Airing tonight is Gotham, the second live action TV show featuring Bruce Wayne. It’s been 48 years since a certain Caped Crusader and Boy Wonder began their campy adventures in 1966. But Gotham’s take on Batman lore is decidedly different, as the show begins with Bruce Wayne’s parents being murdered by a mysterious masked criminal. A young Bruce Wayne (along with Alfred) aren’t the main stars of the show, which instead focuses on Detective James Gordon, the future Commissioner of Gotham City and one of Batman’s greatest allies. And appearing for the first time in live action are Gotham City’s finest Harvey Bullock and Renee Montoya, favorites from the comic books and classic Batman: The Animated Series! Gotham also features many of the classic villains from Batman’s history; Selina Kyle (Catwoman), Edward Nygma (The Riddler), Carmine Falcone, Ivy Pepper (Poison Ivy) and Oswald Cobblepot (The Penguin).
The pilot episode is very engaging, but I wonder whether the show can maintain its positive momentum throughout its first season. The show runner of Gotham is Bruno Heller, responsible for the creation of the short-lived HBO television series Rome and CBS television series The Mentalist. Heller claims that Gotham will be a serialized show, but as a writer whose biggest success is The Mentalist, a procedural television program, I wonder if Heller has the chops to follow through on his claims.
Other than The Penguin, most of the characters are distant representations of the villains they are destined to become. And even though The Scarecrow, Two-Face (Harvey Dent), Mr. Freeze, and Hugo Strange are promised to appear, what’s stopping Gotham being equivalent to a standard cops and robbers show. Time will tell.
The opening scene murder of the Waynes was similar to past representations of the event, except in this instance, the murderer’s identity and intentions are unknown. It turns out that the murder might be part of a conspiracy relating to gang wars between Carmine Falcone and Fish Mooney. Fish is a character created directly for the show and is one of its stand-outs, played very deviously by Jada Pinkett Smith. Without giving away many plot details, the Wayne murders puts Detective Gordon and his new partner Harvey Bullock in direct confrontation with Gotham’s underworld, as well as Gordon’s peers in the police force. Gordon immediately forms a bond with young Bruce Wayne, promising a swift resolution to the murder of Bruce’s parents. Something traumatic also happened to Gordon in his youth that the audience is not made aware of yet, but whatever this event was, it allows him to quickly become empathetic to Bruce’s tragedy.
Standouts among the show’s cast are the aforementioned Jada Pinkett Smitt as Fish Mooney, but the one to watch out for is Robin Taylor’s performance as The Penguin. The actor was born to play this role, exuding the sliminess and greedy nature of the character, yet manipulating the audience into becoming sympathetic with him. That is, until he literally stabs at you at the very end of the episode.
It’s hard to believe that such a grandiose and bombastic character such as Harvey Bullock has never been portrayed as a live-action character before. Even though he sort of was in the first Batman movie directed by Tim Burton. Remember the corrupt cop earlier on the movie that is on the take from Jack Napier and is eventually killed by Napier? To me, that was the first appearance of Harvey Bullock, he just had a different name. And something tells me that I am always going to compare the two performances, the one from the film and Donal Logue’s performance of Bullock in Gotham. There’s nothing really memorable about his performance in the pilot, but it is his character that truly shines.
I was a big fan of Ben McKenzie when he was on The OC years ago. (Yes, I watched all four seasons of the show and I stand proudly and admit that!) So when he was cast as James Gordon, I was very excited to see his performance. He plays the character rather black and white in the pilot, but I think he is going to break out as the show moves along. I just read on the news that Ben McKenzie was filming on his birthday, and while doing one of his own stunts, he cracked his head and needed to go to the hospital. I always like when an actor attempts to do as much of their own stunts as possible; it shows to me that they are committed to their role.
Regardless, the Gotham pilot is a winner in my eyes. I just hope that it can maintain its quality throughout the season.