Gotham is the new gritty Batman show that wants to appeal to fans of the Nolan films and do that whole “new and edgy” thing shows like Arrow have done (and done well I might add). The main problem of the pilot is, the show was so focused on getting as much Batman lore and characters into the episode, it almost feels like they left Batman out of the show by accident. We got glimpses of a collection of the Batman rogues gallery in just a single episode and surely more will come. So much of the Batman universe is shoved in your face that when you witness a crime you’re expecting Batman to show up. Which may or may not be a bad thing.
The show’s intention is to show viewers life in Batman’s famously gone to hell city and, I’m guessing, why the city needed Batman in the first place. A premise no one was really asking for, but hey, the Batman series isn’t just about Batman. There are lots of colorful characters in it and there is that saying, a hero is defined by their villains. Except in Gotham, no one is quite up to super villain status yet. The first episode starts with the death of Bruce Wayne’s parents. Ya know, that thing that supposedly made Bruce obsessed with justice and such? The problem is, Bruce Wane is still a child. So we get to see a brooding child grow a hatred for villainy. Which while possibly interesting, it also means that we aren’t going to see little Bruce become Batman any time soon and in addition, many of his villains are also running around as children or young adults. My hope is that the writer’s choice of time frame and eagerness to showcase so many villains, was to give viewers an idea where certain villains are in their lives and put the show’s timeline in relation to what Batman fans already know will become of them.
City of Villains
What made the multiple villain cameos feel rushed or even silly was how obvious some of them were. It would have been nicer to have to guess a bit more on who was going to be who; especially if you didn’t know some of the super villain’s real names. But the show always did something very obvious or cheesy to let you know who they were going to become. Some were the equivalent of a neon sign that pointed and said, “This person becomes this villain! You get it? Do you see our hint?” Poison Ivy, who in the comics was originally Dr. Pamela Lillian Isley, had her name on the show changed to Ivy Pepper. Cause you know, we wouldn’t have had figured out it was poison ivy otherwise. (I wonder if this iteration of Ivy will still get her PhD making her Dr. Pepper) However, the show did get two things very right with these cameos. 1) We may or may not have gotten a Joker cameo. That one was subtle. If so, I am far more excited about this show’s choice in timeline. We could get a lot more on Joker back-story, which would be awesome. Also, it would be proof that this show can do subtle and that bodes well. 2) The Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) is amazing. Hands down. He was adorable and likable in the creepiest sort of way. If through the entire first episode, he was our only cameo, I would have been very happy.
Our main protagonist is also the man who eventually becomes Commissioner Gordon (Ben McKenzie), who is now just a lowly detective. Which in its own way, works well for the show since he is one of the few people in Gotham who is an honest, no secrets, “good guy.” And if this is a show about how corrupt Gotham is/becomes, following someone who is as immune to its evil as possible makes sense in proving how futile working within the law will actually be. Hence why Batman is needed. Maybe this will change in the future, but at this point the only good people without scary secrets in the whole show seem to be Gordon, angsty child Bruce (David Mazouz), and Alfred (Sean Pertwee). By the way, I have high hopes for this Alfred. So far, he hasn’t been worn down by billionaire/Batman/playboy/man-child Bruce yet, so Alfred still has quite a bit of lively sass in him. Also, he makes the scenes between Gordon and “my-parents-just-died-so-I-have-to-be-an-instrument-of-justice-at-the-age-of-12″ Bruce a heck of a lot better.
For what it is and where in time it is, Gotham is not bad. The acting is done well (in a pleasant, not over done, cheesy sort of way) and the characters have a lot of promise in the potential for personal development department. Also, what aspects of the traditional Batman story the writers are changing, I think are interesting and worth exploring.
All in all, Gotham shows promise. Its shortcomings might be due to world building eagerness and should slow down as the series progresses. I say “should” with hope. Because I want Gotham to be good. I want to see characters I know so well take their first steps into the super villain shadows. Once Gotham gets into its stride, we’ll know where this show stands. Until then, give it a chance.