Scott D. Parker
I’m a tad behind in watching “Gotham,” Fox’s new Batman prequel TV show. I’ve seen the first half of the first episode. I’ll certainly get caught up. Batman’s my favorite super-hero after and I’m pretty steeped in the lore. What I’ve seen so far is fun, but I have a couple of comments.
One: I would have really enjoyed having Thomas and Martha Wayne be walking and talking characters for a half or a whole season. We’ve got so little about them throughout the years. How interesting would it have been if they were main characters for many episodes, all the while knowing what’s coming for them? I think that would have been something new.
Speaking of new, I have an idea. Maybe it’s not new, but I don’t scour the internet like I used to. Here’s the basic concept. One can make the argument that the rise of Batman—in comics, films, TV, etc.—is the inciting factor that creates his various villains. Think about Detective Comics #27, Batman’s debut. He fought regular thugs. It took a few months before Joker was invented and then all the rest followed. So, to get the true rogue’s gallery, you need a Batman.
“Gotham” is a TV cop show. Jim Gordon, Harvey Bullock, and the rest are cops. The rule of TV cop shows is that cops solve crimes. Week in, week out, the hero cops of TV put criminals behind bars.
Already on “Gotham,” you have the introduction of various villains that will one day earn a room in Arkham Asylum: Penguin, Poison Ivy, Catwoman, Penguin (did he ever go to Arkam? He seems too normal for Arkham.) are the ones I’ve seen so far. Now, the premise of regular stories with Batman is that the Dark Knight Detective is the only one who can defeat the dastardly deeds of these fiends.
But this is a cop show, right. Which means that regular cops are supposed to put criminals away. Sure, Edward Nigma is some sort of CSI dude working for the cops and Oswald Cobblepot is merely a hired thug, so maybe they’re in the training stages. If “Gotham” were a regular show, you’d have Gordon and company jailing these guys every week. But these are Batman’s future rogues and, as we’ve seen, only Batman can do what it takes to capture the bad guys.
So we’re at a quandary: how can “Gotham,” a TV cop show where the cops always win jive with a set of characters that, in theory, can only be captured by a guy who will never be in the show?
The creators of “Gotham” are already taking liberties with the mythology and that’s fine. As much as I love Batman, even I could make the case that there’s too much Batman in 2014. (Well, actually, there’s too much of one kind of Batman: the brooder who is always ten steps ahead of everyone and who never has any fun, but that’s for another post.) Take as many liberties as you want. It’s a unique universe.
But I dare them to do one thing: Make “Gotham” a world in which Batman doesn’t have to exist. Take the TV cop show tropes—cops always win—and apply it to this world that we supposedly know. Let Gordon take down Penguin. Let Bullock put Nigma in his place, either before or after he becomes the Riddler. Let the two detectives nab the little teenaged future Catwoman. Let Alfred counsel young Bruce Wayne away from his future life by showing that the cops can actually corral the corruption in Gotham City.
How different would that be? How refreshing. A world without a Batman. A world where Bruce Wayne becomes a cop, a detective, with inner demons that cause him to bend the rules and get things done. A detective who is rich and could create a special task force specifically to combat the growing threat of odd criminals.
No, wait, without Batman, there are no super villains. Right? Right, in a world without Batman.
Why not go this route? Give the audience something different.*
*Truth be told, I would have LOVED the premise Kevin Smith and Paul Dini created in a special Fatman on Batman podcast. That show—Bruce Wayne at Prep School—would have be awesome.