Gotham has been buzzed about since pilot season, when casting news was coming fast and furious, giving fans a chance to predict how the show would unfold. The series premiere is upon us. Will Gotham meet our expectations?
Gotham is about the city of Gotham before Batman comes into being. The first episode sets the stage for the rise of Batman, showing Bruce Wayne watch the robbery and fatal shooting of his parents. But the series isn’t about Bruce Wayne. At the center of Gotham is Detective James Gordon, who gets his eyes opened to how the law works in his city. (Hint: It doesn’t.)
I was lucky enough to receive an early screener for the first episode. Of course, I had high hopes simply because I want it to be good. Anything set in a superhero universe has my attention. Like most pilots, this first episode has its ups and downs. It isn’t awful, by any means, but it also isn’t the stellar first episode I had been hoping for.
Ben McKenzie (The O.C.), who plays Jim Gordon, is wonderful. He deftly shows all the facets of personality of the soon-to-be police commish. He starts out slightly cocky, but honest and brave. As the underground workings of the city start to reveal themselves, he goes through disbelief, doubt, and then finally shows resolve to stand his ground. McKenzie has a great “hero” look and was perfectly cast.
His partner, Detective Harvey Bullock played by Donal Logue (Sons of Anarchy), is the jaded veteran who baptizes Gordon in the ways of organized crime. Logue was a little too glib for my taste, a little too much of a carny. But perhaps his performance will even out as time goes on.
Speaking of over the top, I love Jada Pinkett Smith, but as Fish Mooney she lays it on way too thick. She’s an actress whose used to playing a good guy, so this is unfamiliar territory. She falls into a common trap of playing the bad guy like a bad guy. See, bad guys don’t know they’re bad; they think they’re right. If she backed off the hooded eyes, the slow and heavy manner of speech, she’d be dead on.
Other characters from Batman’s world are sprinkled throughout the episode. Selina Kyle, a young Catwoman played by newcomer Camren Bicondova, opens the whole episode with some criminal shenanigans. We don’t know much about her, but the episode hints she will be playing a large role in Bruce’s life. The Riddler is briefly seen as Edward Nygma, the coroner. Cory Michael Smith (Olive Kitteridge), who plays him, is delightful. He provides much needed comedy and quickness in his one scene. Robin Taylor (Walking Dead, The Good Wife guest star) plays Oswald Cobblepot, the Penguin. The character is written too broadly for my taste, but the actor rises to the occasion.
In fact, my biggest problem with the episode is the storyline involving The Penguin. The ending comes out of nowhere. I can stretch my suspension of disbelief so that it makes sense, but just barely.
The entire episode is a little too over the top. Maybe I’ve become too used to the grounded, gritty reality of Chris Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, but heightening the characterizations and plot points so much rubs me the wrong the way. Gotham is a little too much Tim Burton and not enough Nolan.
However, I’m guessing FOX will go against its usual M.O. of ditching a show too early and give this one time to find its groove. At least, that’s what I’m hoping.