Moderator: Chief Couch Potato Kylie
Who: “Gotham” is a crime drama centered on events and characters inspired by the Batman franchise/DC Comic Universe, which airs fall through spring on Fox; it is currently on hiatus.
What: “Gotham,” a crime series developed by Bruno Heller and primarily based upon the characters of to-be Gotham City Police Commissioner James Gordon (Ben McKenzie) and Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz), the real life identity of Batman. As originally conceived, the series would have served as a straightforward story of Gordon’s early days on the Gotham City Police Department. The idea evolved not only to include the Wayne character but also to tell the origin stories of several Batman villains, including the Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor), the Riddler (Cory Michael Smith), Catwoman (Camren Bicondova), Poison Ivy, Two-Face, the Scarecrow, Mr. Freeze, Hugo Strange, and the Joker.
A new recruit in the Gotham City Police Department named James Gordon (McKenzie) is paired with veteran detective Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue) to solve one of Gotham City’s highest-profile cases: the murders of Thomas and Martha Wayne. During his investigation, Gordon meets the Waynes’ son Bruce (Mazouz), who is now in the care of his butler, Alfred Pennyworth (Sean Pertwee). Meeting the younger Wayne further compels Gordon to catch the mysterious killer. Eventually, Gordon is forced to form an unlikely friendship with Bruce, one that will help shape the boy’s future in becoming Batman.
When: The Season Two finale aired on Monday, May 23, 2016, at 8:00 PM.
Where: The action is set in the fictional metropolis of Gotham City, the primary setting of the Batman franchise.
Why: To find out why individual podcast panelists started watching this show, listen to the podcast episodes embedded below!
As for CPU! Chief Couch Potato Kylie, I picked up this show when shopping for pilots during the 2014-2015 TV season (a yearly ritual for this viewer and this blog, no matter how far behind I am). I said:
“This is one of the most anticipated pilots of the new season, by critics, fans, and this blogger. First, as a DC girl, Batman is my second favorite of their properties, after Superman, of course. Second, picking up the story from this prequel point is potentially brilliant; this could be must-see TV for a long time to come, folding in a Smallville like examination of the rise of Batman and the foes he fights, all from the perception of to-be Commissioner Gordon. I’m super excited for this one and can’t wait to see a full episode.”
Now, I’ve seen some episodes – all of them to date, in fact – and asked some fellow panelists to join me in evaluating how effective Gotham is in its storytelling muster and how successful it has been serving as the “prequel” it has become. Scroll down, and take a listen!
How – as in How Was It? – THOUGHTS
CPU! first covered Gotham earlier this year by catching up listeners on Season 1 and Season 2A, otherwise known as “The Rise of the Villains.” If you haven’t caught up on CPU!’s Gotham coverage, listen via the embedded link below:
As our Gotham panel, consisting of Jen, Hilary, Kyle, and Spencer, discusses in that first podcast about the show, Gotham got off to a bumpy start but had since vastly improved in the second season’s first half, as it seemed to abandon the idea of organized crime warfare on Gotham City streets and concentrate more fully on the origin stories of Batman’s most enterprising arch nemeses. In fact, the panel began to regard the program, this new addition to the Batman zeitgeist, with various perspectives that intersected even as they differed. The panel now tackles the second half of the second season, dubbed by the show “The Wrath of the Villains,” and the consensus on the panel is that while the first half of the season was executed successfully if somewhat inconsistently, the season’s second half took a turn, and not necessarily for the better. The panel as a whole struggled to ascertain whose wrath we were actually watching, though Penguin and Riddler did seem arguably wrathful at times. That is, when they weren’t locked up for long periods in the loony bin that is Arkham Asylum. We also witnessed the rise of several more villains, not the least of which includes mad scientist Dr. Hugo Strange (B.D. Wong), for better or for worse. How did the panel like the second season overall? Listen to the embedded link below to find out.
This podcast was recorded in July 2016, and there are, without question, MAJOR SPOILERS, as the panelists cover key plot points of the second season and all episodes that have aired to date. Listen at your own risk, and let us know what you think by commenting below!
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Questions, Impressions, and Future Considerations
1) Was Barbara Kean (Erin Richards) really meant to be Batgirl’s mother? Now that her character is in a coma, what will her character do, if anything, in the future?
ANSWER: Panelist Kyle insists that it’s true: the character of Barbara was meant to be Batgirl’s mother, but he believes that the producers have changed direction in that regard given the unpopularity of the character. In the meantime, Barbara emerged from her coma thanks to the experiments in reanimating life conducted by Hugo Strange. At first, she came to Jim’s aid while he was on the lam to suss out the Lady (Missy Gomez) in order to find out who ordered the hit on the Waynes, as the Lady once ran the contract killing black market. When Jim rightfully decided that she was too crazy to keep around, Barbara joined up with the Penguin and didn’t do much else until the end of the season.
2) Is Dr. Thompkins’ (Morena Baccarin) prospective baby going to be Barbara Gordon, the girl who would be Batgirl? Are Lee and Jim going to name the baby after crazy Barbara?
ANSWER: According to the show, though it happened off screen and while Jim was in jail, wrongfully accused of killing a police officer after being framed by Edward Nygma, Lee lost the baby. Panelist Kyle also predicted that this was a lie told by Bullock to Jim and possibly planted by Lee given the fact that Jim told Lee to leave him to rot in jail, as he felt guilty for his role in the murder of Theo Galavan (James Frain). So, it’s possible that Lee still had a baby and a girl at that, but none of the panelists can figure out what motivation she would have for naming a possible baby Barbara, given the terrible potential source of the name.
3) Will Penguin and Riddler have a falling out, which motivates them toward their most sociopathically driven selves?
ANSWER: Surprisingly, Penguin and Riddler stayed friends, supporting each other on occasion in this half of the season. Penguin ended up in Arkham after confessing to the murder of Galavan to cover for Jim. Strange brainwashed him (if you want to call it that) into submission; Penguin ended up finding his real dad (played by Paul Reubens), who had fallen victim to a gold-digging former waitress and her sociopathic children. When the presence of a biological son emerged, the new wife poisoned Penguin’s father, who seemed to understand Penguin as no other could. This murder, once discovered by Oswald, brought out the old Penguin, rather suddenly and menacingly. In the meantime, when Lee began to ask questions about the deceased Miss Kringle not picking up her paychecks, making Jim aware that there was a possible crime to solve, Nygma embraced his most Riddler-esque tendencies and staged riddle-filled capers and committed more murders before Jim finally caught him, clearing Jim’s name and landing Nygma in Arkham. The moral is: Penguin and Riddler found their psychoses independently of one another, which is a shame because they are infinitely watchable together.
4) Will Riddler’s riddles get more complex and mind-twisting?
ANSWER: Riddler’s caper riddles, as he began to frame Jim for the murder of a police officer, were potentially more complex. Mind-twisting? Eh. Marginally more mind-twisting, perhaps.
5) What will we see of Mr. Freeze’s back story? Who will be playing that character?
ANSWER: Victor Fries/Mr. Freeze was played by Nathan Darrow, most well known by his role on House of Cards. We saw his back story play out in the first couple of episodes of Season 2B, but as the podcast panel notes in our discussion covering this half of the season, we were primarily disappointed by how the show portrayed the creation and rise of Mr. Freeze.
6) What will we learn of Oswald Cobblepot/Penguin’s back story when Paul Reubens plays Mr. Cobblepot, Sr., in the second half of the season?
ANSWER: Well, first of all, Oswald’s bio-dad in this universe is named Elijah Van Dahl. He comes from a wealthy family of tailors. He explains to the newly docile Penguin that he once fell in love with Penguin’s mom, a poorer girl, and wanted to run away with her, but his family scorned it. Afraid of the loss of his comfort and all he ever knew, he elected to let Ms. Kabelput go, but he never knew that she had become pregnant. Mr. Van Dahl only discovered his son when he met Oswald, standing at his mother’s grave after his release from Arkham and after Elijah learned of Gertrude’s death. We also learn that Oswald’s particular psychosis may be genetic, inherited from his paternal grandfather, and that Mr. Van Dahl has a heart condition. We further learn that he marries Grace, a former waitress, who is clearly after his money, though she is content to wait on his death as long as he provides for her and her two abominable grown-up children. Grace, in fact, has been withholding Elijah’s heart medication so that he will die a slow death, but she speeds up the process when she learns that Elijah wants to leave Oswald the estate, after eavesdropping upon father and son’s private conversation and learning of Elijah’s plans.
7) What is the takeaway from Jerome, the Joker-not-Joker? Is he alive or really dead? Was he taken to Hugo Strange’s basement laboratory at Wayne Enterprises? Is he really the Joker nascent or is he the inspiration for the real Joker? If he is not the Joker, is the show advocating that the real Joker is a copycat? Where is the real Joker, if so? Is he similarly aged to Bruce Wayne?
ANSWER: During this half of the season, Jerome is most definitely considered dead, preserved in one of Hugo Strange’s reanimation tubes in Indian Hill, which, though run by Wayne Enterprises, is located in the basement of Arkham Asylum. The rest of the question, whether or not Jerome is the actual Joker, remains a question, though the viewer does not know what emerged from the crashed bus that the newly resurrected Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith) drove away to escape from Arkham. Panelist Kyle saw a flash of red hair, and Hugo Strange makes things come back to life, so….
8) Will Theo Galavan be back after his umbrella-pierced corpse was shipped to Dr. Strange’s underground laboratory? Will he become comic villain Azrael? Or, Solomon Grundy, as some fans theorize?
ANSWER: Galavan came back to life, but he couldn’t remember his real identity. So, Dr. Strange set about programming the identity of Azrael, from the Book of the Order of St. Dumas, into Galavan’s brain. As you might note from the podcast discussion, the panel was universally unhappy with the execution of this plot device as well.
9) Was comic villain Hush introduced, or will he be introduced?
ANSWER: He hasn’t been yet, and Panelist Kyle believes it would make the most sense to do so, since, outside of his villain identity, he is supposed to be one of young Bruce Wayne’s “friends.”
10) Are the writers going to treat the nascent Ivy character (who the podcast panel presumes will be Poison Ivy) better?
ANSWER: Well…this answer is in the eye of the beholder. Ivy was starting to grow plants in this half of the season and helped Selina and Bruce in some of their escapades, but the pundits have announced that the show is recasting the part. Ivy will apparently be older and sexier, like the Poison Ivy most people know. The panel is at a loss as to how this could be rendered believable in the story, especially as the writers are not batting at any kind of decent percentage right now in terms of consistency with the source material or, even, with following any of the rules they set up for themselves in this version of the Batman mythology.
11) Will we see any more villains, such as Killer Croc?
ANSWER: In fact, panelists Spencer and Kyle both saw what looked like Killer Croc emerge from the wrecked bus, but that was not until the end of the season. We were also introduced to a nascent Clayface, who posed as Jim at the GCPD headquarters, but the panel was, again, greatly disappointed by the story of his creation. Listen to the podcast for details.
12) Will we see the Graysons and Baby Dick (who would be Robin) again?
ANSWER: We did not see either the Graysons or Baby Dick during this half of the season.
13) What’s on the hard drive that Alfred smashed in what will become the Batcave? What will Lucius Fox (Chris Chalk) find and/or share with Bruce?
ANSWER: So far, all we learned from the hard drive is clues about a secret project known as Pinewood, which was the prior version of what became Indian Hill and was run by Hugo Strange. This led Bruce to discover that Strange and his father, Thomas Wayne, were friends, and that Strange, for some reason, ordered the hit via the Lady and Matches Malone on the Waynes. Through some additional sleuthing, accompanied by either Selina or Alfred, Bruce determined that Strange and Thomas did not see eye to eye about the tenets of scientific progress. Bruce also learned that Strange’s actions are being dictated by a secret society in masks, a society that seems to hold the “real” power in Gotham City, which panelist Kyle predicts will be comic villains the Court of Owls.
14) Will we see more of Bruce’s training – especially his physical training?
ANSWER: Well, Bruce kind of abandoned the physical training for awhile. After learning about Matches Malone and the hit taken out on his parents, he elected to go stay with Selina on the streets for awhile, much to Alfred’s chagrin. When answers started to emerge from the hard drive, Alfred convinced Bruce to come back to the Manor, but Bruce was far more focused on the mystery than on his training, which disturbed quite a few of the panelists.
15) Will the writers continue to smooth out the obvious kinks?
ANSWER: Quite the opposite. The bed sheets were really ruffled in the back half of season two, and the panelists were in various states of displeasure about the cropping up of all new kinks, not the least of which includes reviled characters Barbara and Fish. The panelists address the writers directly in the podcast episode.
1) What is the deal with the long-haired Bruce Wayne clone that we saw in the closing seconds of the season finale? If he is truly a Bruce clone, with what time and/or energy did Strange make that possible, since Bruce was in Arkham for a relatively short space of time? If he is Clayface, how did he escape jail after his antics at the GCPD? If he’s none of these things, what the hell is he, and why are we going there? Panelist Kyle also made a scary prediction: what if we just saw the creation of whomever will become the Joker because the writers decided to take the yin and yang concept underlying the characters of Batman and Joker too literally? Writers: if this clone will be the Joker, I will plotz. Rants will be had, verbally and in writing. As your Chief CP says in the podcast, there is ignoring canon, and then there is stomping and spitting on the canon. Don’t be tempted to do the latter.
2) How will the Court of Owls be explained in the larger context?
3) What villains emerged from the bus? There were definite glimpses of Killer Croc and possibly Jerome; also, casting of the Mad Hatter has been announced, and there was already a visual reference to the idea that Strange created the Hatter. What will they do when they’re out? Will there be other villains who are NOT created by Strange that we see?
4) Did Lee really have the baby and just lied to Harvey who told Jim that the baby was lost? If so, did she have a girl and name her Barbara? If so, why the hell would she bother with that name? If there is no baby or a boy or a girl not named Barbara, the show has some ‘splainin to do. If there is no baby after all, maybe Lee will get pregnant again. Will Jim and Lee reconcile? How?
5) Will Riddler escape from Arkham in the end? And not be made the cartoon character/murderer that he has become? Will he get some sort of purple and green ensemble for his wardrobe? The panel also recommends a mask.
6) Is Azrael really dead? The panel would be really sore if his death sticks.
7) Will Mr. Freeze, Firefly, and any of Strange’s other creations remain mindless goons with identities programmed into them by Strange, or will they emerge as the complex and varied rogues’ gallery that they become?
8) What will Penguin and his gang aim to do nowadays, especially after he and Butch (Drew Powell) blew up Azrael and after Penguin saw the newly alive Fish?
9) For that matter, what kind of havoc will Fish involve herself in, particularly with her new ability to bend people’s will at her touch?
10) Seriously, will we see Hush or Black Mask? Are they people that Bruce already knows, such as friends from school? Or, will the show change their origin stories, too?
11) Writers: explain the genesis of the newer, more femme fatale Ivy who suddenly becomes and looks older than Bruce, given the recent recasting of the role. Warning: you have your work cut out for you.
12) When will Bruce have his inspiration to be Batman? And how will that happen if he didn’t see bats when he fell into the cave?
13) When will Selina have her inspiration to be Catwoman? She can wait awhile, but since everyone is finding themselves much sooner than they should be, the writers might as well give Selina the idea to be a cat. Maybe she’ll take whatever drug Ivy’s got going on and get all sexy feline on us.
14) Will Alfred start training Bruce again – or will Bruce seek his training from other sources? He’s kind of at the age when he should be throwing more punches. The panel feels that he needs to catch up to the anarchy around him.
The CPU! Gotham panel is seriously apprehensive about the future of this show. There is a growing unrest among the panelists, given the writers’ propensity to ignore eighty years of material to write their own version of the Batman mythos. While the panel would be open to a story that seems to follow a consistent set of rules, no matter how much of a deviation it might be from the Batman comics or franchise proper, there is a general perception that the writers changed the direction of the show to compensate for the fans’ overall negative reaction to the first season but overcompensated in their course correction, to the detriment of the logic and entertainment value of the story, particularly in the second season’s second half. In fact, most of the panel see the first half of the second season as a high point and regard the third season as a “make it or break it” season for the continued success, in ratings and, thereby, in future renewals, of the show. The panelists advise the writers to revisit not only the Batman comics but also their original blueprint for the show and to establish a structure and story line for the show that rightly capitalizes upon the amazing performances of the cast (which the panel universally agreed were good if not phenomenal). Also, the writers need to track their own continuity and not turn what is one of the tightest and most enjoyed (and most widely known) comic book properties into an absurdist’s take on the story, or they will alienate viewers and, thereafter, cause declining ratings and waning network support – after all, they are on Fox.
Gotham has been renewed for a third season, which is slated to premiere on Fox on Monday, September 19, 2016, at 8:00 PM. The Gotham podcast panel will next reconvene following the third mid-season finale, which will likely air in or around December 2016. As always, CPU! will keep you informed of news and additional Gotham coverage. Until then!