Who’s ready for Fox‘s Gotham 2nd season punt to the Rogues Gallery? No, really, I wanna see hands. Gotham kicks off its second season, this week, after a not terrible freshman year. I say “not terrible,” since, on its face, it managed to carry itself across the finish line on the merits of some acting chops & dramatic licensing. On the other hand, as a source fan, I say “not terrible” because it could have done much better keeping to its source material – if not its own original premise – of the city as a character, in-and-of-itself, with Det. James Gordon (Ben McKenzie) as the viewer avatar. After reaction to the very idea of the show, however, I suppose no one should’ve been surprised that the series became a set-up for whatever Batman project the powers-that-be can come up with, somewhere in the future. That answered one initial reactionary question – can there be a series, set in Gotham, without any of the characters that makes Gotham interesting – but I think the series may have gone into full capitulation mode, with said response.
Gotham: Rise of the Villains seems to say it all. If anyone remains unclear, on what the showrunners have in mind, the season two promos have been sort of hammering it home. I still hesitate to drop a Smallville comparison (such condemnation should not be wielded lightly); but if Gotham’s first season could be simplified, for the sake of Bat-history context, I would describe it as the origin of The Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor). Let’s face it, if that principle were to be applied to this upcoming season, Rise of the Villains could very well be ‘Rise of the Joker.’
Cameron Monaghan made something of a stir, during season one, with his brief appearance; and I was prepared to accept it for what it was, at the time – an effort to reassure the I-came-for-Batstuff crowd, that the really big Batstuff was, in fact, coming. Fast forward to season two’s Rise of the Villains, and guess who gets the promo tent-pole position?
Of course, it could just be more hype, as it was for season one, making Monaghan’s Jarome Valeska the perfect red herring; but even if Gotham doesn’t go full Joker pre-origin, I find this need – to constantly placate the Batsuff crowd – troubling. To me, Gotham originally promised to tell a tale that needed telling, at a necessary pace, to fill a necessary space, in the Batman continuum. Had the show focused on the quality of delivery, to its original/ source premise, it could’ve garnered itself enough cross-over appeal to withstand fan impatience – a kind of reversal to what Frank Miller did, when the quality of The Dark Knight Returns & Year One expanded the brand beyond comicdom. Unfortunately, there is reason to believe that the showrunners are more concerned with retaining source/ brand fans, than acquiring casual viewers; which suggests that the series will be servicing the impatient fan, rather than any larger mythology, or a larger TV audience.
Sometimes, I entertain the idea of meeting one of these impatients; just to register the notion that such impatience will be the reason the show jumps-the-shark sooner than necessary – you know, Inception style. I still feel smug about calling the Smallville course, at the onset; so there’s that….
Still, I maintain that Gotham may deserve enough time to come into its own, before I condemn it to comparison, to an earlier Superman-town prequel treatment. With what seems like an immediate future of place-holder fan-service, for the sake of self-preservation, rather than telling a specific – and finite –story, for a specific place in the brand timeline, superhero history, on TV, seems doomed to repeat itself.
It may be too early to wield the Smallville Hammer of Condemnation, but I am admiring the craftsmanship to its handle, right about now….
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