GOTHAM's Rogue Problem
Author: Ricky Church (Follow @RICHARDCHURCH16)
February 18, 2015

It is without question that Batman has the most famous, and arguably best, rogues gallery of all superheroes. Enemies like The Joker, Catwoman, The Riddler and The Penguin are staples in the Batman mythos and are a large reason why the character has endured for 75 years. It makes sense why GOTHAM would be so keen to utilize those villains even if they have not yet fully taken up their iconic roles in the shows timeline. Unfortunately, this has been one of GOTHAM’s weakest aspects.

What Payoff?
To date, audiences have already met The Scarecrow, Black Mask, Copperhead and Electrocutioner. While he hasn’t appeared yet, Dollmaker has been mentioned as well. Once you consider that The Penguin, The Riddler, Catwoman, Poison Ivy, Two-Face and Zsasz are major to minor recurring characters, not to mention the (possible) introduction of The Joker, it seems GOTHAM is brimming with villain overload before Bruce Wayne even dons the cape and cowl.

It is an intriguing thought to see the Batman rogues before they donned their costumes. One of the best aspects of the show is the evolution of Oswald Copplepot, aka The Penguin. His arc throughout the season has been fascinating, presenting the best onscreen portrayal of The Penguin audiences have yet seen. That’s in no small part to Robin Lord Taylor’s take on the character.

However, Oswald Cobblepott is the only good villain to receive proper prequel treatment. The other villains are all basic versions of their future selves. Nygma loves telling riddles, Selina Kyle acts as a 12 year old Catwoman rather than Selina Kyle, Zsasz is already a serial killer who tallies his victims on his body. And if “The Blind Fortune Teller” is to be believed, The Joker was insane and deranged long before he met Batman.

The problem with this is it lacks any kind of development for these characters or reason for audiences to tune in to watch their evolution. If Selina is already Catwoman or The Joker is already The Joker, there are no stakes to watch what they do next because they’ve already become who they’re destined to be. It lacks the suspense and intrigue this show is trying to build off of.

At the same time, the other problem with this format is how payoffs are being set up for a show audiences will never see. Presumably GOTHAM will end just before Bruce leaves to truly begin his training or, if it goes the SMALLVILLE route, just as he dons the cape and cowl for the first time. That means audiences will never see the full transition of Edward Nymga into The Riddler, Selina to Catwoman, Ivy to Poison Ivy or this Jerome character into The Joker (possibly).

GOTHAM can build up its world and characters as much as it wants, but it needs to find some room for the characters to evolve without having to depend on their relationships to Batman or their personal destinies. SMALLVILLE, for all its faults, at least did this right in its early and final years without being completely dependent on future payoffs. Of course, that was also because Clark Kent was the main character. It would be very different if GOTHAM had focused on, say, Perry White and Clark was relegated to a side character.

The op-ed continues after the jump!"

It's A Small World After All
GOTHAM suffers a lot from “prequel-itis,” a common problem prequels face in any franchise. Much of the suspense is lost because the audience, especially those well-versed in the mythology, already knows what it going to happen whether it be 5, 10 or even 50 years into the future. What’s more, though, is how many of the characters, whether hero or villain, or connected in some way.

One of the major flaws of the STAR WARS prequels, for example, are how several characters are needlessly connected to characters from the Original Trilogy. For such a vast galaxy, it seemed pretty small when Prequel and Original Trilogy characters were connected, perhaps no more so than a young Darth Vader being C-3P0’s creator. In the same way STAR WARS felt it had to connect all of its major and minor players, so too does GOTHAM.

Let’s list many of these connections: Catwoman witnessed the Wayne murders and is childhood friends with both Bruce Wayne and Poison Ivy; The Riddler works forensics with Gordon and Bullock; Gordon dated Leslie Thompkins; The Joker (possibly!) knew Dick Grayson’s parents and grandparents; AND, Gordon has fought The Penguin, Zsasz, Copperhead, Black Mask, Electrocutioner, The Joker (possibly!!) and The Scarecrow’s father long before Bruce has even become Batman!

This idea of intersecting the early lives of Gotham City’s most famous residents is wearing thin and hitting audiences over the head saying “Remember, this is important because blank becomes blank later!” It reeks of Fox and Bruno Heller trying to capitalize off their popularity rather than trying to make their story make sense and engaging. Not only that, but it lacks any kind of subtlety.

Subtlety is a very important aspect to consider when dealing with prequels so as to avoid the types of problems GOTHAM has faced. The show has thus far lacked any kind of subtlety when introducing or utilizing villains from Batman’s future.

Take Harvey Dent, for example. In his debut episode he already had his famous coin. That’s fine in itself as it’s a staple of the character; and, it also lets viewers who don’t know exactly who Harvey is (or who haven’t seen THE DARK KNIGHT, but… let’s be real here!) that he’ll become Two-Face. Later in the episode though, he completely switches from calm and confident to angry and nearly assaults the person he’s questioning, going so much further than perhaps necessary to let viewers know this guy is Two-Face by either having severe anger issues or a mild split personality.

The same can be said for Selina who prefers being called Cat or Poison Ivy, whose name has been changed from Pamela to simply Ivy. One of the biggest cases, though, is Edward Nygma, who continues to spout out riddles and, for no other reason than to let audiences know who he is, has a big, green question mark on his coffee mug. The biggest offender, however, is Jereome, aka “The Joker,” in his one appearance thus far. At least, possibly!

While Cameron Monaghan’s performance is good, its one which lacks any subtlety at all due the way it was written and directed. Jerome could be a red herring to make people think this guy will become The Joker only to surprise viewers later with another possibility; but at the same time, it is so blatant that this guy is The Joker! Once Jerome discards the meek kid act, he’s pretty much already The Joker, just without his trademark look and obsession with Batman. The latter being, in case Heller and Fox didn’t know, the cornerstone of The Joker’s character. As stated, Jerome could be a red herring, but given GOTHAM’s track record with subtlety, it’s most likely not.

The bottom line is that GOTHAM needs a lesson in subtlety.

Sometimes, less is MORE. - Ricky Church

GOTHAM airs Mondays at 7PM CT/8PM ET on FOX.
CLICK HERE for all of BOF's GOTHAM coverage.

Richard Church is an aspiring writer for short stories, novels and screenplays.
He is also an avid fan of the superhero genre.

Follow him on Twitter @RICHARDCHURCH16.

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