Gotham: Beware the Green-Eyed Monster

A little while ago, I read a rather pedestrian ratings update about Gotham leading with the phrase, "Gotham isn't doing anything to help itself, but it isn't doing anything to hurt itself either."

Speaking from a creative standpoint, both statements are wrong.

Gotham concludes the first part of a wildly uneven season with a wildly uneven installment. Rather than just discussing these forty minutes I'm opting to write this review as a bookend to this set of episodes and use the time the hiatus has granted me to write a full analysis. This will address both the general storylines of the show and the sentiments of various parts of the audience.

Before season three even started, instead of going with the traditional Fall season and Spring season approach, the writers of the show decided to split it into three parts comprising 11, 3 and 8 episodes. These will henceforth be referred to as S3A, S3B and S3C.

"Beware The Green-Eyed Monster" concludes S3A, and the three-parter S3B will apparently be devoted to the return of the Joker. The fifteenth episode, starting the final arc, is enticingly titled "How The Riddler Got His Name". No further information.

In theory, this is an excellent idea. Apart from the obvious benefit of structuring the season beforehand, having three arcs rather than two means you avoid the Ice Age-length midseason break in favor of two smaller ones. In practice, however, this is all dependent on coherent storytelling and on great promotion, especially for the smaller arc.

That's why it's so surprising that S3A turned out to be such a fractured set of episodes, and that the promotion was so poor that there were several threads on the fora with people asking if the show was really on a break. Gotham didn't even bother advertising episode eleven as the Winter finale!

The recounting of events of this episode will account for a rather small part of this review.
  • Jim Gordon spends the episode trying to prove Mario is insane and win back Lee, Lee and Mario get married anyway and Jim shoots him.
  • Bruce and Selina steal a weird glass owl from the Court, they meet Selina's mom and Alfred kills the Talon.
  • Barbara tells Edward that Oswald is in love with him and had Isabella killed out of jealousy, Edward tricks Oswald into admitting his feelings for him and joins up with Babs, Butch and Tabitha at the end of the episode.
Two of these basic plotlines are passable or even great, the third is not. Can you spot which one?


The third season of Gotham thus far has been riddled with various currents poisoning an otherwise great show.

The first such was the return of Fish, a cartoonish villain with no engaging purpose portrayed by an actress seemingly only capable of instinctive overacting - something very different from Gotham flirting with eccentric performances by talented people like Robin Lord Taylor, B.D. Wong and Cory Michael Smith with their tongues firmly in cheek.

The character of Fish Mooney is the reason one can't dismiss complaints about Gotham's hamfisted acting outright, even though most such are rooted in ignorance of theatrical styles. Fortunately, that detour only lasted for two episodes, which nevertheless managed to kick off the season on a bad note.

The second was the transformation of Ivy, which keeps hanging around like a little curse throwing dirt in the machinery whenever she's in play - I've discussed why in previous reviews, and I see no need to bore you by repeating myself. Ultimately, though, as bad as these two facets are or have been, they are almost insignificant compared to the real problem with the show, and that's Jim Gordon.


Gotham cast Jim Gordon as their lead character "everyman". There's nothing inherently wrong with using an everyman as a show's lead character; Clark Kent on Smallville, for all that show's faults, often worked well in that role.

The issue is how you use him. An everyman works in contrast to the show's crazy and flamboyant villains. Everyone liked Jim's scenes with Nygma and Cobblepot - in fact, Jim and Ozzie was the show's first popular romantic ship.

One reason for utilizing an everyman lead on this show is to make it accessible to those who aren't familiar with the source material. Jim fails in that role. As anotherearnestlook, one of my closer online friends pointed out to me, "Jim doesn't explain anything to me, a person unfamiliar with canon. He hasn't even featured in the whole Court of Owls scenario."

However, the main purpose of an everyman lead no matter the show is to tie up all elements and storylines. Jim failing to do that as well is another reason the episodes feel so disjointed.

Instead, the majority of his screentime is spent on his own love story with an "everywoman". Reminiscent of a daytime soap, as these two characters have no intrinsic obstacles to their relationship Gotham goes about either whipping up artificial roadblocks or forcing them out of character in order to keep them in a constant state of flux. This makes for synthetic and repetitive melodrama.

In 'Beware The Green-Eyed Monster', Gotham follows this procedure to a T, as each involved party acts with exactly the right amount of stupid to produce the intended result.

Jim has been stoic and honorable towards Lee the entire season, yet he chooses this, the very worst moment possible to profess his love for her. Lee has been trolling him for affection the entire season, yet she responds by savaging him. Jim is apparently aware of the entire maze Mario has set for him yet he keeps running through it anyway. And finally, as Mario rages out Jim is forced to shoot and kill him behind Lee's back to save her life, making him look like a murderous lunatic and ensuring a violent confrontation with Mario's father down the line.


This isn't the first, or the second, or even the third time Jim has come across looking the bad guy. The difference is at this point of his story we neither take an interest nor feel it warranted. Jim's at least tried to behave like an adult the entire season, while Lee has been an asshole. There really is no reason to drag the character through the mud yet again.

The end result is no-one is happy. The few fans of the Jim and Lee relationship who are left are more or less in tears. The rest, being the vast majority, are increasingly annoyed by the uninspired dreck shoved down their throats for half of every episode.

Bruce and Selina are their exact opposites. Quoting user Blackcanary on the Previously forum: "Surrounded by adults conspiring to screw up themselves, others and the world in general, Bruce and Selina together are like a delicious, soothing sorbet. The writing for that relationship goes from strength to strength." Their scenes always put a smile on my face.

Selina being scared of commitment has been a constant character trait throughout the show, and Bruce finding the courage to call her on it was both welcome and gratifying. The surprise cheek kiss before the tightrope walk hit the "11" on the cuteness scale. Selina's line, "don't... let... go" seemed to symbolize their whole relationship. The entire scene of the heist and the confrontation with the Talon was electrifying.


When I watched the preview for the episode with this scene, there was my inner fanboy whispering to me, "I hope the Talon interrupt their heist, and I hope they fight." Gotham listened to my inner fanboy! Here, we almost see the future Batman and Catwoman. I've hoped for a little more action from those for a long time and this was visceral.

Alfred killing the Talon I did not see coming. However in hindsight it makes perfect sense, since the show wants to get rid of him to later introduce Lincoln March - sorry, "Five" - in the role. The only weak point was adding Selina's mom Maria as a tacked-on Hail Mary. That scene fell flat. Despite that, I've been rooting for stories exploring Selina's point of view for three seasons and I'm not going to whine at them for being a bit clumsy getting around to it.

The differences between Jim and Lee on one hand, and Bruce and Selina on the other, are the latter couple is relatable while the former steals all the screentime. "Tough-on-the-outside-but-vulnerable-on-the-inside" Selina, socially awkward but hyperintelligent Bruce, these are characters we can root for.

Jim Gordon stopped being a viable point of entry for the viewer long ago. He mostly only gets two emotions, "stone cold" and "angry", none of which are very pleasing, and that's a waste of a good actor. His "plunge into darkness" in killing Theo Galavan was something he got out of not through some moral epiphany about the sanctity of human life but just because he "lost everything." Thus the reason he won't slaughter all of the criminals in Gotham City is entirely motivated by egoism, and that makes it really hard to sympathize with him.

In order for Gotham to evolve, we desperately need to either get away from the Gordon-centric storytelling or start using him the way you use a lens for the audience. As is, the very best episodes are always the ones where he's put in the background or utilized as conductive gel - "Penguin's Umbrella", "Lovecraft", "Son of Gotham", "Anything For You". Gotham has the strongest ensemble cast ever assembled for a comic book show, and it's time the writers recognized that.

Another win for the show is the introduction of Jervis Tetch and the transformation of Captain Barnes. While the Mad Hatter looks nothing like any of his previous incarnations, the show manages to stay true to the spirit of the character, and Benedict Samuel is a gem in the role. With Barnes as the Executioner, the show has a fringe villain rooted in comic canon which they can use in any way they see fit - I really enjoyed his talk with Jim illustrating our protagonist's hypocrisy.

Oh, and then we have Eddie and Ozzie...


There's been a lot of arguing on the internet about these two. A lot. While I think the show introducing a romantic context between Edward and Oswald makes perfect sense, and while I do not at all find their behavior unbelievable or out of character, part of me almost wishes that they hadn't.

On one hand, we've had to deal with the Gay Hater Brigade™, flooding reddit and other fora with homophobic remarks thinly veiled as concern for the show. These bigots don't merit further discusson.

On the other, we've had the influx of new "Nygmobblepotters" drifting to Gotham explicitly for the gay romance, trying to establish themselves as some identity-politruk elite, belittling other storylines on the show and then acting like a bunch of butthurt little brats screaming their lungs out when the show dares not immediately making their precious ship canon.

These two groups are only united by two things: their astronomical sense of entitlement and their lack of respect and understanding of the show.

Out of these two, the rage of the gay shippers is the less significant for the show's future. Intolerant shippers demanding instant gratification is a mostly female phenomenon, which partially explains the tonal split between tumblr and reddit. Gotham has an extreme male skew to the audience. (In fact, all comic book shows skew male, even Supergirl.) I may choose to discuss this in detail in a future post.


The second reason I "almost wish they hadn't" is Isabella, the most contrived plot device ever on Gotham. I refuse to give up hope that her character will eventually make sense, but right now?! Magic girl Isabella shows up magically looking exactly like Kristen Kringle, magically striking up a conversation with Eddie by throwing him a riddle, magically being cool with him having murdered her exact double and magically falling in love with him, then getting run over by a train to start the feud between Eddie and Ozzie... and there's no foul play? That's it?!

In an ideal world they've only removed her from the equation to let the battle between Oz and Ed play out, but then again, we must all remember that this is the show where in season one, Renee Montoya along with Crispus Allen and the entire Major Crimes Unit disappeared into a black hole.

That said, the scenes between Eddie and Ozzie are all vibrant, and their personal chemistry really clicks for this storyline. Post-'Anything For You', the dialog for this couple has been a tad off-the-mark, but I think I understand what the writers are aiming for and I have no objection to the storytelling choices I'm seeing. The line; "You're my best friend too, Oswald. Remember that.", clearly holds some significance. These are two murderous and ill-adjusted sociopaths, and they won't abide by standard rules of human engagement. Anyone who signed up for this pairing thinking it was going to be an easy ride into the sunset is a fool.

Will Eddie destroy Ozzie, or is this another signature double-double-cross? Is the friendship and love between these two people forever broken? I don't know, but I am eager to find out. Robin and Cory are two brightly shining stars on the show, and whatever they're given I have no doubt they'll be able to put on a show.

I never question why I watch this show. I sometimes question whether I am fit to review this show, but I absolutely love it. There's no show on television I root for more than Gotham. I root for it to do well, I root for it to improve and I root for it to have a glorious future. Even if that sometimes turns me into a nervous wreck, that's what makes me passionate about it.

Bring on January 16th!

: Little Meta Blog
: Previously.tv
: All images courtesy of farfarawaysite.

8 comments:

mazephoenix said...

Benedict Wong was Wong on "Doctor Strange", B.D Wong was Professor Strange on "Gotham."
Not liking where Jim is at right now with Lee.
Oh I suppose I ship Ed and Ozzie, but I never thought they would have an easy path ahead, being insane and evil both. We shall see how it plays out. The Isabella twist was stupid, but perpahs she'll come back and reveal herself as a criminal mastermind bent on revenge. I hope.

The Ivy storyline was a colossal waste of time.
This show. But there is no finer gothic melodrama on right now, what with Penny Dreadful being cancelled and no other show having the necessary madness to try and equal it.

Thomas Ijon Tichy said...

Thanks for the correction, Maze. Brain fart.

Phyllis Strickland said...

This review is spot on! Will you please send it to the writers of the show? I just can't stand the way they portray Jim Gordon, it makes him unlikable and even an idiot, not a good place for a lead character to be. Yes, please get rid of Ivy or fix her character. Why do they insist on these annoying storylines that detract from the show and keep it from being the amazing show that it has the potential to be.

Marianna said...

How I've missed Montoya and Allen!

I disagree with the assessment of Lee trolling for Jim's affections. I think she's a victim of Jim cutting off their relationship harshly and is looking for closure so she can move on with her life. That's it. Given what Jim put her through, I don't blame her. I do agree that the drama between them has been drawn out way past the point of interest.

Jim is constantly driving me crazy. He always thinks he's the only one who can do something for some reason when often he's the last person who should be doing whatever it is, like arresting the husband of the woman he just professed his love to like a crazy person. Seriously Jim, call Harvey once in a while.

millicentcordelia said...

I think it’s important to talk about both the areas where a show is excelling, and the areas that need improvement. If someone is relentlessly negative, or unceasingly positive, either way it’s unrealistic. I also don’t consider constructive criticism to be “negative”; it means you care enough about something, to want it to be better than it is.

First off, I agree with you that from the beginning, Gotham’s never hit the wrong note with Bruce and Selina, both together and separately. Seeing them and Alfred working as a team in episode 11 was electrifying; it also brought them both into a situation where they’re poised to take on the Court as the season continues. I’m curious to see why Selina’s mom has shown up, and what she’s all about.

Likewise, I concur that casting Benedict Samuel as Jervis was brilliant. They’ve done a superb job of casting all along, and the Mad Hatter is no exception. I also agree that Barnes’ story has been very satisfying, and that Michael Chiklis has made the transformation chilling and believable.

Yes, they’ve had trouble all along with Jim, and I think we can sum it up easily: Jim is supposed to be everyman. The protagonist. By the end of season two, he’d become someone impossible to like, and it doesn’t work to have a main character that the audience feels no sympathy for, or empathy with. Maybe introducing more of his backstory this season will help-but along with that, we need to see Jim laugh, and cry, and do something besides as you said, being cold or angry.

Ivy’s age-up still bothers me, but she hasn’t had much on screen time, and that’s all to the good.

millicentcordelia said...

As for Ed and Oswald-it’s both the best and worst of times. Their interactions have been pure gold, and they have an amazing energy together. The sour notes have been the introduction of Isabella, which may or may not be the introduction of an unfortunate trope; and the fact that the writers have painted themselves into a corner re: issues of inclusion. This story has the potential to go very, very sour.

I’ve watched enough of the other DCEU comic based shows to know that Supergirl, Flash, Arrow, and Legends of Tomorrow are all light years ahead of Gotham when it comes to LGBT+ representation. I believe Gotham could, and should have followed their lead, instead of languishing in the 19th century.

Gotham could have picked some (good or neutral) character in the supporting cast, and had him come out as gay; and shown a male/male relationship already- before they approached this story with Ed and Oswald. They could have added a few male/male couples to their crowd scenes. Gotham could have normalized male/male relationships by doing so.

Instead, they’ve portrayed Gotham as a place where there are a few gay/bi women, but all the men are straight. It’s against this backdrop that we see Ed and Oswald. Oswald admits that he loves a man, and now there’s a gay man in Gotham! Finally! No one expects a happy ending in Gotham, but many characters have enjoyed temporary happiness; interludes; honeymoon periods.

But before Oswald can declare his love, we get a triangle. A cliche. Worse, we get a woman coming between two men. Ed certainly acted like he was crazy about Oswald before Isabella appeared, and then, it was as if Oswald never existed. If that was the end of Isabella, and we hear nothing more about her being part of any other plot, then it’s as bad as it looks. We’ve been shown some random woman appearing from out of no where, and sabotaging a relationship that’s been built up- bit by bit-over two and a half seasons of the show.

The potential for more ugliness is great, and it depends not only on Ed and Oswald’s, but on what happens next, plot wise. If they don’t materialize as a couple, what happens next? Does Oswald find at least some kind of temporary happiness with another man? Or, does it get even worse-do they portray him as “confused”, and cure him of his same gender attraction by providing him with a female love interest? Or, just as bad, make sure that he’s alone and unhappy, thus punishing him for being attracted to a man?

I could go on, but I think I’ve hit the highlights. Where Gotham goes with this is important. I love Gotham, and don’t want it to look like a dinosaur compared to the other shows I’ve mentioned.

Thomas Ijon Tichy said...

Re @Marianna:

Lee actively seeked out Jim in his home the day before the wedding to kiss him. Regardless of motivation, isn't that trolling him for affection and validation, not to mention pretty shitty behavior? Not to mention her mentioning the wedding to him to provoke an emotional reaction? I know we aren't lead to sympathize with Mario, but all other things set aside can we really blame him for feeling jealous?

Re @millicent:

I agree, Ozzie is the only gay man in Gotham City, and as such (as we've discussed in private) that puts him under a microscope. If we are talking positive things about what Gotham has done, it hasn't ever questioned Ozzie's attraction to another man - there's no "look, ew!" moment.

For me, the merits of a show have less to do with "representation" as "quantity" and more with "portrayal" as "quality". There are shows - for example, Rectify - which have no bisexual or homosexual relationships at all and are yet stellar. While the Isabella encounter thus far has been a very negative sign - for several reasons! - I think the jury is still out on Oswald. If nothing else, I think that a "cure the gay" scenario is extremely unlikely.

Finally, I at least hope that Cory and Robin's obvious enthusiasm about the storyline means something positive. They are hardly the reactionary sort. We shall see.

Marianna said...

Thomas, I see your point but you have to look at the whole picture of what Lee has been through, and by that I mean what Jim has put her through. She was engaged and pregnant and got dumped and then had a miscarriage. That is one heck of an emotional rollercoaster. Bearing all that in mind, I can't feel at all sorry for Jim.

Basically she knows logically that Jim is wrong for her and Mario is right for her, but she never got the goodbye she deserved so she went looking for it. This is actually her way of setting aside her relationship with Jim prior to getting married so that she knows for sure there is no unfinished business on her wedding day. Considering she said "Goodbye" multiple times and then proceeded with her wedding plans to another man, it would have been clear to any sane person that it was a one time thing.

I do feel sorry for Mario and can't blame him for feeling jealous, but I also think he should cut Lee a little slack considering he knows the emotional state she was in when they met and if I'm following the timeline correctly their pre-marital courtship was a short one.