TV show portrays Batman characters with comic-accurate origins and strong narratives, despite some flaws in its acting and special effects.

excels in adaptating villains like Ra’s al Ghul and Scarecrow, giving compelling storylines to these iconic characters.
From the Riddler to Catwoman to the Joker, Gotham offers unique twists to classic Batman villains and sets the stage for the Dark Knight’s origins.

As one of the world’s most popular superheroes, Batman is no stranger to the media. He’s appeared in everything from comic books and video games to movies and TV shows. And one of the best Batman-based live-action TV shows is Gotham. Premiering in 2014,Gotham isa prequel series that follows a pre-mustache Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) and a young Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) after his parents’ murders, as the former attempts to keep Gotham City safe from the villains who are tearing it apart. Sure, Gotham has its flaws. Like many network TV shows, it occasionally suffers from corny acting, poor visual effects, and cringe-worthy dialogue. But Gotham does succeed in being dark and violent while keeping things light and fluffy when needed.

Where the series excels most, however, is in its adaptation of the Batman franchise’s characters. Gotham showcases nearly all of Batman’s rogue’s gallery, giving many of them comic book-accurate origin stories and strong narratives. This move is a bit risky; many comics argue that Batman’s appearance is what inspired and attracted these villains to Gotham City in the first place. And here, you have them popping up years before Batman ever dons his cape and cowl. Even still, Gotham does a great job at portraying these ten characters.

10 Ra’s al Ghul (Alexander Siddig)

Ra’s al Ghul is a supervillain who often faces off against Batman. Or, as Ra’s calls him in the comics, “Detective.” The leader of the League of Assassins, Ra’s has achieved an unnaturally long life by submerging himself in the mystical Lazarus pits. Although he’s an enemy of Batman, Ra’s harbors a respect for the Dark Knight and is the biological grandfather of Batman’s son, Damian. We got our first live-action glimpse at Ra’s in Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, where he was played by Liam Neeson. Nolan adapted Ra’s to his realistic world of Batman. He removed the villain’s prolonged life and Lazarus pits in exchange for, as Bruce calls them, “cheap parlor tricks.” Nolan also changed the name of the villain’s group to the League of Shadows (we doubt Bruce would’ve joined a group called the League of Assassins). The League of Shadows also appears in Gotham, and so does their antagonistic leader.

Gotham Stays True to Ra’s al Ghul’s Origins

Gotham rightfully restores Ra’s to being a mystical character and brings back the Lazarus pits. But even better than that, the show properly portrays Ra’s as an Arab character by casting Alexander Siddig in the role (Ra’s is Arab in the comics, not the whitewashed character we get in Batman Begins). The series even mentions his name’s Arabic translation: Demon Head, or Head of the Demon. Gotham also captures the villain’s respect for Bruce and his desire for Bruce to carry on his legacy. It’s a pretty perfect adaptation — but there is one caveat. Ra’s is killed off in the show, long before Bruce ever becomes Batman. Killing off a major Batman villain, before he can even meetthe Dark Knight, doesn’t sit well with us. Professor Pyg, another popular Batman supervillain played by Michael Cerveris, also falls victim to this unfortunate decision.

9 Scarecrow (David Thompson)

Scarecrow is the alterego of Jonathan Crane, a psychologist turned psychopath who uses a hallucinogenic fear toxin to turn his enemies’ worst nightmares against them. We’ve seen Scarecrow in live-action before — most famously in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy, where he’s played by Oscar-winning Cillian Murphy. But one can argue that Gotham’s version is superior. Nolan’s iteration dons only a mask. Gotham’s version wears the whole costume, complete with the hat.

Scarecrow Is Legitimately Terrifying

For a network TV show, Scarecrow’s appearance is both awesome and terrifying, equipping the villain with the frightening edge that he sorely lacked in Nolan’s movies. Gotham even captures the abuse that young Jonathan suffered at the hands of his parents, which is true to his comic book origins. One major deviation, though, is that Scarecrow’s fear toxin was created by his father in Gotham, not by Scarecrow himself like in the comics. This deviation might prevent this adaptation from being perfect, but it’s still incredibly well done.


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8 Hugo Strange (BD Wong)

Not to be confused with the Marvel superhero Dr. Strange, Hugo Strange is a very different sort of character. He’s a mad scientist, a Dr. Frankenstein-like supervillain. We’ve seen many live-action Batman villains over the years, but we’ve never gotten a live-action Dr. Strange before. That is, not until Gotham.

Hugo Strange Nailed the Look and the Personality

Like his comic book counterpart, Hugo Strange (B.D. Wong) performs bizarre and barbaric experiments on unwilling asylum patients, turning them into monsters. The show even nails the character’s appearance, giving him a bald head and his signature chinstrap. They even jazzed him up a bit with those pink, rounded spectacles. One major deviation, though, is how Strange creates several Batman villains within Gotham, such as Solomon Grundy and Bane — neither of which he creates in the comics. Nevertheless, Gotham does a great job at capturing the essence of this insane character.

7 Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue)

Most Batman fans know Harvey Bullock from the animated masterpiece of 90s television, Batman: The Animated Series. Bullock is a high-ranking cop in the Gotham City Police Department. Although he’s a close ally of Commissioner Jim Gordon’s, Bullock is known for his dislike of Batman. The character is usually depicted as overweight, rugged, and disheveled, with a cigarette usually perched in his mouth and an old-school fedora hat always resting on his head. And that’s almost exactly what you get in Gotham: a rugged, disheveled, fedora-wearing cop.

Donal Logue Pairs Well With Ben McKenzie

Like his comic book counterpart, Gotham’s Bullock is rough-around-the-edges and is armed with an attitude, though he does provide comic relief. He begins the show as a dirty cop, just like in the comics. And like the comics, it takes Jim Gordon’s partnership to change his corrupt ways and turn him into a decent cop. Actor Donal Logue is a treat as Harvey Bullock, and his relationship with Gordon is one of the highlights of Gotham.

6 Alfred Pennyworth (Sean Pertwee)

Everyone knowsAlfred Pennyworth as Bruce Wayne’s trusty butler, the British gentleman who single-handedly raised and supported Bruce after his parents’ deaths. Aside from short scenes, we’ve seen very little live-action footage of what life was like for Bruce and Alfred following the Waynes’ murders. Gotham fills in the gap in this timeline. We see Alfred (Sean Pertwee) struggling to raise a devastated Bruce, both characters coping with their grief while trying to adjust to their new lives. But that’s not all we get. For years, Alfred stayed behind the scenes and aided the Dark Knight from the shadows.

Alfred Penntyworth Has an Active Role in Gotham

Gotham places Alfred at center stage and makes him an active player in Bruce and Gordon’s investigations. In the past, we’ve seen Alfred more as a gentlemanly grandpa. Gotham’s version depicts him as an older James Bond: he’s still a British gentleman, but he’s also a total badass. The series dives into Alfred’s past as a former member of the British Special Air Service (in the comics, he’s a former Special Operations Executive) and puts his combat and weapon skills on display. We even see him training a young Bruce in hand-to-hand combat. Sure, this iteration doesn’t have the bald head and mustache from the comics — but interestingly, very few live-action versions of the character do.

5 The Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor)

The Penguin, also known as Oswald Cobblepot, is one of Batman’s most famous villains. In Gotham, we get a younger and thinner Oswald (Robin Lord Taylor) who’s trying to make a name for himself in Gotham City’s underworld. He’s not the deformed monster that we see in Tim Burton’s Batman Returns. Rather, he’s just a short guy with expensive, fancy tastes and a beak for a nose, which is truer to his comic book origins. Taylor even threw in a limp to add to the character’s Penguin persona. Oswald eventually rises up and becomes the kingpin of Gotham, a gentleman of crime, which, once again, follows the character’s comic book roots.

The Penguin Is Surprisingly Accurate to the Comics

Gotham’s version doesn’t have an arsenal of weaponized umbrellas, but he does carry a black umbrella wherever he goes. The series also features a plot point where Penguin runs for mayor, a Batman comic book storyline that was also famously used in Batman Returns. We even get the Iceberg Lounge in the show, Penguin’s shady nightclub from the comics. The comic book version of the Penguin is known for wearing a monocle to go along with his ostentatious suits. Gotham provides a cool backstory for this fashion choice: Penguin loses an eye and wears a monocle to conceal his fake eye. By the end of the show, we see Oswald transform into a spitting image of the traditional Penguin: an overweight criminal, who wears fancy suits, a top hat, and a monocle.


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4 Selina Kyle (Cameron Bicondova)

Catwoman is regarded as the love of Batman’s life, and their relationship makes sense. Of course, the masked hero falls for the masked anti-hero. Their on-and-off romance is featured in many Batman storylines, from comic books, to Hollywood blockbusters, to TV shows like Gotham. Here, we’re introduced to a young Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova), long before she dons a mask and becomes Catwoman. She’s just a poor kid who grew up on the rough streets of Gotham City, forced to steal in order to survive. Much like her comic book counterpart, Selina is an accomplished and skilled thief, who slinks in the shadows and operates in a morally gray area. And with that short, curly haircut, she’s reminiscent of Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman from Batman Returns.

Some (Positive) Creative Liberties Were Taken

Gotham places Selina at the scene of the Wayne murders, which deviates from her comic book origins. Doing so introduces her to none other than Bruce Wayne himself. Like the comics, the two have an on-and-off relationship: friends one minute, and then enemies the next. Their endearing childhood relationship is a highlight of the show and offers a stark contrast between two different upbringings: poverty versus wealth, disadvantage versus privilege. And yet, the two share a dark loneliness that only they can relate to. Over the course of the show, we watch Selina transform into Catwoman, procuring and learning how to use her iconic whip and donning her famous tight black costume and domino mask.

Their friendship blossoms into a will-they-or-won’t-they romance that’s cut tragically short when Bruce leaves Gotham to train. By the time he returns, Selina has officially become Catwoman. Atop a rooftop, the young Batman tells Selena to return the diamond that she stole. “Like Hell,” she says with a smile, perfectly setting up Batman and Catwoman for their rivalry — and their romance.

3 Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz)

Gotham is very much about Commissioner Gordon and what transpired in Gotham City before Batman’s arrival. But the show also chronicles the events that lead up to and inspire the creation of Batman — and it all starts with Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz). Gotham focuses on a Bruce that we’ve seen very little of: a young boy, who’s grappling with the murder of his parents and dealing with his grief.

Gotham stays true to Batman’s origins. Bruce’s parents are gunned down after watching The Mark of Zorro, just like in the comics. We watch Bruce grow up before our eyes, going from an angry, kindhearted kid, to the reckless teenager that inspires his playboy facade later on, to an ambitious young man. But through it all, Bruce never forgets his quest for justice; he just isn’t sure what that looks like yet.

Focusing More on Bruce Wayne Instead of Batman

We see the flickers and moments that inspire Batman, like finding the bat cave beneath his parents’ mansion. Gotham also nails the character’s look with that dark hair and gives him a vocabulary that only a well-educated kid would have. We see Bruce cross paths with countless villains, who he will fight time and time again during his career as Batman, as well as form the alliances that will aid him during his war on crime. Borrowing from countless Batman comics, Gotham shows Bruce donning a pre-Batman costume and taking on street criminals. This series offers a faithful and unique adaptation of the Dark Knight’s other identity, one that we don’t get to see as much in live-action form.

2 The Joker (Cameron Monaghan)

The Joker is arguably the most famous villain in fiction, thanks to his iconic rivalry with Batman. These arch-nemeses reflect two sides of the same coin. On one hand, there’s Batman, who’s subtle, grim, dressed in all black. And on the other hand, there’s the Joker, who’s theatrical, boisterous, and dressed in bright colors. Each of them is the result of “one bad day” (areference to Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke that Gotham references). Plus, some might argue that they both exemplify cases of insanity. Their famous rivalry goes all the way back to the 30s and continues to appear prominently in Batman storylines, including Gotham.

We’ve been privileged to see some incredible live-action portrayals of the Clown Prince of Crime over the years, from Jack Nicholson in Tim Burton’s Batman, to Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight, to the more recent Joaquin Phoenix in Joker. Cameron Monaghan, however, deserves to be in the conversation as the best Joker. His performance captures every aspect of the Joker’s personality, from a maniacal killer, to an agent of chaos, to a criminal mastermind.

Gotham’s Joker Puts a Unique Twist on the Clown Prince of Crime

In Gotham, Monaghan plays the precursor to the Joker: the Valeska twins, Jerome and Jeremiah. Jerome is a classic lunatic, an unpredictable and ruthless anarchist who will murder you while laughing hysterically. At one point, his face is cut off from his head, and Jerome staples the severed flesh back on, alluding to the Joker from the Death of the Family comic book arc. His Cheshire smile also pays homage to Heath Ledger’s version of the character from The Dark Knight. Like his criminal counterpart, he develops and weaponizes a dangerous laughing toxin that he uses on his victims.

And then there’s Jeremiah. Jeremiah dresses just as flashy as his twin brother (he often rocks a purple fedora hat), though his demeanor is more subdued. But don’t let that fool you. He’s infinitely more sinister and dangerous, acting more like a criminal mastermind and psychotic genius. He’s like a combination of the Joker’s depictions in The Killing Joke and Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. He doesn’t laugh nearly as much as Jerome but will occasionally crack a smile, along with a few skulls. It’s Jeremiah who develops an obsession with the young Bruce Wayne, viewing him as his destined arch-nemesis, which allows Gotham to capture their iconic yin and yang relationship. And it’s Jeremiah who falls into a vat of chemicals at the end of the show.

This is one of the best aspects of this adaptation. It uses chemicals to alter Jeremiah’s appearance, just like in the comics — not make-up, like we’ve seen in recent live-action portrayals. What emerges from the chemicals is the final version of the Joker, though the character isn’t yet sure what to call himself. He’s on the hunt for Bruce, who’s just returned to Gotham City. And the glee that fills his face when he looks upon Batman for the first time is nothing short of perfection (the Batarang that goes slicing through his hand is also something out of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns). Sure, this Joker is missing a lot of his green hair. But aside from that, he’s a faithful and incredible adaptation of this character.

1 The Riddler (Cory Michael Smith)

At this point, you may be saying to yourself, “Wait, Jim Gordon isn’t on this list?” And that’s because, well, he’s not a perfect adaptation. Forget the fact that he barely rocks his signature mustache throughout the show. This version of Jim Gordon executes villain Theo Galavan (James Frain) in cold blood, something that the comic book version of the character would never do. And he isn’t married to Barbara Gordon (Erin Richards), who he does eventually divorce in the comics, only afterBatman shows up in Gotham City. Conversely, Cory Michael Smith may just be the best Riddler we’ve ever had. Jim Carrey’s version from Batman Forever was more Jim Carrey than Riddler, while Paul Dano in The Batman took a darker approach to the character that was reminiscent of the infamous Zodiac killer.

The Riddler Is Practically Perfect

Gotham’s iteration is the closest we’ve seen to the comic book version. He’s a criminal mastermind and an obsessive-compulsive strategist. Like his comic book counterpart, he can’t help but make games and puzzles out of his crimes to challenge his opponents. During Gotham, we watch the character transform from riddle-loving Edward Nygma to the sinister Riddler. And his appearance is absolutely perfect. He rocks the green suit and bowler hat that the Riddler is known for in the comics, and by the end of the show, he’s even sporting a question-mark-covered suit. In terms of getting just about everything down, Riddler is easily the single best adapted character from the original comics. You can stream Gotham in its entirety on Max.


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“}]] From fan-favorites to central players, Gotham did these Batman characters justice.  Read More