“The Good. The Bad. The Beginning.”
This is it, folks. This is the origin story we’ve been waiting for. Not a flashback where we see Bruce Wayne learn the martial arts that will allow him to incapacitate his enemies without having to kill them; not a snippet of storyline where we see his eyes light up as he considers what Wayne Industries could do in furthering his vigilante projects; and not a simple graveside scene where we see the weight of the world descend on Bruce’s shoulders as Alfred wraps his arm around the young boy with a distant, yet protective comfort.
This is the Gotham that will shape the Batman into the most unique hero, a dark knight, someone who manages to balance between good and evil, withstand corruption, and evade the law. This is the Gotham that will teach Bruce Wayne that everyone has light and darkness but what we choose to act on can be influenced by our social status, our economic privilege, our education, and our early childhood development.
What is so unique and intriguing about this show is that there are adults cast in the main roles, but the children and young adults of the show are those who will later come to the forefront of Gotham’s crime syndicate, or fight against it, or switch sides as convenient. These children are being forged into true citizens of Gotham, with shadowy pasts, and futures shrouded in mystery.
Selina Kyle manages to stand alone between the homeless, ragtag group of street children and the well-cared for Bruce Wayne. She has learned to trust no one, on either side. She knows what she wants and she has leverage to use. I like seeing Selina Kyle in this light because she’s portrayed as an intelligent, athletic child, one who has had to grow up too fast, a young girl who desperately wishes for a mother, some guidance, a relationship in which she can put her trust. Selina Kyle is realistic, multi-faceted, unique.
The other kids, Mario Pepper’s daughter who will become Poison Ivy; Oswald Cobblepot, a young adult ex-lackey for Fish Mooney; and the homeless street urchins who are rounded up to provide someone with a tidy profit in the human trafficking arena, all of them come from poverty-stricken, unhealthy situations where they have no hope of reaching up into a place of opportunity.
Gotham has managed to highlight an issue that we too often overlook, out of ignorance, or perhaps carelessness. The state I currently reside in is one of the worst ranked states when it comes to child homelessness. Upwards of twenty thousand children are without shelter, due to financial troubles (while many people work minimum wage jobs, the average cost of a two bedroom apartment would mean working a job that paid fourteen dollars an hour), medical issues, abuse, neglect, etc.
What happens to these children? Who are they spending their time with? Some might not be so lucky as Selina Kyle, who has some advantage over those children who were caught and almost sent to a mystery location (with the intent of delivering them to a juvenile detention center, simply because they could be housed there and supervised) prior to being rescued by Jim Gordon.
Bruce Wayne is even more lucky than Selina Kyle. He has money, an education, and a guardian he can trust. So what do all of these kids have in common, and what makes them different? What determines their status as a vigilante, anti-hero, or villain? I think a lot of it has to do with their relationships. Bruce got to be with his parents for several years, and they were, supposedly, good parents.
We don’t know much about anyone else’s parents beside Oswald Cobblepott (Kabelput)’s mother, who appears to have stepped out of a twentieth century fashion plate. Which brings up another interesting point. How much of our formative time is spent being misshapen by negative experiences, and is there a way to become better, even after the formative years are gone?
The debate between nature and nurture has never quite made sense to me. Isn’t it a bit of both, really? I think for Selina Kyle, she was nurtured to the point where it fostered her independent nature in a healthy way. For Bruce Wayne, he is having to test his own limits without parental advice (much to Alfred’s chagrin). And as for the homeless children, they’re so bent on surviving that it’s all they are capable of — time is the difference for many of these children.
Time, personality, experience, environment. Those are what made all these children different from each other. Bruce, with the most time, will have ample hours in which to test himself, push himself, discover just what he is capable of. These street urchins always looking for a bit of food or an extra coin have hardly any time to try to better themselves. Selina Kyle, once again, falls somewhere in the middle.
This is interesting to consider with the other half of this episode, which is about the natural rise and fall of nature. The old will make way for the new, the weak for the strong, the aged for the young. It is the way of life. The ups and downs of the natural rhythm of the universe ensure that the world will continue. But what kind of world will it be?
For Gotham, the new world looks to be even scarier than the old. Gotham is already corrupt, overrun by a mob and a police force that’s all too happy to look the other way. What happens when this environment begins to nurture the children? This is what happens to those like Oswald Cobblepot, Ivy Pepper and Selina Kyle. Those who grew up without advantages. They will have to find out how to survive in this world, and sometimes that means going mad, or by creating a weapon to protect yourself from everyone and everything.
For Bruce Wayne, however, the scenario is completely different. He has access to things that can change the city. He has the finances to do so. The question is whether his privilege will blind him to the needs of others, and what will it take for him to see that his city is turning in on itself and that he may be the only way for Gotham to come back into the light?
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