So, we’re three episodes in and thus far – I was hoping for more.
Gotham follows Jim Gordon as he enters the GCPD, and he does so just in time to have a certain famous double-homicide fall into his lap. That event, the murders of Thomas and Martha Wayne, will act as the catalyst for the entire show as we see the city, which was already in trouble, tumble over the edge. This concept excited me, still excites me. The decline of a city to such levels of corruption and violence, that the presence of a masked vigilante becomes not only necessary, but an accepted progression? Jim Gordon as the tragic hero who fights tirelessly for the city that crumbles around him? That sounds excellent. And with that in mind, I had hoped for a show about Gotham City that revolved around a young Jim Gordon, and on occasion featured some familiar characters. However, what we’ve seen so far is a show about the origin of Batman, that takes place in Gotham City and uses Jim Gordon as a means to introduce countless familiar characters. Now that might not sound like a huge difference to you, but to me, it’s enormous.
We all know that eventually Gordon is going to clean up the crooked Police Dept. and prove to be a positive force in Gotham. And we know that Bruce Wayne will become Batman someday, and shortly thereafter will be accepted by Jim Gordon after trust is established. Batman will be a mystery upon his arrival years from now in Gotham, and Jim Gordon will be special because he will represent the lone pillar of good that stands against Gotham’s dark influence. Like a lighthouse that was left on, staving off the destruction of Gotham till the Bat can arrive. Simply put – their partnership will become vital.
In the meantime though, the relationship they’re forming is forced and takes away from Gordon’s character rather than adding to it. Part of what has always made the Batman-Gordon relationship special, is that they had to learn to trust one and another, and said trust grew into a mutual respect. In the show, we’ve thus far seen Gordon acting as mentor to the young Wayne, and that changes their dynamic. At this point Alfred and Bruce would be better utilized in the background, with less focus on the overtly obvious path Bruce is already headed for, and rather as a more indirect force to help the city off-screen.
The Pilot: The first episode felt very much like a pilot; lots of the plot rushed, characters screen-time spent explaining who they were to the camera, and a seeming lack of confidence in the audience based on the simplicity of the dialogue. This is all fairly standard for a network pilot. At the same time though, there were a lot of positives as well – casting being the biggest. Ben McKenzie as James Gordon looks like inspired casting to anyone who watched the criminally ignored Southland. And you couldn’t ask for anyone better than Donal Logue (Terriers) to play Bullock, even if they’re not giving him much to work with in terms of dialogue. The CW’s Arrow started a little slow in season one too, so I’m hoping this picks up a bit in that area.
Another bright spot has Robin Lord Taylor as Oswald Cobblepot. With this version of the Penguin it is easy to see how he could turn into the brutally violent crime lord we’ve seen on the pages of DC comics in recent years. And his accession will draw a nice parallel to our lead; As Gordon climbs the latter in the GCPD, you need a reason the city isn’t getting better, a reason why they will still need the Bat. Cobblepot’s eventual elevation could help to explain the escalation. And with Taylor quickly becoming a fan favorite, they are sure to give him plenty to do.
Something else the pilot did well was to display just how corrupt the city is as exhibited within the very walls of the police station. With Fish Mooney and Carmine Falcone openly running parts of Gotham and plenty of cops in their pockets, it’s further evidence of just how badly Gordon is needed. We also saw that FOX wasn’t afraid to open their wallets on the budget, and the show feels large in scale to match its tone.
In the two weeks since the premiere, we’ve gotten episodes titled Selina Kyle and The Balloonman. Selina is of course Batman’s future love interest; better known as Catwoman. Camren Bicondova did solid work carrying much of the episode, even if – again, the dialogue was a bit weak at times. The second episode helped establish just how different the worlds in which Bruce and Selina occupy are, and it allowed Gordon to acquire a valuable set of eyes on the streets. Many of the characters though feel as if they are still being written for the funny books and not a prime-time drama. But the tone of the show seems to be skewing in the right direction, and if they can continue to further develop the plethora of characters they’ve already introduced, things should pick up.
The Balloonman episode is another character titled spot, this time focusing on what appears to be Gotham’s first vigilante. The Balloonman is targeting people who were publicly known to have escaped the justice system. And while Gordon can’t condone the methods, it’s clear that this will help to one day open Jim up to the idea of Batman. We also meet Sal Maroni (Dexter‘s David Zayas) who is the number two gangster in town behind old man Falcone. His relationship with Cobblepot seems destined to end badly for everyone.
For the most part though, this is a set up episode for what’s coming.
Over the last few weeks, mentions of Arkham have been thrown around, and wouldn’t you know it – episode 4 is titled Arkham. Throughout the last 30-plus years of Bat-Mythology, the Arkham Asylum has become a character unto itself – not unlike ‘the board’ from Homicide: Life on the Streets – so it isn’t surprising that it should fit into the character named episode motif they’ve got going thus far.
Looking forward, we know that season one will consist of 16 episodes, and as we saw in the fist season of Agents of SHIELD, it sometimes can take half a season or so before a show like this hits its stride. FOX has released a “This Season” trailer for the show which features a lot of footage that we’ve already seen, but also some big pieces we haven’t…
So in that trailer we saw what I initially thought was going to be Professor Pyg, but was actually the Balloonman. We also see what appears to be the Scarecrow, and what is definitely Victor Zsasz. There are no shortage of big name villains coming down the pike. In addition, it has been announced that Nicholas D’agosto (Masters of Sex) has been cast as Harvey Dent – perhaps the second biggest of all of Batman’s rivals.
It is very important though, that Dent remain an ally to Gordon throughout the course of this show. His transformation into Two-Face must be much later in the timeline. Harvey Dent, as displayed in The Dark Knight, is an extremely important figure in the Gotham mythology, and in fact much more important before his change.
So at this point, Gotham may not be great, and at sometimes it’s even bad – however it has potential to get better and I think it will. The turn I’m most excited for is that at some point, Jim is going to do something so brave, so honest, and so heroic, that the jaded Bullock is going to change his tune. It’s only a matter of time till the partners get on the same page, and the show will be stronger for it once you see Gordon turn Bullock back into a good cop.
Stick with it.
Images: Showtime, Fox Broadcasting Company, DC Comics