In preparation for the arrival next Tuesday of the new season of Gotham, in its new UK home on E4 (having been dropped after two seasons by Channel 5), this week has been largely spent blitzing my way through season three on Netflix.
Up to now, I've had a laissez-faire attitude to Gotham, primarily fixing it to my viewing schedule because of its superhero credentials rather than its quality.
However, season three was an eye-opener. This was the year the show really came into its own, with the villains adopting the mantles we know from the comics, movies, and other TV shows, and even young Bruce Wayne finally getting some interesting storylines.
The arrival of The Court Of Owls would have been enough, but there was more, so much more. All of it catering to my geeky comic book passion.
I'll confess I thought I was being really clever - trying to second-guess the villain's true identity - when Bruce was whisked away to train under a mystical sensei (Raymond J. Barry), but it turns out he - like The Court - was just another layer in the intricate onion that makes up Gotham.
Increasingly the show feels like a Batman story, with the season's double-episode finale introducing one classic Batman villain (already a much better iteration than his appearances in Arrow) and laying the groundwork for another, but - crucially - we need to remember it's very much its own thing.
|The Cast Of Gotham's Season Four|
For all its momentum, Gotham still suffers from occasionally stiff writing, with, for instance, scripts hitting identical notes in unconnected plotlines.
But on the other hand, it's these multiple strands that help keep the show so vital.
In the Venn diagram of Gotham there are essentially three circles: the criminal underworld (fronted by frenemies Penguin and The Riddler); the city's police department (Jim Gordon et al); and then there's young master Bruce and his loyal butler, Alfred, out in stately Wayne Manor.
All these circles intersect in some way during the season, but the strongest stories, ultimately, are those involving the superb Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) and The Riddler (Cory Michael Smith), who really comes into his own this year, finally adopting his famous nom de crime.
As I said, Bruce's storylines are stronger in season three than previous years, but - despite the training he receives from various quarters - he still seems way too young to take on even a proto-Batman guise (as he seems to be in the upcoming season).
This is the flaw of all prequels. On one hand, certain characters have a magical plot invulnerability - which in the violent, brutal, and often gruesome world of Gotham often translates to an often ridiculous ability to bounce back from severe injuries and even 'death'.
On the other, the established mythology (as nebulous as it is after all these decades since Batman's first published appearance) becomes unnecessarily complicated by writers' shoehorning in the stories they want to tell on top of the stories that 'need' to be told to get the characters where they need to be.
However, the big takeaway, I have from season three, as a gamer with a penchant for superheroics, is that Gotham is now how I would picture a low-power RPG - say, using Cinematic Unisystem - where the players are mainly non-powered cops, private investigators, and scientists trying to take down freakishly-themed villains (who may, or may not, have some degree of metability).
So, yes, it has also got me thinking about my mothballed Knight City setting again...