PODCAST! – Around the Water Cooler: “Gotham,” The Season 3 Mid-Season Recap and Progress Report (MAJOR SPOILERS)

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Moderator: Chief Couch Potato Kylie

THE SPECS:

Who:  “Gotham” is a crime drama centered on events and characters inspired by the Batman franchise/DC Comic Universe, which airs fall through spring Mondays at 8:00 PM on Fox.

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.

SYNOPSIS

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). 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 Three premiere aired on Monday, September 19, 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.

I 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 this time last year by catching up listeners on Season 1 and Season 2A, otherwise known as “The Rise of the Villains” and then by digesting the second half of season two, otherwise known as “The Wrath of the Villains.” If you haven’t caught up on CPU!’s Gotham coverage, listen via the embedded links below:

Seasons 1-2A

Season 2B, The Wrath of the Villains

Since that time, we have had a personnel change on our Gotham panel.  The panel wishes to wave a fond goodbye to panelist Jen, who left the panel because she “jumped the shark” watching Gotham and was frustrated enough not to want to discuss it.  That’s how it rolls from time to time at CPU!  Don’t worry!  If you’re a Jen fan, you can still hear her voice on our active Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, The Vampire Diaries, Supernatural, The Originals, and Grimm panels and on our Desperate Housewives “Looking Back” episode.  All is not lost, though, as frequent CPU! panelist and sometime moderator Nick jumps aboard the Gotham panel, just in time to masticate upon the latest offering from this non-canon take on the “Batman” story and a full season arc subtitled “Mad City.”

As our Gotham panel, now consisting of Hilary, Kyle, Spencer, and Nick, has previously discussed, Gotham got off to a bumpy start but had since vastly improved in the second season’s first half, as the show 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 then tackled the second half of the second season, dubbed by the show “The Wrath of the Villains,” and the consensus on the panel was 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. In this latest episode, we compare notes on the first half of the third season, as we spend time in so-called “Mad City,” and consider the success or lack thereof of the following plot developments: the Bruce Wayne clone, the Court of Owls, Jim’s struggle with identity and with his love for an engaged Lee, Mayor Oswald Kabelput and his Chief of Staff Edward Nygma, and the introduction of Jervis Tetch aka The Mad Hatter (Benedict Samuel), as well as the aftermath following the villains’ so-called wrath in season two.  How did the panel like this first half of the third season?  Listen to the embedded link below to find out.

This podcast was recorded in January 2017, and there are, without question, MAJOR SPOILERS, as the panelists cover key plot points of the first half of the third 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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Remember, new episodes and blog posts are published weekly!  Next Wednesday, we will offer up another mid-season check-in around the Water Cooler as we discuss Season 8A of The Vampire Diaries, i.e. the first half of the show’s official final season.  Stay tuned!

Questions, Impressions, and Future Considerations

Old Questions/Predictions
1) REPEAT QUESTION: Will Penguin and Riddler have a falling out, which motivates them toward their most sociopathically driven selves?
ANSWER AS OF THE END OF SEASON 2: 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.
NOT SO FAST! ANSWER AS OF MID-SEASON 3: Well…it seems their mutual affection and cordial friendship have taken a controversial turn.  Penguin, as it turns out, develops a romantic devotion to Edward after Ed offers Penguin some admiration and validation for achieving victory in running for mayor despite being a well-known criminal mastermind, enthralled as Ed is by Penguin’s ability to manipulate the people of Gotham.  In the meantime, Ed only has eyes for women, specifically any and all women who bear more than a passing resemblance to Miss Kringle, the GCPD employee with an affinity for poodle skirts that he strangled in season 2.  When Barbara Kean (Erin Richards) informs Ed of Penguin’s misplaced devotion in an effort to start trouble, a devotion which causes Penguin to order a hit on the Kringle doppelganger Isabella, who could very well have been Ed’s sociopath soulmate, Edward vows to destroy good old Oswald in revenge.  I imagine Ed’s penchant for riddles and a war with Penguin are going to get him where he needs to go to be the fully realized Riddler, while Penguin is pretty much Penguin, angling for power and acceptance but struggling to attain and keep it, the thematic undercurrent of this particular antagonist. The panel hopes that a war between these future arch-villains would be great, but we’re more than a little worried about the ability of this show’s writers to capitalize upon their own potential.

2) REPEAT QUESTION: Will Riddler’s riddles get more complex and mind-twisting?

ANSWER AS OF THE END OF SEASON 2: 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.
NOT SO FAST! ANSWER AS OF MID-SEASON 3: Though Ed told fewer riddles in this half season, his ire has been irked (see above).  We can only imagine what a provoked and forlorn Ed might riddle when the riddles finally and continuously come.
3) REPEAT PARTIAL QUESTION: What is the takeaway from Jerome, the Joker-not-Joker? Is he alive or really dead?
ANSWER AS OF THE END OF SEASON 2: 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.  
NOT SO FAST! ANSWER AS OF MID-SEASON 3: The Gotham social media accounts have been foretelling the return of Jerome…

4) REPEAT QUESTION: Are the writers going to treat the nascent Ivy character (who the podcast panel presumes will be Poison Ivy) better?

ANSWER  AS OF THE END OF SEASON 2: 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.
NOT SO FAST! ANSWER AS OF MID-SEASON 3: Is making her randomly grow into an awkward, teenage sexpot via the touch of an Indian Hill escapee with the power to make things rapidly age and to drain life constitute treating her better?  Listen to the podcast episode for our panel’s verdict.
5) 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.
ANSWER: What we do know about the Bruce Wayne clone is that he is, in fact, a Bruce Wayne clone, with similar appearance and affectations, but without Bruce’s memory or personality (what he has of one).  We also know that he has augmented abilities: he’s a reflexive fighter with a mean right hook and can fall off a roof several stories high and land on his feet, not unlike the caped persona Bruce prime will eventually assume. What we do not know is how the Bruce clone came to be and when Hugo Strange (if it was him) had the time to make him. So far, the clone doesn’t seem to be Clayface or a seed for the Joker-to-be, and though he disappeared without a trace or, really, any satisfactory plot development in the third season’s first half, he is expected to return in the second half of the season.  It should be noted that the entire panel finds this plot development strange and off-putting if not downright offensive so far.
6) How will the Court of Owls be explained in the larger context?
ANSWER: They haven’t been – yet.  They clearly pull the marionette strings in Gotham City, but their reach, other than to mobsters like Carmine Falcone, has not been fully flushed out as of yet.
7) 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?
ANSWER: Though pitifully represented, the panel estimates that we saw prototypes of Man-Bat and Killer Croc running around the city.  We have not yet seen a resurrected Jerome as of the recording of this podcast episode, but his return has been widely seeded to social media, so it is only a matter of time.  It is unclear that Hugo Strange, in fact, “created” the Mad Hatter, but he is certainly a fully formed villain and the primary antagonist of Season 3, Part 1.  Mainly, the Indian Hill escapees create havoc at Fish Mooney’s command, becoming part of a brief but anarchic entourage, until either Bounty Hunter Jim Gordon kills them or rounds them up on contract to the GCPD, or the GCPD, led by Harvey Bullock, finds them instead.  As far as non-Strange villains, we see only Mad Hatter, Penguin, and Riddler this half season in addition to the enigmatic Court of Owls and related personnel.  If there are other villains to be introduced that Hugo Strange did not have a hand in creating, we don’t know about them.
8) Did Lee (Morena Baccarin) 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?
ANSWER: Lee did not have the baby and did not lie to Harvey when she told him that the baby was lost.  The show, further, did not explain how the baby was lost.  Maybe the baby was put up for adoption?  And Jim Gordon will discover a long-lost baby daughter that her adoptive parents call Barbara?  Or, maybe Lee will get pregnant again.  We just don’t know.  So far, though, Jim and Lee have not reconciled in the slightest.  Listen to the podcast for details.
9) 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.
ANSWER: As it turns out, Penguin uses his considerable power and influence, which amasses as the unlikely voice of Gotham City’s reason during the Indian Hill fiasco, to convince Arkham officials to declare Mr. Nygma, his “best friend,” sane.  In both gratitude to Oswald as well as admiration for how Oswald’s charisma and ability to play the people of Gotham worked to his advantage, Edward agrees to become Penguin’s campaign manager and then, subsequently, his Chief of Staff when Penguin is ultimately elected mayor in a landslide defeat of incumbent Aubrey James.  So far, Eddie isn’t sporting an overwhelming amount of purple and green, but Cory Michael Smith has teased to social media and fan sites that he may be getting his full Riddler ensemble soon.  One can only hope – and continue to insist on a mask, since Bruce Wayne and Jim Gordon have seen him and know who he is.
10) Is Azrael really dead?  The panel would be really sore if his death sticks.
ANSWER: The panel is sore, so far.  Azrael remains nothing but shrapnel and guts. What we didn’t realize is that Tabitha (Jessica Lucas), his sister, is meant to be the villain Tigress. There are a lot of questionable writing decisions on the part of this writing team.
11) 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?
ANSWER: Mr. Freeze has been presumably knocked out and left for dead, we’re pretty sure we saw Firefly burn once more, and the Indian Hill escapees were, for all intents and purposes, mindless, except when Fish told them what to do.  Complex and varied does not quite sell the salamander here.
12) 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?
ANSWER: Oh, you know, stuff and things, like opportunistically capitalizing upon Gotham City’s fear and unrest as the Indian Hill escapees terrorize the city by denouncing GCPD officials and running for mayor.  And winning.  In a landslide.
13) 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?
ANSWER: Essentially, she orders the Indian Hill escapees to do her bidding, but she discovers that her power to control minds via her touch is also killing her.  She breaks Hugo Strange out of a carefully crafted plastic prison that looks like Hannibal Lecter’s containment in The Silence of the Lambs, and, after a confrontation with Penguin when he is tempted to kill her but for her admission that she is proud of what he has become, leaves with Strange into the night, not to be seen nor heard from for the rest of this half of the season.
14) 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?
ANSWER: So far, we’ve seen neither, and it’s making panelist Kyle grumpy.  Then again, we haven’t seen Bruce go to school in a long while, so we wonder how his grades are doing.
15) 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.
ANSWER: As above, Ivy gets touched by an Indian Hill escapee with the power to drain life.  If this mutant (as the whole sequence has a lilt of “X-Men” derivation) had touched her for a few seconds longer, she would have been dead, but she is saved by an absurdly unsafe manhole cover and a drop to the rushing river below, only to later wash up on shore as an older, arguably sexier, but no less awkward Ivy. It wasn’t completely terrible as far as character developments and transitions go, but the panel’s expectations were quite low, given the corner in which the writers had painted themselves previously.
16) 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?
ANSWER: Still waiting… And it’s concerning.  Unless the show is positioning Bruce clone to be Batman.  Which would probably cause riots.  Or nasty letters to be sent by CPU!’s Gotham panel.
17) 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.
ANSWER: Still waiting… She’s very cat-like, but what makes her Catwoman like?  We may never know at this rate.  Unless her mom has anything to say about it…
18) 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.
ANSWER: If by “training,” you mean a few more boxing lessons that they show Bruce Prime (or BP) sharing with the Bruce Clone (or the BC).  Seriously…Bruce’s (lack of) progress is a worry for us all.
New Questions
1) Who is the leader of the Court of Owls, the shadowy figure with a ring like Jim Gordon’s father?  Is this person his actual father, alive after being thought long dead?  If not his father, does Jim know him?  Does the audience?
2) Will we see Fish Mooney and Hugo Strange again?  Will Dr. Strange cure Fish’s ailment(s)?  Will he give her a personality makeover?
3) Where did all of the Indian Hill escapees go?  Were any of them truly progenitors of future Batman villains?
4) Will Edward Nygma make his transformation to full Riddler in the coming half season? Will we see a full-blown rivalry and war between Mayor Penguin and Ed, along with Ed’s allies of Barbara Kean, Tabitha Galavan, and Butch Gilzean?
5) Why should we care about Barbara anymore?  Or Tabitha?  Or Butch?  Their ambition is boring, particularly since Barbara remains as off-putting as ever.
6) Where did the BC go, and why would he come back?  Will the show provide any sort of explanation as to when and how – and why – the clone was created?  Did the Court of Owls commission his creation?  For what purpose?
7) Will we see the Mad Hatter again?
8) Who will be the primary villain(s) in Season 3B?
9) Is Lee, who was splattered by an infected Mario’s blood when Jim shot him, in danger of contracting the random blood infection that affected Captain Barnes (Michael Chiklis) and Mario Falcone?
10) Will we see Valerie Vale again?  I don’t think any panel member has a need for it.
11) Will Lee be able to reconcile with Jim now that Jim shot Mario and killed him?  Will Jim face retribution from Carmine?
12) The adventures of Ivy: will she stop killing the plants she professes to love?
13) What is the crystal owl that Selina (Camren Bicondova) stole from the secure vault of the Court of Owls?
14) Why should we care to meet Selina’s mom?

PARTING SHOTS

The CPU! Gotham panel continues to be seriously apprehensive, if not downright uninterested to the point of shark jumping, about the future of this show.  The previous unrest among the panelists, given the writers’ propensity to ignore eighty years of material to write their own version of the Batman mythology, has ballooned into emotions ranging from apathy to disgust, preventing most if not all panel members from being able to recommend watching the show, in good conscience, to anyone.  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 continue to change the direction of the show to compensate for “Twitter reaction.”  In fact, most of the panel still sees the first season and/or 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 continue to 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 – and the strongest – performances of the cast (which the panel universally agreed are 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.

LOOKING AHEAD

Gotham returned from mid-season 3 hiatus on January 16, 2017. The Gotham podcast panel will next reconvene following the third season finale, which will likely air in or around May 2017. The network’s decision about whether or not Gotham will be renewed has not yet been announced as of the publication of this post, but pundits see a 50/50 chance for renewal (and rightly so) based upon current ratings and show progress.  As always, CPU! will keep you informed of news and additional Gotham coverage. Until then!

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One comment

  1. kyliekeelee · February 2

    Reblogged this on Reel Musings.

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