The first of four new super hero shows this season (Flash, Gotham, Constantine and Peggy Carter Agent of SHIELD) premiered and, while it wasn't the instant home run that I was hoping for, I have a feeling Gotham is going to build into something quite special. I, for one, will be along for the ride in what is an origin story for a city, really. How did the Gotham City that needed a Batman become to be? That seems to be the show's guiding principal question.
The protagonists for the show are very much the members of the GCPD. Drawing ideas and characters from Rucka and Brubaker's Gotham Central run is never going to be a mistake and we get Renee Montoya and Crispus Allen a bit in the pilot, but the main focus is on the two lead characters in the show: Jim Gordon and Harvey Bullock. It's an interesting juxtaposition that Bullock is the savvy negotiator of the Gotham streets and Gordon is the greenhorn. Most depictions of Bullock have him with a donut crammed down his throat half of the time, while Donal Logue's Bullock is more than walking the borderline of being a dirty cop . I think his being dragged up, against his will, by Gordon's stubborn do-gooding is going to be one of the more interesting storylines of the season (series). The show opens with the iconic murders of Thomas and Martha Wayne. The camera and set-up is more interested with who was there and who witnessed it before snapping to a horrified Bruce's scream.
Knowing trouble all over a case when he sees it, while Bullock is intently trying to get himself and his new partner unassigned the Wayne murders, Gordon is bonding with a young Bruce Wayne. I don't know how much Wayne and an Alfred so jarringly out-of-character and bad that I hope he's recast are going to be a part of the series, but that the murder is the pivot point on which both of their lives are going to turn is clearly established.
Batman has always been defined by his villains and we're promised their beginnings in this series as well. Selina Kyle skulked in the shadows this week, but since her name is the title of episode two, I would imagine that soon will change. Edward Nygma is pre-Riddler working for the GCPD crime lab. Of the iconic villains, The Penguin is the most present and viciously established baddie. Working for Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett), one of a number of petty crime lords looking to weaken the Falcone family's grip on crime in the city, by the end of the episode, Cobblepot has undergone the greatest transformation of anyone save Bruce. With no definitive performance of the Penguin since Burgess Meredith, there's certainly an opportunity here to make a deep and defined characher out of a rogue too often treated as a joke. The only villain cameo that felt forced an unnecessary was Poison Ivy's. If they're going to use her as a villain at the age at which her character currently stands, they're going to have to do a more convincing job of her necessity to the plot. All of the villains-in-training otherwise come off very good and, as fans may know, there will be a potential Joker in each episode until the Clown Prince makes his debut (which the show runners are in no hurry to get to (episode 1 had a stand-up comedian). The main antagonist it looks like for now is Pinkett's Mooney and that's kind of a problem for me as I didn't like her character and think the Falcone family is more than interesting enough itself than to invent a need to pit amateur gangsteresses like Fish against The Roman his brood.
My main complaint in the pilot is that it felt crowded. Not everyone needed to be introduced in the pilot and trying to cram everyone in, gave short shrift to several characters. Gordon & Bullock needed more time with and less with characters that can be slowly spun into an increasing mythos in upcoming weeks. Gotham premiered to great numbers and it'll keep them if it can keep slowly expanding the world; building the city into a rich tapestry of intersecting characters deserving of the complex hero it will eventually generate. It may take awhile to get there, but I think we're off to a promising start.
For more articles by Dave Yaeger visit his blog at Killing Time.