The Good, the Bad and the Gotham

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Everyone knows who Batman is.  Everyone knows how he watched his parents gunned down as a child on the streets of Gotham.  Everyone knows how he dedicated his life and fortune to becoming a modern-day cross between Hector and Sherlock Holmes.  Everyone knows how he took his one-man war on crime to the heart of Gotham, taking on the mob and an increasingly psychotic menagerie of super villains.

But this is not his story.  It’s Gotham’s.

When Thomas and Martha Wayne are killed, hot-headed police rookie James Gordan promises their traumatized son that he will find the killer.  But with the police in the mob’s pocket and an organized crime war on the horizon, justice is in short supply in Gotham.  Paired with a corrupt partner and pressured by their superiors to close the case quickly, his investigation leads to an innocent man’s death.  When he starts asking the wrong questions, however, he draws the attention of mob boss Fish Mooney, who refuses to allow one idealistic detective to derail her carefully laid plans.

Gotham understands that the real appeal of the Batman franchise is not its heroes, but its villains.  Bruce Wayne is little more than an Easter egg: a supporting character that only exists to provide context to a cop drama with an especially flamboyant roster of criminals.  Before we ever see the Waynes – who any other Batman series would have paraded out as its first order of business – we see a juvenile Selena Kyle pickpocket her way through a crowded street.  When the Waynes do die, the focus is not on them – not even on their inconsolable son – but on her: the solemn witness to the crime.  Rather than delve into Bruce’s grief, the series rapidly cuts to an investigation that introduces the Penguin, the Riddler, Poison Ivy and quite possibly the Joker in rapid succession.  More time is devoted to even mundane mob bosses like Fish Mooney and Carmine Falcone than in the young Batman-to-be.

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Surprisingly, I found myself decidedly on Team Penguin by the end of the night.  I always found Oswald Cobblepot to be the dullest of Batman’s A-list villains.  He was never more than an eccentric mobster with a weaponized umbrella and was mostly content to sit back and let his hired muscle do the dirty work.  His only mildly interesting scheme was hijacking the Batmobile, which amounts to a zero sum in a series without a Batman.  In Gotham, however, he’s a Game of Thrones-styled apostate who sells his boss out to the only good cops in town in order to seize control of her operations.  He even proves more than willing to get his own hands dirty, enthusiastically beating a man in an alley with a metal bat an slitting a fisherman’s throat.

If Gotham’s first episode can be faulted with anything, it’s being constrained by its sixty-minute time slot.  The episode’s frenetic pacing only allowed it to check off the points that it wanted to get to without being able to take its time developing them.  The pilot introduces six key villains (seven if you count the potential Joker), Gordan and his crooked partner Bullock, Barbara Kean, an antagonistic pair of Major Crimes detectives, the orphaned Bruce Wayne and Alfred Pennyworth.

In its already pressed run-time, it rushes straight from the Waynes’ assassination to the Gotham PD’s corrupt dealings with the Mob, Bullcok’s resentment towards Gordan, Barbara’s complicated relationship with Major Crimes detective Renee Montoya, Penguin scheming for Mooney’s job, Mooney scheming for Falcone’s job an Falcone preparing for a mob uprising.  Needless to say, it’s a lot to take in.  A two-hour premiere would allow Gotham to not only delve further into the characters that they introduced, but to expand upon the plotlines that they seeded and hinted at.

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Although not without its opening-night hang-ups, Gotham is easily the most promising new comic book-inspired show on TV (and with Flash, Constantine, Daredevil, Iron Fist, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, The Defenders and Agent Carter waiting in the wing, that’s saying something).  Its premise of a Batman-less Gotham and pitch-perfect casting will go a long way to make this a definite must-watch show.  Overall, I would give this episode an 8/10.

8 Comments

  1. Jake T September 26, 2014
  2. Lucas Tetrault September 26, 2014
    • goseebananafish September 26, 2014
  3. froggystyle66 September 26, 2014
  4. LOLpackagingLOL September 26, 2014
  5. Manolo September 26, 2014
  6. robinvik1 . September 27, 2014
  7. monstrinho October 2, 2014

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