TV Review: Gotham

TV Review: Gotham

The prequel to the Batman saga questions how evil prevails

By Mark HadleyWednesday 12 Nov 2014TV and StreamingReading Time: 3 minutes

“Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.”

TV Review: Gotham

John Stuart Mill conceived these words at a time when the US president was vetoing civil rights negroes, assassins were stalking the crown heads of Europe and the industrial revolution was creating unheard of levels of poverty. But they apply just as well to the plotline of new DC Comic drama Gotham

A prequel to the Batman saga, Gotham picks up on the back story of Detective Jim Gordon, the rookie tasked with investigating the murders of Thomas and Martha Wayne, parents of the future Dark Knight, Bruce. Through Gordon’s eyes we get to discover a city that has largely spurned Mill’s warning. Gotham is rotten with corruption from its highest officials down to its lowliest patrolmen – except Jim, a ‘nice guy’ in a city that’s not a good home for nice guys. However, beginning with the investigation of the Wayne murder, he builds a reputation for integrity that is infuriating to his targets and his partners alike. Will they succeed in dragging him down to their level before he can achieve any lasting change?

For all its sinister undertones Gotham is actually a fairly safe watch. DC Comics have produced it for American prime time which means no swearing, nudity or explicit violence. Add to this the benefit of fuelling a base human desire: to see justice prevail. Gordon stands in a cemetery with young Bruce Wayne and he offers the city’s one ray of hope:

I promise you, however dark and scary the world might be right now… there will be light. There will be light, Bruce.

The theory of evolution acknowledges no such necessity. Life is directed by strength, not light. But we persist in believing that justice will one day prevail. Is it because we believe that good men can make a difference? Mill and Gotham clearly suggest the tendency lies in the other direction. It’s easier to let evil prevail than risk ourselves. But through film and TV we tell ourselves that justice itself will not be satisfied with this outcome – it will raise up heroes, it will see evil judged. At least at one level, this is why Jesus remains a staggering figure in world history, because He declared himself to not only be a servant but the means of that judgment:

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“Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.”  

But judgment language like this only remains comfortable so long as it stays within the confines of a drama. When a real man says words like these, we have to see him as either the sort of megalomaniac who would be well at home in seedy Gotham, or something else entirely. And if this ‘Son of Man’ actually conquers death in our real world then our options narrow dramatically. 

Rating: M
Distributor: Nine Network
Release Date: Thursdays, 8:30 PM