What do you do when you want a Batman series but can’t actually feature the character? Sometimes the networks get creative and give us “Arrow.” Other times, they belly flop disastrously and hand us “Gotham.” Essentially “Gotham” is a crime drama set in Gotham City that’s basically either an Elseworlds tale, or a prequel. The series never can decide. It’s a lot like “Smallville” in that it features a world before the superhero came to fight for justice. And much like “Smallville,” the series pretty much stinks from the word “go.” Granted, “Gotham” is a good idea for a series. Who wouldn’t want to see what Gotham was like before the Batman came along? The problem is “Gotham” is so concerned with lip service to Batman rogues, and paying tribute to the fans that it never actually comes together to form an entertaining series.
Rather than an homage to Batman and building its own sub-universe prior to Batman, the series goes ahead and introduces a lot of famous Bat villains, while Bruce Wayne is still in puberty. This vision of Gotham features a very young Selina Kyle who lived in the city, and witnessed the death of Bruce Wayne’s parents. This is also a world where folks like the Penguin and Joker roam the city, which means that by the time Bruce Wayne dons the cape and cowl, he’ll basically be pummeling elderly maniacs. Posing as the avatar for Batman is Jim Gordon, who emerges as a young detective long before he ever became the commissioner. He is Batman in the show sans the costume and cool gadgets and is forced to take on the growing crime rate in a city with a serious collapse of morality and ethics.
Meanwhile young Bruce Wayne is a grief stricken young boy who spends his time in the series brooding, grieving, and pretty much sewing the seeds to become the Dark Knight. One has to wonder how he acquired all the detective skills, and gadgets, and martial arts abilities that make him somewhat supernatural as a crime fighter when he does nothing but lurk in his mansion and mope, but “Gotham” really isn’t for the hardcore comic geeks. Rather than building on the idea that perhaps Batman created villains like Joker and Two Face, “Gotham” just brings them up to the surface and never bothers to actually create anything new or fresh. Sure, it’s fun to see Harvey Bullock in live action form, and the cast is pretty damn good all things considered, but “Gotham” is one big turkey of a series that can never actually settle on what it’s trying to accomplish.
This creates a massively muddled and utterly dull series that utilizes a ton of elements that would be amazing in a better series. For example, Robin Lord Taylor’s turn as Oswald Cobblepot is mesmerizing and often times the only redeeming element of “Gotham.” In a show that actually knew what it was doing, he’d be award fodder. FOX essentially tailors their own “Smallville” with “Gotham,” allowing a comic book themed series that is strictly for general audiences that have limited to no knowledge of Batman and his very complex and horrifying world. Season One is a genuine turkey of a freshman introduction that misses a huge opportunity to build a show around the concept of Batman and focus on the rotten core of the city that conceived him. With barely any redeeming features, it’s a show I definitely will not follow in to its sophomore year.
The Blu-Ray release from Warner features six deleted scenes from the season. There’s also “Gotham Invented,” a thirty minute three part documentary about the creation of the series, and the particular vision of Gotham City for the series. There are interviews with the show’s cast and crew, and even DC Comics’ own Goeff Johns. “Gotham: Designing the Fiction” is a twenty minute look at the mood of Gotham and the conceptualizing of the city of Gotham from its gritty streets and dark landscapes. There’s also a look at various sets including the GCPD offices, Fish Mooney’s club, and the Wayne Manor, to name a few. “The Game of Cobblepot” is a twenty six minute feature about Robin Lord Taylor’s compelling take on Oswald Cobblepot, and how he approaches the character. “Gotham: The Legend Reborn” is a twenty one minute look at Gotham’s pilot. “DC Comics Night at Comic-Con 2014” is a special feature of the DC Comics Television panel from 2014 that features looks at Gotham, The Flash, Constantine, and The Arrow. There are two minute character profiles on “Gotham” characters like Bruce Wayne, Fish Mooney, Harvey Bullock et al. Finally, there’s a fun five minute gag reel.