Gotham returned this week after an extra-long mid-season hiatus, and while ‘Pieces of a Broken Mirror’ may not be one of the strongest episodes this season, it does promise plenty of Gotham goodness to come… which may surprise those fans who gave up on the show after season 1. Gotham started life in 2014, and got off to something of a rocky start. The characters, the city, and the comic inspiration are all Batman-based, but the Dark Knight himself isn’t the star of the show. Instead, Gotham originally promised a gritty cop-drama, set against the criminals of Gotham City, and fans weren’t quite sure what to do with it.
Unlike some other super-shows, Gotham hasn’t quite got geekdom buzzing, but it does have a devoted fanbase, and remains one of the top ten most popular scripted TV shows on FOX. The mid-season premiere even brought in more viewers than either Supernatural or Arrow, both of which air on the same night (2.6 million viewers, compared to 1.63 and 1.18, respectively).
Gotham has been quietly clinging on, with ratings hitting a low point at the start of season 4, but does it deserve its bad reputation, or have fans simply not caught up with how good the show has become? It may not have had a strong start, but by this point, Gotham has become a dark, campy, and gloriously weird comic book show unlike anything else on the small screen… and if you’re getting a little tired of some of the other offerings, it could be time to give Gotham another shot.
The Problem With Gotham Season One
The biggest issue with the early seasons of Gotham was Batman – or the lack thereof. Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) does appear in the show, which starts with the murder of his parents, a crime that rookie cop Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) is assigned to. However, Bruce is a little kid, and was never intended to be the focus of the show. Originally, Gordon was the central figure, but he was far from the most compelling. Instead, it was the villains that stood out in the first seasons. However, the villains weren’t quite enough to carry the show, as they were very different to their comic counterparts, and the first season seemed to be about cops and gangsters more than comic book bad guys.
Overall, the early seasons were just a little bit confused, and that put fans off. Was this a Batman origin story? If so, why were all the villains so much older than him? Was it a cop/mob drama, or a comic book show? It didn’t seem to know if fans were meant to take it seriously or not, and although it is beautiful and inspired by some of the best comic characters around, Gotham was all over the place – so it’s no wonder that so many fans ditched the show.
Steering Into The Skid: How Gotham Got Good
Things started to get better for Gotham when the series stopped taking itself seriously, and embraced the camp side of comics. We’re not talking the ‘holy primary colors, Batman’ camp of the original ’60s series, though. This is a dark and gothic take on the wilder side of comics, that steers into the skid of unrealistic villains and over-the-top plotlines. Clones of Bruce Wayne. Singing serial killers wearing pig masks and force-feeding human pie to the rich. Hard-as-nails criminal queens digging out their own eyeballs. Whip-wielding club owners, multiple resurrections, and a costume department that isn’t afraid to put the mayor in a quasi-mohawk and pinstripes. A proto-Joker wearing his own face as a mask (literally. He stitched his own face back onto himself).
Related: Gotham Midseason 4 Premiere Review
What Gotham has always done best is compelling villains and completely bonkers storylines, and with the more recent seasons, the show has chosen to make the most of those strengths and become something absolutely phenomenal. It’s dark, it’s crazy, it takes all kinds of risks, and most of the time, those risks pay off in a big way. Gotham has also really found its stride with the original choice to create a world without a time period – the costumes and the technology ranges from the ’20s to the ’90s, and yet it works. Gotham exists effectively in its own completely mad world, and takes the best of the Batman comic universe with it (except Batman himself, of course).
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