Fox's Gotham was a controversial idea from the moment it was announced to the Batman fanbase.
The idea of a Batman prequel TV series that would never actually feature The Dark Knight didn't hold that much initial appeal; however, as of this writing, Gotham is about to start Season 3 as one of the most anticipated returning shows on network TV.
With a strong fanbase and 5 - 6 million average viewers after two long seasons on the air, clearly the "bastardized" Batman origin series has found a foothold - despite the objections of many hardcore Batman fans.
Here's why Gotham has been so successful.
It's Batman History Lite
That heading isn't meant as an insult to anyone - it's actually the distinct advantage Gotham has over, say, The CW's "Flarrowverse," with its four interconnected series and deep reservoir of DC Comics mythos. Batman is a character who has penetrated deep into mainstream culture via TV and movies, but not everyone who loves seeing Batman stories onscreen wants to sift through a complicated comic book mythos and hit all the bullet points that would be required to tell an "in canon" Batman prequel story.
Hence why Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy was such a different interpretation of canon, yet still found immense success as a mainstream cinematic story.
Gotham allows mainstream TV fans (picture your in-laws who refer to SDCC as "The Comic-Con") to watch a show where they can pinpoint all the easy-to-spot Batman Easter eggs. Watching this history of the Batman characters (even if it's a new history) makes non-comic fans feel like they are smarter about their geek knowledge and "in" on the club.
Did you know the guy "Eddie" was supposed to be the Riddler? Pretty exciting reveal, bro...
It Knows What It Is
The best thing to happen to Gotham came at the point in Season 1 when the showrunners finally said "eFF it" with trying to carefully construct every little character Easter egg, or indulging fan obsession about what is or is not in step with Batman comic book canon.
When it finally just sank into the heads of fans and the show makers alike that this was an isolated, alternate, version of Batman's story (like an "Elseworlds" story in the DC Comics tradition). After that, expectations on all sides relaxed, and Gotham was free to fully embrace its soapy, slightly cheesy, crime drama nature.
Season 2 definitely hit the ground running with a much more focused and serialized storyline, organized into two volumes ("Rise of the Villains" and "Wrath of the Villains"). In Season 2 the show was distinctly more open and free (and even pleasantly creative) with its interpretation and use of Batman lore, giving us some much better characters (like B.D. Wong's Hugo Strange), while still finding ways to make characters like Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) and Oswald Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor) into more interesting people than we've previously seen.
Even previous dead-weight characters like Erin Richards' Barbara Kean have found their footing in the show. Not too shabby.
Since Gotham knows exactly what it is - and therefore why it appeals to people - it's been able to cut fat, refine what works, and keep its pulpy little alternate universe pulsing.
It Brings - and Creates - (TV) Star Power
Love or hate Fish Mooney, there's no denying that having Jada Pinkett Smith's name headlining Gotham when it first premiered brought a whole other level of attention to the project.
Cult-comedy fans and harcore geeks alike were lured in by the spot-on casting of Donal Logue as Harvey Bullock - while Ben McKenzie had earned a respectful following playing a cop in SouthLAnd. Extending into Season 2, TV heavyweights like Michael Chiklis (The Shield) and Morena Baccarin (V) only helped to bolster things, bringing a combination of star power, geek cred, and quality character acting. That's not even counting other recognizable faces from other geek shows (True Blood's James Frain), or the simple power of teasing any recognizable DC Comics character (Mr. Freeze, Azrael). Gotham knows who to use fame to pack in an audience.
The show has also been good about showcasing new talent.
David Mazouz actually earned a great deal of respect out of the gate by bringing gravitas to "Lil' Batman," a role he now rightly owns.
Camren Bicondova has been equally good playing a young Selina Kyle/Catwoman, while Cory Michael Smith has been a scene-stealer (sometimes from himself) playing the slow burn mad descent of Edward Nygma.
And then there's Robin Lord Taylor's Penguin: he owns the role, the screen, and now the hearts of millions of fans. Taylor is officially a star, and a geek icon rockstar, all thanks to Gotham (though he did carry the show in its early days, so fair trade).
So, as Season 3's arrival continues to make headlines, Gotham will continue to entertain the masses - though how long the ride will last is always up for debate. In a different article.
Have you been a fan of Gotham for its whole run? Thinking about jumping on the show this season? Let us know in the comments?
Gotham returns for Season 3, "Mad City" on September 19 @8/7c on Fox.0comments