TV Review: “Gotham” – Batman Minus Batman

Written by Braden Thournout September 24, 2014

Gotham

If someone were to tell you there is going to be a show about Gotham and Batman characters that entirely lacks Batman, you might be inclined to think that is a silly proposition. Fox’s “Gotham” is a show about just that. Rather than the adventures of the caped crusader, the show will focus on the corruption in Gotham, the regular police, and what sort of events bring about people like The Penguin, Catwoman, The Riddler, and others. I feel “Gotham” has great potential. Unfortunately, the first episode falls just short of that. Hopefully the series finds its footing going forward.

Rather than Bruce Wayne, “Gotham” intends to focus upon the exploits of rookie detective James Gordon (Ben McKenzie) as he adapts to the city and its entrenched ways, ways that people like his partner Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue) are wise to. Rather than the super-villains and other outlandish characters from Batman’s rogues gallery being the main selling point, they are used as an interesting way to add variety and flavour to a procedural police drama. The villainous characters given the most attention are instead the criminal bosses Carmine Falcone (John Doman) and Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith). The tension in the criminal underground seems to suggest an overarching plot rather than a villain-of-the-week format.

“Fear doesn’t need conquering.”

Having grown up watching “Batman: The Animated Series” and still being a fan of it to this day, I know this shift can be done well, as some of the best episodes from that series didn’t involve Batman or a super villain at all. I have always found the GCPD to provide a fascinating cast of characters, and giving them the spotlight seems like a reasonable move. James Gordon is a long time favourite of mine, and Ben McKenzie does a splendid job giving him some personality on screen, if playing him a little too straight-and-narrow. Opposite this is Logue’s performance as Bullock. He is presented as someone who toes the line and plays by the rule of ‘the ends justify the means.’

Gotham

James Gordon and Harvey Bullock

 

Another standout performance is that of Robin Taylor as Oswald Cobblepot, better known as The Penguin. He really goes the distance in making Oswald a slimy criminal bent on self preservation. He shows his vicious, conniving, and desperate sides all in the span of a single episode. The portrayal of Bruce Wayne is also noteworthy, as good youth actors seem hard to find; David Mazouz carries his scenes excellently. His interactions with Sean Pertwee’s Alfred Pennyworth seem quite genuine and familial, as opposed to a master and servant relationship, which is rather fitting with Alfred being the one to raise Bruce Wayne.

Gotham

Oswald Cobblepot with James Gordon

 

Special note should also be made for the scenery that makes up Gotham, which is every bit as dark and noir-inspired as one could hope for. This exquisitely partners with the characters and costuming, allowing the people and places to very much look the part. For a show named “Gotham” I certainly feel that it was necessary to truly nail down the spirit of the titular city visually.

“This isn’t a city for nice guys.”

One thing that did irk me about “Gotham” is how so many of the memorable Batman villains were shoehorned into one episode. Catwoman, Poison Ivy, The Penguin, The Riddler, and even a nod towards The Joker are all seen in the span of a single episode. Some of these characters don’t even necessarily do anything important; Selina Kyle/Catwoman, for example, merely shows up to strike poses. This may simply be because it’s a pilot episode and they want to reel in an audience with promises of well known characters, but it still comes off as forced.

Gotham

James Gordon consoles Bruce Wayne

 

Probably my favourite scene in the episode is the conversation between James Gordon and Carmine Falcone. It leaves an opening for establishing Falcone’s actions in a more gray area than simply being a mean ol’ mob boss. This is the sort of intrigue that will keep me hooked, and allow theĀ asking of some interesting questions about the corruption and status quo in Gotham.

“There are rules.”

While “Gotham” doesn’t do a whole lot to really stand out as remarkable, it does enough to show it has potential. It stands at a point where it can either go well and provide an interesting take on police shows and new insight on beloved characters, or just be another cop drama with a gimmick and an established franchise. I, for one, hope for the former and will be giving it a fair shot in the coming weeks.

My Rating: 7/10

Gotham

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About Braden Thournout

Braden is a philosophy student with a love for old cartoons. He can probably tell you more about fictional worlds than the real one.

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