Last time out, I addressed the need for the creators of FOX’s Gotham to slow their roll on the fast and furious character setups in the Batman mythology. Here I look at the other role which it attempts to fill, and why it isn’t doing police procedural properly.
Gotham as a police procedural
Considering its setting inside the city’s justice system – to expose the weaknesses that a grown-up Bruce Wayne would fight under the hood – Gotham needs to set out its stall as a solid police procedural drama.
And considering that Danny Cannon, whose previous producing credits include the three CSI series to date, is on board as executive producer, you would hope that at least some of the tenets practiced and preached on those programmes would be faithfully drawn from in order to satisfactorily solve each week’s case.
(And I’m not even talking about all the ones that don’t make sense here; y’know, the ones where they can identify the killer by blowing up a grainy photograph of the reflection in someone’s sunglasses – I’m talking about the ones where leads are accrued, followed up on and chased to their natural end both logically and inside a storyline.)
Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ve yet seen a case in Gotham which was solved through good deduction, proper procedure (that’s fair enough though, it brings the conflict) and any semblance of logic. When Gordon and Bullock visit a snitch in prison, he’s more than willing to give up information on the pokey-eye thing killer for no more than two cartons of cigarettes. Is that really all it took to get this info? Or did they simply need to bridge the gap between “we know nothing about Pokey Stick Man” to “we have everything we need on Pokey Stick Man” in as short a span of time as possible? The story development always threatens to make absolutely no logical sense, and that’s my biggest concern for the programme – there’s only so much “because Batman” they can get away with when such things are not even in the frame.
Bullock is my prime example here. When he gives Gordon that look of “relax rookie, I got this” I know that the very next thing we’ll see is Bullock slapping about a suspect who we have either a) no reason to suspect, or b) not even seen prior to this beatdown. There’s no logic, no rhyme or reason as to why we’re seeing Bullock doing his bad cop thing, except only to get over that he’s the one who does the bad cop thing. It doesn’t progress their investigation any, which is why it seems like a waste of screen time and nothing more than a show of ineptitude.
Speaking of ineptitude, seeing Donal Logue attempt to channel a worn-down, world-weary detective doesn’t inspire any confidence that Bullock’s actually any good at his job. This is where Gotham metaphorically slaps the viewer in the face by saying “see, this is why the city needs Batman”, to which I reply “yeah, but I’m not expecting him to be in this programme for its entire duration, so why am I even watching it?”
As if you needed another example of Gotham’s finest incompetency, when The Balloonman’s second victim, Lt. Cranston, floated into the air, we caught a glimpse of his holster with gun inside. Such was the obviousness of the gun in the camera shot, I absolutely assumed he was going to use it to shoot the balloon and fall safely back to earth. But he didn’t. I was astonished.
Just as I was when Gordon found a piece of paper in the next episode with the letters “C, L, M” written on it. Because it’s a police procedural, we were treated to a shot of him having a really good hard think about that piece of paper. It may be just that I watch a lot of cop shows but I immediately assumed it was a list of surname initials. And it was. Fair enough, I didn’t know whose, but I definitely would’ve started looking for a match sooner than Jim did.
My argument here is this: if Gotham is a police procedural, then it’s one of the most watered-down and ineffectual ones I’ve ever watched. But if it isn’t, then what the hell else is it supposed to be?
Gotham has fast dropped to the bottom of my priority list of viewing. Business really needs to pick up soon if I’m to continue watching. And by that I mean, it needs to know which tone to concentrate on. More Batman villains? Great, chuck ‘em in, but set them up properly. Police drama? Great, but give them something more difficult to crack and don’t set the entire police force up as incompetent. I know Gotham needs a hero, but it’s going to need one sooner than I thought at this rate – which is contrary to the whole point of its existence.