I wasn’t sure what to make of Gotham when the show was first announced – a prequel to Batman? A story about all the characters of one of the 20th century’s most complex pop culture mythologies, before they got interesting? A pre-origin story in an era that has made us thoroughly sick of superhero origin stories? Bah.
So basically I was an idiot.
Gotham is an extraordinary piece of drama – and it deserves to sit alongside Agent Carter, Daredevil and Jessica Jones as examples of TV shows that use the meat of superhero comics while not conforming to the superhero genre. Gotham is a crime drama and mobster tragedy, set in a fascinating city that meshes 1940’s noir with 21st century technology – they all have cell phones, but the men wear hats.
It’s very much a love song to masculinity: Jim Gordon (a compellingly stoic Ben McKenzie) is the new cop with a chip on his shoulder, trying so desperately to be a Good Man in a city where police and government corruption are so thick you can’t see through it. He’s partnered with Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue), who took his Good Man hat off a long time ago, and now comfortably wallows in the moral turpitude of Gotham’s dirty cop culture. Harvey is awful but hilarious and compelling if you can get past the awful to be entertained – think Gene Hunt in Life on Mars.
You need a certain level of Stockholm Syndrome to properly enjoy this show, but once you’re there, it’s pretty great.