Schrödinger’s Plot – Saving Gotham

Joel Murphy

Joel Murphy

“Welcome to Earth Prime. Before there was thought, there was this place. One earth, with a single history. But with the coming of man came the illusion of free will. And with that illusion came chaos. With every choice we make, we literally create a world. History branches in two – creating one earth where we made the choice and a second where we didn’t. That’s the secret of the universe, you know? Billions of people making billions of choices, creating infinite earths.”

– Owlman, Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths

Gotham has been renewed for a third season, which, as the AV Club notes, isn’t really good news. It’s a Batman-less Batman show with a mustache-less Jim Gordon, a criminally-underused Donal Logue and some of the most ham-handed winks to the audience I’ve ever seen. I’m one of the biggest Batman fans there is and I bailed on the show after three episodes. I’m not exactly sure how people have stuck with it for two seasons.

What’s so frustrating to me about the show is that it easily could have worked. Jim Gordon struggling to keep Gotham from plunging into the abyss while working within the very restricting confines of a corrupt police force is fertile ground to explore.

There are a bunch of little things I’d love to adjust about the show, but there’s one major flaw that I don’t think it will ever really be able to overcome. Or, to phrase this in a way more befitting this column – somewhere in a parallel universe there is a successful version of this show that has one huge tweak …

Bruce Wayne isn’t a little boy. In fact, he isn’t in the show at all. Instead, he is in his 20s and has left the country to begin his training to become Batman.

I happened to catch a preview for a new episode recently that focused on little boy Bruce Wayne getting a gun and hunting down Joe Chill. And I thought, “Who the fuck cares?” First of all, he obviously can’t kill him, since it would be antithetical to everything Batman stands for. (Realizing that Joe Chill isn’t the real problem and is only a symptom is what makes him become Batman in the first place.) But it also points to a large problem – there’s nothing for little boy Bruce to do. He’s a useless character.

We all agree that the Star Wars prequels are bad, but imagine how much worse they would have been if Anakin was a small child the whole time. What if there was never a time jump and instead we just got three films with Jake Lloyd’s wooden acting and no advancement toward him becoming Darth Vader?

That’s where Gotham is at. Every shot of young Bruce is a somber reminder that he’s just a young kid who isn’t Batman. But if he wasn’t around at all – and was instead training abroad – that’s exciting.

We know Batman is coming soon. Suddenly, instead of a nihilist look at Gordon’s doomed efforts to fix things on his own, there’s hope. Gordon just has to hang in there a little longer and help will come. Batman becomes Chekhov’s gun. He’ll arrive eventually, even if it’s in the very last shot of the very last episode. That’s exciting. (And, it’s a formula that worked for Smallville, which somehow drew out Clark Kent becoming Superman for 10 seasons.)

And while you can prolong Bruce Wayne’s return the city until the finale, you also could not do that. If things begin to stall creatively, Bruce Wayne could return to Gotham. But this Bruce Wayne is a grown man, one who’s about to become Batman. That’s a much more exciting character than little boy Bruce.

Or, you could even start showing his training before he returns. Later seasons of Gotham could have Bruce’s training parallel Gordon’s efforts. They could find ways to connect the two thematically. It could be really fun.

Perhaps it wouldn’t fix all the problems the current version of the show has. But it would go a long way to making it more interesting. And it’s a show I’d likely give more than three episodes before bailing on it.

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Joel Murphy is the creator of HoboTrashcan, which is probably why he has his own column. He loves pugs, hates Jimmy Fallon and has an irrational fear of robots. Follow Joel on Twitter @FreeMisterClark or email him at murphyslaw@hobotrashcan.com.

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