A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Gotham is a dark, intense drama that creates a backstory for many of the characters prominent in the Batman comics and movies. The show focuses on Detective James Gordon, a newcomer to the police force who struggles with his definition of justice as he faces the corruptive influences of his city. As such, he's sometimes in league with the show's villains to one degree or another, so the line between good guys and bad guys (and between good and bad behavior) is subjective and always changing. Violence is the biggest concern in this show; beatings, shootings, stabbings, and other exchanges are common and bloody. In some cases, the perpetrators use violent tactics to elicit loyalty through fear as well. You'll also hear a fair amount of cursing, with "hell," "ass," "damn," and "bitch" as frequent choices. That said, this show's excellent storytelling and complex characters make it a solid pick for sturdy teens and adults.
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What's the story?
Detective James Gordon (Ben McKenzie) is still learning the ropes of his new job in the GOTHAM City Police Department when he's called to the scene of the double murder of local billionaires Thomas and Martha Wayne. After talking to the only eye witness -- the couple's 12-year-old son, Bruce (David Mazouz) -- Gordon promises the boy he'll see justice served, even as his seasoned partner, Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue), bemoans their involvement in the case. Soon Gordon comes to understand Bullock's reservations, as they're thrust into the corrupt inner workings of Gotham City, coming face to face with the likes of gang boss Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith) and mobster Carmine Falcone (John Doman) as they seek the killer. But what Gordon discovers not only puts him at risk but also threatens his fiancée, Barbara (Erin Richards), as he must decide how he defines justice and how far he'll go to see it happen.
Is it any good?
This is a mesmerizing origin story that follows the development of characters and relationships factoring into the well-known DC Comics Batman tales. Gotham focuses on Detective Gordon (whom it's implied becomes the Commissioner Gordon of the comic book series), beginning with a meaningful encounter with Bruce Wayne that inspires his drive for justice. Other eventual standouts such as Catwoman, the Joker, and the Penguin also have roles that hint at their future identities, weaving intriguing backstories that may or may not change your impression of them in the Batman saga.
A prequel's success is never a done deal, particularly when you start tweaking a classic such as Batman, but Gotham does two things so well that viewers will be willing to give it a chance. First, it walks a very fine line between telling enough story to entice those without previous Batman knowledge and telling too much story that's off-putting to the Caped Crusader's established fans. It's a rich, gripping presentation in either sense. Second, it always returns to the characters' inner conflict (and that of Gordon in particular) concerning the definition of justice, which plays on viewers' sense of the same. If your teens are mature enough to handle the dark themes and the violence, this can generate some good talking points for you.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about justice and the law. Teens: Is breaking the rules ever justified? Who gets to decide that? Is there something to Gotham's theme about doing bad things to achieve a good end? Should everyone be allowed to interpret the law in his or her own way?
This show implies that there are multiple standards at play in a society. Have your teens ever witnessed favoritism at school? In athletics? What role could prestige or wealth play in an otherwise fair contest?
How are we shaped by our surroundings? To what degree is our destiny predetermined by where and how we start life? Are our opportunities truly equal to everyone else's? What role do our choices play?
Does this show seem more violent that other network dramas? Does TV seem to be getting more or less violent? What influences these changes?
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