When the trailer for Gotham, FOX's new (and just officially picked up) new Batman prequel series starring Southland and Batman: Year One star Ben McKenzie as Detective James Gordon, hit the Internet earlier tonight, it left us with a lot of questions. The series, apparently a period piece set in the '80s or early '90s based on the cars in the background and the general look of the city, sets up the origins of Batman, The Riddler, The Penguin and Poison Ivy, among others. And while these are far from the only things we're left wondering after just over two minutes of a look at the world being crafted by The Mentalist's Bruno Heller, they're the ones that jumped out at us most and demanded an answer.
Who's that Jim Gordon is talking to? Whoever it is that's talking to Gordon at the start of the trailer, he loves Gotham and he's worried about the path it's going down. He's a very well-dressed man, so our guess is that he's somebody important -- maybe the police commissioner? We know it's not the mayor, since a TV screen in the extended version of the trailer showed Spin City and Cars actor Richard Kind as the mayor grieving the loss of the Waynes. The next question, of course, is whether whoever this guy is might be the one getting stomped in the next scene. The man doing the stomping is pretty well-dressed -- probably either a dirty detective or a mobster. In either case, what this guy's saying is a threat to both.
Why is the Waynes' killer wearing a mask? A lot of people are wondering why the man who kills the Waynes is wearing a mask. This could go in any number of directions, not least of which is the idea that if the killing is -- or is meant to look like -- a random shooting, leaving Bruce alive would require wearing a mask so as not to be immediately identified. It seems as though the case of the Wayne murder will be played out over the course of the season, so perhaps it's legitimately just to keep some element of surprise. It seems from IMDb that somebody has been cast in the role and credited only as "assailant," so maybe if the shooter turns out to be another named character in the series down the line, they will retroactively just say the mask was there to obscure them and a different actor was used to keep the mystery alive. How "wink, wink, nudge, nudge" is this series going to be? The impression first given when this series debuted was that it was going to be a bit like the early episodes of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. -- just a procedural show, set in this universe. The trailer, though, certainly makes it seem a bit more like more recent episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., when things started to become packed to the gills with references to the comics universe. Neither is inherently the right or wrong way to go until we've seen the show and what works best for it, but the juxtaposition of our original impression ("It's the Jim Gordon Show!") against the reality of this trailer ("Before Catwoman, Before Batman") is an interesting one, and makes it difficult to manage expectations. That also kind of ties into our next question...
This could go for any number of the soon-to-be-super characters, but certainly the question of Bruce Wayne seems the most pertinent. It's been widely discussed that when the Dark Knight Trilogy was in the works, DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Television wouldn't let The CW use Batman or his supporting cast on Smallville, even though just about every other DC Comics character appeared at one point or another. Now, of course, Ben Affleck is set to play the Caped Crusader in the upcoming, as-yet-untitled Man of Steel sequel that everyone has been calling Batman vs. Superman for the sake of convenience. So...how big a role will the future Batman have in a series that is -- as has been established by the network -- not connected to the DC Cinematic Universe being put together by Warner Bros. in Batman vs. Superman and the upcoming Justice League? A safe bet is that it will be significant in the first season, as Gordon works to discover the identity of the Waynes' attacker. After that (assuming there is an after that), it's probably anybody's guess. If the kid is popular with the fans of the show, and the show gets future seasons, they could probably find some contrivance to keep him on board. If he isn't popular, or if Warner Bros. doesn't want Bruce on there as he starts aging into puberty, they could pretty easily write him out (at least for the time being), saying that once the case of his parents murder is off the books, they don't really have a great reason to keep him around. A sub-question here is just how key the investigation into the Wayne murders will be in this show. They've said that it will take the season to pay off (or at least implied it strongly), but TV has a spotty record with shows that focus on just one case over a long period of time. Twin Peaks and The Killing both enjoyed wild critical praise in their first seasons but ultimately fell out of favor with audiences and critics for taking too long to resolve the central mystery of the series. In the case of Twin Peaks, the plan was originally to never actually solve Laura Palmer's murder, opting instead to leave it an unresolved specter that hung over the town -- not unlike the post-Crisis on Infinite Earths version of Batman's origin, where Joe Chill was, more or less, Rollo Tomasi from L.A. Confidential. That is to say, Batman never knew who really pulled that trigger. Of course, it could still last all season and not be the one and only case Gordon and Bullock are working on. That's the most likely scenario, in all likelihood, but again begs the question of just how big a deal it will be if we only really get forward momentum on the story in three or four episodes along the way.
How much influence will Gotham Central have? For years, fans and critics alike have sung the praises of the long-since-cancelled DC Comics series Gotham Central. It has, in fact, popped up on lists of "DC Comics that should be a TV series" long before the Gotham announcement and, for that reason, the pushback of "What's the point of a city set in Gotham City if there's no Batman?" is a bit puzzling. But that's another conversation. One of the first places that many fans came to be aware of Greg Rucka, Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark, the series took place in the then-modern day DC Universe, but it dealt primarily with a police force that had a sense of impotence and frustration at the fact that they patrolled a city where a lunatic in a bat costume got all the credit because he wasn't bound by the rules of ordinary public servants. Of course, that's a huge part of Batman's appeal, and it was interesting to see it from the other side of the coin. And while no Batman means that particular plot thread can't be explored, there's plenty more that can be. In Gotham Central, a member of the cast turned out to be dirty and murdered another member of the cast. One of the cops dealt with the pressures of working within a fairly conservative organization like a police department while she was openly a lesbian. Combine that with the fact that they can tweak the idea of impotence and being hamstrung by the rules a bit to deal not with somebody on their side but with something scarier -- the rise of the masked or gimmick supervillain -- and you've got a lot of potential stories coming just out of Gotham Central. But this trailer shows little, if any, sign of that. There's the overarching mystery we already knew was there -- that Gordon is going to be working on the Wayne case -- but that's not really Gotham PD-centric. There's some signs of a dirty cop, and script leaks suggested that's the way they're leaning with Harvey Bullock, but we got virtually no real sense for what it is they plan to do with the rest of the police department. Oh, and a minor sub-question: Can we get a verdict on whether Jim Corrigan -- the namesake of The Spectre and the aforementioned murdering, dirty cop -- is included in the rights deal for this show? You would think that he would be, because of Gotham Central...but then you've got the fact that not long ago, somebody was developing a TV series based on The Spectre. I thought this character was the nephew or something of the original Jim "Spectre" Corrigan, but apparently the nature of that relationship was never established (per the DC Wiki and Wikipedia). ...And a bonus question that really only applies to the extended version of the trailer:
What is Catwoman doing at Wayne Manor? She's not particularly stealthy there, is she? Leaving aside the gratuitous shot of a teenager's butt we're treated to in the trailer, the more obvious question is just what the relationship will be between the young Selina Kyle and Bruce Wayne. It seems from the editing here that she witnesses him searching for "the edge." But what's she there for? And will she take it, dealing another blow to a kid she can see is in pain?