A few months ago when I heard about Gotham, I was both intrigued and sort of nauseous.
Though I’m not a Superman fan, I remember having the same sort of reaction when Smallville first aired. I remember watching that pilot (and maybe the second or third episode) and giving up. I realize that it blossomed into a culty fan favorite but something about another reboot of a famous origin story, concentrating only on the origin years, didn’t appeal to me.
A big part of this was probably because it was a Superman show, I won’t lie.
So, now they come to give Batman the same sort of treatment with Gotham. I know, it’s not supposed to be about Batman per-se but, as of the pilot anyway, it’s more about the origin of Batman’s amazing cast of supporting characters as well as his rogues gallery. Face it, he’s got some of the best in all of comics to the point where they spin-off into their own books and even their own TV shows (hands up if you remember Birds of Prey).
The story opens with the Wayne murders. (note – No, I’m not posting spoiler alert. If you’ve got a heartbeat, you know that Thomas and Martha Wayne were shot in a mugging that left Bruce Wayne a screaming orphan in the street.) This is lead into after a sequence in which we see a young Selina Kyle, somehow already a parkour-expert pickpocket, steal a half-gallon of milk from a poor old lady and pulling a businessman’s wallet but nearly getting caught. Of course, she winds up with a prime viewing angle on the infamous superhero-creating double homicide.
After the Waynes are shot, we see what, in my opinion, might be the only actor worse than George Clooney (or Val Kilmer) to play Bruce Wayne – a child with enough smarts in his head to know what just happened – try in vain to rouse his parents who he apparently thinks are sleeping… with inch-wide bleeding holes in the center of their chest. Once it’s through his thick skull what happened, he drops to his knees and lets out the worst sort of pre-pubescent scream imaginable – like a fake temper tantrum scream – before we cut to the main titles.
We get quickly introduced to Jim Gordon in an expository sequence involving a crazy man wanting his pills and taking another cop hostage INSIDE THE POLICE STATION (just in case you thought pre-Batman Gotham was some kind of crime-free utopia). We’re left to know that Jim is a rookie detective in homicide and is partnered with an older and more seasoned Harvey Bullock who is immediately forced on the audience as a cynical man who has a borderline hatred for his job (or at least the action surrounding it). I can’t complain too much about Bullock, they seem to be doing him right and the actor playing him was the funny bearded ginger who got his arm cut off twice by Blade. He is troped as the “walk the line and sometimes step over it” character, though. A bit too much at times.
Gordon and Bullock, naturally, get put on the Wayne murder investigation. They show up in crime alley, blah blah blah, Jim endears himself to Bruce somewhat, enter Alfred (who seems to be going the “Beware the Batman” route with a much rougher London-street accent and attitude), rain rain rain, sad sad sad, Selina Kyle is still watching from the shadows for whatever reason, moving on.
Through the investigation we get introduced to a myriad of Mafiosi including Fish Mooney, the woman who “runs the theater district” for the Falcone mob. The murders took place on her turf and we’re shown that Bullock has a very close personal relationship with her. She’s played by Jada Pinkett Smith who seems to be doing a pretty good job of it though she channels a bit of Eartha Kitt style cheese with a fancy for a bit of the old ultra-violence.
Fish’s right-hand (more like slave), one Oswald Cobblepot, is introduced. A pale fellow with piercing blue eyes and a rather beaky nose (to no one’s surprise). Seriously, before you even knew the guy’s name, he’s standing there with an umbrella practically screaming “I’M THE PENGUIN! WATCH ME BECAUSE I’M GOING TO EVOLVE HEAVILY OVER THE COURSE OF T HIS SHOW!!!”
Oh, and it should be known here that there is much reference to the Falcone crime family, prounounced fal-KOHN, when in every other spoken Batman story, it is pronounced fal-KOHN-e. This bothered me to the point where every time a character said “fal-KOHN” I was correcting them out loud by shouting “fal-KOHN-e!” at the screen. Even when Carmine Falcone introduced himself as Carmine fal-KOHN. Drives me nuts. Anyway…
Eventually, we get introduced to Barbara Kean, Jim’s fiancée, and her ridiculously lavish yet appropriately gothy apartment in which they will eventually (sez her) co-habitate once they get married. They never let on what she does for a living in this version, but there’s no way she’s not in the upper-set with an apartment (and clothing, and fashion sense) like that. Probably another good plot in to the “Jim runs into Bruce” stuff.
Bullock being a dirty cop runs him into a lead on the Wayne killer which brings them to the house of one Mario Pepper whose daughter, Ivy, answers the door when Jim and Harvey arrive. I have to take a bit of an aside here because in the promo workup for Gotham they were promoting this little Ivy Pepper as Poison Ivy which absolutely kills me more than anything else so far. They’re leaving every name intact and they couldn’t have made the pre-pubescent Poison Ivy have her real name? Pamela Isley is Poison Ivy, promo art be damned. If they wind up really turning this little ginger nut into Poison Ivy without at least first changing her name to what it properly should be… well… it won’t matter, I guess, but at least get the damn name right.
The pair of dicks (meaning detectives, come on you pervs) wind up shooting Mario Pepper down at the end of a chase. They find Martha Wayne’s string of pearls among his loot stash, and it’s case closed. That is, until Oswald informs two competing detectives from the Major Crimes Unit (including Renee Montoya, one of my favorite characters from the DCU) that Pepper was framed by Fish Mooney to cover up for the real killer of the Waynes, likely a hired hitter.
This, interestingly, leads Montoya to the door of Barbara Kean. Montoya hints at a past with Barbara (likely a romantic relationship considering Montoya’s orientation in the comic books) and tells her that her husband-to-be must be on the take because he participated in the frame-up of Mario Pepper. This meeting had no real purpose other than to give Barb a reason to doubt Jim’s super-honest-good-guyness (as contrasted by Bullock’s overly-dickish and, to use the show’s term, lackadaisical attitude) and hint at a rather interesting history between her and Renee. I actually kinda like this twist. Barb Kean-Gordon wasn’t ever really expanded on in the DCU and this might be her chance to get a bit of semi-important story time other than being Batgirl’s mom/namesake (depending on which continuity you’re talking about). Ten bucks says we’ll see Batgirl born before this series is over.
Jim finds out about the frame-up after Barb predictably questions his honesty and goes to Fish Mooney without saying a word to anyone at which point she also predictably bashes him over the head and has him taken to “Butch” who, as it turns out, is a butcher who will likely mutilate Jim’s carcass in a number of unrecoverable ways.
Bullock finds out that Jim is missing and immediately calls to question Fish. Fish lets it slip that Jim has gone to Butch, Bullock tries to talk Fish down from killing him, makes the typical cop threats to his long-time friend, and she makes the decision to string Bullock up along with Jim because her good friend – an inside source in the POLICE DEPARTMENT – made an idle threat against her that he would never back up due to his mostly cowardly character flaws. The writers really just wanted Fish to look intimidating and they really made her look crazy.
Oh, AND, Bullock inadvertently tipped off Fish to Oswald’s betrayal so, of course, she uses a chair leg to brutally bash Oswald’s lower extremities until he can’t walk properly anymore (he sorta limp-waddles now… big surprise).
The pair of dicks (pervs…) wind up getting saved by direct intervention from Deus Ex Carmine Falcone (it’s fal-KOHN-e, dammit…) who happens to arrive at the butcher shop just as Butch himself (a mask-wearing, cleaver-wielding, super-minion in training) is about to do the deed. Falcone then reveals in a private discussion that he knew Jim’s father well. “The best DA this city ever had,” said Falcone. He wants Jim to realize the balance of power in the city blah blah blah, the mob controls Gotham and Jim needs to get with the program instead of being a mega-Boy Scout.
To prove this, Falcone sends Bullock and Jim home with a little Penguin in their trunk and gives Bullock instructions to have Jim off Bird-Boy by shooting him at the end of a pier and dropping him into Gotham harbor. After the requisite mafia-style threats to Jim’s fiancée, Jim takes Oswald to the end of the pier and, predictably, does not shoot him (because you can’t kill the Penguin before he’s the Penguin) but makes it look like he does, pushing Oswald into the water after whispering, “Never come back to Gotham” in his best Batman voice.
Jim goes to Wayne Manor (where Bruce is seen balancing on the rooftop in some extremely un-subtle foreshadowing) to tell Bruce that the case really isn’t closed. They have a moment where the worst actor to play Bruce Wayne ever agrees that Jim Gordon should go out there and keep fighting crime, blah blah, Jim’s faith in the system is renewed. As he leaves, Selina Kyle (the ever silent teenaged thief) watches, perched atop the gates of Wayne Manor, probably casing the joint.
Oh, and Penguin pops out of the water and murders an innocent fisherman for his sandwich.
End of episode.
I can’t say I’m sure what to make of this from the first episode. It included a few good references, a few bad references (Ivy Pepper?! I’m still mad about that…), some very predictable circumstances, and enough little bits of cheese to remind you that DC still doesn’t know how to properly transmute things to screen. Gotham was supposed to be this gritty new show, a la Chris Nolan, but winds up looking like a run-of-the-mill crime drama with a very familiar over-plot. If you removed the Batman element from it, it would probably be replaced mid-season.
I’ll keep watching it if only because I’m a huge Batman fan and I want to nitpick the details.
Oh, bonus round, they also introduced Ed Nygma as a slightly-too-crazy police analyst (a tactic used in the Arkham video games) as well as an overly nervous stand-up comic being auditioned by Fish Mooney in this week’s Joker possibility. The producers of the show mentioned that every episode will have at least one suspect who could wind up being the Clown Prince of Crime, presumably in season two if this show makes it that far.
Bidula’s Last Word – 5/10. I will continue watching for novelty and novelty alone, (very) cautiously optimistic that this show will improve with time.
Keep fighting the good fight.