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Monday, September 12, 2016

Gotham Season Three News Round-Up

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Edited by Robert Beach 

We are one week out from the premiere of Gotham season three, subtitled "Mad City."  Gotham is one of the lesser superhero shows currently swirling in the vat of comic book television, mainly owed to poor timing. One of the strange things about superheroes on TV is how sudden and immediate the shift in landscape has been.  

Superheroes have been on TV in some form for every decade since the medium's inception, but it wasn’t till 2013 that people started paying serious attention. That was when Marvel entered the arena with the shockingly underwhelming Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which complemented the equally underwhelming Arrow. 

Then, in 2015, everything changed with The Flash, when it burst out of nowhere to become a high-concept family favorite adventure program. Now every superhero show needs continuity, scope, weirdness, and a real super-powered hook.  

That particular demand screwed up Gotham season three, which was caught in a transition between the grounded noir tone of season one and the out-there demands of season two. Season three now promises a season of monsters and madness. Here’s what to expect. 

So far, Gotham season three has featured five short promos and two posters. I’ll get to the poster down the line, but for now, I’m going to go through the promos one by one because they’re mostly short and feature a good chunk of similar footage. Let’s see what we have. 

The core promo is entitled ‘Monsters,’ a fitting lynch pin for the set given how much Gotham has transitioned into a show that sells itself on its collection of Batman foes. It’s interesting to me that villains are what Gotham has zeroed in on as its claim to comic book fame rather than diving into Batman’s roster of supporting heroes. They even avoid trying to compromise and adopt a spookier horror aesthetic instead of the campy mad science they've got going on. 

As we’ll see more of later on, this new season finds Jim Gordon gone from the G.C.P.D., which is funny to me. This is one of the peculiar wrinkles Gotham has trouble dealing with as a prequel; it’s essentially a series built around leading up to Jim Gordon growing a moustache and becoming Commissioner, so his various struggles prior to that (getting arrested for murder or becoming a P.I.) all end up accidentally framed as the whacky misadventures of his misspent youth. 

We also see that Fish Mooney, Jada Pinkett-Smith’s villain character from season one, is assembling her army of freaks.  That makes a certain amount of sense given that Fish now has tactile mind control, and it’d fit that Gotham would want a pre-existing villain to rally all the new baddies like Mad Hatter or Solomon Grundy. I’m not surprised that Selina Kyle has thrown in with Fish as I’m still 90% sure the show is building up to the revelation that Selena is Fish’s daughter. 

We also get a few shots of returning bad guys from season two, there’s Tigress, played by Teala Dunn and now sporting an actual costume, and Hugo Strange, played by B.D. Wong. Strange seems to have survived whatever the Court of Owls, who are strangely absent from these promos, had planned for him and is currently locked up in the standard plexiglass cage that holds villains.  

Speaking of the Court, we briefly check in with Bruce Wayne in some penthouse set-up, talking about some major plunge with Alfred. Could this be the start of Bruce retaking Wayne Enterprises from the evil forces that claimed his company? Or perhaps this isn’t Bruce at all, but his doppelganger from the season two finale.

As for the rest of the trailer, it’s peppered with a lot of very brief “reveals” that are honestly too far altered for me to recognize.  There’s one guy with a knife gauntlet that seems to be modeled on Nightwing who I believe is Talon, a zombie assassin for the Court of Owls. Also, there’s also a woman in a hood and facemask that looks like a rip-off of The Flash season three’s Dr. Alchemy design. 

I’m also really not sure who the random poncho man by the train tracks is, but the trailers seem to think he’s thoroughly important. The part of the trailer that sticks out most to me, though, has to be the Riddler meeting with the Penguin at Arkham Asylum.  He’s got some puzzle box with a strange symbol on it. I’m not exactly sure what the symbol is, though it could be the Oroboros from Batman Inc, an incredibly destructive material that was kept in a similar box. 

The other assembled trailers all focus in on one of the various characters. The Harvey Bullock one is easily the shortest, only last 15 seconds, yet it does give us a brief glimpse of Fish’s super-villain army. Most of these bad guys have been so stripped down from their original form, and the lighting of these shots is so dark I can’t make out whom anyone is.  

For instance, they keep cutting to this white-haired person running around who I assume must be legitimately important. I have no clue how, why, or even who they MIGHT be, let alone who they likely are. My best guess would be Jervis Tech, the Mad Hatter, but even that’s a long shot.

The Oswald Cobblepot teaser is much more enlightening and seems to hint at some pretty major elements. It seems like Cobblepot is looking to use the outbreak of Hugo Strange’s freaks and monsters as a chance to legitimize himself in the eyes of the public after he was arrested for the murder of disgraced Mayor Theo Galavan.  

This seems like an interesting idea as one of the unique elements of the Penguin’s character is that he’s a Bat-villain that can pass himself off as a law-abiding citizen thanks to his club and work as more of a gangster than a super criminal. 

I do hope we don’t get bogged down in another mayoral campaign as that storyline dominated over half of season two while going mostly nowhere. As much as I’d love to see a third adaptation of “Penguin runs for Mayor,” I’m not sure we need that. It is still pretty head-tilting that Gotham seems to have forgotten that the city no longer has a police commissioner, insisting the rank of “Captain” is an equivalent position. I hope that gets resolved at some point. 

The Selina Kyle teaser is easily the least of the bunch as it doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know. It’s just a refresher on who Selina Kyle is. Given that this is the 7th live action Catwoman, I’m sure we’re all properly acquainted with the character.  

They don’t even do us the courtesy of showing off more of Fish’s monster crew in this trailer, just Selina robbing some random coat check woman. That's followed by what, I’m pretty sure, is just a clip from a season two episode of her in some vents somewhere. 

The Gordon trailer dives a lot deeper into his departure from the G.C.P.D. and the newfound freedom that’s affording him. He’s obviously still not over Dr. Leslie Thompson, but she doesn’t seem to be in the picture anymore given he’s still shedding tears over beers with her photograph.  

He does seem to be some private investigator as he’s still getting embroiled in fights with Gotham’s monster population. I’m sure he throws down with Killer Croc in this trailer, but we know he’s a changed man after his terrible experiences during year two of the show. 

Finally, there’s the two Gotham Season 3 posters, only one of which is worth discussing. The "Mad City" poster is a fairly basic way to throw the cast together on screen in a Batman-ish situation, mainly thanks to the imagery of the snow globe being tied so closely to Mr. Freeze (oddly absent from all this as well).  

However, the Court of Owls poster is a much more interesting. As I mentioned, the Court has been completely absent from all of the promos and marketing material despite playing a major role in the season two finale and apparently being behind the entire Wayne murder conspiracy. 

They’re a huge deal in the comics. Even though I don’t like them, I would’ve expected the mystery of the Court to be all over this season’s promotional material. While we don’t know much about the Court on the show, we know they’re at least fairly different from the comics as they’re only now developing the resurrection technology they use to make their zombie ninja army. 

What's the takeaway from all of this? Well, if I were to boil down the various elements that are being shown off here into a single word, it’d probably be manicured. Where Gotham season two felt like a meandering and poorly constructed attempt to pivot the show away from stripped-down realism towards out and out superhero fare, this season seems far more structured and existing mostly to fulfill the promises of the long-form storytelling that you see on The Flash, Supergirl, or Legends of Tomorrow.  

Introducing the villains, giving everyone a unique plot that relates back to the superhero elements, already structuring the show around big bads behind the main bads, this is a season designed to give the series structure for countless seasons yet to come. I guess we’ll see if that works out. 

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