Gotham also becomes Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and, as feared, Sleepy Hollow.
Let’s dust off a year-old but rather relevant piece of semi-literate discourse as it has become far too applicable to the current trundle that is Gotham. Maybe trundle is too negative a term. A good friend has been posting since day one that Gotham is so close to getting it, and I’m inclined to agree.
I’m also inclined to worry. Not worried that the show won’t, on balance, be worth watching, but that it will elude being appointment TV. And it should be appointment TV, it could be appointment TV, but – like The Blacklist, and Sleepy Hollow, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. last year – it’s showing worrying signs of wandering. And one does not make appointments to wander. Wandering is something that happens, without particular forethought, sans all appointment-like qualities.
The difficulty in analyzing what’s going wrong is that Gotham, like the apocryphal frog in the proverbial boiling water, isn’t wandering obviously right over a cliff.1 Instead, it’s feeling its way, which is fine, give it time to get its rhythm… but each step is taking us further and further from that thing we thought it might be. Various things are feeling off, in small, non-obvious ways. The very pretty, often stunning, visuals of the pilot have mushed into exactly the wrong mix of Sin City and the Joel Schumacher Batmens. The tonal slips are now showing up in the writing – a character said, out loud, “dumb bus drivers and stupid old ladies”… presumably so that you would know he’s bad, so that it could show you that he wasn’t worth your care when he’s summarily dispatched.2
Most frightening of all for the precedents above the plotting shows signs of The First-Five Must Be For Everyone Disconnection Syndrome, a terrible malady that, when it struck Sleepy Hollow, made me want to quit watching TV. Shows so afflicted feel an unstoppable need to focus on multiple aspects of their world, using characters to navigate these myriad spaces on behalf of the viewer and putting character development in the back seat, the trunk or cold and shivering on the side of the road. Gotham‘s episode 3 could have stood on its own, almost completely independent of what came before and what’s likely to come after. Yes, the meaningless villain (or is he really a hero?!) presages the new landscape Gordon will soon have to navigate3 but its packaging felt like a ‘What if?’ issue of a comic. I shouldn’t be thinking spinoff anthology series before the much-promised gang war even commences.
And speaking of that, Oswald ‘Also Not a Flamingo’ Cobblepot apparently has a singular purpose on Gotham, to inform everyone there is a war coming. Big war! Huge! One for which no one is prepared! This smacks of the show apologizing for not being non-stop action and brutality. Really! the show pleads. Even though we’re on at 8 o’clock and know people are willing to settle in with deeper, moodier pieces, we are going to have a war! Keep tuning in! It’s the same problem looming with the continued presence of young Bruce Wayne. Gotham isn’t rushing towards giving us the Batman origin story, but it seems insistent on not letting us forget that Batman originated in this city alongside many of these characters, and thus you should care by association.
Gotham isn’t stumbling as badly as last season’s semi-serials. The aesthetic shifts (so far) aren’t as head scratching as Sleepy Hollow and there’s significantly more overarching plot backed in to the crime of the week than there were in the first half of either S.H.I.E.L.D. or Blacklist.4 Both of those eventually pulled it out with third acts that paid off on the dribble of hints and hand-waved away the boring stuff to get you to focus on them finally doing things right.5 With all the resources its shown itself to possess thusfar, Gotham shouldn’t have to wait 15 episodes to get there.
I really hope it doesn’t. I cancelled an appointment with pub trivia to watch it on Mondays.
- I cannot believe how good I am at these metaphor thingies, you guys! ↵
- In a wonderful yet ridiculous way. “I can think of easier ways to kill someone,” says Alfred on behalf of the audience. ↵
- He even tells us “There will be others!” as he’s loaded into an ambulance, so there’s really no confusion possible. ↵
- Odd to say that about The Blacklist but it’s really true – there were more suggestions of meta-narrative than actual appearances, ham-fisted as some of those bits are becoming in Gotham. ↵
- Sleepy Hollow didn’t have a full 22 episodes in which to recover, so its various highlights are episode by episode, not arc. ↵