Well finally I’m getting around to it and doing a writeup on my first impressions of the new DC TV show Gotham. From DC, teaming up with the FOX network, Gotham is set in the pre-Batman era, taking place on the night of the Wayne murders as we focus on following the journey of new member of the police force James ‘Jim’ Gordon and his partner Harvey Bullock attempting to solve the case and other crimes committed in Gotham. I’m going to talk about the first three episodes that I’ve caught of the series so far and my initial positives and negatives of the show. So it goes without saying, if you haven’t watched Gotham yet I’d stay clear as there will be SPOILERS ahead.
The first episode opens up with the introduction of Selina Kyle followed by the infamous Wayne murders. Gordon and Bullock are on the case, with Gordon vowing to Bruce that he’ll find the person who murdered his parents. Cue a montage of Gordon/Bullock scourging the back alleys of Gotham interrogating anyone that could be linked in some way to the murders. Coming up with no leads, Bullock takes Gordon to meet Fish Mooney (a character created for the series) and here we meet Oswald Copplepot (who doesn’t like to be referred to as Penguin). Then we’re introduced to Gordon’s fiance Barbara Kean, where they’re living in a fancy apartment, with the two of them seems to be in a settled place in their relationship, with Barbara helping motivate Gordon to solve the Wayne murders. Getting a tip from a source, Gordon and Bullock arrive at Mario Pepper’s place to see where he was the night of the murders. The visit turns hostile, leading to a chase scene and with Gordon about to get struck by Pepper, Bullock puts him down, killing him. When they return to his home they find the pearls, case closed and the two are heroes. Well, not quite. Major Crime detectives, Montoya and Allen, meet with Oswald and he tells them that Bullock, Gordon and Mooney framed Pepper for the murders. Allen can smell this as a ploy for Oswald to remove Mooney and take her spot, while Montoya takes this information to his fiance Barbara and there’s an obvious backstory between the two. When Gordon learns of this visit from Montoya, he tells Bruce that he didn’t catch the real killer but still won’t stop till he rights this wrong and get justice for his parents. Despite Bullocks warnings to his partner, Gordon ends up almost getting killed by Mooney’s men (Bit silly that Mooney attempts to kill two cops by why the hell is Butch attempting to record the murders on camera?) but is saved by crime boss Carmine Falcone. Falcone gets some one on one time with Gordon, telling him that Pepper was a sacrifice for the people of Gotham to feel safer (in his words “I’m a businessman. You can’t have organized crime without law and order. I love this city, and I see it going to hell. But I won’t let it fall apart without a fight.”) and that he knew his father and that they understood and respected each other. Gordon learns in order for them to meet on the same page, with instructions from Bullock, he’s being forced to put a bullet into Copplepot’s head. Taking him to the end of the docks, Gordon tells Oswald to never come back to Gotham and fires a shot, pretending to put a bullet in his head, while Oswald falls into the water. The episode ends with Oswald re-emerging from the river on the otherside of Gotham, killing a fisherman and going to town on his sandwich (for an ending to an episode, it’s a bit odd).
Episode two ‘Selina Kyle’ is not as character centric as the title suggests, it mainly focuses on the angle of two cartoon villains, Patti and Doug, abducting street kids for a specific purpose. Meanwhile Oswald hitchhikes on the side of the road and picked up by two fellas that are kind of being dicks towards him, when one refers to his limb and that makes him look like he’s walking like a Penguin, he snaps and begins to stab the driver. Falcone calls in on Mooney, in the middle of his talk with her mentions that the Falcone’s and the Wayne’s were the pillars of Gotham (Gets the mind rattling, were the Wayne’s slightly grey?) and he has his men beat up Mooney’s latest squeeze in front of her to make a statement. Major Crimes pay a visit to Oswald’s mother to determine if she has any leads to give them on his sudden disappearance. In Wayne Manor, Bruce is burning/cutting himself and listening to heavy metal, Alfred pays a visit to Gordon to ask him to come round and help him talk to Bruce. When quizzed about why not get him help, Alfred explains the no psychiatrists rule to him, explaining that his parents dying wish was that Bruce chooses his own course because “Afterall he’s a Wayne” (Instantly you think how much of them most of been a pair of dicks as parents to suggest such a thing). With Gordon/Bullock managing to find the missing kids, the Mayor decides that all the street kids will be put into juvenile services and once again the loony twosome that is Patti and Doug re-emerge, taking a bus load of the street kids, including Selina, to a warehouse top lace in a shipping container to ship them off to the Dollmaker. In a hideout spot, Oswald tries to get a ransom from the other guy in the cars mother, but unwilling to cooperate with his demands it’s just unlucky for the guy that his mother figures him to be a shithead. The episode ends with Patti and Doug being stopped, the kids saved, yet still going to Juve, and Selina telling Gordon that she saw who killed the Waynes.
The third episode ‘The Balloonman’ sees Oswald returning to Gotham, where he attempts to get a job on dishwashing duties at a restaurant, even going as far as to taking out the guy that’s already working in that department and even worse, stealing his bloody shoes! By the end of the episode it becomes clear as to why he was so driven to getting that specific job at the restaurant, as it’s owned by Falcone’s crime rival Sal Maroni. The episode focuses primarily on the vigilante appearance of Balloonman, while not as threatening as Batman, in any way shape or form, he aims to attack the guilty and corrupt and deal with them punishment by attachment to a weather balloon (The first one that this happens to, there’s cops on the scene instantly, why the hell did they not shoot the weather balloon?). Major Crimes still look in to Oswald’s ‘disappearance’ and arrive at Mooney’s place, who tells them that she heard that he’s dead and that Gordon pulled the trigger. The duo then decide to come at Gordon head on with this ‘new evidence’, with Montoya taking it a step further by telling Barbara that he killed Oswald under Falcone’s orders. So basically in Gotham you don’t need evidence, you just need words in order to put a case against someone.
The positives, probably the key so far, of Gotham is the budget that is behind it. The sets look well, the show is mostly well shot, hell the likes of Arrow/The Flash would kill for a budget like Gotham’s. Another is the partnership between Gordon and Bullock, the way that McKenzie and Logue play off one another in the daily arguments on what’s black and white in the (so far) case of the week episodes. Of course so far Harvey Bullock is the more interesting character, he plays hardball on Gordon to the point that Gordon writes him up as corrupt as the rest of the force but Bullock comes across as a man that has experienced alot in his time in Gotham, that sometimes it’s better to get with the program than end up dead….which Gordon almost is from the get go. Oswald Cobblepot also has an interesting arc in the underbelly of Gotham but feel already feel like they’re rushing on his arc three episodes in but I’ll get into that on my negatives.
Surprisingly I’m liking the casting and think it’s the shows main strength at the moment, particularly with Ben McKenzie as Gordon, Donal Logue as Bullock, Robin Lord Taylor as Oswald, David Mazouz as Bruce, Sean Pertwee as Alfred and John Doman as Falcone. I actually differ on some opinions people have on Gotham’s version of Alfred as I actually like it, a more ruggish/firmer man to help look after a young Bruce Wayne rather than a stereotypical ‘proper British’ type. Even David Mazouz as a young Bruce Wayne is fine in his scenes with McKenzie and Pertwee, though I doubt fans watching a young Bruce burn himself and listening to heavy metal is exactly what they want to see. It appears the crime world will be heading towards a potential war, with us already seeing Falcone and how he handles certain situations and with Maroni mentioned in the background and how Arkham appears to have a major role to play in the shimmering feud between them, so I’m looking forward to seeing where that goes.
THE major gripe I have with Gotham so far is how it handles with paying nods to the history of the Batman archive that it has, as well as particular characters. They don’t just try to ease drop a word or two to mention that a certain character will be a certain someone (villain mostly) in the future of Gotham, but bash the viewer on the head with the name drop etc. to make it as clear as day who that particular character is. There’s foreshadowing and then there’s just spelling it out. Two examples – Selina Kyle and Pamela Isley. In the opening scene of the pilot we’re introduced to Selina, who pickpockets members of the public for their wallets and also steals a womans milk and feeds it to stray cats. If that wasn’t enough of a subtle hint enough as to who she will be in the future, anyone that keeps calling her Selina, she keeps referring to herself as Cat. Here Pamela Isley has a name change to Ivy Pepper, to make it clear to the audience who she will end up in future. It’ll come across as stupid to complain about this specific thing with the name drop but there’s no point in appearing to ‘dumb it down’ with the references, in order for the audience to get it – which quite a number that will have been watching the show will get. Granted as much as did complain about Edward Nygma with his riddles in the pilot as the lab guy in the Gotham City Police Department, that’s been toned down. Also in regards to them spelling stuff out to the audience, a moment in episode 3 between Selina and Gordon when they return to Crime Alley, to prove that Selina was at the scene of the night of the Wayne murders, Gordon climbs down the sewer to find a wallet that she stole on the night of the murder to confirm that she was there. Gordon finds the wallet yet still says “She was telling the truth” just to make sure that the audience gets it.
With the fact that the show only had ten episodes ordered before it premiered (now officially been given a full season), it’s no surprise that the villains of the week thus far have been…lacking. For the second episode, enter Patti and Doug, who by far, may be the most cartoon villains to have appeared on the comic based small screen since Seth Gabel’s Joker-ish portrayal of The Count on Arrow. Two duo are collecting the children for the Dollmaker but come across as campy as they come (“We did good (high five)”), played by acting vets in Lili Taylor and Frank Whaley. The both of them are good actors but they were given awful stuff to work with. The following episode then featured the vigilante of Balloonman, which in writing, sounds just as cartoony than the duo before him and anything thus far from Agents of SHIELD. Right now on the villain of the week side, the show appears to be going with the Tim Burton vision of what he done with Batman, whereas with the crime arc of Gotham it’s gritty and serious. Right now the show is finding it difficult for me to difference the two evenly while they’re attempt to go with their own interpretation of Gotham’s origins.
A few other dislikes more than anything, just not as important as the ones stated above – where little Bruce Wayne fits into the overall series? Assuming it’s around for the long-term. Like I said previously, I’m fine with David Mazouz in the role, just considering the age thing being a factor with the character now and with the role of Harvey Dent being cast and to appear later down the line, just where does Bruce fit in the overall scheme of things. Then there’s the fact of what are they doing with the character of Barbara exactly? These three episodes I’ve watched, Barbara thus far has remained in the pad that her and Gordon are living in (which looks too nice for a cop and…what does Barbara do again?) and involved in a somewhat weird and not necessarily needed love triangle plot between her, Gordon and Montoya. I’m sure as well that her character will grow in the series, so far I can’t tell exactly what accent Jada Pinkett Smith is going for with Fish Mooney and is currently hamming it up in the role, but at least she appears to be enjoying it, yet she feels like an obstacle for Oswald to overcome at the end of this series (at least) and make a Penguin style pun for him to take his place further up the ladder in the crime sector.
While not great and not absolutely terrible, the show is struggling to get its bearings together yet to find an identity of what it’s trying to be and hoping to achieve. I’ll put this down to the show trying to work out the kinks before finding out it’s long term achievement and since it finally got the full season pickup, maybe we’ll start to notice the long term benefits by episode 9 or 10. I normally give a show like this the halfway point in its season to determine whether I’ll stick with it or not, with the cast that it’s got and the fact that the crime underbelly of Gotham is at least intriguing, I’ll stick with the show until then.