Democracy Dies in Darkness

Comic Riffs | Analysis

'Gotham's' villains continue to steal the show as Batman has yet to begin

By David Betancourt

September 21, 2017 at 9:01 PM

Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) and Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova) are closer to their dark futures, but not there yet. (Fox)

Note: Spoilers for the season premiere of "Gotham" below.

Everything "Gotham" is and isn't right now can be summed up in one rooftop scene between Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle from tonight's fourth-season premiere.

For a second, the scene is quite batty. Selina walks the edge of the roof in heels, like on a tightrope, not the least bit worried about the danger of a fall. Bruce, now trained and exhibiting the no-fear attitude he'll need when he turns into who we're all waiting for him to become, hops on the roof's edge, perhaps in part to show Selina he's not the kid he was when they first met. He's also missed her and wants to apologize for hurtful things he said the last time they were together.

Dedicated fans know this moment is a look into the future of the two most important characters in Gotham City: the bat and the cat.

But we're not there yet, not by a long shot. Despite Bruce having chats with Jim Gordon and then vanishing the minute Gordon turns around, and despite Selina's newfound mastery of a whip, the kids aren't ready — mainly because they're still kids, which is the whole point of this show. "Gotham" is the tale of how Bruce and Selina became Batman and Catwoman and all the craziness that happens beforehand that convinces them both to put on masks. Once they get there, the show's over, so for now, we continue to get hints of the vigilantes they'll one day be.

The true identity of "Gotham" is what Batboy and Catgirl are currently up against: the villains. Bruce, having not yet mastered nighttime heroics, is encouraged by his butler and one-man army of support, Alfred, to learn how to use the mask of Bruce Wayne to occasionally defuse a difficult situation, as we see in a scene with Bruce and the Penguin. Selina, looking for protection in a city that protects no one, sees her growing prowler skill set as an asset to the Penguin and the best way to stay safe. It's almost a guarantee that Bruce and Selina will butt heads over their differing views of the famous villain later this season.

From left, Alfred Pennyworth (Sean Pertwee) and Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) have a talk with the Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor). (Fox)

"Gotham" has been giving its fans a bat-fix through Batman's classic and beloved gallery of rogues, of which many key members have already been established, with the Penguin, Riddler (currently on ice), Poison Ivy and the Scarecrow among them. Those characters are their true selves now, bat-growth spurt be damned.

Related: [‘The Punisher’ trailer tries to eliminate bad memories of previous adaptations]

The Penguin reigns as the king of crime in Gotham City — you can't commit a crime unless you've got a license from him, or else you'll get a visit from Mr. Zsasz, Penguin's top hit man. It's a method that allows the Penguin to suggest he's responsible for cutting Gotham City's crime numbers in half, a corrupt game the police department is willing to play. Even the sarcastic Harvey Bullock is on board. But none of that sits well with Gordon, the other part of this show's soul besides Bruce and Selina.

Gordon isn't where he's supposed to be yet as commissioner of the police, and as long as he isn't, the Gotham City Police Department will remain a corrupt force from the top.

"Gotham" will continue to provide bat-glimpses. Bruce will don a cowl this season but no cape. Being masked won't guarantee success. The season premiere ends with Bruce falling through glass on a roof, but not in the intimidating Michael Keaton '89 kind of way. If you're still watching "Gotham" at this point, it's because you've enjoyed the villains taking center stage. Until Batman arrives, his enemies will ensure that the show goes on.

Read more:

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David Betancourt writes about all aspects of comic book culture for The Post's Comic Riffs blog.

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