(Warning: this post is fairly lengthy and rambling and may contain some spoilers)
Tomorrow, Fox’s Gotham goes on-air for the 100th and final time as it wraps up it’s sprawling tale of a city that became so dark and dangerous and twisted that it eventually needed the vigilante justice of a man dressed as a bat.
Just so we’re clear about how I feel about the show: I am going to miss it. Is it the best superhero show on TV? No, not by a long shot. Is it the best interpretation of the Batman mythos? No, it’s not that either. In fact, all throughout the show’s life, it’s been looked upon as the weird, goofy misfit of the superhero TV landscape, with bizarre ideas and workarounds for how to bring the comic book mythology to life without a Batman anywhere in sight.
But in hindsight, that’s the hidden genius of the show.
One large reason for why Gotham managed to stay fresh and weird for just about all of its five seasons is the simple fact that it eventually embraced the chaotic nature and unpredictability of the world it created. At some point, it wasn’t content to be a cop show, or a crime drama, or a horror show, or a sci-fi/fantasy soap opera on steroids.
At some point, it became all those things and more, with the help of some genuinely good production value, set/costume design, and even some ingenious world-building, all of which worked together in unison to create what is still one of the most unique-looking shows on TV.
Another reason why I admire the show: no matter how silly it got, or how bad/lazy some of the writing was, I will always commend the show’s boldness and tenacity in finding truly unique and unorthodox ways to get to the birth of these characters as we know them in the comics.
One great example: The Joker. As we’ve seen with the trailer for the upcoming Joaquin Phoenix film, the jury’s still out on whether or not we like having a Joker with a backstory and a definitive origin. But that’s where Gotham comes in.
When they started out with Jerome Valeska, they could have had just that: their version of the Joker, backstory and all. But they didn’t stop there. What they did was even more innovative than what we give them credit for: their version of the Joker actually EVOLVED throughout the entire series, taking on a multitude of different forms, encompassing almost every era of the character’s existence, all packaged and delivered via stunning performances by Cameron Monaghan.
Basically, their take on the Joker is really more as an ideology rather than a single character, one that can take on different forms whilst still being a terrifying, menacing figure. I don’t know about you, but that’s bold storytelling in my book and one of the show’s best contributions to the mythological fabric of the Batman universe.
Speaking of, one thing that I’ve noticed in the past few weeks as Season 5 was wrapping up: the show has effectively (and some might argue, successfully) introduced the Batman characters and his mythology to a new generation of young fans, especially villains who haven’t had many chances to shine anywhere outside comics.
That’s not to say that there weren’t characters they dropped the ball on (Scarecrow, Poison Ivy, etc). But for every dropped ball, you had characters like Penguin and Riddler, two Bat-Villains often ignored in other DC media, given full series-long story arcs in Gotham.
The Penguin, in particular, has had one hell of a ride. Starting out as Fish Mooney’s right-hand man, ascending the ranks of Gotham’s underworld, descending down said ranks and back up again, becoming Gotham’s mayor, developing unrequited love for Ed Nygma, going to Arkham, discovering (and then murdering) his extended family, all the way to him joining in the battle for Gotham and losing his right eye in the process.
All of this stuff, capably delivered by Robin Lord Taylor as he reinvented the character for today’s world. Same with Cory Michael Smith as The Riddler. Mr. Freeze, Firefly, Mad Hatter, Scarecrow (to some extent), even Bane (yes, that steampunk Resident Evil-looking dude). All refreshed with different takes and contexts.
Last thing I want to gush over before I wrap this up: the Harry Potter-style evolution of the show’s young versions of Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) and Selena Kyle (Carmen Bicondova), both as characters and as actors.
Much like Penguin and Riddler, Bruce and Selina were very much at the forefront of the show, with series arcs that took them down winding roads that often intersected. From their darkest points (Selena with Jeremiah and Bruce with Ra’s Al Ghul) to their most heroic and badass moments as well as their famous on-and-off romantic relationship, we as audience members were able to watch them grow up (almost literally) into their roles and become just as crucial to the show as any of their adult counterparts.
And before I end this, my humble opinion: David Mazouz might just be one of the best on-screen portrayals of Bruce Wayne ever. Not necessarily Batman, but the character of Bruce Wayne. But that’s just me.
Even with all the trailers we’ve gotten, I don’t exactly know what’s in store for us Thursday night (other than the promise of finally seeing Batman). But it definitely looks like Gotham will be going out the same way it came in: crazy, messy, eccentric, but with plenty of style and more than a few tricks up its sleeve.
Farewell, Gotham. It’s been fun!