Gotham Season 3 Review
Two episodes were provided prior to broadcast.
As a lifelong Batman fan, I admit that I was right there with others who felt a bit of skepticism throughout the first season of Gotham. Its reimagining of the origins of Batman and his supporting characters took some generous liberties, to say the least. The comic book community doesn’t often respond well to change, but I believe it to be vital. I mean, how else do you expect a character to endure for nearly eight decades?
Despite any misgivings I may have had, it’s important that I remember I was a devoted follower of Smallville, a series that ran for ten seasons and explored Superman’s formative years. Realizing what that show accomplished and how much potential Gotham has, it’s high time we all accept its reassembling of the parts that make up the Batman mythos and enjoy it for what it is – a compelling and extremely entertaining show. And it certainly helped that it hit its stride with season 2.
What really strengthened the series during its second season was its willingness to embrace its comic book roots and become more character focused. While Gotham may not have the flamboyance of The Flash or had as strong of a freshman year, possibly due to the fact that showrunner Bruno Heller apparently doesn’t care much for superheroes, relying less on the police procedural formula is akin to a breath of fresh air.
It’s quite obvious that television executives like staying with what’s tried and true: Talent shows, medical dramas, and police procedurals, of which there have been a veritable googleplex of throughout the annals of airwaves. Heck, Fox even gave the green light to Lucifer, which is a good show in its own right, but its source material is nowhere comparable to what we’ve seen on the small screen. I can assure you the devil isn’t solving crimes on the streets of LA in the comics.
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Gotham‘s creative minds likely drew a fair amount of inspiration from the Gotham Central comics for the show, which is all well and good since the GCPD acts as a home base of sorts, but I think when people tune into any show spun from a DC or Marvel property, they want that sense of the fantastical. It’s probably why The CW consistently hits home runs with its DC dominated prime time lineup, as opposed to Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which teased mainstream audiences with the Avengers and ultimately delivered a cast of characters who were inconsequential in the grand tapestry.
This season of Gotham does not disregard the existence of the GCPD by any means. In fact, they still play an integral role. It’s just that now the parts gel even better and we truly feel like we’re watching Gotham as opposed to Gotham Central, if that makes sense.
The opening seconds of season 3 grabbed me by doing something so simple yet also so subtle that I’m not quite sure everyone will pick up on it: Juxtaposing Gotham City with the outside, sunnier world. Much like the best comic book artists, the production design and visual effects teams know the city is a character unto itself and that continues to be fully realized. It’s truly a “Mad City,” which I’ll further explore in a bit.
From the get-go, we’re reminded this is just as much Jim Gordon’s story as it is Bruce Wayne’s. No longer a member of the GCPD, Gordon (Ben McKenzie) now earns a living as a bounty hunter, hauling in various freakish escapees from Indian Hill.
While his friendship with Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue) remains a pillar of the show, his budding relationship with Valerie Vale (Jamie Chung), a reporter with Lois Lane-like gumption, is something to keep an eye on as the two have great chemistry. In fact, Vale asks a question that this season may spend a good deal of time answering: “Who the hell are you, Jim Gordon?”
People often say the problem with prequel series is that we know how the story will end. With Gotham, we can’t be entirely sure because it seems as though Gordon has been bitten by the vigilante bug. Given his recent statement that he’ll adopt the persona of an iconic DC character in the near future, we can’t rule out any possible left turns he’ll take on his way to becoming commissioner – if indeed that is the route the producers elect to go.
As for the young Bruce Wayne, David Mazouz convincingly plays the character with wisdom and tenacity beyond his years. His journey puts him squarely within the crosshairs of the shadowy cabal known as the Court of Owls, who make their presence known with a vengeance and are a perfect fit for serialized television.
Furthermore, Mazouz gets to flex his acting muscles by playing a dual role. As of now, the mysterious doppelganger of Bruce’s has yet to be named, but the prevailing theory is that he’ll turn out to be Lincoln March, an estranged child of the Waynes from the comics.
I can’t deny that while Mazouz is an extremely talented young actor, one has to wonder how long a Bruce Wayne who is years away from college can capture the interest of older viewers. A “Gotham City without Batman” is a valid complaint that turns off many potential viewers and is hard to counter when discussing the show. Smallville showcased Clark Kent throughout his high school career before transitioning to several years of proto-Superman. Bruce doesn’t become Batman until he’s 25 and I doubt Gotham will run for 11 more years. Relying on a Jim Gordon who may or may not become a masked vigilante before this season is through may not be enough or the right fallback. Perhaps this is a key reason then why such great focus is placed on the seemingly bottomless well of Batman villains.