After just two episodes, this show seems to be drawing a lot of negative reviews. However, most of these come from comic-book uber-fans, resentful that there are no capes and masks in the show. Of course, that's exactly the point - this show is about the mythic Gotham *before* it exploded with 'super' heroes and 'super' villains. It uses the dark, surreal *style* of the Batman comics to ask some fascinating questions about morality and the relevance of 'extreme' characters in the real world.
The seventy-plus-year-long Batman saga is fundamentally a fable about morality. It asks if one man can make a difference, against inconceivable odds. The limitation of the premise is that this one man has amazingly super-human abilities - a vast intellect, enormous wealth, Olympian athletic abilities, and few, if any, human frailties. Gotham, the series, obviously wants to dig a little deeper. Could such a person exist? And if he doesn't, what can normal people do in his absence? In the real world, the activities of a Batman are supposed to be carried out by the police. But we're seeing the police increasingly losing its way - tasked with upholding absurd laws, often pitted against the public they're meant to protect and serve, increasingly isolated and compelled to act out of self-interest rather than altruism.
Gotham takes that situation to a stylized, surrealized extreme. It shows us a police force that's completely forgotten morality. Forgotten that it must set an example, uphold the law TO THE LETTER, if it expects anyone else - public or criminals - to take it seriously.
Into this dark, exaggerated world comes One Honest Cop - James Gordon. He's young, he's confused, he's out of his depth - a lot closer to the real-world Frank Serpico than the mythical Dirty Harry. What can he do, when confronted by a system that expects him to be crooked - to embrace the shades of dark grey? In the first two episodes, we get the feeling that Gordon may be the man for the job - but that he has a lot to learn. He has the moral fibre those around him lack. He's obviously plenty tough. But he needs to learn how deep the sickness goes, and what lies at its roots.
It's a fascinating premise. I can't wait to see it developed.
Lots of reviews are complaining about bad acting, bad writing and bad directing. What?? Maybe this show is TOO literate for them. The plotting is in fact clever, the dialog flavorful. The acting is uniformly top-notch, much better overall than in cartoony shows like Arrow (which I do like a lot, but in a very different way). The direction, the look and feel and mood of Gotham, are near perfect.
As the title implies, Gotham, the city, is the real star. This show is about a strange and desperate city, which could represent a lot of cities in America today. (Detroit comes to mind.) This is a show for desperate times, a platform for talking about desperation itself - about a desperate need for heroes, who refuse to appear politely on queue. It's a show that suggests maybe the heroes are *us* - regular people like Jim Gordon. People who can't solve the problems with magical gadgets and over-the-top abilities. Who just have to make do with basic human courage, and some unshakable principles.
Who knows how Gotham will develop? So far, it's a real breath of fresh air to at least two tired genres (cop shows and comic heroes). Let's hope that smart viewers discover it quickly, and don't overlook it because of its fanciful Batman tie-in. Yes, it's at heart a comic book - but it's the darker, more intelligent, more imaginative kind, that rarely gets enough acknowledgement.
Fans need to take a deep breath and accept this show for what it is - a side-trip, not the main superhero event they crave. Non-fans need to give Gotham a try, with an open mind. This *could* be a really great show. I hope we'll have the chance to find out.
UPDATE: As we close in on the end of the first season, my opinion of Gotham continues to climb. Recent episodes have been darker, more twisted and more intense than ever. Characters continue to develop in powerful and unexpected ways. This is one of the best series ever derived from comic books. Don't let your preconceptions get in the way - Gotham is almost a new genre unto itself.
UPDATE2: At the close of Season Two, the frenzied, psychotic momentum continues to escalate. But always with a solid dramatic core. We're beginning to understand who Bruce Wayne must become, in order to save Gotham. The Penguin is brilliantly multifaceted as ever, and Edward Nygma just gets more likable as he gets crazier. But the season belongs to Hugo Strange ('The Philosopher'), a mad genius with unexpected depths. *Beautifully* done... I hope they continue right into a Batman series in the same style.