The best DC show to binge ahead of The Penguin's premiere in September

The Penguin. Max original.
The Penguin. Max original. /

The Penguin, Max’s eponymous spin-off based on the story that unfolded in The Batman, is an anticipated release for DC fans like myself looking to return to the world Matt Reeves created.

The most recent teaser for the series cracks open the storyline beautifully, giving us a look at the crime drama’s moving parts. There’s definitely going to be commentary about the show being akin to The Sopranos and rightfully so. The series is leaning hard into a narrative about the Mafia and Penguin’s attempt to rise in the midst of the power vacuum created by Falcone’s death.

But there's actually a DC title that aired on broadcast that The Penguin fits right in line with . I'm talking about Gotham. The FOX series, which ran for five seasons from 2014-2019, was as gritty as you could get on network television, which is saying something since the program was known for its brutality and its villains roster.

Operating like a cop drama and a villains bonanza due to Bruce being a child and then a young adult during the series, Gotham didn’t shy away from showcasing the criminal underbelly of the city that bears its name. The GPD was rife with corruption, there was a careful dance detectives and officers did with the crime syndicates, and there was a groove to the storytelling that carried the same beats one would expect from a cable series.

The program also highlighted Oswald Cobblepot, an “odd fellow” who’s constantly underestimated by the villains among him. His storylines revolved around his grasp toward power and the chip on his shoulder he had from being overlooked and mistreated. Sure, Robin Lord Taylor’s take on the iconic Batman baddie was whimsically comical in comparison to Colin Farrell’s but his Penguin had a temper and violent streak just the same.

At the start of the series, Oswald is working for Fish Mooney, who in turn has an “understanding” with Carmine Falcone. But this storyline expands into a vie for power as Falcone’s grip on Gotham weakens with his age and the vulture’s begin to circle.

Clearly, The Penguin is going to be a through and through crime drama with none of the fantastical comics elements that network superhero series are known for. But I couldn’t help but think of Gotham while watching the second teaser released for the Max original.

It follows a similar vein to the broadcast drama. This is the time for a new power to rise. Like in the FOX series, Oswald and Sofia Falcone, the late Falcone’s daughter, are in a battle for dominance. The question of who will be the hand that guides the city from the shadows sits at the center of the plot and it’s exactly what’s going to hook us when the show finally begins streaming.

If you’re in need of a thrilling DC crime story now, I’d suggest streaming Gotham. All five seasons are on Max. They can also be watched for free with ads on Tubi. There’s just enough time between now and The Penguin’s debut in September to binge at your leisure and tide yourself over until a new iteration of Oz’s story takes the spotlight.

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