“Gotham” is the show comic fans deserve — and the one Fox needs right now.
In fall of 2012, Fox filled our Mondays with “Mob Doctor” in a poignant hybrid of Chicago mob meets Dr. Gregory House. In fall 2013 came the robotic future in “Almost Human.” Both shows were cancelled after a single-season run.
However, this year, Fox may have found a unique way to bring something new to a market already saturated with popular comic-based movies and shows.
“Gotham,” which premiered Sept. 22, opens up with the young pickpocket Selina Kyle (played by Camren Bicondova), giving a quick glimpse at the current seedy state of Gotham City. After her acrobatics take her up and over the city streets, she comes to a dark alley where she witnesses the murders of Thomas and Martha Wayne, portrayed by Grayson McCouch and Brette Taylor. In the best onscreen adaptation yet of the Gotham City Police Department, a criminal holds an officer hostage at gunpoint, but series protagonist Detective James Gordon (Ben McKenzie), quickly defuses the situation with ease. The story takes off from there as Gordon and his partner, seasoned loose cannon Detective Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue), are assigned to the Wayne murder case. The show follows their journey and all the egoistical challenges that result between the two as they try to solve Gotham’s most important case.
The show’s runaway star is the city itself.
From the sweeping pans of the skyline to the ‘40s-noir-style police department, it’s clear to see Fox did their research into the dark world that the comics have so intricately created. The scene, settled on a comfortable middle ground between the animated series and films, gives fans of either version of Gotham City a familiar and satisfying blend.
The city sometimes outshines the occasionally bland character study of Jim Gordon. The show attempts to focus on Gordon’s struggle in a town of crooked cops, but the only issue is that in the first episode there is no struggle. Despite his rookie standing, Gordon always does the right thing, rarely ever contemplating another moral option. Hopefully, as the story progresses, the writers will work to create a deeper and more intricate character in Gordon than what we have seen so far.
Other character introductions felt forced, as with the roles of Edward Nygma, played by Cory Michael Smith, Ivy Pepper, played by Clare Foley, and Selina Kyle, who landed only a few lines or sporadic appearances. From the commercials, it seemed that Gotham would be full of familiar faces for fans of the lore, but it was unexpected to have them all highlighted in the first episode. However, as this was the pilot, they will receive the benefit of the doubt; Fox wants you to experience everything they have to offer.
Yet even though the pilot story felt cramped and the lead was boring, the writers’ courage to take liberties in creating new back-stories and characters was an admirable touch. Too many writers today shy away from changing those details in fear of losing the dedicated fans. Gotham’s ongoing murder mystery with the Wayne family promises to keep viewers attentive, and new characters like Fish Mooney will help to drive that story as well. Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Oswald Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor) create the most compelling presence in the show as they fight back and forth for power throughout the episode. Cobblepot especially shows promise of greater intrigue as his storyline is the most open-ended and unpredictable, which is more than can be said for Gordon.
In all, this is not your father’s “Batman.” There is no room for onscreen sound effects or shark repellent in your utility belt. “Gotham” is capitalizing on the boom of the gritty, dark comic book without the cliche superhero story. A town full of dirty cops and mob bosses are subordinate to the rise of powerful villains who will hopefully get the screen time they deserve to push the story forward. The show clearly has potential, and it is obvious that the pilot has only scratched the surface of the backstory. As Cobblepot said, “There’s a war coming. A terrible war.”
But what will Gordon — and Gotham — face then?