As is the way with most superhero television shows, fans either love a series or hate it based on its adherence to its source material. But whereas most superhero shows are based on a specific superhero, Gotham, the gritty recounting of Jim Gordon’s early years in the Gotham City Police Department, has been a perfect example of this despite not being based on one. For some, a Gotham series without a strong Batman presence is tantamount to sacrilege, while others are more invested in the cast of characters around him than the man himself.
Because Batman isn’t the main character, certain liberties have been taken with the inclusion of Bruce Wayne. From making him adopt Batman-like characteristics as a child to altering the timeline of when he meets famous foes (again, in childhood), these potentially change the character fundamentally. Gotham has been a successful risk-taking series since it premiered because its handling of the Caped Crusader has remained fresh.
10 BATMAN ISN’T THE MAIN CHARACTER
The Batman origin story has been told and retold dozens of times, always incorporating the same elements: his mother and father being gunned down outside a theater, her pearls falling dramatically onto the sidewalk, a young Bruce Wayne turning a childhood trauma into a lifetime of cold vengeance. Nothing new there.
What Gotham decided to do was tell the story of a once great city’s chaotic downfall, wherein it became a breeding ground for diabolical villains and also the righteous few who worked tirelessly to stop them. The sort of city that would eventually need a Caped Crusader. But this isn’t his story yet, and it allows other characters their time to shine.
9 BRUCE'S RELATIONSHIP WITH SELINA KYLE
Even casual fans know that Batman didn’t encounter Selina Kyle (aka Catwoman) until they were both adults and she was halfway into committing a caper. In Gotham, Selina Kyle and Bruce Wayne grow up together and are childhood friends, going on adventures together.
Knowing what we know about where they’ll both end up later in life, having their relationship begin with them so close makes for an interesting dynamic, especially when he begins fighting crime and she begins committing it.
8 WATCHING GOTHAM’S COLLAPSE
Appropriately, Gotham is so called because of its titular character: the city itself, a monolithic concrete kingdom that breeds chaos, crime, and complacency. As the seasons have unfolded, Gotham’s shine has dulled, becoming a medley of Schumacher camp and Burton noir, as the once great metropolis becomes slowly overrun by criminals. Watching the choices its citizens make seem almost desperate toward a destiny that is known only by the viewer.
Watching Gotham’s inevitable fall from grace is both lamentable and addicting. With each officer of the GCPD that turns crooked, with each supervillain who swells the ranks of their cronies, and with each degenerate Jim Gordon blows away, we are one step closer to the Dark Knight’s rise.
7 BRUCE'S RELATIONSHIP WITH JIM GORDON
Jim Gordon has often served as Batman’s moral compass as he’s protected Gotham, serving as his anchor during times of particular emotional duress for the Dark Knight. Gotham spends its time exploring Jim Gordon’s own moral dilemmas as he tries to be a light in so much darkness. Sometimes he does the right thing, and sometimes he doesn’t.
He meets Bruce Wayne as the investigating officer on his family’s murder, and the two form an unlikely friendship, planting the seeds for the partnership they will maintain over their entire careers. It also implies Gordon will know Batman’s true identity long before he would have in the comics.
6 BATMAN “CREATES HIS OWN VILLAINS” DEBATE CHANGED
One of the commonly-held beliefs in the Batman Universe is that, through his own doing, Batman in fact created the supervillains that he faces. In the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy, Jim Gordon explains to Batman that it makes sense that a damaged person wear a costume and fight other damaged people. But in response to what? In many origin stories, Batman directly created the Joker, Two-Face, and the Riddler, either as Bruce Wayne or as his alter ego.
Gotham subverts this. It instead challenges that reigning narrative by suggesting that the biggest heavy hitters in Batman’s eventual Rogue Gallery were already coming into their own well before Bruce Wayne thought to become Batman.
5 KEEPS TRUE TO TEENAGE BRUCE IN THE COMICS
In the comic series Batman: Year One, Batman returns to Gotham after 12 years abroad, training and honing all the skills he would need to fight crime. A young Bruce Wayne, barely out of his teen years, infiltrates the seedy underbelly of Gotham in what proves to be his first year on the job.
Gotham keeps in the spirit of the comics, which have at different times involved a much younger Bruce Wayne undergoing secret missions and clumsily fighting crime. It’s important to show that Bruce Wayne was always interested in protecting Gotham, even before he donned the infamous cape and callow.
4 OTHER PROTECTORS OF GOTHAM
What not all Batman origin stories showcase are the people in Bruce Wayne’s life who inspire him to become Batman. In most cases, the horrible tragedy of his parents' death, combined with some hallucinatory experiences with bats, does the trick. However, in Gotham, they take a different approach.
There are still good people in Gotham City, even as it becomes infested with criminals. People like his father, Thomas Wayne, who was intent on exposing criminals in his own company. In the first Batman comics, Bruce was inspired by his father beating a mugger while still wearing a bat outfit at a costume party.
3 BRUCE WAYNE IS CONSTANTLY KIDNAPPED
As Bruce Wayne comes to know the leering faces of Gotham’s super villains, they come to know his. Through various bizarre circumstances, he becomes a focal point for them and gets kidnapped by almost every member of Batman’s eventual Rogue Gallery, from Riddler to Penguin to Mad Hatter.
This wasn’t possible in any other timeline, as the adult Bruce Wayne/Batman was previously responsible for their very existence and reason for being. This timeline mirrors how each of them is personally obsessed with Bruce, in the way they will become obsessed with Batman once he is created (but perhaps won’t know why).
2 BRUCE'S RELATIONSHIP WITH JEREMIAH
In Season 4 of Gotham, Jeremiah and Bruce grow close in a surprising way after Jerome’s departure. This isn’t quite out of friendship, but there’s an undeniable connection. Bruce hates Jeremiah, whereas Jeremiah respects Bruce a great deal. Jeremiah’s only connection with humanity is through his connection with Bruce, and it matters to him.
Prior to turning villainous, the connection was as close to having a true friend as Jeremiah could have, which he holds onto, even as his actions ensure that Bruce can never see him the same way. It’s a perfect build-up to the iconic symbiotic pairing they will have as Batman and The Joker.
1 ALFRED PENNYWORTH
Alfred’s characterization on screen has changed in several notable ways since his beginning assignment as the Wayne family butler. In Tim Burton’s Batman films, he was the avuncular butler that made sure Master Bruce drank his warm milk before bed. In the Christopher Nolan films, he was the salty sidekick, and in the Zack Snyder era, he’s been Batman’s “Q”.
In Gotham, he’s a scrappy bruiser that you’d want by your side in a fight. He’s often given free rein to maim and pummel criminals and suspects for information, and there’s a sense that Bruce gets a lot of inspiration for his gritty fighting style from watching his manservant manhandle.