It’s a strange time to be a comics fan right now. Things that seemed impossible in pop culture now happen with regularity. Superheroes are ruling the multiplex, taking over the CW, and making inroads into every corner of pop culture. And Gotham, a TV show about an alternate reality Batman, a bizarre jumble of the 1960s series’ camp and the 1980s over-the-top grit, is entering its third season on, of all places, Fox.
Ostensibly about the early days of future police commissioner and Batman ally James Gordon, Gotham quickly became an alternate-reality take on the Batman story. And as a result, the second season ended on a set of bizarre notes, even by this show’s standards. It turned out that Wayne Enterprises had been engineering superhumans in a secret facility underneath Arkham, and, of course, they escaped. Furthermore, a secret society had been backing the doctor behind all this, Hugo Strange (B.D. Wong), and this same society wants Bruce dead. Did we mention the season ended on the stinger of Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) having an evil twin?
In the era of Peak TV, it’s easy to dismiss Gotham. It’s campy in a cheerfully soapy way that sees major characters abducted by pirates or taking a side tributary into penny dreadful horror. It’s a sprawling mess with a huge cast that often forgets it has great characters it can use. But that’s what makes it so great. Watch Gotham and you’ll find a show full of people who can’t believe what the heck Fox is letting them get away with.
Gotham does have some genuinely great moments; Bruce Wayne, last season, confronted the self-loathing assassin who murdered his parents, in a bit that underscored what the show sees in David Mazouz. The show has also settled on the dance between Jim Gordon (Ben MacKenzie), the soiled white knight forced to confront his own motives, and Oswald Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor), the craven backstabber who can’t quite accept he’s better as the man behind the throne than sitting on it, as its main focus, something that MacKenzie and Taylor play to the hilt.
But, above all, Gotham wants to be, and often is, a enormous operatic corruption drama, a story of a city that doesn’t exist. Gotham may not top best-of lists, but it’s something unique, an increasingly hard species to find in the world of Peak TV. And we’ll be liveblogging it tonight at 8 p.m. EST. Join us, won’t you?