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Gotham do-over thread

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They did this over at The Mentalist, and I tried it at Designated Survivor before that failed when Netflix "un-canceled" it.

So I'm going to try again, considering that "The Beginning..." is 99.999999% the end of this series. Who knows anymore.

Anyway, I figure this could be an interesting thread. The premise is simple- now that the series is done, what would you have done differently?

Considering the series' pedigree and the high expectations we had entering it, not to mention the wealth of material that was and could have been used from the source, I'm sure there's no shortage of opinions of what the show could have explored (or should have explored) but didn't, how it interpreted the characters, what kind of stories it should have told and what kinds of things it should not have done, among other things.

I mean, I'm pretty sure even the show's producers must think that 100 episodes wouldn't even nearly be enough to tell the stories they wanted to tell, but...that's what they got.

Before I close, I want to reiterate that I don't want this thread viewed- necessarily- as a "negative" thread. Even the shows we love we all have opinions on how they could have done things differently, and Gotham is no different. Besides, whether you loved or hated this show, just have some fun with it and let your imagination run wild- there will be no "wrong" answers here.

Anyway, I'll give my own opinions in a separate post so as not to influence the first few replies.

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The big changes for me is three things

1) I think they needed to at some point make Bruce the lead character if they were intending for this to become a pre-Batman show rather than a show about Gotham City that just happened to have Bat-verse characters in it.  Jim Gordon as a lead worked with the latter approach, but not the former.  The seeds were planted in S2 with the Galavan arc, and Galavan made clear Bruce was his enemy.

I would have made Bruce the lead character for good after his first battle with Jerome in The Gentle Art of Making Enemies (just rewatched this episode, boy was it a better "Joker confrontation" than Ace Chemicals).  After Bruce's conversation with Alfred here it just felt right with the "I will not kill" and Alfred replying "Let's get to work".

2) They were too cavalier in using Hugo Strange (and Ivy with Selina) as a deus ex machina to the point character deaths meant little.  Maybe less suspense, shock value, and more character development.  To that end I wouldn't have written off Selina's mom so soon.  Having her on the show to help Selina's development for the rest of the third season and Season 4 would have been better than having Selina pushed out of a window and the whole Sirens thing in S4.  We only get three episodes of her.

3) To go along with that they ended their intriguing plot lines too quickly (Penguin being major with Ed helping him, Bruce being a vigilante, etc), while giving lots of attention to less intriguing stories (Fish Mooney's dollmaker arc in S1, Jim/Lee, etc).

A few minor things:

1) I wouldn't have killed off Jerome in S2 only to bring him back later, send him to Arkham.

2) Would have written off Lee completely after S3.

3) Ivy recasts, no.

4) Why does Gotham need Batman?  Oswald and Ed were locked up and Joker was 'comatose' and the GCPD seemed to handle things fine.  The bomb plot was foiled without Batman's involvement.

Final thing:

Some die-hard comic nerds wouldn't like it but I wouldn't have had a 10-year time skip either.  David Mazouz and Camren Bicondova needed to finish their characters off and I wouldn't have complained a bit if he had a proto-Bat suit and Camren had a suit like what Lili wore.  Had the show done my suggestions I'm not even sure a time-skip would have ever been needed for them.

A fun show still, I'll miss it and would watch a sequel with the original cast.

  • Love 5
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I would have slowed the character progression and made the changes more gradual.  It's not interesting when Poison Ivy just became Poison Ivy.  The qualities of the main characters became set by the second season, and after that, characters became static or went on a neverending repeating loop.   

The Penguin and The Riddler were both perfectly cast, but it seemed like they both got circular storylines where they would gain power and then fall, gain power and then fall, etc.

The huge focus on the flamboyant rogue gallery on this show is a reminder that a lot of times, less is more.   It was just so overplayed on this show that I got tired of it instead of being entertained by it.

I also would have preferred a growing focus on Bruce as the seasons went by instead of the usual Jim Gordon Save The World routine which didn't do that character any favors either.  I was intrigued when Bruce was trying to dig into Wayne enterprises.  I would have liked to see him becoming more involved behind-the-scenes, while keeping up an outward public persona that seemed disinterested in anything except his wealth.  Alfred seemed to be mostly sidelined in the last two seasons.  This show had the rare case where child actors were able to handle complexity, but it didn't take advantage of that.

  • Love 3
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19 hours ago, DR14 said:

4) Why does Gotham need Batman?  Oswald and Ed were locked up and Joker was 'comatose' and the GCPD seemed to handle things fine.  The bomb plot was foiled without Batman's involvement.

Agree with the whole post, but especially this. Why did Bruce feel like he needed to come back as a masked vigilante? Everything was largely fine.

The show’s major problem is that they forgot that Jim Gordon is not the ultimate hero of Gotham. If he could handle things in the official capacity as police commissioner, Gotham wouldn’t need Batman. Jim Gordon is a man who is supposed to be struggling with his own demons while he does his best to try to help Gotham, but can’t do it on his own. That’s why he accepts the help of a masked vigilante. Instead we got a guy who put away the major criminals, removed all the corruption from the GCPD, was happily married to one woman and peacefully co-parenting with another. Like, since when does Jim Gordon have such a peaceful personal life?

We should have seen something that showed us that while Jim did a good job of rebuilding, crime and corruption seeped back in. And Jim couldn’t stop it, no matter how he tried. We should have had Oswald and Ed out and working together because they were right that they are a nearly unstoppable team. They should have been always just out of Jim’s grasp. They would have emboldened other criminals and the cops would have started taking bribes again. Jim should have been at the end of rope when Bruce rolls back into town. But I guess Bruce somehow knew that J was just waiting for him.  

That’s how I feel they bungled the end. But as for the series:

- Better development for Bruce. I understand when an actor is under 18 they can only work so many hours a day. But that’s fine. This is an ensemble show. But don’t waste the time you’ve got.

- Lee absolutely should have stayed gone when she left at the end of season three. I get MB and BM are happily married in real life, but their characters would not have a happily ever after. They let their real life relationship bleed too much into the show.

- Fewer villains. You don’t need to cram in every Batman bad guy under the sun. Spend your time really developing the ones you’ve got. They had excellent actors playing the characters. They should have developed them properly. But instead the development died out mid-season four for most of them when they turned their attention to Jeremiah, then season five was a somewhat out of character mess for most of them.

- I know Ben McKenzie was the star, but his character was not the ultimate hero. He did a lot of corrupt shit, and it all got swept under the rug, and rarely acknowledged except for a tiny bit in early season four, but he never really paid a price for it. Instead he stayed Gotham’s greatest son and hero. Which...no.

  • Love 4
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10 hours ago, Kostgard said:

Agree with the whole post, but especially this. Why did Bruce feel like he needed to come back as a masked vigilante? Everything was largely fine.

The show’s major problem is that they forgot that Jim Gordon is not the ultimate hero of Gotham. If he could handle things in the official capacity as police commissioner, Gotham wouldn’t need Batman. Jim Gordon is a man who is supposed to be struggling with his own demons while he does his best to try to help Gotham, but can’t do it on his own. That’s why he accepts the help of a masked vigilante. Instead we got a guy who put away the major criminals, removed all the corruption from the GCPD, was happily married to one woman and peacefully co-parenting with another. Like, since when does Jim Gordon have such a peaceful personal life?

We should have seen something that showed us that while Jim did a good job of rebuilding, crime and corruption seeped back in. And Jim couldn’t stop it, no matter how he tried.

I wasn't that big a fan of the S3 finale, but one thing it did do well was show us a city in shambles and the GCPD not being quite enough to protect the city thus needing a vigilante.

When Bruce had that final rooftop scene I thought, finally, we're gonna get a Bruce-focused show with him learning the ropes and everything about vigilantism.

That was what this finale missed.  Jim was contemplating a happy retirement, not at his whit's end.

Edited by DR14
  • Love 2
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I think the one thing Gotham lacked was a central, narrative focus. A theme, a storyline, a character progression...something underlying about the series that drives all the stories and from which its other stories come out from.

Otherwise, you don't really have a series- you just have a collection of stories which may or may not tie together.

Every successful series has something central about it that tells you it belongs with other instalments of that series. Even police procedurals are like this.

Just off the top of my head, you have:

  • Breaking Bad being about Walter White's slow descent from dopey science teacher to big time drug dealer
  • Criminal Minds being about criminal psychology and how it can be used to catch criminals
  • The Orville is about a bunch of space misfits who go on madcap space adventures
  • Deadpool is about a man whose only outlet in dealing with the crappy cards life gave him is through crude, vulgar humour
  • Sherlock Holmes' stories (which we can include House because Dr. House is based on Holmes) are always about how brilliant a detective he is and how he is incapable of understanding why everyone else isn't as brilliant as he is.
  • Family Matters only found its footing when it decided it should centre around Steve Urkel.
  • Dexter was always about a serial killer who hunted serial killers while fighting the demons inside of him.

...and so on and so forth. This isn't to say that a series can't involve many different tangents and wildly different storylines- but, for a serial to work, it's got to have something that connects it together.

Gotham...well, what can you say connected it together? It went from a story about Jim to a story about Bruce to a story about Oswald to a show where there's a storyline about Ed, a storyline about Barbara, a storyline about Lee, a storyline about Jerome/Jeremiah, a storyline about Selina with maybe the odd episode thrown in about Bullock, Ivy, Hugo Strange or whatever Batman villain they feel like trotting out this week...and then it went back to Jim, to Bruce, to Selina, then...I've lost track because there's so many different storylines and none of them seem to fit at all together.

Hardly any wonder no character really got any development...Gotham seemed to change its mind all the time with which character and which storyline they wanted to focus on from episode to episode.

With that all said, I have a number of ideas of how I would have done the show differently:

  1. Narrative focus. Here are my ideas for the themes that would have made Gotham work:
    1. Instead of the series' original premise- where Jim is the goody two-shoes cop and Harvey is the corrupt one- I'd flip it around. Harvey is the idealistic, moral cop while Jim is the pragmatic one who "sees the reality" of Gotham City and is willing to get dirty if it means solving the crime. Since Jim becomes so successful- much more than Harvey ever was- he gets the accolades for being "a hero" but it also means the criminals zero in on Jim like never before. Meanwhile, Bruce investigates Jim with the help of Alfred and Selina, believing Jim's corrupt ways are the real threat to Gotham. Jim isn't broken until the final episode sees Harvey killed by the criminals, and it's then he realizes the folly of his ways. Bruce confronts him about his misdeeds but sees the remorse in Jim's eyes, realizing his heart was still in the right place. Bruce also agrees to become Jim's new partner, becoming Batman so that he can continue Jim's "dirty work" so that Jim doesn't have to do it.
    2. Have a series about Bruce and Selina being young sleuths who understand how Gotham's underworld really works. The two of them work together to solve crimes the Gotham City Police Department has no idea about (as well as the crimes they lack the resources or the interest to solve), eventually becoming a thorn in Jim Gordon's side. Jim at first comes to resent them but eventually comes to accept them, with Jim and Bruce becoming closer because they both have the same moral values when it comes to justice- i,e., they both wish to follow the law. Selina, on the other hand, wants to break the law and does on a number of occasions, forcing Bruce to "cover" for her but putting a strain on their relationship. It reaches a breaking point in the final episodes, forcing Jim and Bruce into an uneasy alliance.
    3. Continue the story from S1 where Oswald rises to the top of Gotham. Only, instead of taking him down, keep him up there, with another move to him becoming mayor. In this vein, Oswald becomes a "hero king" who makes the people believe that he will give them what they want but in reality rules the city with an iron fist and makes the people bend to his wishes. With the GCPD eventually forced to act as his bullies and too many Gothamites having drunken the Oswald Kool-Aid, it's up to Bruce and whomever he recruits as allies to take Oswald down, which he does in the final episode...only to learn that the Joker, whom Oswald was grooming, is ready to strike himself.
    4. Make it a Joker origin story, where Joker and Bruce are best buds (or maybe even brothers) who slowly start slipping away from each other as the Joker develops his sadistic, psychopathic ways. Because of their bond, Bruce resists the urge to kill the Joker, even though only Bruce knows how to foil the Joker's many different plots. Because of the Joker's success and his charisma, he winds up recruiting a cult of villains that evolves into Batman's rogue gallery, eventually becoming too numerous for Bruce to handle on his own, so he partners with Jim.
    5. Create a wholly original character who mentors a young Bruce into becoming Batman. The mentor's story is one that eventually ends in tragedy in the final episode, a necessity as it would be needed to allow Batman to eventually get into the spotlight. This could be varied with having a mentor for the Joker and/or mentors for the other heroes or villains (likely villains) of Gotham's universe and we watch to see how the characters eventually evolve into the ones we now know as well as to see who comes out first.
    6. Keep it as a police procedural where the Villain of the Week is a Batman rogue (with longer arcs used for higher profile villains), with theme being that the GCPD investigates "weird" crimes. In this case, Jim and Harvey are the show's centre along with other characters in the GCPD, with Bruce, Alfred, etc. helping (or hindering) as needed.
  2. Cut down on the amount of characters. Gotham, simply put, had too many characters, so much so that they had no idea what to do with a good lot of them. The show's EPs are on record as saying they didn't know what to do with Barbara until Erin Richards stole the show in "Under The Knife". Having a narrative focus means that you only bring in the characters that you need, not worrying about characters that won't add to the story. I get that, possibly, FOX mandated to the Gotham producers that they had to have some Bat-characters involved in the series, but that shouldn't have hamstrung creativity too much.
  3. More focus on the stories and less on "the crazy". I know some will disagree because they loved "the crazy" that happened on this show- and, truth be told, I enjoyed that aura about the show as well- but, I've said it before, I want "the crazy" to have a purpose. I don't want it there for "shock value" or because it'd make a "great YouTube moment" or some other reason- I want "the crazy" to fit into whatever story they are telling at that moment. Only then is it truly worth it- otherwise, I'd just go to YouTube itself.
  4. More meaningful plotting. It's here where I'll side with @DR14 that Indian Hill was a lazy deus ex machina that made character deaths meaningless. I will go one further- if the show wanted a vibe where "anyone can die", then they needed to have a handful of characters who they could kill off (such as original characters or lower profile Batman characters) so that when those characters are put in peril, there's some actual mystery involved with whether or not they'll make it. The show went to the "Bruce in peril/Jim in peril" well way too many times, and it was an exercise in futility because we know those characters will make it. The same can also be said about the "feedback loop" stories involving Oswald and Ed, who always rose and then fell, rose and then fell. Eventually it becomes meaningless. The only way those stories could have worked is if the characters learned something from those moments and used what they learned in the future- then they at least become character development moments.

I'm sure I have other ideas but this post is long enough. If I have any more ideas, I'll put them here.

  • Love 2
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I know I've mentioned doing my own "redo" for a while now and, today, I finally got around to it. You can see it here:

Facebook post (with pictures)
Story post (at Blogger)

First, I tried to fit into the wider world I've been writing about for a while, so I'm hoping to make this story a corner-piece of my writing project.

Second, it's a bit exposition heavy being the first story. I'd say it's more of a "prelude" than a straight re-telling of the Pilot, but I'll also say that I'm not sure how much of the "comic path" I'll follow. Usually when I write fanfics I like taking things and changing them around if it creates a better narrative, and I think Gotham the show left a lot of things unexplored that I'd like to do.

That, and many times when you write you just go in places you never thought you'd go, so I'm not going to restrict myself.

Anyway, hope you enjoy it. I hope to get to Episode 2 later this spring (because I have other life commitments).

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The Real Reason Fans Hate the Last Season of Game of Thrones (Scientific American Blog Network)

^ So I found this on the Game of Thrones forum (I was there because I heard about the commotion about the finale, so I was curious) and I figure it could of interest on this forum as well since I think, in many ways, Gotham tried to emulate GoT, especially with its death count. I put it in this thread since it can tie into the topic of how Gotham could be redone, since I think the blog's premise- that "sociological storytelling" is better than "psychological storytelling"- fails when you look at a series like Gotham that attempted it but failed completely.

What are those two divergent storytelling options?

As far as I can tell, a "sociological" story is one where characters are forced to act in a certain way because of external pressures- in other words, they have "no choice" in the matter, and it's supposed to be designed so that we, the audience, would say "I'd do the same thing if I was in that situation".

A "psychological" story, on the other hand, is one that is entirely or largely shaped by the actions of one or two sets of characters (however large or small they may be), the "good" set and the "evil" set. These stories are about how the characters' choices affect how the story plays out, with the story examining why those choices were made and the consequences of those actions. Unlike the sociological story, the psychological story allows us in the audience to say "I would have done things differently".

It's a bit heady, but I think it's worth a read.

Now, I'll also state, for the record, that I never watched GoT or read the books, but not because I wanted to be "hip" or something- I just never got around to it. So if I get some details about GoT wrong, feel free to correct me.

Anyway, I want to state, right off the top, that I'm a firm believer that for any story to work there has to be characters we care about. None of their trials and tribulations are going to matter if we don't care about the person who's going through the struggles.

So, characters matter. Even if they're just "reactive" characters, we want to care about those reactions.

Secondly, I believe it's the goal of almost every creative writer to weave a story that is both sociological and psychological. A writer doesn't just want a character the audience roots for or against- they want a character for whom the audience thinks, "they had to do what they had to do". In other words, there's an illusion that the character is in complete control of how the story moves and ends but the reality is that the character is controlled by what happens, and how the character responds tells them how the story will progress.

How it relates to GoT is that I believe- from what I understand of the series- that, while it may have been a show where characters simply reacted, it was still a show that built characters who we cared about how they were going to react. You cared about Daenerys, you cared about Cersei, you cared about Jon Snow, you cared about Arya...you cared about all the players.

What was interesting about GoT was not what happened that sets things in motion- it was about watching about how the characters would respond to this new situation. It's like chess- one character or several characters make a move, so now you wait in anticipation for someone else to make their move in response.

The series, really, only failed when the characters stopped acting in co-ordination with each other and started doing things because...well, the writer needs them to do it for the plot to work.

In other words...lazy writing. Just like in many other series.

How this relates to Gotham is that I believe- very firmly- that the show wanted to created a series that was like GoT- things happened and the characters now have to react to what happened. They wanted to create this world where it forces the characters to have to behave a certain way, because there is no choice for them to act in any other way.

It worked in the first season because there was a commitment to building the ultimate tragedies of the characters. You have Jim, who so desperately wanted to believe in his naive fantasy that if he worked hard and "did things right" he can make Gotham City right again, only for the city to punch him metaphorically in the gut again and again. You had Harvey, who once believed in happy endings and heroism only to be so beaten down by the city that he just gave up trying to make to make things right because it was never going to happen. You had the criminal base- the Falcones and Maronis- who lived the lives of luxury but only did so by constantly looking over their shoulders.

Then you had Bruce who lost his family and his only real protection from the "cruel, cruel world". Still, despite his suffering and his many desires to give in to its darkness, Bruce always clung on to hope, even if he had to deliver it himself, because if he didn't have hope, he'd have nothing left.

Anyway, the seeds were there for a panoramic, GoT-style chess match between all the characters and their various struggles...but then the show forgot to continue building the characters and just decided to make them act randomly, telling us that the "darkness" of the city makes them act out the way that they do.

Again, it's just lazy storytelling, and while I think Gotham was always successful creating this veneer of darkness- not just in the setting but in its story ideas like Hugo Strange and Bane- by the end of the series, I just wound up not caring about what was going to happen because the characters ceased being interesting.

Yeah, things were dark and things were happening...but the characters stopped having meaning, so it all became meaningless.

That's why I have to throw shade on the idea that merely sociological storytelling is ideal. Being panoramic can be a great goal and having a story that forces characters to act in certain ways can be interesting, but if the characters themselves are not interesting, why do I care about how they act?

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