Gotham – An “Originless” Origin Series


If we ever had to invent a word for Gotham, it would be “originless.”  Why?  Well, it’s pretty clear.  When the show was still in the works, it was set up as a pre-Batman series chronicling the events of Gotham City before the era of the Dark Knight.  The focus was supposed to be on Jim Gordon before he became the stoic white knight top cop we know today.  As the show progressed through Season 1, we saw the introductions of multiple villains from Batman’s rogues gallery, when most of them had yet to don the guise of their future selves.  The misstep in this strategy soon reared its ugly head.

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Problem #1: If the focus is on Gordon, why would you need younger versions of established villains to hold up your story?  Problem #2: The show’s creators never gave us a reason as to why the origins of these characters were so compelling.  Hence, I have coined the term “originless” for this show.  The writers give backstories — reasons, motivations, and grievances — to what are powerful entities in Batman’s lore, but always fall short or neuters them to second-rate or, in some cases, third-rate characters.

Nothing could be more apparent than what we saw in “The Last Laugh“, where Jerome turned out to be a pawn in a bigger plan.  Yes, I was ecstatic that Jerome didn’t turn out to be the Joker.  But I was also extremely saddened that the people behind Gotham rewrote the Joker as someone who copied his signature insanity from a random criminal.  The Joker does not get inspired, he does the inspiring.

RELATED > Please Don’t Introduce the Joker

What were the writers thinking?  I’m sure this angered a lot of devout Batman fans.  The Joker’s identity is as original as Batman’s.  In fact, if there was ever going to be some type of motivation or inspiration for the Clown Prince of Crime, it should be from the Dark Knight.  Various past Joker stories have always played with the notion that Batman may have created his own arch-nemesis.  And that’s also why you can’t introduce even a hint of the Joker on Gotham.  The idea of Batman in Bruce’s mind hasn’t even formed yet.

Of course, why should we even be this surprised.  We’ve seen this type of writing play out time and time again on the show.  Edward Nygma’s Riddler “origin” is now nothing more than someone who felt bullied and scorned.  So you’re telling me that Nygma now has a split personality because a girl rejected him and that’s the reason why he eventually becomes the Riddler?  There really is no depth to that story.

RELATED > The Riddle of Nygma’s Characterization

It doesn’t just end there.  The origin of the Scarecrow was also bastardized.  Jonathan Crane is now nothing more than a legacy villain — someone who is bad because daddy was bad.  In fact, from what we saw in “The Scarecrow“, Jonathan isn’t even the originator of his own fear toxin.  In a single episode, Gotham‘s writers basically took away Jonathan’s genius and compelling reason for why he became one of Batman’s most twisted enemies.

RELATED > Why Gerald Crane is a Bad Move

At this point in the series, the mantra “if you can’t do it right, don’t do it at all” should be ringing loud and clear to the writers.  Some of these origin stories need to be handled with care and finesse.  If that can’t be done, then concentrate on building your own mythology with original characters.  You don’t have to rely on established stories to keep the show going.  Explore Gotham City as its own character and how it molds Jim Gordon into the commissioner we all know and love.

Gotham City was already a decaying mess before Batman or even Gordon arrived.  There has to be a whole slew of stories the writers can mine that would make an excellent prequel.  Why the creatives haven’t done this is a mystery to me.  As of now, I’m just waiting to see what other characters will be destroyed in the coming weeks.

Fox’s Gotham airs on Mondays at 8:00PM EST.

Next: Catch up on Gotham with a review of The Last Laugh

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