Gotham is one of those shows that I find very polarizing. For everything I love about the story, it does something else that I hate. I adore its take on Selena, but she threatened a false rape accusation. Gotham has done an amazing job with Penguin’s character, but it’s also fallen victim to fatphobia. The show has given us an autistic Riddler, and that’s awesome, but his character has been subjected to numerous clichés and stereotypes. Then of course, there’s Arkham Asylum, which is problematic in its own regard. It also hasn’t helped that the latest two episodes have been absolutely disgusting and gory. I didn’t need to see Fish Mooney, the show’s best character, gouge her own eye out.
Despite all its issues, though, Gotham could still easily have been a good show, but time after time, it’s failed to live up to its potential. The show lacks direction—any given episode has at least three plots—and unfortunately, James Gordon’s plotlines are completely removed from the other two. At this point, I swear he was added into the show just because the creators felt obligated to include him. Why he’s the main character, or why he even needs to be there, I don’t know. But what I do know is that right now, this problem is really wearing down on the show’s direction.
The first season of Gotham opens with the death of Bruce Wayne’s parents. Immediately, Gordon gets caught up with the mob while trying to discover who’s behind the murders. So our two main plot threads this season are the Wayne murder mystery and the mob storyline between Fish Mooney and Penguin. We don’t know how these plots are connected yet, and as the show is building up to that reveal, I eagerly look forward to seeing what happens. But what about Gordon’s role in all of this? When the season started, I thought the story would follow Gordon as he unraveled all the corruption in Gotham that led to the deaths of Thomas and Martha Wayne, which would naturally get him on the mob’s bad side.
I was wrong. While Gordon has indeed been dealing with the corruption in Gotham, it’s done in such a way that has removed him from the main plot at large. Penguin has been playing both Maroni and Fish on Falcone’s orders and Bruce Wayne has relieved Gordon of any obligation to find his parents’ killer. Now, Bruce has been investigating their deaths on his own. Gordon’s presence doesn’t have an impact on either of these storylines and other than the first couple episodes, were he removed from the series, very little would change.
Gotham is supposed to be a show about the rising corruption in Gotham and what led the city to needing a vigilante dressed up like a bat, told through the eyes of James Gordon. But Gordon fails to live up to that role because the show wants his character to see and deal with too many things, which creates a remarkable lack of focus. The first season of Gotham is more concerned about shoving as many characters from the comics down our throats as possible than it is about giving our main character something substantial to do. Gordon can’t be part of the main storyline, because every episode he has to deal with an iconic Batman character that has nothing to do with the mob or Wayne murders. At one point, we have a Scarecrow origin story. Another week, we have a Red Hood episode for some reason. And most baffling of all, we get a Joker origin episode, which was probably the most pointless episode of the entire show thus far. I also don’t know how or why Gotham will ever need a Batman to fight crime considering that Gordon seems to be doing a pretty good job at handling all these criminals without a vigilante on his side.
All of these origin storylines have been coming in so quickly and have been finished so fast that many of them are falling flat. Gotham could have easily put them off for later seasons and dedicated more time to them, instead of forcing them onto the audience. These story arcs are also bad for another reason—they change nothing. The Joker had no impact on anything—all he did was take up Gordon’s time, time that he could have spent being part of the main storyline, seeing as he’s, you know, the main character.
I said in an earlier post that Gordon was our typical cishet white male lead, and that his is a character design that has been done to death. He’s boring, because we’ve seen him before in just about everything we’ve ever watched. But he’s even more boring than most, because his character is pointless. With every passing episode, his character becomes more and more removed from the main plot. Gotham needs to figure out what direction it wants to go in—does it want to be a mystery show about the mob and the Wayne murders, which is what it should be? Or does it want to be a random-villain-of-the-week type show? Because Gotham is certainly proving that it can’t be both. It needs to decide what it wants to be, and then it needs to give Gordon something to do that actually matters.