A couple days ago I read an article theorizing that painted a picture of one of my wildest fantasies: that interest in Agents of SHIELD (recap coming up later) would convince a television network to take a chance on the Gotham Central concept. Gotham Central, written by Greg Rucka and Ed Brubaker, is essentially The Wire of Batman comics, or close enough. It’s a fascinating series and I recommend it to everyone, and I don’t understand how you can make a show about cops in Gotham without Batman, which is apparently what Fox has just decided to do.
Fox has landed Gotham, from Warner Bros. TV and The Mentalist creator Bruno Heller, with a series commitment… It explores the origin stories of Commissioner James Gordon and the villains who made Gotham City famous. In Gotham, Gordon is still a detective with the Gotham City Police Department and has yet to meet Batman, who will not be part of the series.
There have been a lot of comics about superheroes confronted with the everyday lives of the citizens they’re trying to save, but the difference in Gotham Central was that it didn’t care about confronting Batman with how much his work (not to mention the massive upheavals of DC universe Crisis events, or collateral damage from Gotham supervillains) interfered with the lives and work of ordinary beat cops and the detectives of the major crimes unit. The point was: Batman wasn’t going to change, and though he might rarely appear in the series, he wasn’t going to go away. The characters in Gotham Central have to navigate the effects of his existence in nearly everything they do, from hiring a permanent temp to turn on the Batsignal because doing so isa massive legal liability for a city employee, to deciding whether to swallow their pride and morals and threaten to turn a suspect over to a lawless vigilante to get them to talk.
Instead of exciting me, the pitch here for Gotham just confuses me. So it’s about Gordon combating Batman’s villains. But not any of the really well known ones, because folks like the Joker and Two-Face have origins that are entirely caught up in their interactions with Batman. Is this going to turn into a Smallville type situation where Gordon has been getting the occasional ominous playing card in the mail for seven seasons, and has a weirdly close friendship with an idiotic billionaire, but the show still isn’t allowed to actually dig into the stuff that’s made the setting so iconic? It’s also a bit unclear, for example, what Ra’s al Ghul, Catwoman, Bane, and any number of other Batman villains even represent without him as an opposing force. On the other hand… James Gordon and friends vs. Bane and Talia al Ghul were the most interesting parts of The Dark Knight Rises.
I’m all for some kind of Gotham-based procedural. Wait, let me rephrase that. A Gotham-set procedural cop/lawyers drama would be like air to me. But the primary reason I’m interested in it is for what it has the potential to say about superheroes, for the potential it has to build outward from the usual kind of superhero story and say things about the place of the ordinary person and their efforts in a world where a single person could lift the Costa Concordia out of the ocean in minutes. If you remove the superhero from that equation, you’ve just got James Gordon fighting corruption on one side, the mobs on the other, and maybe the Ventroloquist or Poison Ivy to boot. I’m not saying that’s a bad show, but I don’t think it’s one that lives up to the potential of the setting.
Oh, and you should probably update that list you’ve been keeping of things that Warner Bros. has developed for a full series production before Wonder Woman. Oh, and this show has one way to guarantee that I will watch every episode no matter what, and that is making Renee Montoya a lead castmember.