Gotham (2014-19) was a television series made by Warner Bros. Television and Fox Network based on the early life of Bruce Wayne and the beginning of the police career of Jim Gordon. As dark and gritty as Batman (1966-68) was camp and colourful, it shows a city crammed full of corruption, a power struggle in the underworld, and the police response. Thomas and Martha Wayne, Bruce's billionaire parents, were working to rejuvenate the city and make it a better place for everyone. Following their deaths the hope of a brighter future for the city died too, leading to members of the criminal underclass jockeying for position in a cold war to gain control of Gotham.
As Jim Gordon and his cynical, lackadaisical partner Harvey Bullock are assigned the task of solving the Waynes' murder, they uncover a wider conspiracy and realise that the city is choking with criminals. Although the Waynes themselves were innocent of wrongdoing, the same cannot be said of their company, Wayne Enterprises. This labyrinthine organisation had almost infinite divisions involved in a plethora of morally ambiguous research. Wanting to understand his parents' deaths, 12-year-old Bruce realises almost everyone he encounters has a guilty secret and whose vested interest lay in ensuring the deaths of the Waynes to prevent their secrets being uncovered.
The series uses character plot arcs to keep viewers interested over the 100×40-minute episodes. As the story is told from the perspective of homicide detective Jim Gordon, several episodes feature a monstrous serial killer of the week. Many villains feature in several episodes. Yet overall the series tells the story that Gordon is fighting to keep back the tide of crime. Despite his best efforts, Gotham is beyond the ability of the police to control; it needs a masked vigilante like Batman to make a real difference.
The city of Gotham is in many ways a central character in the show. It is a large, ungovernable, impoverished and corrupt city. The occupants all know how the city's best days are behind it and, following the death of the Waynes, feel that all trace of hope for the future has gone. At the time the series opens, Gotham faces a criminal power struggle.
Gotham is completely corrupt. Everyone, including Mayor Aubrey James (Richard Kind) and Police Commissioner Loeb (Peter Scolari), are taking bribes from Gotham City's crime lords. These are Don Carmine Falcone (John Doman), who rules the city, and Sal Maroni (David Zayas), Don of the Maroni Crime Family and Don Falcone's younger, ambitious rival, who controls territory including the waterfront. One of Falcone's closest subordinates is Fish Mooney, who owns a nightclub and has her own gang.
Gotham is full of crime, with the Gotham City Police Department (GCPD) stretched to its limit and often paid to look the other way. Most people who spend too much time in Gotham are either ground down or corrupted by it. Only a rare few make it through the fire and steel of the city to be forged into hardened crime fighters.
The best place to relax in Gotham is Fish Mooney's nightclub, although after a change in management this is renamed Oswald's. The least relaxing part of Gotham is either Blackgate Penitentiary or Arkham Asylum1. Arkham is a 200-year-old complex built to be a gaol that had also been used as a mental institute. It had been decommissioned for 15 years before the start of Gotham. It was then hurriedly reopened and used to cheaply incarcerate the criminally insane without providing proper medical care. Prisoners there are also subjected to illegal experiments at the neighbouring top secret Indian Hill Labs, a medical research centre, led by Professor Strange2, which is a Wayne Enterprises company.
The series features numerous recurring characters. The most important regular characters who appear in more than one series are listed below.
Detective James 'Jim' Gordon (Ben McKenzie)
A former war hero, after becoming a detective for the Gotham City Police Department his first case is to investigate the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne. Promising the young Bruce Wayne he will not stop until he uncovers the truth, it is during this investigation he realises how widespread and deep-seated corruption is in the city. Determined to fight against it, no matter the personal cost, his acts make him many enemies, yet he also earns their respect. He never gives up, even when his superiors try to get him to quit by demoting him to the role of a guard at Arkham Asylum.
Gordon's morality becomes the catalyst for change, slowly transforming Gotham City Police Department from being owned by the crime families to returning to the moral high ground. In his personal relationships, however, he is less successful. This is largely because his life is dedicated to his work and, to protect the ones he loves, he prevents them from getting too close.
Yet for all his success, it becomes increasingly apparent that he can only ever, at best, stem the tide of crime for short periods. Gotham is too corrupt a city to be ever saved purely by law and order. Gotham's only hope of long-term salvation is a heroic vigilante who will lurk in the shadows and become the city's dark knight.
At the start of the show he is in a relationship with Barbara Kean, but he later becomes involved with Dr Leslie 'Lee' Thompkins.
Detective Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue)
Bullock is a cynical, experienced detective and Gordon's partner. When they first met, he had lost his drive to make the city a better place and instead was going along with the flow because everyone else was. Yet he was the first to change his ways and follow Gordon's lead to become an honest and decent detective.
Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz)
A child who becomes a millionaire following his parents' murders. Looked after by his loving, attentive, but proper butler Alfred, he is driven to discover the truth behind his parents' deaths. He tests himself, pushing beyond his limits while seeking to administer justice. A lonely child, his only friend close to his own age is Cat. However, he always manages to say the wrong thing and drive her away. Another friend is Detective Gordon, who is the only man in Gotham other than Alfred whom he trusts.
Alfred Pennyworth (Sean Pertwee)
Bruce Wayne's butler, guardian, teacher and father figure. He worries constantly about 'Master Bruce' but respects him enough to allow him to follow his own path. He picks Bruce up when he needs to, encouraging him always, and is prepared to sacrifice his life for the boy. An ex-SAS man, he is far tougher and more resourceful than he looks.
Oswald Cobblepot aka The Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor)
Cobblepot begins his criminal career working with Fish Mooney but has cunning plans to manipulate those around him for his own benefit. He betrays Fish to the police, then works for Maroni while betraying him to Don Falcone. He is devoted to his mother Gertrud Kapelput (Carol Kane) and later meets and befriends his father, Elijah Van Dahl (Paul Reubens). He also seems to have a genuine affection for Jim Gordon.
His gang includes bodyguard Gabriel (Alex Corrado) as well as Butch and later Victor Zsasz (Anthony Carrigan). When he gains control of Fish's nightclub he renames it Oswald's and decorates it using an umbrella motif. He becomes the head of crime in Gotham, but this position is always being challenged.
Selina 'Cat' Kyle (Camren Bicondova)
A street orphan who survives as a thief by using her outstanding athletic prowess. After witnessing the Wayne murders she meets and befriends Bruce Wayne, but is easily offended when he awkwardly criticises her lifestyle. Although by nature a loner, she is also friends with Ivy and Fish Mooney.
Barbara Kean (Erin Richards)
A stylish woman who grew up in a wealthy but loveless home. She had a toxic relationship with Renee Montoya and then became Jim Gordon's girlfriend. She left him after being kidnapped by Falcone, as she ignored Gordon's advice to stay away from Gotham. Her next boyfriend was the serial killer called the Ogre who locked her up, the subsequent trauma resulting in her becoming unstable. After attacking Lee Thompkins in a bout of jealousy, she is committed to Arkham Asylum. She does not stay in Arkham long.
Edward Nygma aka The Riddler (Cory Michael Smith)
A riddle-loving man who works in GCPD's forensics department but, cruelly, is regularly laughed at. He has a crush on Kristen 'Kris' Kringle (Chelsea Spack), GCPD's archivist, and is enraged that she is in an abusive relationship. He murders her partner, developing a split personality.
Dr Leslie 'Lee' Thompkins (Morena Baccarin)
The doctor on Arkham Asylum's female ward, she later becomes GCPD's medical examiner and has a relationship with Jim Gordon. Gordon, though, worries about endangering her and this constantly puts strains on their relationship.
Butch Gilzean (Drew Powell)
Fish Mooney's right-hand man and enforcer, Butch was prepared to risk his life for her, which resulted in his capture by Falcone. Falcone had his hitman Victor Zsasz (Anthony Carrigan) brainwash Butch into obeying Cobblepot's every command to help Cobblepot run Fish Mooney's former nightclub. He later falls in love with Tabitha. His real name is Cyrus Gold; however, when he loses his memory, he calls himself Solomon Grundy after hearing the song 'Solomon Grundy born on Monday'.
Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith)
Fish Mooney is a nightclub owner who has ambitions to replace Don Falcone as the head of organised crime in Gotham. Her plan is to use Liza (Makenzie Leigh), a singer who resembles Falcone's mother, to seduce and weaken Don Falcone and persuade him to retire in her favour, although this plan backfires and Don Falcone seeks revenge.
On fleeing Gotham she is captured and held in a crowded underground dungeon where people are kept as living organ donors for wealthy clients, until her escape.
Tabitha Galavan aka Tigress (Jessica Lucas)
Theo's secretive, dominatrix sister who is never as happy as when she is playing with her whip. She later becomes Butch's partner in crime and his true love. Even after she leaves him to open a nightclub with Barbara she carries a torch for him. She also becomes a mentor to Cat.
Ivy Pamela Pepper (initially Clare Foley, later Maggie Geha)
The abused daughter of Mario Pepper. After her father was killed following being framed for the Wayne murders, Ivy was sent to Juvenile Hall, which she escaped and then grew up on the streets. She was looked after by her friend Cat, who nevertheless considers her 'creepy'. She prefers plants to people. She is later aged, becoming a 14-year-old girl in a 25-year-old woman's body who is able to use powers of seduction to achieve her ends.
Theo Galavan aka Azrael (James Frain)
On the surface a wealthy, successful businessman and philanthropist, he has a secret past and a dark side that becomes apparent after he breaks a number of criminally insane inmates out of Arkham Asylum. He charms his way into becoming Gotham's mayor. His true name is Theo Dumas - he is a member of the Order of Saint Dumas and a descendant of Caleb Dumas who fled Gotham in the 19th Century. Caleb had his arm chopped off by Jonathan Wayne after allegedly abusing Wayne's sister Celestine3, with the Dumas family forced to flee Gotham. Galavan seeks revenge and ingratiates himself into Jonathan Wayne's descendent Bruce Wayne's life.
Other Regular Characters
Other regular characters include:
Don Carmine Falcone (John Doman), head of the underworld when Gotham begins.
Police Captain Sarah Essen (Zabryna Guevara), Captain of the Gotham City Police Department's homicide squad. At first she is intimidated by threats to her family's safety. She is honest and helps Gordon transform the police into a force for good, later becoming Police Commissioner.
Police Captain Nathaniel Barnes (Michael Chiklis), Essen's by-the-book replacement.
Lucius Fox (Chris Chalk), originally Wayne Enterprise's technical genius and later the scientific advisor for the Gotham City Police Department.
Jonathan Crane aka The Scarecrow (Charlie Tahan). After his father exposed him to a fear-inducing hallucinogen he is unstable and switches between being terrified and seeking revenge for the death of his father.
Bridgit Pike aka Firefly (Michelle Veintimilla in Seasons 2 and 4, Camila Perez in Season 3), an arsonist who was killed by Gordon and subsequently resurrected.
Victor Fries aka Mr Freeze (Nathan Darrow), a scientist whose wife had a terminal illness that he believed could be cured by freezing her, leading him to experiment on freezing innocent people for research before he himself became frozen.
Jervis Tetch aka Mad Hatter (Benedict Samuel), a hypnotist. He speaks in rhyme / All the time.
Victor Zsasz (Anthony Carrigan), a sadistic hitman and virtual one-man army.
Harvey Dent (Nicholas D'Agosto), a charismatic Assistant District Attorney who has a reputation for being honest and wanting to clean up the city, even if he has to cut corners to do so.
Arthur Penn (Andrew Sellon), criminal accountant initially for the Falcones, later for Penguin.
The first series begins with the death of Thomas and Martha Wayne, and the initial investigation into their murder, led by Jim Gordon and his partner Harvey Bullock. When Oswald Cobblepot is discovered leaking Fish Mooney's secrets to the cops he is condemned to death. Jim Gordon, who has recently moved to Gotham to be with his girlfriend Barbara, is ordered to kill him to show that he is corrupt too, but spares his life. This leads Renee Montoya (Victoria Cartagena) of the Major Crimes Unit of GCPD, and Barbara's former lover, to arrest Gordon for Cobblepot's murder.
Cobblepot starts to work for Maroni, the rival to Don Falcone, as both Fish Mooney and Cobblepot begin manipulating those around them to gain power. Meanwhile, plans to develop Gotham's Arkham District, an area dominated by the defunct 200-year-old Arkham Gaol, are revealed. Rather than build a new state-of-the-art hospital to help those with mental health needs as the Waynes had planned, following their deaths the old, crumbling building is rush re-opened as an asylum where patients are inhumanely incarcerated - and worse.
After learning that Cat witnessed the Waynes' murder, but not trusting anyone in the police force, Gordon hides her in Wayne Manor, where she and Bruce Wayne develop an unlikely and turbulent friendship. However, his own relationship with Barbara ends when he dares not endanger her by sharing his secrets with her.
After making too many enemies through being honest and incorruptible, Gordon is reassigned to Arkham Asylum. This is operating with ancient equipment and terrible conditions, but there he meets and begins a relationship with Dr Lee Thompkins. He is reinstated in the GCPD after apprehending an escaped mass murderer.
Who will win the battle to be top dog of Gotham City between Falcone, Maroni, Fish Mooney and Penguin? What will the unexpected consequences be when Gordon tries to catch the Ogre, a serial killer who murders the loved ones of those who investigate him?
Rise of the Villains
The second series is divided into two halves, Rise of the Villains and Wrath of the Villains. In Rise of the Villains six criminally-insane inmates are broken out of Arkham Asylum by Theo and Tabitha Galavan. Theo Galavan appears to be a charismatic billionaire wishing to develop Gotham and restore it to greatness, but secretly he and his sister Tabitha are plotting revenge for a long-standing family feud against the Wayne family and its sole surviving representative, Bruce Wayne. They seek to use the inmates, nicknamed 'Maniax', including Barbara and Jerome Valeska (Cameron Monaghan4), a young psychopathic clown raised in a circus, to scare the city and thus make themselves appear heroes in comparison. They also remove the mayor and deputy mayor from power and thus seamlessly step into control of the city.
Though Penguin had gained control of the criminal underworld, Galavan kidnaps his mother and forces him to do his bidding. Galavan also ingratiates himself into Bruce's life, encouraging him to date his niece Silver St Cloud (Natalie Alyn Lind). Galavan promises to tell Bruce who killed his parents provided Bruce sells him Wayne Enterprises. Gotham is also infiltrated by a secret brotherhood, the Sacred Order of Saint Dumas, who plan on a series of ritual murders before killing 'The Son of Gotham' in order to cleanse the city and finalise Galavan's rise to power.
Will Gordon see eye-to-eye with his new by-the-book police captain, Nathaniel Barnes (Michael Chiklis)? How will Selina and Bruce's relationship develop when he falls for Silver's charms, and will Bruce believe her when she warns him that Silver is up to no good?
Meanwhile criminals believed dead are being taken to Indian Hill Labs, a company owned by Wayne Enterprises that is doing illegal experimentation...
Wrath of the Villains
After Penguin is captured he is sent to Arkham Asylum where, following torturous experiments by Professor Hugo Strange (BD Wong) and his assistant Miss Peabody (Tonya Pinkins), he is cured of the capacity to do evil and released. A chance encounter leads him to find his father, Elijah Van Dahl (Paul Reubens5), and a new family in his father's wife Grace Van Dahl (Melinda Clarke) and her children Charles (Justin Mark) and Sasha (Kaley Ronayne), but is this family reunion as happy as he believes?
Meanwhile Ed Nygma mistakenly believes that Jim Gordon suspects him of playing a part in Kris Kringle's disappearance and plans to set him up for murder, resulting in Gordon's incarceration at Blackgate Penitentiary. Bruce briefly leaves Wayne Manor to learn about life on the streets of Gotham, living with Cat. Yet he learns that Hugo Strange was behind the deaths of his parents just as Strange discovers a way to resurrect the dead.
By the third series, subtitled Mad City and Heroes Rise, Bruce has learned that a mysterious group called the Court of Owls was behind Strange's murder of his parents. A group of Strange's victims who have been subject to experiments that granted various mysterious powers have escaped Arkham, led by Fish Mooney. Among them are a man who can age people to death - he tries to kill the young child Ivy who had followed Cat, but instead she becomes a young woman. Another victim is Subject 514A, a clone of Bruce Wayne, while another prisoner, Alice Tetch (Naian Gonzalez Norvind), gained poisonous blood that infects and changes people, which contaminates Captain Barnes.
Using a platform of fear against Strange's victims, whom he calls 'monsters', Penguin, helped by Ed Nygma, is elected to become Gotham's mayor. Penguin develops feelings for Ed, but Ed instead is enchanted with a librarian named Isabella (Chelsea Spack) who is the spitting image of Kristen Kringle. Gordon, devastated that his relationship with Lee is over and that she is engaged to Don Falcone's son Mario Calvi (James Carpinello), has become a heavy-drinking bounty hunter. He has a competitive relationship with journalist Valerie Vale (Jamie Chung) while his ex-fiancée Barbara has opened a new club with Tabitha called Sirens.
Gordon is preoccupied with catching the serial-killer named Jervis Tetch the Mad Hatter (Benedict Samuel) who can hypnotise his victims into doing anything, including committing murders and suicide. Tetch is desperately trying to find his sister who is fleeing from him. He plans to infect the city with her virus. He also has to deal with the resurrected Jerome, who since his death has become a cult figure, inspiring a secret sect of anarchists.
Will Gordon rejoin the police force? What impact will the virus have and will a wedge be driven between Penguin and Ed? Who is the mysterious Uncle Frank Gordon (James Remar) and has he just popped by to catch up with family? Who is the even more mysterious Sensei (Raymond J Barry) who kidnaps Bruce on behalf of Ra's al Ghul (Alexander Siddig) and what is their plan for Bruce Wayne and Gotham?
By the start of the fourth series, Bruce has begun fighting criminals at night while dressed in black. Penguin has again gained control of the underworld and has cut crime by issuing licences; only criminals who agree to his rules and give him a cut are allowed to operate in Gotham. As this has meant that crime is down overall, the mayor has ordered the GCPD not to arrest any licenced criminal.
Meanwhile Jonathan Crane has escaped Arkham Asylum and begins a campaign of terror, while Selina has begun a partnership with Tabitha and Barbara. With Don Falcone unwilling to return to Gotham, his daughter Sofia Falcone (Crystal Reed) heads back to challenge Penguin. Ed, meanwhile, has to come to terms with losing some of his mental abilities. He encounters Butch, who has lost his memory and is calling himself 'Solomon Grundy' after hearing that song being played. Ed also learns that Lee has not left Gotham after all but is living in the Narrows, the poorest part of Gotham, helping to heal participants in illegal fights to raise money to provide medical aid to the area's children.
After a police operation aimed at capturing manipulative serial killer Lazlo Valentin aka 'Professor Pyg' (Michael Cerveris) goes wrong, Harvey Bullock begins drinking heavily. Will Gordon choose to replace Bullock as Captain of the GCPD? How will Bruce react following his encounter with Ra's al Ghul?
The fifth series begins with the island of Gotham cut off from the rest of the country, with every bridge destroyed. The city has been divided into different territories, each controlled by a different supervillain, while the remnants of the GCPD try to establish order in their 'Green Zone'. This is despite being vastly outnumbered and running out of supplies, with no help coming from the mainland unless they can prove that Gotham can have law and order restored.
As well as the villains wreaking havoc in their territories, particularly the area claimed by Jeremiah Valeska and his loyal and equally-insane sidekick Ecco (Francesca Root-Dodson), a greater external menace threatens. A lady calling herself Theresa Walker, who is really Nyssa al Ghul (Jaime Murray), seeks to destroy Gotham completely in revenge for her father's death and, with Prof Strange's help, can implant chips in people's brains to control their actions. She is helped by Gordon's old army buddy Eduardo Dorrance, who has been corrupted and later turned into a highly-intelligent and incredibly-strong amoral villain called Bane (Shane West).
Gotham involved a lot of filming on location around New York City, digitally enhanced in order to give the appearance of a grimy, dirty city. The main set, the two-storey police station, was inspired by London's St Pancras Station but on a smaller scale. Most of the buildings seen have a 1940s film noir and art deco exterior appearance, while the cars are 1970s in style and the computers have an early 1990s look. This was deliberate in order to give the show a timeless quality. Although the characters carry mobile phones, the producers deliberately did not use up-to-date technology as it remains in essence a prequel to Bruce Wayne's journey to become Batman.
The series was heavily influenced by the Dark Knight Trilogy of Batman films (2005-12) which starred Christian Bale in the lead role6. Gotham is unrelated to the adult portrayal of Batman as played by Ben Affleck in the DC Universe Justice League films since 2016.
Other DC television series have also been in production at the same time as Gotham. These include 'Arrowverse'7 shows broadcast on the CW network as well as other, less popular shows broadcast on NBC and AMC. However, only Lucifer (2016+) was also broadcast on Fox. Rumours of a crossover between Gotham and the Arrowverse persistently spread and the idea was popular with fans. Sadly this was not to be; not only was Gotham set in an anachronistic past, rival television companies would have needed to co-operate.