A TV show set in Gotham City that never features the Caped Crusader himself? More inflexible comic-book fans might scoff at that prospect, but Fox’s upcoming series Gotham aims to change their minds, focusing on a pre-Batman Gotham within which the only barriers against all-out anarchy are good cops like Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie). Though Gordon is new to the GCPD as Gotham opens, he quickly gets wise to the rampant corruption and crime in the city, devoting his life to cleaning up both the police department and the streets it patrols.
According to showrunner Bruno Heller, taking Batman out of the equation makes Gotham a much more interesting show. Because of his absence, the series becomes less about superheroes and more about ordinary men and women solving problems in a city filled with villains. Said Heller:
“If there is a superhero in the show, it is Gotham. That’s a larger than life character that’s a central part of the show. To me, heroes are more interesting than superheroes because the difference is superheroes do the impossible and drama is really about the physically possible. This is about people and people trying to overcome real problems versus trying to learn how to fly.”
That said, Gotham won’t diverge from the comics. As the show opens, a young Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) encounters Gordon for the first time when his parents are gunned down in Crime Alley, starting the boy on his journey to becoming Batman. Meanwhile, the city is flooded with villains both fresh and familiar, including many of Batman’s iconic rogues who haven’t yet come into their own as criminal masterminds. Heller said:
“For me, the really interesting parts of this story are the origin stories of all the characters. As soon a you’re into capes and costumes, it’s less interesting than seeing how these people got there… We have villains running around Gotham so it doesn’t feel like the entire city sinking into a pit waiting for someone you can’t introduce… [It’s a story of] how do you deal with crime of this level when there are no superheroes? When ordinary men and women are dealing with the struggle waiting for a savior. It’s about men and women and not about superheroes and that’s the more interesting story.”
As part of that strategy, Gotham will open big by introducing villains including the Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor), Riddler (Cory Michael Smith) and Catwoman (Camren Bicondova), all at various stages in development, but will slow down in subsequent weeks, introducing other characters in “tricky” and unconventional ways, according to Heller. “You have to open big. As the show rolls on, we’ll be careful with how we roll out the villains,” he promised. Expect new villain Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith) to run the show for a while. But with the power-hungry Penguin by her side, something tells us Fish’s name might be an indicator of the way that dynamic develops…
Gotham begins Monday, September 22nd, at 8 p.m. on Fox.