Gotham Hates Batman
If there’s one thing that has shone clear in the last few seasons of Gotham, it’s that the writers seem to be trying to prove that Batman is irrelevant to the well-being of Gotham City. And I think the final season proves that more than anything.
Gotham City is truly facing its darkest hour in season five. It’s been cut off from the mainland, left to kill each other, and everyone’s short on food and supplies. In order to rejoin the rest of the country, villains must be faced, a plot to destroy what good remains must be defeated, and everything pauses for some Valeska nonsense that puts all their hopes of reunification one big step back. Gotham City had faced some major crises by that point, from a surge in meta-human criminals to a weaponized rage-virus to a few Valeksa-based carnival-themed atrocities, but surely things had never been as dire as this. And to win the day, all it required was a few good cops and a billionaire willing to donate his money and one-man applied science division to bettering the city.
Then we jump forward ten years… and things are basically fine. Gordon is not struggling to keep up with crime waves. The city is not as horribly corrupt as we left it. Jim’s planning to retire as commissioner not because he feels defeated, just because he’s a little blue no new Jim Gordon has risen through the ranks.
Hell, even the super-criminals are under control. Penguin and Riddler have been locked up since a few months after Reunification. Barbara has given up crime to be a real estate mogul. Jeremiah’s been feigning brain death since whenever he actually stopped being catatonic. We hear nothing about any of the other supervillains. Things seem basically fine. Sure there are gangs, but normal ones, not clown-worshipping murder-anarchists who can’t come up with better rallying cries than “Jeremiah, Jeremiah!”
Seriously. I know he inherited them from Jerome, and these types never draw in top minds, but that was just embarrassing.
There is a big threat to the people of Gotham, but it’s only happening because Bruce Wayne is very publically about to return to the city after a decade away. (Of course, we know he’s been back for a while… he knows never officially return to the city at the same time your costumed alter ego starts laying waste to gangs.) Ultimately, this just isn’t a city that needs a Batman to reclaim it from the darkness.
They do give a basic reason for Bruce becoming Batman… he spent five years trying to help his city, and what happened? Five major villains targeted him personally. Ra’s Al Ghul and Jeremiah Valeska caused No Man’s Land so it could be a crucible for Bruce. Selina, his first love, got Killing Joked right in his study*. Alfred was disabled from being thrown into a streetlight. The worst iteration of Nyssa Al Ghul killed hundreds of innocents and tried to murder thousands more just to personally spite Bruce Wayne.
(*So many villains just… let themselves into Bruce’s study. Wayne Manor security made STAR Labs look like the Fortress of– okay I’m losing some of you with that metaphor. Wayne Manor security was basically non-existent. Their entire security system is a “Keep out” sign hanging from one nail behind an overgrown shrub.)
No wonder he wants a way to serve the city anonymously. Of course he thinks he needs to disguise himself as a bat. Of course he’d like villains to stop dropping by house whenever they feel like it. But maybe they could have given us the vague impression that Gotham in some way needed a Batman as much as he needed to be Batman. Instead, for 10 years it’s gotten by just fine with just Jim Gordon (after five years of becoming less corrupt but more monster-ridden; there’s some real good news/bad news stuff for the people of Gotham in seasons one to four).
Batman should be important to the safety of his city. Instead, he’s the Skymall merchandise of crimefighters… flashier than what you have now, but largely unnecessary.
Weirdly, there’s one episode in season three where their disregard for Batman actually turns into a mild defence of him. One of the ongoing debates surrounding Batman is “Would the supervillains exist if Batman wasn’t there? Or do they exist in response to Batman?” The episode “How the Riddler Got His Name” gives a firm answer as far as Gotham is concerned. Ed Nygma wants to be a villain but decides he needs a nemesis. When telling this to the hallucination of Oswald that’s acting as his personal conscience (look, weird stuff happens on this show, try to keep up), they have this exchange:
Oswald: “But who will it be? And don’t say Jim Gor–“
Ed: “Jim Gordon!”
And so he calls the GCPD to issue a challenge to Jim Gordon… finds out that Jim took some personal days… and basically asked who else was available. He spent an entire episode in a battle of wits with Lucius Fox because he needed a nemesis, and Lucius was on shift and cleverer than Bullock. If Lucious had taken a sick day, would the Riddler’s nemesis be Alvarez?
Batman didn’t cause the city’s colourful evildoers Every single classic Batman villain (except sort of Catwoman) already existed 10-12 years before Batman was first sighted. Which means… is everyone Batman fights in their forties, minimum? Is young Batman beating up middle-aged men or older? Jesus.
Next page: Villains, good, bad, and ugly