NOTE: This will contain minor spoilers.
Perhaps all of the hype that Fox was trying to generate for Gotham was warranted, because after all it is a Batman show without Batman (ie. it’s the television version of Gotham Central). Straight cop James Gordon attempts to clean up Gotham City and will have to put up with organized crime and organized corruption to do so. The biggest hurdle is trying to hook a casual audience onto a show that will probably never feature the Batman. Essentially, you make James Gordon into the Batman.
The first episode throws a lot at you, between all of the information you need to retain about the world and characters, all of the winks to hardcore Bat-fans, and all of the actual detective work that the viewer can do makes for a busy 60 minutes of television. The A plot for the premiere is the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents, which Jim Gordon’s partner Harvey Bullock is reluctant to take because of their high profile, and what they mean to particular persons in Gotham. While this part is largely wrapped up rather quickly in the first episode, the pilot succeeds in painting the basic backdrop of what to expect in DC’s troubled city. The premiere was not perfect, but it provides enough tentpoles to persuade casual fans to hardcore Batman fans to tune in for at least a few more episodes.
The trouble with putting together a Batman television show is that there are already many versions of Gotham City and its inhabitants from previous shows and films. Unlike Arrow, The Flash, and to a lesser extent Smallville, there is still a pretty clear interpretation for many people of what the Batman mythos is, so the main thrust for this show isn’t introducing people to the character. The show makes some minor deviations with some of the characterizations but those are not major enough that it still doesn’t work. The thing to remember is that Gotham makes choices that are particular to this incarnation of the story, and that’s fine. Even for a gigantic Batman fan like me, some of the most subtle changes register with me but in terms of the universe that Gotham resides in they still work.
The entire show revolves around new cop James Gordon (Ben McKenzie) and his day-to-day with seemingly corrupt cop Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue). McKenzie is pretty good and gives the indication of being a good cop as well as someone with the good intentions that Jim Gordon has. Part of the problem is that the showrunners of Gotham need to have a figure that at least resembles Batman since he won’t actually be in the show so Jim Gordon’s character is a little edgier than other versions.
Logue’s Bullock isn’t quite as keyed in as McKenzie is for Gordon. The characterization doesn’t seem consistent, actually seeming more like Bullock is lazy and as Gordon puts it lackadaisical. He also gets a bit hammy at parts, but it’s only one episode. Sean Pertwee as Alfred Pennyworth is also a little strange, acting the exact opposite of a gentleman’s gentleman. If anyone nails it this episode it’s Jada Pinkett Smith as Fish Mooney. This role was created specifically for this show and she is awesome. She exudes the Gotham corruption and power vibe in a stellar performance.
The main problem with the pilot is that it is just too jam packed. As other DC pilot’s have suffered, Gotham churns out too much information for 60 minutes and cruises through the main story of the Wayne family murder too quickly. In response to the quicker pace it seems the showrunners wanted to create incentive to tune in by shoehorning tons of supporting characters from the Batman universe which is nice, but could have benefited from being a little more organic and taking place over the course of a few episodes.
The first episode of Gotham is okay, and a Batman show without Batman can survive because it’s already been done in the comics with Gotham Central. As a huge Batman fan, and someone that loved the Gotham Central series, I’ll definitely continue on with this show. For casual fans I think there is still plenty to enjoy. One thing working for Gotham is that it gets to tell a lot of origins for the villains of Gotham City and already sets the table for at least one major player. If you like the Batman universe and are okay with substituting James Gordon into the game for Batman then this is for you. It’s James Gordon doing alot of the same things Batman does but without all the gadgets. And the Tumbler.
Oh, and you need to read the critically acclaimed, Eisner Award winning series Gotham Central by Ed Brubaker, Greg Rucka, and Michael Lark.
“Making you a better geek, one post at a time!”