Gotham Would Be Better Without Batman
In a lot of ways, it might be best for the show if Bruce is never 'ready' to put on the cowl again. From the start, the best part of Gotham has been the villains, with Baby-Bat's story on the sidelines - and now that Bruce wants to 'retire' from his masked vigilante work, that means that there is more time to focus on the really cool characters. Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) and Riddler (Cory Michael Smith) in particular are absolutely fascinating, and their relationship has become a fan-favorite. Giving these two heavy-hitters more screen time is certainly not a bad thing. Barbara Kean (Erin Richards) has also had a fascinating storyline that has taken her from being Jim's girlfriend to the Queen of Gotham's underworld, and she deserves more focus from the show.
The villains also have their requisite good-guy to go up against, as Jim Gordon is the figurehead of truth and justice in the GCPD, and spends plenty of time balancing out the criminals in the show. In addition, the increasing number of fascinating criminal characters mean that retiring Bruce permanently would create space to simplify the storylines and really let each of these bad guys shine. In recent seasons, the plots have become incredibly convoluted, as Bruce battles his enemies in addition to all the other stories being told - getting rid of this would make the show just a little less complex, and easier to watch.
While some might want Bruce to simply become more integrated in the villain's stories, he's simply not ready at this point. He's still basically a child, compared to the grown men and women of the underworld - he's less experienced, out-gunned, and difficult to take seriously as a threat to most of these villains. It's just not a fair fight, and that means it's not a particularly interesting one. Instead of attempting to keep Batman front and center, the show may be better off playing to its strengths; the villains, and their overblown antics.
Does Gotham Need Batman?
Although Bruce Wayne has long been recognized as one of the weak spots in Gotham, it could still be difficult to simply pull him from the narrative at this point. For one thing, Gotham is still seen by many to be a Batman series - telling the story of Bruce Wayne's journey from losing his parents to becoming the Dark Knight. This is also a story that has now been half-told, and just dumping it from the show leaves all kinds of unanswered questions, which is deeply unsatisfying.
In addition, Bruce has already said that his desire to be a vigilante goes beyond his battle with Ra's Al Ghul, and he's already begun interacting with the villains. His total disappearance simply wouldn't work, so Bruce needs to stick around in some shape or form, and seeing him becoming Batman is significantly more interesting than seeing him just be a rich teenager in Gotham City.
The Future Of Baby-Bat
Although a total retirement for Bruce Wayne's nighttime activities would come as a relief to fans who aren't too keen on the Baby-Bat, and would rather see simpler storylines centered on the villains, this isn't likely to happen. Alfred's choice to save the suit and wait until Bruce is 'ready' is very telling - Bruce is going to become ready again at some point, and the suit will be waiting. However, it's not clear exactly when he might strap on the suit again.
The first half of the season has been called 'A Dark Knight', and Bruce's story with Ra's has only taken five episodes of that to wrap up. So far, Gotham has split each season into two parts, so when we learn the title of the second half of season 4, it is sure to provide a little extra information about whether or not Bruce will return to the vigilante life before season 5. We do already know that the seventh episode of this season, 'A Day In The Narrows', will include some Bruce-time, as he meets a 'former friend' and goes out for the night with classmates. It seems, then, that Bruce may be retired, but his story will continue with a little more time for Bruce to be a teenager, rather than a tortured hero. It's probable that after several episodes (or even the rest of the season) on the sidelines, Bruce will experience something that inspires him to become a vigilante once more, but in the meantime, we'll be enjoying more time with the villains, and less with the Baby-Bat.
Gotham continues next Thursday with ‘A Dark Knight: Hog Day Afternoon’ @8pm on FOX.