It looks like prequel fever has finally struck the world of comics. You may have thought that there wasn’t a story to be told prior to Batman, after all he is the titular character for the whole series. But, as it turns out, you’d be wrong.
Gotham, which will be airing on Fox in the fall, follows the early years and cases of a young detective named James Gordon. Naturally, one of these cases involves the murder of a wealthy billionaire couple who are survived by their only son (and his butler). But it also appears like some of the famous criminals of Batman lore get their start earlier in Gordon’s career, and of course there are villains we won’t be as familiar with who were causing trouble long before the Caped Crusader made his way onto the scene.
When I first heard about this project, I was curious to see how it would turn out. I was also curious what a show set in the world of Batman, but without Batman, would look like. As it turns out, we will get to see some of Bruce Wayne’s formative years and see the relationship he forges with Gordon prior to becoming a masked vigilante. I think this angle has a lot of potential, but showcasing “young Batman” along with a slew of other “before they were big” characters could end up being really cheesy. Given how amazingly atmospherically noir the trailer is, I don’t think the show will have issues on that front, but it is something the writers will have to be wary of.
Another pitfall that all prequels have to avoid is the struggle to maintain tension. One of the big problems with a prequel is that we, as the audience, already know how the story is going to end, more or less. We know that Gordon isn’t going to die, and neither is Bruce Wayne, or Alfred, or any of the young proto-villains who populate the cast. In fact we know exactly how they turn out. On the one hand, it is interesting to see how characters in prequels develop and what exactly leads them to become the iconic figures we’re familiar with (except in the case of Star Wars where I refuse to believe that anything displayed in Episode I-III actually happened). However, maintaining suspense can be difficult, so I will be curious to see how the writers for this series approach that and what they do with the newer characters that the audience won’t be familiar with in order to keep the level of drama high.
What the writers do have on their side is a very talented cast. Jada Pinkett Smith is an interesting choice for the villain, and I’m excited to see what she does with the role. Personally I also think that Benjamin McKenzie is an inspired choice for James Gordon. While he is probably most well known for his time on The O.C. he was incredible on the police drama Southland, and Gotham is in essence another gritty police drama. He should feel right at home in the role.
All in all I have to say that I am super excited for this show, and I will definitely be tuning in when it premieres. Now we just have to hope that Fox doesn’t insist on airing the episodes out of order or decide to prematurely cancel the show like Almost Human, or Firefly, or…well, you know how they can be with sci-fi type shows. But if Gotham lives up to its potential, then I don’t think it will have any problems.