– Spoiler Review –
Can a show, set in Gotham City, starring younger versions of Batman’s famous Rogues gallery and the seemingly incorruptible James Gordon, work without Batman? That’s been the million dollar question when it comes to Gotham, leaving some of the fans of the popular DC comic’s detective apprehensive, with others at least excited for a new take on familiar stories. Premiering to 8 million viewers (which doesn’t account for DVR usage), no matter their trepidation or excitement for the show, a lot of Bat-fans turned up to watch Jim Gordon get his first taste of Gotham City’s justice. While I did find the episode to be a bit clunky and a little too busy, the world-building and characters helped make for an engaging hour. But was it enough to hook me (and will it be for other viewers)?
Ending Gotham TV Show Reviews (9/26/15)
I probably should’ve done this more formally back when I called it quits with the show after its umpteenth break during the first season, but I won’t be reviewing this series anymore. I had been holding out hope the show would get better for the second season and the creative team behind it were saying all the right things, but the S2 premiere was just more of the same. Sure, there’s some promise for better things ahead in it so I’ll be tuning in, but this is more in regards to my own personal time constraints and my sanity. Sorry and thanks for checking out Mynock Manor for details on Gotham and I seriously hope the show hits its stride soon. We still have plenty of content on the site so browse around before heading somewhere else!
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: two of the most powerful people in the city walk down an alleyway with their child at a theater performance, get held-up and robbed at gunpoint, then shot and killed while their child stands helpless and alone. While the tale of Bruce Wayne’s (played by David Mazouz) parents being killed is one even the most casual of Bat-fans know, this series uses it as it’s starting point to watch a young James Gordon (played by Ben McKenzie) discover just how the corrupted Gotham City really works, giving him a great reason to try to do the right thing. However, doing the right thing in this town is way easier said than done.
If there’s one thing the show has really gotten right is the feel of Gotham City itself. Pretty quickly it’s apparent true justice has been replaced by crime fueled by corrupted justice. The city looks bright and alluring, but the grime and dust seep in at the corners, helping the show develop a tasteful noir-vibe. Whether it’s Fish Mooney’s (a mob underboss played spectacularly by Jada Pinkett Smith) cabaret/bar, the little diner Gordon and his shady partner Harvey Bullock (always dependable Donal Logue) make a pit stop at, or Gordon’s apartment with a view of the city’s skyline, they reminded me not only of the recent trilogy of Batman films, but of things from the comics or animated TV show. But the sets and locales don’t just help the show’s vibe, the characters and events within make it readily clear straight laced Detective Gordon will be having a much harder time staying uncorrupted then he ever imagined.
Once Gordon promises a young Bruce he’ll bring the Waynes’ murderer to justice, after bonding with him over a shared incident in his own life, the viewer can already tell that promise will be broken. Bullock, a long time Detective in Gotham, isn’t happy to be saddled with the young do-gooder Gordon, hoping to give the case away to someone else like the major crimes unit. It does make you wonder how much he already knows, being so shifty the moment he realizes who the victims are, but watching him navigate the darker side of the law is a blast. Logue plays the grumpy and lackadaisical detective well, and it’s gonna be hard to hate him with the kind of performance he has.
Ditto goes to Jada Pinkett Smith, who looks to be relishing her role, playing wonderfully against all the actors she crosses as Mooney. Her scenes with both Bullock and Oswald Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor) are a few of the highlights from the premiere. But it’s the maniacal Cobblepot who steals the premiere, going from a self-serving, but controlled underling to a sadistic punk expertly. His path to being Penguin is set by the end of the episode, after Gordon gets put in a rather tricky situation.
As for McKenzie as Gordon, I have to say his performance feels both fitting for the role and at the same time confusing. I’ll confess I was a big The O.C. fan, which is where McKenzie had his breakout role as Ryan Atwood, but he did a great as a cop in Southland for several years. In Gotham however, it seems to be more of a script issue then McKenzie, as he’s doing his best with some awkward material. For example, he calls Bullock lackadaisical, which is definitely an older and odder term than we’re all used to and it’s used as a joke/bonding word for the two detectives, and his speech about the ‘light’ to a young Wayne feels rather forced to suddenly be having. But McKenzie is bringing his own angle to Gordon and so far, despite some of the material, he’s doing a good job of making himself someone we’ll hate watching getting beaten down by rampart corruption in the city.
Other awkward moments abound, with Edward Nygma, the over-enthusiastic and riddle prone lab tech, the seemingly out of the nowhere Penguin nickname for Cobblepot (while I understand why we call him that, there’s wasn’t a clear reason until near the end of the episode why people in Gotham would call him that), Bruce standing on his mansion’s ledge, and the opening police station scene.
On top of awkwardness, which led to the hour feeling clunky, the amount of introductions and possible subplots was a little overwhelming for a first hour. Had this been a two hour premiere, a lot of things could’ve been fleshed out a little more fully, instead of making some fan service feeling appearances. There’s an introduction for Ivy, the aforementioned Nygma and Cobblepot, Bruce, Alfred, Selina Kyle, Carmine Falcone, The Joker (more on him in a bit) and Barbara (Gordon’s fiance).
Out of all those introduced, giving Barbara Kean a deeper past full of questions, specifically her connection to major crimes detective Renee, leaves me the most interested while allowing her to be than just the pretty and doting fiance. The biggest disappointment was Selina, who only gets to have moments of prowling over both the scene of Wayne’s murder and later their mansion, as I’d like to have seen more of her and how she’ll handle acknowledging her presence at the crime scene.
Of course the GCPD captures (and inadvertently kills) the Waynes’ murderer, but it’s pretty quickly we find out it’s all been a big set up. However, the who behind it, and the why, are definitely the compelling mystery through-line for the series so don’t go thinking the pilot episode here will satisfy all those answers so quickly. A meeting between Gordon and Falcone sets the tone for Gordon’s future in the police force, while the final scene where he’s supposed to kill Cobblepot (and makes it convincing that he does, even though he spares the young man’s life) show the fine line he’ll have to walk to get the city any better. If he can.
It’s all the busyness of the episode and getting to watch how Gordon deals with a world that’ll continuously beat him until a caped crusader comes along (who “won’t” be appearing in the show) which draws me in for more of the show. There’s so much potential for this new version of familiar characters and stories (and a lot of characters there are) that it’s hard not to want to stick around and see where Gotham takes them all. And while it might be playing slow-burn with a lot of these personalities and well-known stories, the payoffs might just be way more than worth it. Count me in for Gotham.
Showrunner Bruno Heller has said Joker will be part of the long plan for Gotham, with several reports indicating we’ll see a character in each episode who has the potential to become the Joker. The premiere’s Joker Watch moment comes a little later in the hour, in a scene where Fish Mooney discovers who snitched on her plan: A stand up comedian gets one terrible joke in before he has to watch some violence start. A failed standup comedian is one of Joker’s few origin stories, but the green suit definitely makes this week’s a little obvious. Each week I’ll try to catch who it could be and I’ll discuss it here in the Joker Watch section of the reviews. On Twitter, I’ll be using #JokerWatch and you can too to help me find him.
+ Gotham City itself
+ Strong characters with great acting
– Awkward moments
– Lots of faces
– Felt too busy
S1, Ep. 12: “What the Little Bird Told Him”
S1, Ep. 11: “Rogues’ Gallery”
S1, Ep. 10: “Lovecraft”
S1, Ep. 9: “Harvey Dent”
S1, Ep. 8: “The Mask”
S1, Ep. 7: “Penguin’s Umbrella”
S1, Ep. 6: “Spirit of the Goat”
S1, Ep. 5: “Viper”
S1, Ep. 4: “Arkham”
S1, Ep. 3: “The Balloonman”
S1, Ep. 2: “Selina Kyle“