Gotham Season 1 Review “Pilot”

Gotham (Fox) Series Premiere Pilot (5)

On the premiere of “Gotham,” the Batman mythos gets yet another reworking, this time in prequel form, which is to say, it doesn’t revolve around Batman at all, but rather shows the direct aftermath of the murder of young Bruce Wayne’s parents that fateful night outside the theater. As Wayne (David Mazouz, late of the short-lived Keifer Sutherland vehicle “Touch”) was a mere child at the time, it seems unlikely that Batman himself will be making any appearances anytime soon, if ever, but that’s actually okay, as that is some well-tread ground already, obviously. What isn’t nearly as well tread is how Wayne came to be Batman in the first place, which is why, for the most part, “Gotham” basically works, though it’s not without some problems.

It’s admittedly fun playing spot the future super-villain in the pilot episode, as we meet Selina Kyle (newcomer Camren Bicondova), thief and future Catwoman; Oswald Cobblepot (Robin Taylor, of “Would You Rather?”), already called the Penguin, albeit not by choice- it’s because of his oddball way of walking; Edward “E.” Nygma (newcomer Cory Michael Smith), aka the future Riddler, a coroner for the police with a penchant for- you guessed it- riddles; mob boss Carmine Falcone (John Doman, “The Wire”), aka The Roman; Ivy Pepper (Clare Foley, “Sinister”), aka Poison Ivy; and a unnamed stand-up comedian (Jon Beavers, “The Fresh Beat Band”), who may or may not end up being the Joker.

There’s also Barbara Kean (Erin Richards, “The Quiet Ones”), who goes on to marry main protagonist James “Jim” Gordon (Ben McKenzie, “The O.C.”), and either will become Batwoman (and give birth to Batgirl later on) or Oracle, depending on which route they choose to go with. My guess is it will be the former, as they already took a stab at a “Birds of Prey” series a few years back, with limited success. It only lasted a season in the early 2000’s, but I thought it was somewhat underrated, if a bit premature, given that the superhero boom happened more recently.

Why Hollywood can’t seem to make a super heroine or super villainess movie/TV show work is completely beyond me. I don’t know about you, but I would totally line up to see a, say, Black Widow movie, much less a Wonder Woman movie, which is long overdue. I’ll just bet DC is kicking themselves for not going ahead with writer/director Joss Whedon’s proposed WW movie, given his subsequent massive success with “The Avengers,” but I digress.

Anyway, that stuff is a lot of fun, and it will be interesting to see how they re-imagine everyone’s origin stories through the filter of this new show, to be sure. I like the gambit of making it a prequel, and I think it definitely gives a new lease on life for a character that was already in danger of overexposure. I mean, granted, we aren’t likely to see Batman himself on “Gotham” anytime soon, but that’s fine by me, as we’ve still got more Batman movies coming down the pike anyway, i.e. the forthcoming “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice,” which incidentally does feature Wonder Woman, finally.

The look of the show is standard gloom-and-doom grit, with the occasional flashes of style and color, such as the place of business of new villainess Fish Mooney (sexy Jada Pinkett-Smith, Will’s better half), who works for the aforementioned Falcone. The script is a bit on the florid side, aiming for hard-boiled but occasionally coming off as laughable, and not in a good way, more of a clichéd, comic-book way, which I suppose is somewhat inevitable in stuff like this but is still a little too wonky for its own good. On the plus side, it’s certainly not as campy as the original 60’s-era Batman series, so there’s that. (Not that that old show doesn’t have its charms, mind you, but the writing on it wasn’t exactly Shakespearian, either- not that it was trying to be.)

Acting-wise, McKenzie is surprisingly well-cast, radiating a nicely cool-but-level-headed vibe that’s earnest but still nicely nuanced. I’m also a longtime fan of Donal Logue (“Sons of Anarchy”), who plays Jim’s partner, Detective Harvey Bullock, an old salt not above bending the rules to get things done, much to Jim’s chagrin. It’s nice to see him get a headlining role in something this high-profile for a change, as a lot of his fine work has gone underappreciated over the years, i.e. the short-lived “Terriers” and “The Knights of Prosperity.”

I also liked the sometimes quirky touches, such as the implication that Barbara’s character is bisexual; Selena stealing some milk from someone in the street; Cobblepot’s wacky walking style; the possible Joker being a stand-up comedian with a warped sense of humor that Fish appreciated; Gordon catching Wayne on the roof looking like he was about to jump off; and Cobblepot killing that poor fisherman, seemingly just to steal his sandwich and the way he subsequently tore into it.

All in all, a decent start to a promising series that could well end up being one of the better comic-derived shows on television, though it’s got a ways to go before it achieves “Arrow” levels of awesomeness. Still, not a bad debut, by any means. I’m definitely in for the long haul.

What did you think of “Gotham”? Did you enjoy the reboot of the Batman universe, pre-Batman himself? Did you like the show’s gambit of showing the various super villains in their early stages? What did you think of the casting? How about the dialogue? Or the style of the show thus far? Let me know what you thought down below and see you next week!