A "Gotham" Prequel About Commissioner Gordon Is Missing The PointS

A fun thing that we like to do on the internet is pass judgment on things that don't properly exist. A television show or film can't possibly be bad or good when it hasn't even been made yet, of course. But the people in Hollywood love making announcements about things and sometimes in just making announcements they strongly suggest that what they're about to do is pretty dumb. Like this Gotham show you may have heard about.

Deadline Hollywood writes:

It explores the origin stories of Commissioner James Gordon and the villains who made Gotham City famous. In Gotham, Gordon is still a detective with the Gotham City Police Department and has yet to meet Batman, who will not be part of the series.

Now, I'm someone who loves comics and has very strong opinions about them, but I am by no means a purist. I am not going to take this space to complain about why they're doing this instead of just adapting Gotham Central and making the fans squeal with glee. I'm interested in stories and how they work and what makes characters like Gordon and places like Gotham interesting, and my reading of this simple premise is that these folks don't get it.

Let's run with it, though. If Gotham does in fact take place before Batman shows up, then there's already a slight problem with this pitch. You see, what makes Batman's villains interesting is that they're Batman's villians. They are reflections and refractions of his very psyche, and more importantly they only exist because Batman does.

It's not like you have to be a comic book nerd to know this. Gordon himself says this when he talks about escalation at the end of Batman Begins. Batman is there to fight crime, the kind of crime that killed his parents: muggers and murderers and bank robbers.

See, it's Batman's presence that brings about your Jokers and Riddlers and Two-Faces, and if you have them in a show where Batman doesn't even exist yet, then you undermine not only the villains, but Batman as well. And what makes this decision even crazier is that you don't even have to have Batman appear. Ever. He can be an urban legend again, a boogeyman that the cops aren't even sure about.

Batman is what makes Gotham interesting. He's why we would want to see a show about cops in Gotham City. Without him, Gordon is just a good cop in a town full of bad ones. That in itself is interesting enough for a series, and might even get some traction given the overabundance of antihero protagonists we've had lately.

As much as I'm railing against it right now, Gotham could still be a good series. It could still tell good stories on its own merits. But those stories would be weighed down with the trappings of something familiar, an ever-present reminder that it's built on a character that it was designed to never even acknowledge.