Gotham Premier Review

9/23/2014 Stephen Colbert 0 Comments


We may have to wait another year and a half for Batman vs. Superman, but that doesn't mean we'll be deprived of live action DC content this fall, as four DC comics properties will have TV shows airing this fall.  Gotham is the first to leave the gate, with its premier episode airing last night.

Gotham is a universe origins story, where we find the "character" of Gotham City at the center of all the other characters introduced.  I was a big fan of certain parts of the premier, and not so much a fan of others, but I'm definitely excited about the directions this first season of the show could take.  I'll cover my spoiler-free impressions here, with a spoilery recap in another post.

I'll start with the negatives.  Most people's initial reaction was to criticize the dialogue, but I actually found the dialogue to be very well written.  It was very Gotham, very noir, but the delivery just didn't always seem to match.

I was a big fan of Donal Logue's casting as gritty Harvey Bullock in contrast Ben McKenzie as a fresh and hopeful Jim Gordon, but it felt almost like the two characters met in the middle.  Sure, Bullock is slightly more corrupt, and Gordon is more principled, but the characters (and thus, the dialogue) was lacking in contrast.  Their scenes together are really good on paper, but translated into something a lot more bland on screen.  I'm hopeful this improves, since this was just the pilot episode.

The show also seemed to fail to capitalize on some significant moments in ways it could have.  Everyone always complains about how many times we've seen the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne (that's not a spoiler) in other versions of the story, but it's a significant moment (if not the significant moment) in Batman mythos.  I felt like this version was very bland and lacking in gravity compared to other iterations.  I almost would have preferred for it to happen off screen, considering this story is more about Jim Gordon than Bruce Wayne.  Showing it from an unfamiliar angle would have been fresh, and drawn a clear line that this show is not another Batman origins story.

Speaking of origins stories, my biggest concern going in has always been the way the marketing focuses on the introduction of all these iconic villains.  I felt very much like there were a lot of shoehorned name drops forced characters for the sake of audience familiarity.  I would much more prefer for these characters to have a slower introduction like we've seen in Arrow.  Of course, the pilot has reasons to do the name dropping, since it's trying to sell the concept of the show.  Hopefully that will slow down in for the following episodes.

Despite some of the forced moments and missed opportunities, though, there were several moments where I said "This is why I'm excited about a Gotham show," and that was the characters of Carmine Falcone—which I've said should be the primary focus of the show, although I wish they would pronounce his name correctly—and Penguin, who I didn't expect to like as much as  I did.  Those two performances were nearly perfect and I'm excited to see them fleshed out in the coming weeks—although I would like for Penguin to be more of a slow burn.

Bruce Wayne and Alfred were also very well portrayed, and their dynamic had more payoff than some other characters, but I would hope that they play a minimal part of the show on a week-to-week basis.  This show isn't supposed to be a Batman show, and I think any appearance by the caped crusader himself—albeit, as a child—will only detract from the actual story being told.

The look and feel of Gotham was also excellent.  It was very noir and Gothic, yet timeless.  Each set and character seems to almost come from a different decade and the cell phones that are featured are flip-phones, so it'll be interesting if they ever pin down a specific time period, or if the city of Gotham is intended to exist in a seemingly timeless bubble.

Gotham's first episode definitely serves as an excellent starting point to this universe, despite its issues.  I have faith that the show will improve on some of the tonal issues with the characters (specifically Gordon and Bullock) as it finds its groove, but I'm still a little nervous about the temptation to constantly wink and tease various heroes and villains.

Gotham airs Monday nights at 8/7c on Fox

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