Jun 18, 2015

[TV] Gotham: Season 1

So I've never been shy about stating that I feel that I'm not part of the target demographic or the CW's various TV adaptations of popular DC comic book characters. I could never wrap my head around shows like Smallville or Arrow and so I've just stayed away for now. I'm not saying they're bad shows - I just acknowledge that they're not the sort of take on superheroes that really fits me.

Gotham was something I ended up gambling on since it's actually a Fox production. Fox has brought us some great shows, but it has also promptly killed many of them before we fans could get any sense of fulfillment. So it was still a bit of a risk.

But to be fair, I had a lot of complaints about the premise of the show from the get-go. It's sort of a Batman prequel series that is supposed to focus more on the police instead of our caped crusader. That sounds theoretically interesting, but you have to admit it presents weird narrative problems. The show would feel flat without the crazy super villains of Batman's rogues gallery but then if the police could deal with them on their own, then why would Gotham ever need Batman? What stories are there to be found in a world where Bruce Wayne is still a child? And while the writers did manage to come up with something, I'm not 100% on board with the final product.

Synopsis: Gotham is US crime drama series using characters that have appeared in the Batman comic books. The show was developed for television by Bruno Heller and has been confirmed for a second season by Fox.

The show begins with James Gordon (Ben McKenzie) as a new addition to the Gotham Police Department. He's assigned to work with the questionable detective Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue), and soon enough the precinct is working on an extremely high profile case - the murders of Thomas and Martha Wayne. The murders have left a young Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) in the care of his butler Alfred Pennyworth (Sean Pertwee). Gotham is a city known to be particularly corrupt all levels and yet we have a pretty idealistic Gordon determined to be a good cop.

Gotham is also ruled by several crime families, and a lot of the story has to do with these individuals. Carmine Falcone (John Doman) is pretty much the big mob boss with the most clout in the city, although his lieutenants are already chomping at the bit to get their chance at leadership. One such challenger to Falcone's leadership is Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith), who runs a night club as her primary place of business. In turn, one of her underlings is Oswald "Penguin" Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor), whose intelligence is only matched by his ambition. And how all these various elements along with the Marconi crime family all come together is the stage for this particular series.

Their casting choice for the lead of the show, this being the young James Gordon, wasn't too bad. It was easy to take him as an honest policeman wanting to make a difference. I'm not necessarily sold on a lot of the supporting cast though, especially in the Gotham Police Department. Bruce is okay, but it's hard to comment much on child actors. Alfred isn't quite the Alfred we'd expect based on the various movies that have come out covering the Batman franchise, however he's a strong enough character in his own right. We've never seen Alfred being so...combat-ready before.

Now to survive this show, it is important to ignore established Batman canon and trying to figure out the timeline of things. You need to ignore the implications that a good number of Batman's villains are already part of the show, thus implying that they're all significantly older than Bruce Wayne, and thus Batman will face them in their later years in life. Forget about the established chronology of things and try not to think too hard about how this figure out that one can still make sense. Otherwise you'll go mad or at the very least quite frustrated.

The show tried to play the "you comic book fans know who this is" card a lot when introducing new characters. I mean seriously, Edward Nigma (Cory Michael Smith), who is fated to become The Riddler), actually works in the police department and is already quite obsessed with riddles! How blatant can one get? But the modest "thrill" at seeing potential Batman villains already active in this world can only go so far.

The antics of the Gotham crime families don't end up feeling quite as impressive as hoped. As much as there have been so many good comic books focused on these mobsters that could have been used as source material to inspire people. we get some pretty shallow capers and plans. As much as there was a lot of back and forth and double-crosses and all those classic story elements, but then the end result still felt rather understated.

Bruce Wayne's arc was okay, but nothing amazing. To be fair, it's not supposed to be the primary arc - at least as far as I understand things. But it also could have been a lot better - and I wish it wasn't tied so strongly with Selina "Cat" Kyle (Camren Bicondova). Sure, Batman and Catwoman eventually have a weird romantic undercurrent to their relationship in the future. But to have that already starting at this point when Bruce is just a child and Selina is clearly a little older than him. It just feels a wee bit creepy.

The end result was a weird series that wasn't entirely bad but it didn't feel like a particularly novel or remarkable new effort in this direction. Maybe more could have been done to make the crime bosses and other mobsters more menacing. Maybe we shouldn't have focused on Bruce Wayne so much. Maybe Gotham needed better villains that weren't just Batman villains waiting to put on costumes. The show was just okay but it wasn't quite as great as hoped.

Gotham is still a decent enough to bring comic book entertainment to the silver screen and one that might find its voice in time. I'll probably given the second season a shot, but I can't promise to be all that excited for the show's return. so the first season gets a respectable 3.5 not really Easter Eggs in the show out of a possible 5.


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