Fox’s Gotham has made no bones about playing fast and loose with Batman’s seventy-five year canon, and with good reason. To handicap the show by limiting its storytelling options to what’s already been laid down on paper would have the writers do a disservice to their show and its own dramatic thrust. That said, there remains a legitimate criticism of how the show runners have chosen to include so many characters who the comics depicted as dependent on Batman as a part of their origin.
In introducing so many of Batman’s rogues before the appearance of the Dark Knight himself, the writers of Gotham have erased a crucial piece of the puzzle which makes up one of pop culture’s most iconic figures. Consider the final scene of Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins where Lieutenant Gordon explains to Batman that his arrival has changed the game.
Jim Gordon: What about escalation?
Jim Gordon: We start carrying semi-automatics, they buy automatics. We start wearing Kevlar, they buy armor piercing rounds.
Jim Gordon: And, you’re wearing a mask. Jumping off rooftops. Now, take this guy.
[pulling out a file]
Jim Gordon: Armed robbery, double homicide, has a taste for the theatrical, like you. Leaves a calling card.
[shows Batman a plastic evidence bag containing a Joker card]
Batman: I’ll look into it.
Now consider that, in this last week’s episode, the show runners chose to introduce the Red Hood gang, an element which comic fans will remember eventually gives rise to the Joker, Batman’s greatest nemesis.
By introducing the Red Hood gang early, the writers of Gotham have disconnected the Joker’s origin in a major way from Batman as the person responsible for his creation.
One of the few chinks in the armor of Batman’s mythos is his culpability for his city’s problems. It’s an element which has been a key component in Batman’s status as a vital, heroic, but flawed protector. In the universe of television’s Gotham, instead of being the source of Gotham City’s masked epidemic, the reason for the escalation, he becomes the response to it. By removing Batman’s responsibility for the creation of the very villains from whom he protects the city, in addition to showcasing a young Bruce Wayne who is already well-along the path to his eventual fate, the writers of Gotham have turned Batman from a flawed hero who has walked a tortured path and remains tortured by the fact that he bears the burden of having created Gotham City’s super-criminal community by virtue of his mere existence.
Gotham was never going to be about Batman. It was always going to be about the city and those who try to keep it safe. Introducing the rogues who create the heightened threats which make the city unique has helped to push along the story and create threats which the mundane members of the Gotham City Police Department struggle to contain. Hopefully, the show never reaches the point where it introduces Batman because, if it does, it will be a Batman diminished by having been relieved of the burden which makes up a great deal of his tragic character.