Unless you’ve been living under a rock since 1939, it wouldn’t be a spoiler to tell you that Martha (Brette Taylor) and Thomas Wayne (Grayson McCouch) die and their son, Bruce (David Mazouz), grows up to be Batman.
The story, first penned by artist Bob Kane and writer Bill Finger, has been so heavily reimagined over the years through various comic books, video games and movies — including Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy — that you already know what happens.
But Bruno Heller’s “Gotham” promises more.
Not only does it attempt to tackle Bruce Wayne’s rise as Batman, but the FOX television drama is a gritty film noir that also covers the rise of Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova), Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) and Oswald Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor) — the villains that eventually become Catwoman, Riddler and Penguin.
The lens in which we come to understand them is through a young idealistic detective named James Gordon (Ben McKenzie), years before he’s Gotham’s chief police commissioner. Here, Gordon’s partnered with the cynical Detective Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue), whose age and humor balances the rash Gordon.
A later episode (“Spirit of the Goat”) reveals that Bullock, too, was like Gordon 10 years ago, impulsively rushing headfirst into danger; however, years policing in the corrupt city of Gotham has tempered Bullock’s impatience and resolve for justice.
Nowadays, Bullock’s more likely to setup someone for murder than chase after the real killers.
But Bullock’s not the only cop who occasionally barters in bribes. Heller’s Gotham shows us the revolving door between elected officials and career criminals. Most of those holding political office have done Faustian favors for one of the city’s two leading crime bosses, Carmine Falcone (John Doman) and Sal Maroni (David Zayas).
Yet our protagonist, Gordon, insists on surviving Gotham with his integrity intact.
Heller’s “Gotham” could have easily been just a detective drama, but one of the real strengths of the series is the amount of canonical material in which there is to draw from. Batman, after all, isn’t just about the Dark Knight. It’s about the Two Faces, Scarecrows and Jokers.
And this kind of retelling allows the viewer to also be a detective, uncovering clues for how our favorite heroes or villains came to be.