Why Gotham Works

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Gotham is one of the most surprising well-received shows of the new TV season. Many wondered if Gotham, like many attempts at superhero shows in recent years (the popular ‘Arrow’ series notwithstanding) would flop hard before it even had a chance to get out of the water. But Gotham has not only been receiving very good ratings, especially for a show on the Fox network, it has also been earning generally positive reviews from critics and a very positive reception from fans. In other words: Gotham works. But why does the show work? Let’s take a closer look.

It knows how to balance Gotham’s quirkiness with realism
The trouble with most attempts at producing a story set in the Batman universe is balance. At its heart, the Batman universe is full of villains who have gimmicks—and this can easily make something go from interesting to silly and ridiculous. Gotham, so far, knows how to balance the “gimmick” of Gotham with realism that makes it feel like a cop show set in a very strange city. A recent episode where a vigilante tied corrupt officials to weather balloons to kill him was a perfect example. The act was very strange and over the top—but the show depicted it in a way that made it realistic for the setting.

The actor for Oswald Cobblepot
It can be hard to portray a well-known character, especially the character of the Penguin, who most people associate with Danny DeVito in his performance in Batman Returns. But the “early bird” of Gotham is extremely well portrayed. He is portrayed as a somewhat nervous, high strung up-and-comer who wants to make a name for himself in Gotham’s crime elite. To do so, he must hide from his enemies—who think he is dead—while gaining enough information to put him in a position of power. His slow transformation into the “Penguin”—a nickname he currently hates—will be very interesting to see.

James Gordon is a more grounded character to follow
You can only follow the story of Bruce Wayne so many times before it becomes overdone and, truthfully, the ‘Gotham’ incarnation of future-commissioner James Gordon is more relatable and grounded than Bruce Wayne could ever be. Gordon wants to save the city through police work, and does his best to be an honest cop in the midst of constant corruption.

3 Things ‘Gotham’ Needs to Watch Out For

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Fox’s Gotham is promising to be one of the most unique, and potentially one of the best, comic book TV show adaptations in recent years. The show has gotten plenty right so far—from the nods to villains, to the atmosphere, and even choosing some great actors who know how to work with the material. But that doesn’t mean the show is perfect, and there are some pitfalls that Gotham needs to watch out for, unless it wants to end up in the same leagues as failed comic book adaptations that have come and gone before it. Let’s look at three things the show needs to avoid in order to stay at the top of its classy.

Too cheesy dialogue
It’s very easy for comic book adaptations to veer on the side of cheesy—the very nature of comic books makes them prone to over dramatic or over the top dialogue, especially in a franchise like Batman which has naturally gimmicky villains. It could be very easy for Gotham to veer into the cheesy side, especially if there are a few too many winks to Batman villains and other Batman media. Jokes and lighthearted nods are perfectly fine—and even welcome, especially in an age when comic book adaptations are often too dark and gritty—but they should be carefully written and not too abundant.

Focusing too much on Bruce
Gotham should be a prequel about—well, Gotham, and not just about Bruce Wayne. Although no franchise has actually covered his early childhood at great length, the show will do much better to tackle the history of Gotham as it descends instead of focusing solely on the young Bruce Wayne. Having James Gordon is the protagonist of the series was a stroke of genius, because it allows the show to explore different avenues of the early Gotham.

Being too literal with the canon
Gotham is, naturally, inspired by the many different adaptations of Batman. But that doesn’t mean it needs to be a carbon copy and, in order for the show to succeed, it shouldn’t be afraid to branch out on its own and make its own twists on the Batman canon. Villains don’t have to be exactly the same as they are in the comics, or the animated series, or any of the live action films—and likewise, the fates of the characters should be fluid, too.

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