Gotham: Pilot

"Be strong."

Gotham is a strange beast. Half of it is steeped in deep canon, drawing on influences from the comics, movies, and even the cartoons. The other half is all new, since we are in somewhat unexplored territory. Does it work? I'm not sure yet, but I like what we've gotten so far.

First I should talk about the setting, since a majority of this series is about the city of Gotham itself. The layers of black, the ambiguous time period, and the dripping atmosphere adds to the scope and mood of the series. But I'm worried that such heavy gritty noir dressings is a bit heavy handed. Without a doubt this show looks the part, it feels like Gotham. Partly drawing from Tim Burton's Batman and Batman the Animated Series, but still a bit grounded in Christopher Nolan's more realistic approach to city. This show makes Gotham feel like a place where the rich are very rich and the poor live in absolute squalor.

For example the police station had a set of cells that took up half the space. It was almost a blatant statement that the police and criminals weren't working on different levels of morality, they all existed in the same space just on opposite sides of an insubstantial wall. That's pretty obvious symbolism, which continued throughout the episode.

If it was just setting, this might've been an okay pilot. What sets it apart was the mythology combined with some really good casting. It's kind of hard to tell about the acting, because no one really stood out as amazing yet. But damn, everyone important was memorable. All the future members of Batman's rogue's gallery stood out, especially Oswald a.k.a. The Penguin. But the creepiness of Edward Nygma (The Riddler) and the dead expression on little Ivy (Poison Ivy) worked for me.

These characters have such a rich resource to draw from that any interpretation of them was viable. Take Selina Kyle, for example. She's involved in the Wayne murders in a way that intrinsically ties her to Bruce from the outset. She was an eyewitness, she actually watched as Batman was born. That's pretty major as far as mythology goes. But what was really interesting was how they took the moment of the Waynes' deaths and continued down a logical path.

Sure, having Jim Gordon there telling a young Bruce that he was going to solve the problem was a bit out of canon, but I remember a pretty similar scene in Batman Begins. Yet there was more, because we also got to see Alfred come for Bruce and heard how they interacted in those first few moments after Thomas and Martha were murdered. Alfred didn't coddle him, he told him to clear his tears so the media didn't see him crying.

That one relationship was unique as far as I'm concerned. Even though there has been several different versions of Alfred (from caring to militant), it was a fun choice to make him less of a caretaker and more of a taskmaster. I also really liked what they did with that final scene between Jim and Bruce. It was formative, but it created the bond that would eventually mean so much. In that moment, no matter what Gordon has to do in the intervening years, Bruce knows that he is only doing it to try and fix Gotham's problems.

I've only really covered the underlying themes and major interactions so far, and honestly those were what spoke to me. As for the rest; well, the fight scenes were okay, the blood and violence may have been a bit over the top, and the mystery was nothing to write home about. Right now for me it's all about the characters, and on that note, every single one of them feels right. That's more than enough to get me to tune in next week, even if it might not be enough to keep me around for the long run.

Bits:

A little note to begin here; dear lord, was this episode packed. There are far too many references to mention, so I'll keep it limited to the ones that I found fun.

Selina Kyle never said a single word, but her presence was felt heavily. She got the opening scene and nailed it. Every aspect of her skills were shown in those few moments, and I couldn't help but smile.

The Wayne murders were about as accurate as I've seen, but I wonder if they are going to use Joe Chill, or if it was another random criminal. I liked that it wasn't solved in the pilot, though.

I like what they are doing with Renee Montoya. She seems like a white hat, and I hope they keep her that way. I also like they are keeping her sexuality intact, even though it is a bit of a stretch to have her once involved with Barbara.

The future villains worked character-wise, but the show could have been more subtle about it. Selina was never named, but she steals milk to feed a cat. The Penguin was actually called a penguin and by the end of the episode, he was hobbling like a penguin. Ivy was seen draped over a potted plant, and Edward Nygma tells a riddle.

There were two moments (beyond what I've mentioned before) that had serious future repercussions. When the gunman didn't shoot Bruce, I was thinking how big of a mistake that was. When Jim let Oswald go, the same thought crossed my mind, especially when the first thing Oswald does after emerging from the water was killing a man for a sandwich.

Bullock was pretty good so far, but he doesn't really stand out for me yet. The same can be said for Gordon, who was a good lead but doesn't really feel like Gordon to me... yet.

The cemetery where the Waynes were buried was so accurate to the source material that I was a bit stunned. The production design on this show is nailing it so far.

As far as pilots go, this was a good one. Not amazing, but impressive nonetheless.

3 out of 4 Police Badges.

J.D. Balthazar is a confirmed nerd who loves most things sci-fi or fantasy-related.

8 comments:

Josie Kafka said...

I enjoyed this. Not a lot, but more than I thought I would, which is saying something. I'm a fan of both Ben McKenzie and Donal Logue, so that might have been a big part of it.

However, what I'm really blown away by is that they guy who plays the Riddler--the actor himself--is named Edward Nygma. E. Nygma. That's frakking awesome.

Patrick said...

Actually Josie, IMDB has his name as Cory Michael Smith. Edward Nygma is the actual name of the character who becomes the Riddler, so perhaps this was just an in-joke by the showrunners?

Josie Kafka said...

Nooooooooooo!

I had thought that was so cool. Why are cool things always untrue?!

ChrisB said...

This was so much more than I thought it was going to be. I became caught up in the story very early and have already bought into the Bruce/Jim dynamic.

I know more about the Batman mythology now than I did about Arrow's when it kicked off, so I recognized some of the characters, or at least recognized who they would become. I am looking forward to seeing it all develop and, for now at least, I am along for the ride.

Great review, J.D.

Emily Ecrivaine said...

I am really excited about this one. It's hard to tell from a pilot whether or not a show is going to be good (though you can usually tell if the characters are going to be utter crap from the pilot) but I've always been a Batman: The Animated Series fan ever since I was a kid, so I'm excited to see a bit of that feel come to life and make connection with the 'real world'. It'll be interesting.

Docnaz said...

I hope you oat more episodes. This show is great!

Anonymous said...

Somebody gonna keep reviewing that or nah?

Billie Doux said...

Right now, all of our writers are committed to other shows so no one can take on Gotham right now. But it could happen at some point.