As season three of the TV show “Gotham” wraps up, I have completely mixed feelings about the series. The writing isn’t exactly incredible, but there are moments when it really shines. The central character of the show, James Gordon, has become a tiresome droll of continual redundancy. Yet, his partner Harvey Bullock manages to save most scenes with his sarcastic humor, and is the only thing that keeps the GCPD even slightly interesting. Young Bruce Wayne’s story line ebbs and flows. His character development, the one that moves him towards becoming the caped crusader, the one that every fan who is still watching “Gotham” is waiting for, is finally beginning to blossom in season three. I can now see the evolution. Young Selena Kyle, the eventual Catwoman, is a worthy glimpse into the girl who became the fierce feline. However, I must ask this simple question…how many times can threatening forces break into Wayne Manor, how many times can Alfred Pennyworth come to near death defending Bruce Wayne, and how many times can the current villain waltz into the GCPD and destroy it? These themes are as repetitive as Gordon’s entire story line. The show itself has seen decreasing numbers since its first season, and I obviously blame the writing team. So, as I sit there on Monday nights, with my once interested son preferring to watch YouTube on his phone, and my also once-interested wife asking repeatedly, “How can you still watch this?” I am firm on why I will keep tuning in week after week, and season after season. It’s not the heroes who save the TV series “Gotham.” It is the villains.
From the first episode of season one, when you see a young Oswald Cobblepot holding an umbrella for made up crimelord Fish Mooney, this character has captivated the audience. Played by actor Robin Lord Taylor, the classic Batman villain Penguin has commanded every scene he has appeared in, and is unarguably the best part of the entire series. Has the writing for his character been exceptional? I’m not sure. What I am certain about is every time the Penguin appears on screen I perk up, and am instantly reminded of why I watch. Taylor has brought an almost forgotten villain in the Batman world crashing back to life. He is not the Danny Devito or Burgess Meredith type Penguin. Instead, Taylor’s Penguin is a low level crime underling with aspirations of ruling Gotham, which he fulfills by the end of season one. This Penguin is ambitious, a survivor, always paranoid, an out thinker, easily angered, socially awkward, willing to do whatever it takes to succeed, and at all times interesting and humorous. If there was one true brilliance of this entire series, it was casting Robin Lord Taylor in this role. I don’t think anyone else could rescue “Gotham” like he has.
Robin Lord Taylor is not the only savior of the series. Cory Michael Smith’s portrayal of the Riddler is equally brilliant. He begins the series as one of the good guys…a forensic specialist with the GCPD. The bookish Edward Nygma is quirky, quick with a riddle that no one appreciates, and generally disliked by his colleagues. An emerging split personality disorder transitions this once mild lab rat into a feared and crafty supervillain. No one will ever underestimate him again. Robin Lord Taylor and Cory Michael Smith play off each other throughout this series, making them an extremely entertaining team, and an equally fascinating set of foes. Smith’s portrayal of the Riddler encapsulates the true maniacal genius of this classic Batman nemesis, and this show shines at times because of it.
Besides your regulars, “Gotham” throws at you villains for a few (or many) episodes. They haven’t all been great, but some definitely are. The most notable is the Joker. Played by Cameron Monaghan, the character of Jerome Valeska was put on the show to be the inspiration for the future white-faced clown prince. This young actor nailed the part so well, fans begged for the creators to bring him back. So, they did. Thrice. The last saw the emergence of what the fans asked for…Jerome actually becoming the Joker. Remember, he was only supposed to be the inspiration. This is a classic example of how the villains on “Gotham” are portrayed so well. Monaghan stole every scene he was placed in, and was rewarded the crowned jewel of villainy.
Equally enthralling was BD Wong’s rendering of Dr. Hugo Strange. This character become the backbone of an entire season, and the tool by which the writers explained how current day Batman villains could be terrorizing the streets of Gotham while Bruce is still a young boy. Wong’s Hugo Strange is emotionless, demented, and views his sick experiments as necessary for the advancement of science and personal gain. This character is basically unshakable, and that’s because he is always a step ahead of everyone else. Strange has become a recurring character on the show, and his story lines always breaks the sometimes monotonous writing. It is just another classic example of how the villains make “Gotham” fun to watch.
Finally, the one other recurring character I have found truly entertaining is Benedict Samuel’s version of the Mad Hatter. I was extremely skeptical when the creators teased the coming of this villain, but Samuel quickly put my doubts to rest. The Mad Hatter on “Gotham” is insane. There is no question about that. He also has a very warped sense of humor and a penchant for making his point in the most inhumane ways. He is perfect. Benedict Samuel’s representation of this arch-nemesis is as spell binding as the character’s talents. If you liked him in “The Walking Dead” as one of the Wolves, you will completely love him now. I can’t wait to see what else this amazing actor does to unnerve us in the future.
To summarize, the TV show “Gotham” isn’t the best series I have ever watched, but there are definitely characters worth watching. If you can sit through the redundancy of Jim Gordon’s character and the many recurring situations him and Bruce Wayne find themselves in, you will find a show filled with wonderful actors, and polarizing characters. I still have hope that Bruce’s story line will continue bloom, because it is finally on an interesting path. Even if it doesn’t, even if the show fails miserably on the Dark Knight’s development, the show still doesn’t become unwatchable. There is the Penguin, there is the Riddler, and these two can have an hour of my time every week. Again, if you haven’t watched the show or have stopped, it might be time to tune in. You are missing out on one the biggest highlights on TV today…the villains of Gotham.