|The Gotham season two crew.|
Warning: Spoilers follow for seasons one and two of Gotham.
If you’re a fan of cheesy and pulpy-bad television, then do yourself a favor – Start binge-watching Gotham. Holy hell! It’s an incredible mixture of legitimately good acting and character portrayals, which is then contrasted with long, boring character arcs and over-the-top camp. The show is so up its own ass with Fake Seriousness, like a badly done version of the Christopher Nolan Batman movies,
Let’s start with the good – Individual characters and their respective story arcs on Gotham are compelling. There is (future commish) Gordon’s literally psycho ex-girlfriend Barbara Keane, Theo Galvin’s nutty sadist sister, the plucky teenage Selina Kyle (Catwoman), the Eartha Kitt-inspired Cat Mooney as played by Mrs. Will Smith, Ed the Riddler, and even one-shot characters like Pyro Girl and Girl With Bird Claw are more interesting than they need to be.
However, when it comes to the recurring appearances, two of them clearly have Boss status. Oswald Cobblepot, a.k.a. The Penguin, alternates between pathetic, pitiful and terrifying. He was played by Danny DeVito in Batman Returns, but Robin Lord Taylor just brings the creepiness in a much more plausible way.
Secondly, B.D. Wong is getting to ham it up wayyyy more than he ever did on Special Victims Unit. He plays Hugo Strange, the demented leader of Arkham in the second season. He’s always in control, and he’s a much more compelling puppet-master than Galvin, who functioned in that role for some of seasons 1 and 2.
Speaking of… The biggest fault of Gotham is that it is tied, unfortunately, to the Batman mythos, and at times, it feels more like an anchor. If you liked Muppet Babies, this show is essentially Gotham Babies. Bruce Wayne knows everyone he will fight as Batman at age 15ish, apparently. Also, Bruce Wayne at 15 is way less interesting than Bruce Wayne as Batman, similar to how Kermit isn’t awesome as a toddler frog. (Okay – Muppet Babies was still a decent show.)
The main lead of the show is Ben McKenzie as (future commish) James Gordon, and he’s just involved in too much ridiculous stuff. He’s broken out of prison, been framed for a slew of crimes, and basically just operates as a vigilante himself. One of the stronger points of the movie is usually that Gordon is portrayed as contrast to Batman, but in Gotham, his background and past activities are arguable way nuttier than whatever Batman is going to be involved in.
Also, while I like Donal Logue as Harvey Bullock – Gordon’s partner – he’s marginalized in this series. It’s hard for him to play the unhinged, “knows a guy” and stretches the ethics cop when Gordon is working as an enforced for a mob boss anyway. The police force in Gotham is so ridiculously crooked that it’s hard to take any plotlines involving it seriously.
So! Do your best to enjoy Gotham for the nutty, pulpy plotlines, but don’t expect it to dramatically rival any of the best superhero stuff. Nolan’s Batman movies are better if you’re looking for Super Serious Acting, or the animated series from the 1990s, and if you want camp, Adam West is your answer.