Spoiler alert! Don’t read this if you’re watching the show and you want to keep it a surprise!
Recently I’ve been watching Gotham on Netflix a lot, and once we finished the first season we hurried online to find the second.
Now, at I think episode seven of season two, I’m really not sure how I feel about it.
It starts out a little shaky, but interesting. I don’t know much about the Batman canon, so this is my perspective as an outsider, for the most part.
I like the focus on Jim Gordon rather than Bruce Wayne, and the whole idea of finally seeing the background before either of them become the characters we know is really neat. We get the see the villains before they become what we know as well – super cool!
Let’s talk about the actors and characters.
The main character Jim Gordon is played by the well-known star from The O.C., Ben McKenzie, and I’m pretty happy with him. He does a good job of being the somewhat naive newbie officer in the beginning, and develops nicely into a darker, a little more jaded officer — the work of the writers, but I think McKenzie does a great job with it as well.
Young David Mazouz is a brilliant Bruce Wayne — he does an impressive job of portraying just how mature and intelligent he is for his age, and breaks with lovely authenticity when vulnerability strikes. (I’ve seen him before in Touch, where he plays a young boy with autism, and he’s great in that too.)
Fish honestly got on my nerves right at the beginning — Jada Smith is clearly a talented actor, but she starts out a bit over-the-top as almost more of a caricature rather than a nice realistic image, which is what the show is otherwise going for (it seems). I’m not sure if this is the actor or the director’s choice, though, as Nygma is similar.
Ed Nygma is a pretty obvious, kind of adorable pre-Riddler, but he’s very off to the side and just kind of a joke, without enough prominence in the show, at least until later. I don’t know much about the Riddler, but I think he’s too one-sided at the beginning.
On the other hand, actor Robin Lord Taylor lives up to his role as Penguin very well (though his hair irritates the crap out of me for the longest time —seriously, costume designers, why?!). He’s the only really consistent one of all the villains.
Except maybe Jerome, who is clearly the original inspiration for whoever becomes the Joker later on. Cameron Monaghan nails the psychologically unstable state that is the Joker, with the creepy laugh, the animated voice and facial expressions. It’s easy to tell that he was inspired by Heath Ledger’s Joker, but he doesn’t try so hard that it’s not his own. I can’t give him enough praise! Watching the show, Grady and I weren’t sure if he would be the Joker as he seemed a little too old, considering how many years it is before Bruce becomes Wayne, but there were moments that it just seemed so clearly him.
Then he died. (Spoiler! I did warn you!)
I still don’t know how I feel about this! I was sad about it, but it was a cool twist in the plot, and then the writers had their opportunity to show us that they wanted him to be the inspiration for the future Joker. Creepily enough, just after he dies, we’re shown shots of the street where people are laughing maniacally and stabbing each other, after having seen a clip of Jerome on TV doing the same.
And now for the feminist perspective!
Barbara…. oh, Barbara. (She’s Jim Gordon’s original love interest, and is known as such in the comics and in Nolan’s Batman movies too.)
In the first season, she’s somewhat one-sided. She’s likeable, though — just your average idea of what Barbara should be in the show. She loves Gordon, and she wants him to spend more time with him. She knows he’s hiding work secrets from her and wants him to open up. She’s not particularly amazing, or interesting, and she makes really stupid decisions. For example, when Jim knows he’s in big trouble and then people will go after her, he tells her to get out of town.
She does, only to come back and try to talk to the bloody mob bosses. What in the frickin hell?! She can’t be that stupid… seriously?!
As I’ve been told, the writers were actually in the process of writing as the episodes came out. This can be seen pretty clearly when suddenly Barbara’s character takes a really twisted, dark turn, and out of nowhere she becomes a villain, and a pretty shitty one to be quite honest. This is entirely because of how she’s written, and possibly the director’s choice to make her a sex object as well.
Barbara always played the token pretty blonde, but the way her bisexuality is portrayed is pretty terrible.
She cheats on Gordon with a woman (playing into the stereotype that bi women will cheat) and then later on in the show, she has a relationship with another queer woman that is also hypersexualized. Besides just her relationships, she’s hypersexualized too — just the way she talks and the way she is physicalized.
Erin Richards does a good job with what she’s given, I’d even say a great job, but it’s really unfortunate… her motivations are really unclear, and in general she’s very over-dramatic. She’s suddenly bloodthirsty, and everything she says is with that sultry style Anne Hathaway brought to Catwoman in Batman: The Dark Night Rises.
The sexualization of Barbara (obviously) and Tabitha Galavan is just absurd.
Well, there’s also Larissa Diaz, but less so — she’s only there because Barbara sleeps with her, and has done so in the past.
Barbara is bisexual — great, who cares. That night when she goes off with Larissa, it’s weirdly sexualized, and not normalized. I can’t even figure out why it is! (Please help me, if you’ve seen this episode!) But after that, Barbara is the sex symbol of the show, especially when, again, we see her make out with Tabitha and it’s definitely not normalized. I felt really uncomfortable watching, and I’m bisexual.
Holy crap, Tabitha.
She’s got the whole Catwoman thing going on as well (even though she’s not Catwoman) and even just the way she walks is meant to be sexualized. This could easily be an actor choice, but judging by the way it’s all done, and the way Barbara is doing the same thing — I don’t think it was only the actors. We’re not seeing make out sessions like these with Jim and Lee!
Speaking of Lee…
She, along with Commissioner Essen, are two of the not-so-sexualized women in the show. (Yay!) Lee loves the danger Jim lives, and she likes to be a part of it. But she’s still very adamant about showing her love — she wants Jim to be proud of dating her, and enjoys making him uncomfortable by kissing him with all his colleagues watching. I mean, what?! He’s uncomfortable, stop it! But no, let’s normalize a woman fawning over him… and technically getting a little rape-y. Maybe not as bad as it could be, but it’s still bad.
Then, she’s independent. She loves him, but she can deal with her issues pretty well. I mean she does get taken hostage by Jerome, and she’s smart enough to hide (sort of) during a shooting at the police station. But she’s really not very interesting, otherwise!
You can see why I have mixed feelings about her.
And Fish, who I mentioned earlier, is actually great from a feminist perspective.
She’s definitely a strong woman — she shoots a guy in the head for continually referring to her as “babe,” or something similar. She ain’t having none of that! (Not that violence in the solution… but I mean, it’s Fish we’re talking about here.) She’s a caricature, kind of over-the-top, but strong. I grew to like her. (Yes! One female character! Whoo!)
Buuut I also don’t think Selina Kyle is consistent.
She’s VERY confusing. She’s very much driven by taking care of number one, as she says: herself. But she is compassionate — she wants to help her friends, and she wants to help Bruce. She likes Bruce. But out of nowhere, she explodes, and then randomly she’s working for Fish, and then Penguin. I mean… okay, she does what she has to in order to survive, but like… what?!
And now she’s not really in the centre of the action with Penguin anymore. Just living on the streets again.
I wanted to believe this is playing into her independence, her being a strong young woman who calls bullshit and won’t take crap. But it’s just very all over the place.
In terms of plot… I think that Gotham is all right.
But specifically because of Barbara, I seriously have no idea what the hell is going to happen.
In the second season, at least what I’ve seen so far, she’s just a straight-up evil villain somehow very interested in destroying Jim. (She started out jealous because he’s now dating Lee, so she tried to murder her, but now she’s going with a more direct approach.) How the hell is she going to end up with Jim, as we all know happens?
There are lots of twists, but I think the focus of the show is more the characters, especially since they’re all characters that viewers know. We do meet Two-Face, Crane, Ivy… I’m probably missing a few more, but you get the idea. It’s neat to see them all before they become villains! Or at least, before the world knows they are.
Right now, I can’t tell if the show is set in an alternate universe or just very out there.
The show overall took a while to find its niche. It felt like it was going for a Christopher Nolan-esque vibe, but it’s got the sort of caricature thing going on as well. The second season gets much darker, but almost more so than Nolan’s Batman.
The thing that does keep me watching is the plot, and the great work of the actors playing Jim, Bruce, and Penguin. I mean, I’m willing to see how it goes for the first season for sure, and seeing as they were getting feedback and changing things (a là Barbara) at least they’re listening. But if after season two things are still very all over the place… I’m not sure.