It is no coincidence that writer/creator Bruno Heller (The Mentalist, Rome) begins his new series Gotham with Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman. Traditionally, Kyle straddles the fence between good and evil in the Batman mythos and it's appropriate that we are introduced to the morally ambiguous city through her eyes.
Gotham takes place in a time period that is hard to peg down. The city has the buzz of 1970's New York danger around every corner. The criminals seem modern, but yet have classic gangster flair. The car models are decades old, yet many of the characters feel contemporary. It's a clever juxtaposition that works and makes each locale pop. That is a feat because the pilot is jam-packed with so many characters, that it could have easily been overlooked.
Heller drew a lot of unneeded critical attention to his show when he made claims earlier in the year that Gotham, would have a better visual interpretation of the city than the Nolan films. That is a huge claim to make. While he may not have bested the cinematic version, judging from the pilot, it is clear the production team was swinging for the fences. The cinematography is crisp and the city feels alive.
The main players that the pilot look to establish are rookie detective Jim Gordon, Det. Harvey Bullock, Fish Mooney and Oswald "The Penguin" Cobblepot. Gordon, played by Ben McKenzie, is characterized as being naively idealistic, yet hard as nails on crime and uncovering the truth. His capacity for compassion is established when he comforts a traumatized Bruce Wayne, who has just seen his parents murdered in cold blood. By having Gordon be the responding officer it actually strengthens the long-standing mythology. While giving the writers a much stronger reason to have the young detective in the middle of all the crime and madness erupting. But how hokey was his character introduction? Yikes.
One of the concerns raised in our own Gotham preview, was that the series may suffer from overcrowding the field with iconic figures. It is customary for pilot episodes to include an absorbent amount of characters and information and there is a lot in this one. It's an effort to grab new viewer's attention and to lay the foundation for world building for future episodes. However only in a few cases, with Ivy Pepper for instance, did any of the roles seem unnecessary to this series. Many were given brief visual or verbal introductions, such as the future Catwoman and Riddler, and simply left as threads for exploration in future shows.
The pilot is full of strong performances. A theme of the episode is that everyone, whether cop or crook, in Gotham operates under an unwritten code of conduct. Gordon is unaware of the code, he simply has never read the "book" and is shown to be an idealist, so he probably wouldn't heed it if he understood it anyways. Fish Mooney, played by Jada Pinkett-Smith, is the local mob boss, a lieutenant of the kingpin Carmine Falcone. Mooney benefits from the code, because it keeps order and the chain of command on the streets and in the police department, reporting to her. The writers tempt Gordon many times throughout the episode from all directions. His veteran partner Harvey Bullock, played by Donal Logue (Sons of Anarchy), tries to teach him the easy ways out, so he will survive in the wild west atmosphere. By the end of the episode Gordon is put in an unwinnable situation and it will be a treat to see how the writers handle the ramifications of his decisions.
Clearly one of the highlights of the show and presumably of the first season will be to see the development of the Penguin, played by Robin Taylor. It will be more than intriguing to chart his growth from mob henchman to mob boss. Cobblepot is shown to be the most willing of the bunch to manipulate the rules by playing both sides of the law against each other, in an effort to create a power vacuum. His physical transformation has begun and his role may prove to be emblematic of what could make the series work. We know where his destiny lies, seeing the roadblocks the writers have lined up in his way should lead to some exciting episodes. Taylor truly was a standout of the show in the early going.
The episode has its issues. The scenes of Gordon's homelife felt awkward and his relationship with his fiance, Barbara Kean, felt oddly out of place. The editing is sloppy and lighting does not feel very Gotham-like in certain scenes. However admittedly, the sliding scale does come out when dealing with a network TV show that airs at 8pm. With that in mind, the imperfections are a lot more tolerable than most generic shows you would find in this spot, whether a Batman fan or not.
All networks carrying new superhero shows are making a marked effort to improve the quality of their shows. While Gotham does have some problems it is largely successful in setting up a world viewers would want to revisit. It's customary for new shows to find their footing well after the debut of the pilot episode. Gotham has it's flaws, but it has allowed itself plenty of space to grow.
One of the biggest challenges the show faced from the onset was, "how do you make a show about Batman's city compelling, without the star of his own show?" Instead of dancing around the issue, the creators directly tackle the pink elephant in the room. The show is about a city that needs a hero and this is one man's attempt. The true hero is years away, but the show doesn't make you want to press fast-forward. There aren't any hokey images or shadows that look like bats around every corner. The show succeeds because it makes you want to watch the very mortal Jim Gordon, not Batman, get his ass kicked by the city of Gotham for the next few years. And that is as big an accomplishment as anyone could expect.
Did you like the pilot? What was your favorite part of Gotham? What are you looking forward to? Let us know on the comment boards!
Source: Point of Geeks, FOX