Those of you who know me at all, know how excited I was for the premiere of Gotham. Fox’s new foray into the superhero market features the early life of DC Comics’ Commissioner Jim Gordon and his experiences in the crime-filled and corrupt Gotham City. The show also features some of the best DC characters as young villains-in-training, including The Penguin and Catwoman. Oh yeah, and there’s this Bruce Wayne kid who shows up, too. The show has received a large amount of hype, with the Television Critics Association even naming it the most promising new Fall series. But did it live up? Here’s my kneejerk reaction, and it’s mixed.
Visually impressive: The show is beautifully shot and really shows the grit and corruption of Gotham without overusing annoying colored treatments or filters (I’m looking at you, Sleepy Hollow). The costumes are fantastic. The mood is dark, but not without excitement. It’s bleak, but not gloomy.
Origin stories: I love them! That is all.
Playing with canon: This is usually something comic book purists have a problem with, but I think the one key deviation from canon in last night’s premiere was pretty interesting – a young Catwoman, Selina Kyle, watches the homicide of Thomas and Martha Wayne. This, of course, is the horrible crime that Bruce Wayne witnesses as a child and what eventually compels him to become Batman. The inclusion of Selina in his origin story could be very interesting indeed.
Some great weirdos: The show’s best acting comes from some of the key villains of the series, namely Robin Lord Taylor, who plays Oswald Cobblepot (AKA The Penguin) and Jada Pinkett Smith’s Fish Mooney. Jada Pinkett Smith, right? Who knew! I really enjoyed every scene with these two – especially when they were interacting with each other – and their level of “comical” was just right for me.
Cheesy dialogue and poor delivery: I know we’re going for a comic book thing here, but some of the overly affected comic-detective-lingo was just too much for me. A little too Dick Tracy, in my opinion. In particular, Harvey Bullock and Jim Gordon (Donal Logue and Ben McKenzie) had some really goofy lines to work with and neither actor did a great job at making them believable. Add that to an overly expository pilot script and you’ve got some very clunky scenes.
Weird camera stuff: Is this show supposed to be shot like a typical dramatic series, or is it supposed to be full of stylistic comic panel points-of-view angels? It needs make a decision and stick with it.
Too many introductions: Part of me was excited to see so many DC characters in one episode (I actually yelled, “Alfred!” when he appeared) but maybe it was a bit too much? Not only did we have Fish Mooney, The Penguin and a young Selina Kyle/Catwoman, but we also got a glimpse of Poison Ivy and The Riddler, just to name a few. It might be more impactful to save some introductions for later in the season.
Too many conflicts: Did we really need to meet Jim’s fiancé Barbara in the pilot, since she served almost no purpose whatsoever? Was I supposed to pick up on a past romantic/sexual relationship between Barbara and the female detective? Wouldn’t that have been more interesting to learn a little further down the line, once we have a better idea of who she is?
I’m on the fence, but optimistic. Pilots are, after all, almost always terrible – and it’s pretty hard to introduce decades of comic book canon and a new dramatic narrative all at once. I am excited to watch these villains develop, especially The Penguin.