The Line That Must Not Be Crossed

By: Ian Cousins

Who are these players, why do they exist, is Gotham truly that corrupting? Tonight’s episode is an explicit lesson in cruelty, hardness and deception. Who’s capable of it, who isn’t? Another Gotham – “decent, hopeful” words spoken with a grimace by Jim Gordon. The biggest question in DC universe is “did Batman create the villains, or did the villains create Batman”?  The English Dictionary’s explanation for villain is “a wicked or malevolent person”. Obviously, malevolence is not a domain strictly limited to Gotham’s adults, but also includes its children as witnessed by Bruce’s encounter with Tommy and his goons. What’s interesting about tonight’s episode is that Gordon’s development as a Gotham detective mirrors Bruce’s development into the character we come to know as Batman. What is crucial to the development of both characters is that strength, cunning and fearlessness is what one needs to survive in, let alone rule Gotham.


As we examine these traits while looking back upon the series major characters, we notice that Alfred, Gordon and Bruce add two distinct traits that the major villains in Gotham do not embody – compassion and forthrightness. It’s these two traits that separate these three individual personalities from the villains dwelling within Gotham. It is in this list of character traits that Bob Kane Batman’s creator misleads us, perhaps intentionally, about the criminal character as demonstrated by Mooney, Falcon and Penguin who add ruthlessness and deceit to this list of character traits mentioned within this article. Remember the infamous words spoken by Batman when he began his crusade “criminals are a superstitious and cowardly lot”. However the actions taken by Penguin would demonstrate otherwise. Perhaps what saved Batman and Gordon from becoming like Mooney, Falcon and Penguin were those individuals that traveled their hero’s journey with them. In every major work of fiction and fantasy, the Arthurian character has always possessed what Jung refers to as a “Shadow”.


The Shadow according to Jung is not always evil, but is instead a reflection of an individual’s hidden psyche. This shadow, like Arthur’s Merlin, may provide the hero with needed guidance; thus preventing them from deviating from their chosen path. They are the line our hero must not cross. In tonight’s episode of Gotham, both Alfred and Bullock act as that line for Bruce and Gordon. Bullock prevents Gordon from crossing the line between earnest, hard-boiled detective and enraged killer; while Alfred assist Bruce in recognizing the line between victim and survivor. But what lesson did the line possess that both Bruce and Gordon had to recognize in order to continue upon their hero’s journey? The lesson was that “strength, cunning and fearlessness is what one needs to survive in, let alone rule Gotham” not ruthlessness, deception and cruelty. This is an important lesson for both Bruce and Gordon in their development into the two men who will come to rule Gotham through its chosen democratic laws and necessary violence. This lesson is especially necessary for Bruce since it is Bruce as “The Batman” that becomes Gordon’s shadow. It is as Gordon’s shadow personified that Batman performs the necessary evil that Gordon cannot do if he wishes to remain an embodiment of Law within Gotham. As Gordon’s shadow, it is Batman that must consistently tread upon the line between good and evil. It is the line between good and evil and what it embodies that the hero must learn to recognize upon his journey; something that Bruce and Gordon learned in tonight’s episode.