Welcome to the fall television season which kicked off in earnest last night. Season 2 of Sleepy Hollow, Season 2 of The Blacklist, Season who-knows-what of The Big Bang Theory all returned last night. The new show Scorpion debuted last night. And perhaps most importantly (at least in my opnion), Gotham debuted last night. Gotham is one of three (five if you count the mid-season premieres of iZombie and Agent Carter) new comic related shows debuting this fall.
Gotham is FOX’s entry into the televised comic realm and is first and foremost billed as an origin story. The show follows the rise of James Gordon (Ben McKenzie, “The O.C.”, “Southland”), beginning with his role as a rookie detective in the horribly corrupt city of Gotham. It is also billed as the origin story for many of the iconic DC villains – Catwoman (acting newcomer Camren Bicondova), The Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor, “The Walking Dead”), The Riddler (newcomer Cory Michael Smith), and eventually even The Joker. And of course, you can’t have a story in Gotham without the Wayne family. We also have the first realized performance of comic character Detective Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue, “Grounded for Life”, “Sons of Anarchy”) and the introduction of a new character created specifically for the show – Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith, “Hawthorne”).
Before I get into the some of the actual content in the show let me start with some general impressions. Overall, I loved it. The cast is diverse and talented. I think there are some marvelous actors really relishing their roles (Jada Pinkett Smith clearly loves her character and Robin Lord Taylor fully realizes Oswald Cobblepot better than I could ever imagine). There are some intriguing set-ups to build upon over the course of the series and fantastically realized sets (both location and studio) fully realized with some amazing visual effects. From the opening scenes it becomes very clear the city itself is a character in the show. The grotesques on the buildings, the dirty alley, the rooftops…they all play into a fully realized Gotham which will clearly continue to develop and shape the citizens living there. As Geoff Johns said in the preview special “You can never tell in Gotham. It changes people.”
There are also some things I can see improving over the course of the show. The writing had some fantastic moments, but it also felt like there were some lines that just tried too hard and there were those that fell flat. Ben McKenzie is fantastic as James Gordan and you believe his desire to help and be a force of good in this complicated city. But, there were moments were his facial expressions felt out of place with the character and his intentions. I’ve been a fan of McKenzie’s work in other shows and fully expect him to get a better grasp on the character as the series continues.
Now onto some of the actual details of the show…
We open with Selina Kyle stealing (shocker) milk and a wallet and of course she uses the milk to feed a stray cat – a slightly heavy handed approach to connect her to the woman we know she will become. When she hears voices, she hides in the shadows and becomes witness to murder. As I’m sure you’re aware (it was played up in many of the previews in order to connect the show to Batman), the episode begins with the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne. We’ve seen this scene many times but somehow this version felt gritty and darker to me. And David Mazouz as the young Bruce Wayne is absolutely incredible. His anguish is real and we see him as a solemn child already possessing a resolve and strength. He is only present in three scenes (approximately in the beginning, middle, and end of the episode) but his performance resonates with you.
Detectives Harvey Bullock and James Gordon are the ones sent out to the crime scene. Donal Logue realizes Harvey Bullock perfectly and does a great job portraying the shoot first ask questions later kind of attitude. Bullock knows the murder of the Waynes is not a case he wants to handle, but Gordan has already accepted the case and tries to talk to Bruce. We learn that Gordan’s father, a District Attorney for Gotham, was killed by a drunk driver in a car accident when Gordan was a child, and seated next to his father in the car. The conversation between Bruce and Gordan is powerful in that you can see the relationship and trust begin in that moment.
As Gordon and Bullock begin the work of hunting down the Waynes’s murdered we are introduced to other characters. The devilish Fish Mooney and her goons, including Oswald Cobblepot, who clearly want to take over the city from Carmine Falcone. But of course, in her zeal Fish oversteps her bounds and in her zeal decides to have Gordan and even Bullock killed. I had to laugh when the goon who was actually going to do the dirty work walked out – his costume we so over the top that I almost wanted to see what he would do next. But lucky for Gordan and Bullock, Carmine Falcone doesn’t want others killing cops without his permission. And among other things we learn that Falcone and Gordan’s father were friends…very intriguing.
“Who knows who killed the Waynes, some low life, we needed a culprit before the funeral. Pepper was sacrificed so the people of Gotham would see swift justice done. So they would feel safe and secure….I love this city and I see it going to hell but I won’t let it fall apart without a fight….Gotham is on a knife edge….What do you suppose bringing down city hall and the police force would do, even if you could? Would it make things better?” ~Falcone
After ‘proving’ himself to Bullock, Gordan travels to Wayne Manor. He explains to Bruce that the real murderer has not been caught and that an innocent man was framed at the behest of both the mob and the police department. Gordan asks Bruce to give him a second chance to find the murderer and to clean up the police department. We see the trust and strength in Bruce’s eyes and feel the power of who he can become in that small moment. And it’s the moments like that in Gotham which show its potential to tell the origin stories of such iconic characters. I know I will be along for the ride.
Will you? Did you watch? What did you think?