How can you go wrong with a show that takes in a universe in which Batman exists? There shouldn’t be anything wrong with that……right? Well, how about a universe in which Batman MIGHT exist one day, but in order to get to that one day you have to reside in a universe where you get to follow around a young Jim Gordon, his wise-cracking partner Harvey Bullock, and a bunch of villains who are either not yet the villains you know and love yet, and a female gangster named Fish Mooney. It will clearly be a slow burn for Fox’s “Gotham;” the newest take on the Gotham City and it’s residents. This opening is not meant to bash the show, it’s to clearly state what you are getting into when you prepare to dedicate multiple seasons to a show where you will follow around a young Jim Gordon who is likely not going to fight any “big” villains from Batman’s rogue’s gallery, but hey, I could be wrong.
So “Gotham” or at least the pilot episode, opens with that fateful night; the death of Bruce Wayne’s parents to a mugger’s bullet. The added wrinkle in this origin story is that the murder is witnessed by a young girl who has the slightest resemblance to a cat. Of course we know who she will become, but it’s never mentioned. Moving from Crime Alley, to the GCPD, we meet Jim Gordon and his new partner Bullock. The two couldn’t be less alike, classic case of good cop, bad cop. We also discover that Jim’s father was the former DA of Gotham City. Bullock and Gordon arrive at the scene of the Wayne family murder and while Gordon comforts Bruce, Bullock is trying to find a way to dump the case since he knows something is rotten in Denmark. As the show progresses we meet Renee Montoya, who works for the Major Crimes Unit, Jim’s girlfriend, Barbara Kean, and I might add those two have somewhat of a history, and it’s leaning on the lesbian side, which I can appreciate for obvious male-pig reasons. Along the way we also meet a young Oswald Cobblepot, Edward Nygma, and finally Carmine Falcone, played by “The Wire” alum, John Doman. In my haste we also meet the new Alfred Pennyworth, who delivers one of the funnier lines in the episode as well.
If it seems my synopsis is all over the place, well, that’s because the episode is all over the place. While it’s a slow burn, it’s also a pretty messy burn. There seem to be a few things that you are going to have to get over if you are going to enjoy “Gotham.” One, give up on seeing Batman anytime soon. Unless the show begins to rely on flash-forwards, or skips into the future after the first season, or two, there will be no Batman. And yes, I get it, the show is called “Gotham,” not “Batman” but when one thinks of Gotham City, there is really only one person you think of, but yeah, I get it.
Two, “Gotham” feels like something that could have been called “Gotham High.” Seeing villains like The Riddler, Penguin, and Catwoman as younger versions of their selves just seems odd, and wrong. Of course, this is all based on a pilot where things can change drastically and could improve, but I’m not into it as much as I feel like I should be. While I don’t agree with the direction of Penguin, I have to admit I like how he is being portrayed by Robin Lord Taylor. It’s quite a departure from what I’m used to in my Penguin character, from Danny DeVito’s take in “Batman Returns” to even the comic books, but building up Penguin as a big bad for the future is ballsy, albeit, a slow burn.
Three, I really hope they change how they use Harvey Bullock. Bullock was one of my favorite characters from “Batman: The Animated Series,” and the crooked-cop take on his character, at least to me, is a little too cliched. You’re always going to have one of this bad cop-types characters in a show, but why make Bullock that character? Donal Logue, who I think is vastly underrated in anything he acts in, gives Bullock a certain attitude that I appreciated, but I want the slovenly, fat, fast food eating Bullock, not this Bullock. Again, I like Logue, but I’m trying to figure out this take on the character. Of course, I’m sure there will be an arc where Bullock has to make a choice to do the right thing or the wrong thing, possibly during the season finale, where he will become the Bullock I’ve come to know and love.
To finish up the rants, some of the music and camera work and simply weird. I can’t help but think when I’m watching something in the Batman universe, I imagine listening to either Danny Elfman or Hans Zimmer; Graeme Revell isn’t who I would expect to score the “Gotham” TV show. And nothing again Revell, I loved his portion of the score for “Sin City” and if we got more of that in “Gotham” I would have no complaints, but alas. It just doesn’t seem like the score reflects what I would expect from a pseudo-gritty take on the history of Gotham City.
There are some other nit-picks through the pilot, but as a hopeful viewer, I think some of these things should get addressed. I still don’t buy Ben McKenzie, or Detective O.C., as Jim Gordon, but he has shown he’s got the chops, see “Southland” as a good example. I really hope the show doesn’t push a Selina Kyle/Bruce Wayne teen romance angle, that would just come off as needlessly cheesy. Finally, don’t create and add characters just to create and add characters. If the show is really going to push the “Rise of the Penguin” and Carmine Falcone/Fish Mooney angle, let those angles flesh out and concentrate on making that the best plot line you can make.
Overall, like “Arrow” and I’m sure “The Flash,” “Gotham” will go through it’s growing pains, similar to Bruce Wayne. The biggest thing for “Gotham” is that when you hear Gotham, you think Batman. But how long will that last with audiences who want to see the Dark Knight, not the Adventures of Jim Gordon vs. Fish Mooney. Name recognition is the biggest thing the show has going for it right now, and the fact it’s on Fox, a network notorious for axing shows if they don’t perform up to snuff, it will be interesting to see how long of a leash “Gotham” will have.
Fun Fact: Before he was hitting the street as Gordon, McKenzie was behind the cowl, voicing the Dark Knight in the animated feature, “Batman: Year One.”