Well Amigos, the fall television season is upon us, and like I discussed in a previous article, Gotham is now here and has kicked off TV’s Season of Superheroes (roll your eyes for that alliteration all you want, these shows have been the talk of this season for quite a while now). So for you good people in Amigoland (Dave, trademark that) I did what about 8 million other people did Monday night – checked out the pilot episode of Fox’s newest Monday night show. Anyone that knows me also knows that I’m a big time fan of Batman and the entire Bat-Universe, so my anticipation was also subdued with a fear that Bruno Heller’s (The Mentalist) new series would do more harm then good to the characters that have probably the greatest household name recognition in comics, at least outside of the current Marvel movies. After two viewings of the episode, once for me and once for you all, I can honestly say that Gotham is….
Fine. Solid even. Bordering on really good, and as long as it has a chance to grow and have these characters develop under the umbrella of this universe, it should be the bona-fide hit that network TV has yet to see with a comic property. That comes with one big “IF” though that I’ll explain later.
So, what is Gotham about? Well in a word – Gotham. The city known for creating and spitting out some of the most Strange, complex and fun villains takes center stage as the title clearly implies. You could make an argument that it would have made logical sense to go with calling the show GCPD, Gotham: MCU, GCPD: Dark Blue or any other of the myriad of abbreviations that we’ve seen in police procedural shows for the better part of 2 decades now, but by focusing on the City instead of a specific entity within, it allows some room to breathe inside of itself.
Some room to breathe is exactly what Gotham is going to need, because this pilot has a lot going on for the 42 min episode. As much as I understand the reasoning behind cramming in so much so fast, it also means that if they don’t have some very compelling stories to back up the and support the multitude of characters we have thrown at us, then they will end up as just a gimmick then will wear out their welcome quite quickly.
Gotham opens with a beautiful moving shot over the city, taking a cue from the more recent Batman films and using an actual city with digital overlays to portray Gotham instead of using a soundstage. The first character we get introduced to is a little bit of a surprise, as we see a young Selina Kyle (Carmen Bicondova) traversing the rooftops and stealing a jug of milk. Gotham wastes no time in getting to the story that should dominate the series as we see the Catwoman to be end up on a catwalk in the fateful Crime Alley, just as young Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) is walking through with his parents.
And so Gotham begins.
As I mentioned, there is a hell of a lot going on in this episode, almost as if the creators were a little afraid they wouldn’t get a chance later to show us what they have up their sleeves. We are introduced to the young, earnest Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie), a Detective just arriving in Gotham where we learn his father used to be a hot-shot D.A. Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue, in probably the best casting in the series) the gruff lawman who takes the city for what it is, and understands how it works- and how to work it. These two being paired up to solve the murder of the Waynes’ is the linchpin for these long-term partners getting together. Alfred Pennyworth is going to be a departure from anyone who hasn’t seen Geoff Johns’ (who is also creatively involved with this series) take on him in Batman: Earth One. No longer is he the quiet cockney accented frail old man; this Alfred is a former British soldier and is much more realistic about the world he and Bruce live in. We also get our induction to the two obvious characters that will carry the villains through this first season. I say obvious, because we have been told that surprises will abound as to who lies on what side of the bad-guy good-guy divide. The mob boss’ second in command Fish Mooney, is a new character created for the series and played by Jada Pinkett Smith. The character itself is a worthwhile addition, and a necessity for the introductions and development of other characters they hope to pull off, I just couldn’t help that when I was watching that it was painstakingly clear that I wasn’t watching a character so much as watching Smith play a character. Robin Lord Taylor as Oswald Cobblepot, however, absolutely nails his portrayal as the future Penguin. Though how many times can you have people refer to him looking and walking like a penguin before it gets old? Maybe they think no one gets the reference the first few times but seriously guys, less sometimes really is more.
I could keep going and going as there is absolutely more to be discovered in this first episode. (Gotham’s major crime unit players, Gordon’s fiancé, unnecessary villain cameo’s and the reveal of Gotham’s ultimate crime lord for example), but I will simply encourage you to check out the show for yourself. It is not perfect and definitely needs to stray away from the scenes with Gordon and young Bruce Wayne (the first one felt obligatory, and the closing one just felt awkward and unbelievable, I’d much rather see those interactions occur between Alfred and Jim) and play more to the strength of the police department and Gotham itself, as does the comic series that this takes most of it’s design and cues from- Gotham Central (written by one of this guy’s favorite comic writers and Winter Soldier scribe Ed Brubaker)
Gotham is shown on Fox at 8pm Monday nights
+ Donal Logue as Harvey Bullock. He steals the scenes he’s in, and really sets the tone for the city and the show
+ Gotham City. They did a nice job of creating a city that feels like it could exist almost anywhere. The use of a real as opposed to digitally created city is to it’s benefit
+ Potential. Come on, it’s Batman sans Batman. The hero with the best Rogues Gallery ever gives the creators a huge sandbox to play in and create with
The Schedule: And here’s my big IF on it’s chances to grow. Seriously who the hell at Fox thought that putting this show up against both The Big Bang Theory and Monday Night Football was a good idea? Are Batman’s villain’s running the scheduling department over there?
Poor execution of the death of Thomas and Martha Wayne. This is absolutely inexcusable. That is THE moment that sets off this show and is was probably the worst version of it that I have seen. Bruce’s night piercing scream that catches your attention in the trailers? Muted down so much that it loses all its power.
Closing scene with Jim and Bruce. Sigh, it had great moments and still felt so unbelievable that it wasn’t completely rewritten differently.