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Monday, June 27, 2016

Gotham S3 Adds 7 New Characters

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Edited by Robert Beach

As we continue to burn through the summer, casting news has begun to filter through about this falls’ collection of superhero shows and next year’s new crop of superhero films. We’re focusing on the former today. For a nice change of pace, we’re looking at one of the only superhero shows currently out that isn’t part of the Disney Empire or the CWniverse: Gotham

Gotham, for those who don’t know, is Fox’s Batman prequel show, set when Bruce Wayne was still a child and had just lost his parents and around Lieutenant Gordon’s slow rise to Commissioner. The show’s had its ups and downs, mostly downs, and the latest season was marked by a seriously bizarre downturn in quality control as the show dived head first into as many big, flashy superhero elements and Easter eggs as it could muster. Now, with the third season looming, Gotham has added 7 new characters (mostly villains) to its line up as it continues to try and find its feet.

This is the most subdued choice Gotham’s made and a much more interesting one than a lot of the others at hand. Gotham season 2 decided to abandon season 1’s more restrained nature and pulp noir tone for a big, splashy dive into the Batman mythos pool complete with zombies, mind control, shape shifting, and all manner of other stuff.  
Jumping straight to costumed super villains may be a great way to generate ink on blogs like this one, but it’s not the best method of keeping viewers. It seems Gotham might revert to an earlier style for season 3, playing up the divide between the old school mobsters that once ruled Gotham City and this new breed of super-powered weirdos. 

Mario Falcone is the last son of the once ultra-powerful Falcone mafia family. Currently, the Falcones have been run out of Gotham by the combined efforts of Penguin, Fish Mooney, and Jim Gordon, so having them come back after a season away is a smart call. Mario could still be slotted into the more outlandish set-up Gotham currently has as the show seems more intent on chasing the style of Flash or Supergirl rather than Daredevil or Jessica Jones.  

In the comics, Mario Falcone also made a big return to Gotham. In his return, he was a lot more like a super villain than a mobster. See, the trick of Mario’s return was that he had adopted an overriding gimmick and aesthetic for his crimes and men; it’s just that his gimmick was 1920s mobster. 

It was a clever idea in the comics, a way for Don Mario and his soldiers to dress and speak like anachronistic ‘20s guys complete with goofy slang, Tommy guns, and fedoras. I’d be happy if Gotham followed that route with Falcone. Something tells me we won’t be so lucky. He’ll act instead as a more dynamic stand in for his dad, so the show can set-up a mini version of Batman: Long Halloween’s freaks vs. the mob arc. 

Vicki Vale is the only character on this list who isn’t a villain and who most folks probably know already. She appeared in the 1989 Batman film as something akin to the main character, though her media appearances since then have been sporadic at best.  

She’s a plucky, career-driven reporter in the same vein of Lois Lane. In fact, she actually plays a lot like Batman’s counterpart to Lois, right down to the romantic overtones between her and Batman. Given that, I’m a little surprised she’s being slotted into Gotham. By the same token, Gotham has shown itself willing to break with comic canon on past occasions. 

The other possibility is that Vicki Vale will act as rather the mother of the real the character introduced to set-up her daughter knowing Bruce as a child before their paths would cross again as adults. That approach seems fairly in line with Gotham’s season 1 set-up, especially if they ended up having mom Vicki Vale as just another plucky career-driven reporter. Likely it’ll suggest her daughter will follow exactly in her mother’s footsteps.  

That was almost exactly the set-up Gotham season 1 pulled with the Scarecrow. While they aren’t trying it with villains anymore, I could see them adopting that methodology for supporting characters like Vicki Vale or Summer Gleeson, maybe Mayor Hill too.  

Keen viewers will have noted that there’s already a proto-Poison Ivy on Gotham season 1, and season 2 named Ivy Pepper and played by Clara Foley. I’m not terribly clear as to why Gotham decide to excise all of Poison Ivy’s actual origin here, but that seems to be the case.  

In the comics, Pamela Isley was a brilliant botanist who was exposed to bizarre chemicals that gave her planet manipulation and poison lips. On the show, Ivy Pepper is a young street urchin and friend of Selena Kyle who, next season, will be altered after encountering one of the strange experiments of Hugo Strange. This alteration comes with a change of casting as Clara Foley is being subbed out with Maggie Geha allegedly taking the Poison Ivy role. 

The idea at hand seems to be that Ivy’s powers will now come from Hugo’s research and will artificially age her into the version of the character we all know from the cartoons and Batman & Robin. I really don’t care for this idea given all the terrible implications, and it shows how much Gotham is rushing to try and cram bat-foes into the show regardless of depth or identity. It’s especially disheartening with Poison Ivy in that she was one of the first legitimate woman super villains.  

She was the first woman character to adopt the tactics and structure of a standard Batman villain, a concept future authors built off by emphasizing her power through sexuality and a megalomaniacal streak absent from most other woman villains. Turning her into some super grown-up freak kid who perves on 12-year-old Bruce Wayne just to say you’re doing Poison Ivy is a complete waste. 

Next is The Mad Hatter, a deranged engineer who developed mind control technology along with an obsession with Alice in Wonderland is confirmed to appear in Gotham season 3. Hatter was already heavily foreshadowed to appear on Gotham in the final episodes of this past season when Hugo Strange made reference to Alice in Wonderland.  

Given nearly all Batman villains within Gotham’s continuity are zombies created and programmed by Hugo Strange for the Court of Owls, I’m not terribly invested in seeing their twisted take on Mad Hatter. The show drains a lot of the interesting elements out of characters. And yet, there’s still the possibility that Mad Hatter could end up awesome if he’s a tech-based villain than just another programmed zombie villain. 

Diving into Mad Hatter’s mania and his weird technology could make for a fun storyline if he was just allowed to be a villainous madman rather than forced into some larger story. Gotham is bizarre that way. Its ambitions tend to be its own worst enemy with the show quickly losing cohesion and quality whenever it becomes too embroiled in attempts at larger, syndicated storytelling.  

In many ways, Gotham could stand to learn from the various cops shows that populate most network stables and let the villains of the week drift the show while the character development makes up the larger plots. If that is the plan, and Mad Hatter will just be an excuse to explore some other element of Gordon’s character, it could work. I doubt that’s coming. 

The Tweedles are the main reason I’m holding out hope that Mad Hatter might be a tech villain rather than one of the programmed super zombies. In the comics, Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum were a pair of twin, rotund Mad Hatter henchmen who eventually branched out on their own. They’re not big-name bat-foes, but they’re serviceable bad guys for a B-list adventure. 

The thing most folks don’t really get about Bat-villains I find is not all of them exist to facilitate big city threats or complex and brutal mysteries; some of them are just there for action scenes or distracting capers, and that’s where the Tweedles fall. They’re a lot like the Electrocutioner, Copperhead, Deadshot, or any number of other Batman bad guys that are interesting enough to set-up a unique method of combat or a prolonged mystery without being the story’s focus.

As such, I doubt we’ll be seeing the Tweedles go head-to-head with the G.C.P.D. in Gotham, rather acting as an introduction to the escaped super bad guys or perhaps relegated back to henchmen duty for the Mad Hatter. One of the bizarre things about Gotham is we’ve never had a villain composed in the classical style of bat-foes. People forget this now, but the super villain set-up of henchmen, secret lair, gimmick crimes and gimmick weapons all emerges from the Batman mythos pioneered by Adam West in the ‘60s.  

Batman is the well from which the purest conception of the super villain flows. For some reason, we’ve yet to have anyone even close to that on Gotham. It’s not like the show is abandoning that for solemnity and gravitas. Hopefully, if season 3 is committed to continuing the showy genre elements of the series, it’ll fully embrace them rather than hiding behind the small world-building and syndicated emphasis. 

Here’s an appearance that was telegraphed so hard every comics fan worth their salt saw it coming. For those unfamiliar with it, Gotham has elected to make its big, overarching storyline a loose adaptation of the Court of Owls saga. Of course, that big overarching storyline was recently adopted as a big hit comic rather than a spiraling waste of everybody’s time and energy. 

Obviously enough, I don’t really like the comic story they’re cribbing from. At the same time, Gotham is already taking a lot of liberties with the story, so I’m not really that annoyed about it. One element that seems to still be in play is the titular Court of Owls will employ an army of zombie ninja minions referred to as Talons (Talon – Owl; get it?)

So far only one Talon is confirmed for the series, which makes sense given one of the Talons ended up with a spin-off comic in the wake of Night of Owls. There’s really not much to the Talons; they’re just dopey henchmen that are ultimately more fun to describe than watch.  

That’s part of why I disliked Court of Owls so much in the first place. Everything about them is surface-level placation rather than something rich and interesting to dig into. I doubt we’ll see the Talons show up in a capacity other than henchmen of the Court now that they’ve finally been revealed, and we start the tedious, season-long trudge towards their ultimate goal. Unless Gotham is ready to add a new character to its line-up, which is unlikely, I doubt we’ll be going beyond henchmen status.

Well, this was not something I expected. Although, I’m not sure why given Grundy’s recent track record. Solomon Grundy is one of the oldest super villains to be counted as a name bad guy, mainly thanks to a passing association with the Batman mythos. Grundy originally menaced Alan Scott, Green Lantern, as a swamp zombie version of the Hulk. If things had been different, Grundy probably would’ve faded away. Through a weird twist of fate, he persisted.  

See, in those original Green Lantern comics, the city Alan Scott was defending from crime was none other than Gotham City. That connection to Batman eventually got Solomon Grundy grandfathered into the vast miasma of Batman foes for future writers to pluck out of obscurity and revive at random intervals. This ended up getting Grundy a spot in Long Halloween, one of the most beloved Batman graphic novels alongside Killing Joke and Year One. From there, he’s stuck around pretty much forever.

Technically, Solomon Grundy already appeared on Arrow in an unrecognizable form, which prompted the showrunners of Gotham to state his adaptation here will be far more in line with his depiction in the comics. I’m honestly not sure how close to the comics Gotham will get given that Grundy is the size of the Hulk and powered by swamp magic and voodoo.  

What seems more likely is that Grundy will just be an overly large one of Hugo Strange’s zombie experiments as pretty much all of Batman’s rogue’s gallery is now getting traced back to this one guy. It would be great if Gotham was willing to pull the trigger on having Alan Scott show up in his Golden Age Green Lantern costume, but somehow I don’t think we’ll be that lucky. 

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