A lot of us have been enjoying Batman, in his many formats (comics, film, television), for our entire lives. Quick question for fans: Did you ever wonder what Batman's schoolboy days were like? Well, never fear, Gotham is here to show us, using as many stereotypes as possible. Patton Oswalt had a famous stand-up rant about the Star Wars prequels, centered on the line "I don't give a shit where the stuff I love comes from! I just love the stuff I love!" That line came to mind as I watched little Bruce Wayne get shoved around by bullies at his private school in this week's episode of the Fox show.
David Mazouz, the young actor playing Wayne, is actually pretty decent. His character comes off like a relatively normal, too-smart-for-his-own-good kid with a touch of mournful darkness that we know will eventually spread. I've always loved Sean Pertwee and he makes a wonderfully flinty Alfred—"I hope you broke his bastard teeth in," he says to Bruce regarding a school bully. But still, Bruce Wayne is the best example of one of Gotham's core problems: It's a prequel to something bigger.
When Bruce gets shoved around by bullies who are, I guess, mocking him because his parents are dead (jeez), are we supposed to take this as part of the germination of his life as Batman? At the end of the episode, sick of being tormented, Bruce asks Alfred if he can teach him how to fight. "Yes I can," Alfred replies with a solemn grin. "Oh boy!" I assume the audience is supposed to say. "This is the beginning of Batman learning how to fight!" That's cute and all, but how does it serve Gotham as a television show to wink at something it'll never be allowed to get to? Showrunner Bruno Heller has been pretty firm that Gotham will be all pre-Batman, which I generally can accept, apart from the Bruce Wayne material. I'm happy to give Gotham a little more time to show me how it plans to integrate Bruce into its ongoing plots, but right now I'm not that impressed.