Riddle me a Penguin? Debbie Bennett on comic-book heroes
So I had covid. Double jabbed in March and May, and then caught the bloody thing last month. It’s a nasty little bugger too – wiped me out for 10 days, more or less, although not life-threatening by any means. Luckily we have good friends and were well-supplied with necessities, but for a good many days, there was nothing but television. I couldn’t even summon up enough energy or concentration to read.
Netflix comes to the rescue again. This time it’s Gotham. ** Spoiler alert: do not read on if you don’t want to learn what happens **
We’re still watching this now (just started season 5). I have mixed feelings, although I’ve got through 4 seasons so it’s not all bad! Leaving out the fact that nobody important really seems to die and our heroes keep getting captured and tortured and fight time and time again, and yet never seem to suffer more than a few cuts and bruises; ignore the caricature characters – this is comic territory after all – and forget the fact that the cops are regularly massacred and yet there’s always a full squad ready and available to walk into another trap. No for me, it’s the character inconsistency that pulls this down.
Harvey: beat-up old-school cop who veers between alcoholic nutter and all-guns-blazing good guy. Selina: who’s clearly cat-woman in the making has a personality transplant every few episodes and can’t decide whose side she’s on or whether or not to fancy our Bruce Wayne. And James who is so good it makes your teeth ache and yet wants to get up close and personal with all the bad girls. Oh and let's not forget Barbara who changes hairstyles every season, along with her purpose in life.
But Lee is the worst of them all – from naïve good-girl doctor who after a few bad life-choices disappears from our screens only to reappear as a leather-clad, cleavage-showing goth sex-goddess running underworld club fights – yes, I get she was changed by the virus, but nobody else was altered to that effect. It makes it hard to care for a character, when they have no consistent character.
Whereas the bad boys are at least consistent. I can kind of empathise with Ed Nygma, even if he did murder his first girlfriend rather horribly. He has a purpose and that’s admirable. And Penguin is glorious – I love him. The acting is superbly hammy in places, nicely understated in others, and despite all his many, many faults, you just want to pat him on the head.
But as I said: this is comic territory. I’m not big on comics or graphic novels and I’m not a fan of movie spin-offs. I hated Deadpool and I can take or leave the Supermen and X-Men and other such stuff. But you absorb these things over the years and I have a basic grasp of the main players in the Batman mythos, so it's interesting trying to spot them on-screen.
And Netflix of course likes to spin a tale out as long as possible. So our heroes run around in circles doing essentially the same things over and over again. But what I don't quite understand is now that our villains have grown up into adults (and we've learned why Ed became the Riddler and how the Joker got his name etc) why are Bruce and Selina still teenagers and not yet grown-in to their powers? I'm sure it will come in time, although I'm becoming bored with the story-regurgitation. You'd never get away with it in books. Or maybe you would ...