…if not the Batman TV show we need. Or, I need. But Fox’s Gotham doesn’t have to suck as much (heh, suck, bats, heh) as it looks like it very easily could. We won’t know anything until tomorrow night, when the pilot airs at 8pm (check your local listings) but until then we (I) can still hope for a show that looks a little something like one that…
Doesn’t Focus on Baby Bruce Wayne
It’s totally fine that a adolescent Bruce is in the show, after all, he is the victim to and only witness of a crime and so would naturally be involved in any police investigation. Jim Gordon taking a personal interest in the boy during and after that investigation makes sense too, as that’s just the man’s nature. Alfred’s sometime-ex-paramilitary experience could be fun to explore as it pertains to justice vs. vengeance against the elder Waynes’ murder, as well. But let’s not give Li’l Bruce major plots or extended arcs where he gets as much screen time as the adults in the cast, and not just because child actors are generally not great performers but because demystifying Batman too much is folly.
The most important thing that happens to Bruce Wayne as a child is the murder of his parents, which has been thoroughly explored, and then we generally skip ahead 10-15 years when he’s training to become a vigilante crime fighter. So, Batman is basically Jesus. And, while it could be fun to see a nineteen year-old savior traveling the world and learning the tricks of his future trade, watching a thirteen year-old pre-Batman grieving and getting into schoolyard fights, or not eating dinner or doing his homework just isn’t something anybody wants to see. Let us learn from George Lucas’s example: Don’t Anakinize the Goddamn Batman.
Does Focus on Gordon and the GCPD
Thankfully, all the trailers are making this outcome pretty likely. I would be very interested in seeing the interior lives of both the future Commissioner Gordon and his cynical partner Bullock, not least of all because Donal Logue is perfectly cast in that role and letting him Hank Dalworth it up could be glorious to watch. Obviously we’ll see them solving crimes and always just out of reach of catching the biggest criminals, but I hope we see how that pressure affects Gordon’s marital and extra-marital affairs — various writers have found plenty of time for this in the comics, as well as being home from war — and Bullock’s lack of sobriety and temptations toward corruption. The tension between them should be felt in every episode, until they’re ultimately the only people either trust in the entire city.
Gordon’s wife and possible dalliance have been cast but we haven’t really seen anything of them in the marketing campaign, which leads me to believe they’re going to be deep background characters when they should be full-on supporting players. The show might be sustainable as pure case of the week, but it would be a lot less engaging in the long run, I think, but we’ll get to that. If the women are barely more than props rather than well-developed characters making choices in their own story (seen in detail or not), it will be a lost opportunity. Especially in the case of Barbara Not-Batgirl Gordon, who has always gotten the short end of the characterization stick and, as Barbara Batgirl Gordon’s mother, deserves better.
Doesn’t Get Too Cutesy with the Villain Origins
Unfortunately, this is something the trailers are making appear to be a tragic inevitability. Seeing Oswald Cobblepot before he proudly takes the name of The Penguin and becomes a powerful crime boss has the potential to be very entertaining. Seeing Selina Kyle as a possible peer of Baby Bruce, maybe someone else curious about his parents’ murder who exists much closer to that life than the cops, could add some dramatic foreshadowing to the types of stories we know these two crazy kids will get up to in the future. And I really hope we see a young Harvey Dent, just out of law school. But finding any excuse to throw in The Riddler or Poison Ivy or all of Batman’s Rogues Gallery every episode, or every few, just muddles the continuity waters for fans and casuals alike. We don’t need to see all the villains before they’re super, because they aren’t all interesting even when they’re super. But do find a way to squeeze the Ventriloquist in there, that episode just screams Emmy-bait.
Another mistake would be to throw in a slew of references to the Joker, like constantly revealing red(hood) herrings as suspects for the true identity of Batman’s arch nemesis. And definitely do not play coy with the Joker being the real killer of Thomas and Martha Wayne. For starters, Tim Burton already did that. But it’s also just a terrible idea. The point of Batman isn’t monsters creating monsters, he isn’t Frankenstein and his Monster or Dr. Jekyl’s Hyde, it’s that of a hero not succumbing to fear and rebelling against the evil and corruption of their society. Again, like Jesus. The devil didn’t make Jesus into a martyr and a savior, the Romans and the Pharisees did that. The devil did tempt Jesus, but that was covered in The Dark Knight. So, no killing Jokes!
Does Do Stories that the Movies Will Never Do
That last line was a reference to a Batman story I hope the show runners of Gotham never do, unless there’s a dramatic changing of gears in the series latter years. But I do think there’s plenty of potential for Batman stories from the comics without a Batman operating in the TV version of his hometown. Imagine a fourth season based around Jeph Loeb’s and Tim Sale’s The Long Halloween, where a mysterious figure commits crimes once a month on holidays and both the cops and criminals of Gotham are trying to catch them. (No spoilers here, but the reveal could easily be one of the biggest twists in TV history.) Or extrapolate on just the Gordon parts of Batman Year One, with Flass replacing Bullock due to some other plot point, as the episodic through line of a whole season, getting Jim his first big promotion at the end. Hell, any storylines from the GCPD series would be welcome, modulating the bad guys as necessary for this period in the city’s history.
What I really want to see for this first season, though, is a thorough, yearlong investigation into the Wayne Killer. The triggerman doesn’t have to be Joe Chill, like in the Nolan movies and traditionally in the comics, and he or she doesn’t have to be hidden behind a criminal conspiracy just as an excuse to drag the case out that long (see True Detective and The Killing for two ways that can be done), but the manhunt for the creator of Batman is worth a complex, twisty discovery. Naturally, crime doesn’t sleep or stop in Gotham, so Gordon and Bullock will occasionally get sidetracked in their investigation, but everything should always circle back around to chasing that one murderer. Finally catching them in the season finale might be a little too obvious, but it might also be very satisfying.
and Does Make Sara Paxton Flamebird
The Innkeepers, Cheap Thrills, and Aquamarine actress has already been cast as Bette Kane, who in the comics is either the original Bat-Girl or Batwoman’s cousin/sidekick Flamebird. The show definitely got a coup in getting Paxton but time will tell whether she’s in another project that wastes her talents. I mean, come on, if nothing else can be taken from this Tumbl, hopefully Fox can make this happen: