glut of soon-to-bes in the early episodes and it really dragged on the show. The episodes became so much better when they pared back. I haven’t missed Ivy in the least. And Harvey Dent, while he might seem like a logical choice to include in a police procedural, really didn’t add much either.
Some of the villain tie-ins weren’t all that bad. The brief appearance of Tommy Elliot was a nice touch, as was the episode that hinted at Bane’s origins. Used sparingly, Bat-villains can be fun.
In the next season, I think it’d be a lot better if they focused on one or two of the future Bat-villains. The logical choice would seem to be Edward Nygma, given the way that the episode ended. And keeping Selina in the mix is interesting, given the way that Bruce is all goo-goo eyed at her. But let Penguin fade into the shadows a little. Don’t bring back Harvey or Ivy or Zsasz or Scarecrow or even the Joker until later seasons.
That may seem counter-intuitive, but this is already a Batman-less Batman show. We don’t need his rogues gallery for the show to work. Instead…
2. Come up with original monsters for Jim Gordon to hunt. I loved the Ogre mini-arc toward the end of the season. Part of that is because I have a soft spot for Milo Ventimiglia, but it’s also because it was fun to watch something that I couldn’t predict. I was sure that Barbara was going die, but I’m happy with the way things finally turned out. I mean, at least she had something interesting to do other than mope around her apartment and…well, I’m not sure what else she did.
Keep things interesting. Keep things original. Some of the monsters will get away, much to the frustration of Gordon and Bullock. Some will be taken down. But if the villain isn’t one of the Bat-villains, then we can’t know what’s going to happen and that makes for fun TV. Bring on the new freaks, folks!
3. Be willing to throw out the canon once in a while. The season finale had one shocking moment that I wasn’t quite ready for, and it involved Don Moroni. That’s all I’m going to say, but I have to say, my jaw hit the floor when I saw it. Figure out ways to switch up the canon to keep us guessing.
I don’t know how they can do that at this point with all of these characters so firmly established. But wouldn’t it have been interesting if Penguin had bought it at the end of this episode, revealing that the person we thought was going to be a Bat-nemesis really wasn’t at all?
Stick to canon when you can, but find ways to yank the rug out of the fanboys once in a while.
All that said, I most likely will come back to the show next season. I’m too much of a glutton for punishment, and it did have moments of fun and excitement. I just hope that it doesn’t fall short. The city needs Batman. They really need to show us why.