Last week’s premiere of Gotham threw so much at viewers that even those well versed in the DC Batman-verse may have had a hard time keeping up. From no fewer than ten notable and iconic character introductions heroes, villains, and grey hats to twists on the Bat mythology that were good (Gordon’s fiancé Barbara Kean was once an item with Rene Montoya), bad (Selene Kyle witnessed the ‘birth’ of Batman), and interesting (Fish Mooney ain’t no woman to cross), Gotham did a lot of world building in 45 minutes and despite a few minor hitches (dialogue clunkers and action sequence direction issues) I would call it a success.
Now for the real Gotham, i.e. the second episode, which starts tonight as it is usually the episode after the pilot that gives one a true taste of what to expect of a show and how far it can actually go.
Many critics and viewers are already giving the show the side-eye for being seemingly split between the ‘Young Bruce Wayne Chronicles’ and ‘Law and Order: Gotham City Edition’ believing that the show needs to pick one or the other and that the latter (with Jim Gordon being the lead) should be the better way to go.
I say: Why not let the show be both?
Why not show how Bruce and Alfred deal with the aftermath of his parents’ deaths; how Alfred steps up from a distant ‘handler’ into one of the two most influential living father figures (the other being Jim) he will ever know? I’m not all that keen on Selena Kyle making herself at him in Bruce’s childhood years: On one hand her witnessing the Waynes’ murder and birth of Batman goes a long way to connect these two for their complicated relationship in the future, but something just felt wrong that Selena was to witness something so personal and intimate as Bruce’s absolute pain and devastation. Still she can provide some kind of feminine touch to young Bruce’s coming of age (although if I had my choice it would be a young Zatanna helping Bruce transition through his pain: adding that to my Gotham TV Show Wish List). Young Bruce’s evolution is a character story but it also plays a larger role in the story of the city of Gotham and how horrors of that city in turn brought about its greatest hero.
As for the ‘Law and Order: Gotham City’ approach to the show, Gotham City’s story is also a story about the fight for its soul (as repeated in all the commercials) and so viewing the battle from the front lines of the GCPD and through the stalwart solider that is Jim Gordon will give the viewer another complicated and fascinating angle to witness. We’re at the beginning of the end of the simple petty thug, crook, or even reasonable crime boss with the supervillain waiting in the wings to rise to power: already seen in the form of Oswald Cobblepot who at pilot’s end was waddling his way back to Gotham to clear out the old school criminals -Falcone and Mooney – who don’t even realize that they’re on the way out.
The added bonus of using both storylines – Bruce’s childhood and Gordon’s POV – allows for a regular freshening up of the premise when needed. Oswald becoming a bit too much? Bring in the smooth riddles of Edward Nygma, or sassy Ivy Pepper, or calm, collected Selena Kyle. Bruce stagnating in Wayne manor? Send the tween on a journey to Europe where he meets a young Talia who is also on the run from her father or have him run away to join the circus and meet the Flying Graysons when Dick Grayson’s father was just a kid himself. TPTB definitely need to find the right balance between Bruce and Gordon’s story so as not to have one overtake the other but inform each other to give a more complete view of the story of the city and the men front and center at its downfall and ultimate rise.
Yep, I know. Pretty tall order for such a complicated universe that is Gotham. There will be missteps made this season but hopefully those will be made as they find their footing towards something great. The CW’s Arrow wasn’t the show it is today in its first episode. It took a full season for Oliver and the Arrow to gel and become one of the best (and most underrated) shows on television.
Gotham needs a little time to find its voice and needs the patience of its viewers to do so. I’m willing to give it time to prove it’s more of an Arrow instead of an Agents of Shield. Even if the only payoff for this season is to see wig tugging Jada Pinkett Smith’s Fish Mooney clearly enjoying herself as she hams it up a little while Ben McKenzie’s Gordon hotly glowers on at her I’ll consider it time well spent.
Some random thoughts on the pilot and series
- The big surprise for me was Jada Pinkett Smith most definitely hamming it up as Fish Mooney but also coming across as a credible, dangerous threat to not only Jim Gordon but the city at large. The dynamic of a strong savvy black woman vs a rich ‘polished’ white collar male criminal (Carmine Falcone) makes for an interesting dynamic in the power plays that
- Of course there always has to be a bitter ironic twist in prequel series and the one that stands out in this episode is that Jim Gordon had the chance to put down one of the supervillains before his rise to power (even if it would be for the wrong reasons) but Jim spares Oswald and fakes his death, naively believing the humiliated Cobblepot would actually heed his words to never return to Gotham instead of doing what we all knew he would do: return with ruthless bloody revenge on his mind.
- It’s interesting to see Alfred not be so grandfatherly towards Bruce but a hard ass. In the scene where he collects his freshly orphaned charge you can hear Alfred tell dewy eyed Bruce ‘Head up, eyes forward, shoulders back’ which pretty much is the code Bruce lives by as Batman to soldier on and quit it with the crying. Seems like a dichotomy is being set up with Alfred as the one instilling in Bruce the soldier mentality while Gordon gets to play the cuddly dad.
- I admit it: I’m not a big Selena Kyle fan. And while the actress had catlike down to a ‘T’, I’m so not on board with Selena having this bond with Bruce and stalking him around town.
- I admit it: I’m a huge Bruce Wayne and Batman fan. Having said that, I’m not completely sold on the actor. Playing Bruce Wayne isn’t easy no matter what the age and I suspect that the writing was not writing young Bruce as the boy he would be in the aftermath of his parents’ deaths but as the man we know he will be (fearless, articulate, brooding) Yeah, I know, I argued to keep the Bruce Wayne storyline prominently in the show; but that’s on the condition that the actor can do the job so…I’m in wait and see mode.
- Donal Logue was just aces as Bullock. Perfect casting.