GOTHAM (2014): Pilot Review
The Fall 2014 Season of Television premiered last night with the first new show of the season, DC Comics GOTHAM. Serving as an Origin story, GOTHAM can be best described as Batman’s SMALLVILLE (My Review here). Focusing on the inhabitants of this legendary city, the show seeks to explore the origins of the villains, heroes and other supporting characters that have lived in and been shaped by this city… all from the perspective of rookie detective, and future ally of one of the most iconic superheroes of all time, Detective James Gordon.
GOTHAM sets the stage right away for what it will be dealing with. The first sequence of the show gives us a young woman traipsing along the rooftops of Gotham and stealing whatever she can get her hands on when she becomes witness to one of the most legendary incidents of comic-dom: the death of Thomas & Martha Wayne. We are then introduced a young rookie Jim Gordon, bright eyes and idealistic who ends up getting the call to investigate the murders. The death of the Wayne’s acts as a catalyst that sets Gordon on his path of righteous-ness, that apparently shapes and molds him into the Commissioner that we all know and love in other Batman iterations.
The show starts off at a fairly brisk pace, and conflicts are introduced almost immediately. Young Gordon, played by Ben McKenzie is warned to keep his head down and go with he flow, the flow being the corruption that has infiltrated every aspect of the city. Villains are introduced, some subtly while others more obviously. Jada Pinkett Smith’s Fish Mooney is a midlevel Mob Boss who’s quite chummy with Gordon’s partner, a jaded and corrupt cop Lubbock, played to perfection by Donal Logue. The Wayne’s murder is almost too easily solved, only for Gordon to find out that it was a frame job by his own partner in cahoots with Mooney. Tensions flare as Gordon’s perception of his new partner and city is turned upside down. Trying to take matters into his own hands he gets captured, along with his partner Bullock when he comes to ‘rescue’ him. In an unlikely turn of events, Carmine Falcone, the biggest mob boss of the town shows up to rescue them, revealing a past friendship with Gordon’s father.
John Doman gives a regale performance as Carmine Falcone, as he explains the fragile nature of Gotham City to the rookie Gordon. Blurring the lines between hero and villain, Falcone states he wants the best for the city, while acknowledging the need for Law & Order in Organized Crime. It’s an intense scene as it’s hard to know if Falcone is the prime antagonist or sort of a grey character, for a larger villain at play. Of course there are political inner workings between Police and Crime, and all the other supporting characters that we have yet to be made intimate to. Even Barbara Keane, Gordon’s fiancée has secrets we aren’t fully aware of yet.
The show is really from Gordon’s point of view as the main character, and the audience is just as clueless s as him regarding all that’s going. It’s amazing how GOTHAM creates such confusion and throws into doubt everything we know about good and bad guys in what is shaping up to be an epic story. There are moments that are less than desirable in such a show, such as Fish Mooney’s character, who comes off a little over the top, however here’s hoping Jada Pinkett-Smith can pull it out of the fire. Some of Logue’s deliveries seemed a little melodramatic in contrast to McKenzie’s straight laced expressions, but in TV, everyone needs a few episodes to settle into the skin of their characters. The portrayal of Alfred Pennyworth by Sean Pertwee was probably the most divergent from the comics, as instead of being a sombrely British butler, he’s a crass, smart alec with loads of sass.
GOTHAM does a good job of setting the stage without going exposing too much, or explaining every little thing. The scenes between Gordon and a young Bruce Wayne are probably the best in the Pilot episode, as they give of epic vibes with every line. Despite not being present, Bruce’s character may get his own subplot, but the Pilot episode rarely spent any time on him or his ‘conquering fear’ approach, but rather kept the focus on Gordon. If this changes through the season remains to be seen. So far in the Pilot alone, the show is off to a good start, and will hopefully be a series that reinvents many characters in a Universe that we know all too well.