Superheroes are more mainstream than ever. Batman is arguably at a new level too, with a successful trilogy on The Dark Knight from Christopher Nolan, 3 mega-popular Arkham video games from Warner Brothers and Rocksteady, and a future tie-in with the Man of Steel series. Gotham is primed for success, especially after a phenomenal pilot that sets the stage for an enticing season.
THE START OF SOMETHING SPECIAL
The pilot episode of Gotham introduces us to yet another origins story. A quick scan of the city shows a gorgeous backdrop (particularly in High Definition). Gotham generally appears cold and damp and is no different here. The dark soundtrack lends to an intense setting, seemingly drawing influence from the Nolan movies. A young Bruce Wayne is shown leaving the theater with his parents then shortly after witnesses their death at the hands of the city’s scum. If that was a spoiler for you, then you really are new to the Batman Universe. Wayne is perfectly cast, representing a young version of the eventual Batman we have come to love in The Animated Series. Speaking of a great casting job – Carmen Bicondova is superb as Selina Kyle (soon to be Cat Woman), though she only makes a few small cameos. Leading up to the show’s debut, I was not originally warm to the idea of Carmen as Cat, but I have realized that I was way off after seeing her in action.
We are introduced to Jim Gordon at the murder scene, who will be the central figure of the series as he grows into his role. Right off the bat (pun intended), Gordon is evidently the only one in Gotham with a conscience. A short scene inside the Gotham PD shows Gordon’s strength and abilities aside from his wisdom. Ben McKenzie plays Gordon and let me say it has been a long time since I watched a show or movie and felt inclined to really root the central character on. At this introductory sequence, we also meet the infamous Alfred Pennyworth, the Wayne Family Butler and now legal guardian of Bruce. Of all of the characters that made an appearance, his was my least favorite. Alfred is generally supposed to seem like a comforting grandfather, one that is always ready to remain positive and give advice. This rendition of Alfred is snooty and condescending. I suppose this is subjective, but that’s the way I always pictured him (like Michael Caine in the Nolan films).
Gordon’s fiancee, Barbara, is a great supporting character with more screen time than I had expected. She clearly loves him and remains faithful and supportive. A young coroner in the forensics department named Edward Nygma might be my favorite side character. I won’t tell you who he really is (read the name again). Fish Mooney played a large part as the female mob leader under Carmine Falcone. Played by Jada Pinkett Smith, Mooney felt like a Disney villain brought to life. I mean that in the best possible way. She was intense and intimidating, yet mysterious. I imagine she will be apart of the show for the duration of Season 1 (Fox has ordered a total of 16 episodes). She is the central point of corruption in Gotham. Oswald Cobblepot is likely the breakout character; it’s hard not to get that vibe. Cobblepot (Penguin) is young and a right hand man to Mooney. Robin Lord Taylor plays him as a fidgety, psychotic, ticking time bomb. I was on edge anytime he was on screen. As the end of the episode plays out, I am itching for more Penguin story lines. Another character making a small cameo was Ivy (Poison Ivy).
The common theme with all of the villains (especially the future villains) is that they are disrespected and counted out, pushing them to the edge. They want to be heard, they want to be seen. This captures the very essence of Batman, as the show’s writers completely understand the universe. This disrespect leads to further crime, motivating these unbalanced youths to go to drastic measures to lead. Whether it is the method of the crimes, the nicknames, or the crazy outfits, this is a nicely executed look at Gotham City that we haven’t seen before.
Gotham is a perfect blend for the modern audience. If you really don’t know anything about Batman, you will watch this and see a great modern cop drama (much like Castle). If you are a mega fan, you will love all the subtle nods to the universe we have come to love. The action sequences are solid and keep you on the edge. The “what danger lies ahead” feeling is what made me a Batman fan in the first place.
Gotham is a strong, exciting new series that showcases modern geekdom and brings it to the mainstream. It is a superb look into the world of Jim Gordon and Bruce Wayne and I absolutely cannot wait to see where the next 15 episodes will take us. You will not be disappointed.
+ Strong debut that intricately weaves a lot of major players into the story
+ Felt like a short movie
+ Spot-on casting and writing
+ Gorgeous visuals and setting
Josiah LeRoy is Geekiverse’s Senior Editor. As you can tell, her can’t wait for Arkham Knight. Follow and engage on Twitter!
The cover picture of this article is credited to post-gazette.com, all other pictures are from fox.com/gotham.