A. A. Jean Has Too Much to Say: “Gotham”

I don’t know, guys. I say this is a review, but it’s really more of a rant. Because I’m not reviewing the show top to bottom; I watched it quite a while ago. But apparently there were still things I needed to get off my chest. And my website, my rules.

I’m a Batman fan. Batman’s been in my life since I was wee. I suspect I’m not alone in that. My love for Batman came when I was a kid, watching reruns of the Adam West/Burt Ward 1960’s Batman.

(Though admittedly, that show cemented my love of Robin, which I carry to this day)

And while my youthful infatuation was with Robin, Batman was obviously the focal point of the *ahem* Batman series (I mean, it makes sense, I guess).

Growing up, I watched Batman the Animated Series, saw the Joel Schumaker Batman films (I was too young when the Tim Burton versions came out), and grew into the generation that adores the Christopher Nolan series as well. I haven’t read the comics, which some will insist means I’m not a true fan. But I don’t let that stop me from enjoying it.

I love the story of Bruce Wayne and his dark knight persona. I love the world its set in, and I love seeing new imaginings of it. The villains, their backstories and intrigue.

It’s a love I carry that love to this day.

Despite not getting into the comics, I feel like I’ve got a handle on some of the Batman lore and mythos. At least enough for me to go, “hold up, I know that name”, or “that sounds awfully familiar” when watching something Batman-related, which then prompts me to do some research (and pat myself on the back when I realize I was correct).

Get to the Point, Bat-Girl

So, within the past few years, I decided to watch Gotham. Because it was Batman-themed, so why not, right?

Oh, my goddess… I’ve gotta find the right words for this show.

I’ll start with some of the fun stuff. I had a bunch of “ah-ha!” moments while watching. I know that’s the point, but there’s still this childlike excitement I get when it involves Batman lore.

Despite not having read the comics, I know these characters. I know their names and who they grow up to be, and I’m ecstatic to see how that happens — what they go through to get them to where we know them as Batman villains and heroes.

And I love Batman villains. I’ve got some childhood beef I carry regarding some of them, but they’re like friends to me.

I don’t need to hear Edward Nygma throwing around riddles to know who he grows up to be. Oswald Cobblepot limping around with an umbrella? Yeah, I see you, too, even without those hints. Opening with a young girl, feeding cats in an alley, who sometimes goes by “Cat”. A little redhead named Ivy.

Okay, some things are different. No Pamela Isley, but okay. This isn’t cannon to traditional stories that we know, but re-imaginings. We can live with that.

No matter what, the Batman nerd in me is pumped up! Every time there’s someone new coming on the screen, I’m thinking, “Oh, who are you? Are you going to be this person? Are they going to bring in this villain?”

I’m Sensing a But…

Perhaps, this was bad of me. Because Gotham is Jim Gordon’s story. Not Bruce Wayne’s or Selina Kyle’s or Edward Nygma’s.

But I want all of their stories, so I’ll take all the different perspectives we’re getting.

I’d considered writing notes for every season. But, man, it has been a time and a half since I sat down and watched this, and I’m not about to do a rewatch right now just to do that.

What I do have are a few notes that really stuck out to me in show. Some things that really made me pause and ask some questions. So, here are some of my thoughts and concerns regarding Gotham.

SPOILERS AHEAD!

My Thoughts

Ben McKenzie as Jim Gordon

I like him. I think he does a great job at taking on this famous character, who’s been portrayed in so many ways, as a younger man. It’s a bit weird to see this new-to-the-force Jim Gordon, but we still see the hints of who he’ll come to be in the Batman world.

In season 1, Gordon is meant to be a rookie, and I can usually believe it. However, in episode 1, we see him barking out commands at all other officers, and everyone just listens to him. Seems a bit weird for someone who’s still a rookie, but it may be there to illustrate he’s a man who commands everyone’s attention—a natural-born leader. Which does make sense when we know about Batman’s ally in the adult Commissioner Gordon.

Gotham show Gordon as a deep character, who genuinely believes in doing good for his city. That, to me, does hold true for the character and for the show.

Gotham Police Force

There are some things I disbelieve about the Gotham Police Force. I hinted at one in the above paragraph: these cops really listen to Jim Gordon right off the bat. In the scene I was talking about, a criminal was holding another officer hostage with her own gun. In a scenario like like, I feel like all those cops would be more inclined to shoot first and ask questions later.

Not that I think that’s the right behavior, but it seems more realistic to the situation. And the fact that all of them listened to the rookie instead of acting also seemed strange. But, again, I understand that it’s a situation there to show Jim Gordon and his natural ability to lead others while doing the right thing.

One figure I cannot stand in Gotham’s justice force is Renee Montoya. Every time she was on screen, I was annoyed. The way she’s portrayed in Gotham is terrible. One criminal tell her that Harvey and Jim framed Mario Pepper, and she immediately runs to Barbara, Gordon’s fiancé. Barbara’s not on any sort of force, so definitely not something she needs to be told, which seems like it must be a breech of some code—thus making Montoya a bad cop. But Montoya does this mostly to force Barbara to believe that that Jim’s a bad guy. How are you that bad of a cop that you hear one criminal’s word and that’s enough for you?

We learn later Montoya’s doing this because she has feelings for Barbara. So, again, not just a bad cop, but using sensitive police data for your personal advantage because you want to break them up? A) not a good story and really makes me lose respect for that character and B) I don’t buy it. I don’t think any police officer, no matter how corrupt they are in Gotham, are that dumb and selfish. And this is a known character in the Batman universe; do her better justice than that. Or, at least, if that’s gonna be her storyline, then write it better. There’s no thought processes on this, no weighing the options. It’s a one-dimensional character making a one-dimensional choice very selfishly. It bothered me.

And I just needed to vent about that character for a bit.

Barbara Kean

Let’s talk a bit more about Barbara. I had a moment of “Oh, Barbara Gordon!” as I heard her name. But that was followed up with a quick, “Wait… isn’t Barbara his daughter’s name?”

So, cue a bit of confusion on my part for a while. But this character drives me more and more crazy as the show went on. It seemed like they didn’t really know what they wanted to do with her. One minute, she definitely seemed like she was transitioning into being a Harley Quinn type figure. And then next, she’s akin to some mob-style boss, owning her own club and doing arms dealing. I had no idea what to make of her, and it really annoyed me.

Granted, you have villains who’s stories kind of change throughout the seasons, so her changes might have been to reflect that. But it didn’t really fit for her, in my opinion. Perhaps it’s because she and her affection for Jim were unchanging throughout the series, so she seemed one character, while the villains did take on their own shapes.

I’m not quite sure. But I had a lot of issues with all the women in this show.

Female Representation on the show

Let’s get a big one off the table: ALL THESE WOMEN who were in love Jim Gordon are crazy. Crazy in the sense that they are absolutely obsessed with him. It really made me question what the hell is going on with Gordon’s disco stick that each of his love interests either becomes a villain of some kind or a crazy mob boss. I don’t get it.

On another note: the amount of cleavage in this show is a little over-the-top. I get sex appeal, I get sexy female characters, but it was to the point where it felt forced. Tabitha’s breasts seemed like they were growing by the episode. Sofia Falcone showed up to the GCPD for the first time in an outfit that just looked like she didn’t wear a shirt underneath her suit jacket. And it’s to a point where even Selina Kyle, who’s supposed to be 15/16 is all cleaved up as well.

Tone it down. You can have badass female characters, and even sexy badass female characters, without everything on display.

It’s the same beef I have with Harley Quinn in the comics: she can have a sexy costume, but also have it be functional. That New-52 comic where it was an untied corset and shorts up her crack? And they had the nerve to show her swinging a mallet, as if that would be possible?

Women can be sexy without the forced sexualization.

Villains

Oh, goddess, where to begin?

First: It’s a little too on-the-nose with “Cat” there. And did I really see a scene of her batting about a necklace like an actual cat? Side note: that nickname gets dropped by season 3. I know each of these villains goes through different transitions through each season, but she was a dual character. Why introduce that nickname if it’s not going to carry out throughout the whole series? Is it just to ensure that viewers who aren’t familiar with Selina Kyle know who she is?

Second: Did they know they were going to have Butch end up being Solomon Grundy? Or was that just a last minute add-in? It certainly felt like it was. It could’ve been something that was easily dropped in — just a character or two once or twice a season just drop a “oh, Cyrus?” or “Mr. Gold?” I just would’ve liked to see that noted more, so it didn’t feel so rushed at the end — like they just needed another Batman villain, and they already had Butch available, so why not?

Third: Hugo Strange’s bald cap gets worse and worse as the seasons progress. Period.

Fourth, and probably my biggest question: Why are all these villains this obsessed with Gotham, the city? Each one of them is tearing the other apart for this city, and no one thinks that maybe they’ll hop to another town and take over there? Tell me what is so great about Gotham that it is worth as much to them as it is.

Cameron Monaghan

Yes, the lad deserves his own section!

I am madly in love with Cameron Monaghan. From the first episode he came in as Jerome, I was in AWE. By the end of season 4, there was not ENOUGH Cameron Monaghan for me. And I LOVED all the nods to different Jokers from comics and films. Once in a while, I caught something that reminded me of Heath Ledger’s Joker, but a moment later, I’d see a flash of Jack Nicholson, then I’d see the Joker from The Killing Joke.

Cameron Monaghan brought the Joker to life in such a way I’d never thought I’d see again after Heath Ledger. It was inspired, and I loved every minute he was on screen. I WISH there was more of him.

I will admit though, I was not the biggest fan of Jeremiah!Joker. I liked the chaotic nature of Jerome. while I appreciate the intensity and the respect commanded by Jeremiah, I don’t know that I enjoy the overall performance.

But overall: massive praise for his portrayal of this immense character in the Batman world. He took it on in so many iterations and his performance really stood out.

Riddler and Penguin

I also feel like I have to give a big shout-out to the actors who portrayed the Riddler and the Penguin. They were there since season 1, and they did phenomenal jobs. I loved getting to watch these two iconic villains grow from their earliest starting points in the show.

This is probably my favorite portrayal of the Riddler yet, done by Cory Michael Smith. I will admit, I felt this way before I saw The Batman (2022), but they’re two different versions of this villain. Smith does a little campy, but a slow degradation into the Riddler persona. And when he comes out fully, I think it’s impressive. Up until Gotham, this character was mostly camp on-screen, but this was a nice mixture.

As to the Penguin, I’ve never really been a fan of him. Watching 1960s Batman and the animated series, I never really got why he was a villain. At least, in comparison with the more fantastical ones—like Joker, Scarecrow, or Clayface. I kind of grew with that mentality. Seeing Robin Lord Taylor portray a young Penguin helped me see this character in a new way. I liked seeing his developing ruthlessness and his affection just for his mother. It gave me a new appreciation for the Penguin.

(I will say I had some issues with both characters in the later seasons, but overall the acting was superb)

Other

Just one final beef that didn’t seem to fit anywhere:

Netflix, why you got the phrase “[speaks in Spanish]” for “Mi casa es su casa”? That’s Spanish that everyone knows. Also, one minute it’s “Raul”, and the next it’s “Raoul”. Yes, Netflix, I’m paying attention to your subtitles.

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