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Friday, September 29, 2023

“Gotham,” which premiered last fall, focuses on the life and hardships of detective James Gordon.

‘Gotham’ breaks the crime show mold

"Gotham" has aired for over a year, having premiered on Fox September 2014. The Batman origin series, featuring the adventures of detective James Gordon before his comic book fame as commissioner, has recently entered its second season, and continues to entertain superhero fans on streaming websites like Hulu and Netflix. I’ve heard so much good news about the series from friends, co-workers and random strangers on the bus that I decided to check out the show for myself over Thanksgiving weekend.

As today’s age of streaming compels in nearly all of us with a computer and a couch to do, I spent hours binging on the entire first half of the first season of "Gotham". The series is fantastic. I applaud producer Danny Cannon’s successful sense of realism of the comic book world, similar to that of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. The ever-grey sky, plain, solid color suits and constant gang violence set the depressing tone of a crime-stricken, corrupted city, where no one in their right mind should live. My mind couldn’t help but wander to thoughts of popular detective shows like “Criminal Minds” and “Law & Order” when detective Gordon runs through puzzle after puzzle and catches criminal after criminal. Regardless, the series doesn’t feel cliché, perhaps because the criminals vary so much, as they are the not-so-famous villains of the old comics, or because the narrative of the gang bosses keeps us on edge as we wonder who will make their way to the top. Or, maybe it’s because of the not-so-subtle hints at the popular Batman villains like Penguin, Catwoman and The Riddler before they acquired their big names.

While I watched, I couldn’t get over my response to particular details with regards to the serie’s sense of comic book realism. Two details stand out. I’ve gathered that part of the premise of the series is that the law enforcement, businesses and city government are terribly corrupt and the people, especially children on the streets, are heavily manipulated through a system that keeps them down. This theme sounds like experiences of people of color in real life. Yet, I laugh that I have only seen one minority kid so far, and I am already halfway through season one. While this doesn’t seem very realistic to me, perhaps Cannon made the choice to show a bunch of white kids manipulated by the law enforcement system to prevent fuss from minority communities. Well, this black guy is fussing, so sorry, not sorry.

Besides the lack of minority representation, my other issue regards one secondary character in particular: Selena Kyle, also known as Cat. Just as all of the other children in the show, Selena lives on the streets, robbing people to survive and sneaking around fire escapes, back alleys and in and out of sewers. Still, with all of this activity and lack of a home, the character always looks put-together. Her hair looks like it’s been professionally done, her black clothes always look so shiny and her face and hands are always so damn clean. I would think her appearance would be a little more dishevelled. But no, Selena looks like any regular, cared-for rebellious preteen.   

"Gotham" offers a refreshing perspective, showing many famous comic book characters developing into their grand personas. The show reminds me of Smallville, the series about Superman’s origin and journey to the cape and flight, though without Smallville’s subtlety. Nonetheless, I recommend anyone who hasn’t watched it and who enjoys the comics to begin their walk through the crime of "Gotham."

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