Welcome to “Got Ham?”! This is my weekly review of the new FOX show Gotham, based on the city that will eventually be protected by Batman. As far as the show goes, it is the story of Detective James Gordon, a rookie cop with a strong moral compass. So just get over it right now: NO BATMAN IN THE SHOW. I’m not here to whine about that, and neither should you.
The pilot episode starts off a bit odd, following a young Selina Kyle. Funny thing, no one says her name in the episode and she has no lines. All scenes with her involve her slinking about. I thought it was bold to start the show with her, until she stumbles across a nice family walking down an alley. A man, woman, and child having a nice stroll talking about the movie they just saw. Nothing could go wrong, right???
So Selina Kyle witnessed the shooting of Thomas and Martha Wayne. This felt extremely forced to me, but as the show goes on, I could tell the writers wanted to fit as many Batman characters into the Batman mythos as possible. This isn’t unheard of in adaptations of Batman. In Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman, the Joker is the actual killer of the Waynes. Certainly this played more into the idea of the Joker and Batman creating each other and then fighting each other, but in a TV show we have to wait and see how it develops.
Ben McKenzie seems a bit off as Det. James Gordon. Maybe it’s the forced way he is speaking, almost projecting gruffness instead of allowing it to settle inside of him. Or it could be the lack of mustache.
But seriously, Gordon is the focus because he’s the new guy in town. He doesn’t know how Gotham works, so he has to be shown the ropes by his partner Harvey Bullock, played by Donal Logue. I love Logue’s portrayal of Bullock. This is a man who has been chewed up by the inner-workings of the justice system, or at least Gotham’s version of it. Bullock has an easy rapport with criminals, which is shown during his conversations with Fish Mooney.
I really didn’t know what to expect from Jada Pinkett Smith’s Mooney character. Fish Mooney was invented for the show. She answers to Carmine Falcone and runs the Theater District for the mob boss. It isn’t out of the ordinary for the comics to come up with a capo who serves Falcone when it is convenient. I can’t see her character lasting more than a season. Mooney is more or less there to serve as an introduction to Oswald, aka the Penguin. Yes, they already call him the Penguin at this point in the show.
I was on the side of hating the choice to call the future-Riddler character Edward Nygma. That’s too on-the-nose for his predilection towards puzzles. The Riddler character has gone by other names such as Edward Nashton, which is a much more normal name, but still hints at his genius (see John Nash, the famous mathematician). Beyond the name, Nygma only has one scene where he spouts riddles at Bullock while reviewing evidence. That’s right, this Riddler starts on the police force. I was particularly delighted by Cory Michael Smith’s performance when Gordon solves a riddle with no trouble. I could see Nygma becoming obsessed with stumping Gordon in future episodes.
The show sets off with Gordon promising young Bruce Wayne that he will find who murdered his parents and bring that man to justice. We, the audience, know that this can’t happen in a world where Batman eventually comes to be. So the pilot episode half-solves the murder. Someone is framed, but we don’t know who framed him or why. This is what will carry the show on for several seasons. I doubt we will get a concrete answer on who killed Thomas and Martha Wayne, especially not by the end of season one.
Despite some flaws in writing, and perhaps a total miscast in the main character, I think this show has legs. This show isn’t setting out to show the Batman characters that fans know and love. This show is telling a different story using these characters. Comics do this all the time and mostly get away with it. When Arrow debuted, there was no outcry about character changes because Green Arrow isn’t as beloved as Batman. Batman is now a common touchstone not just with comic-junkies, but with fans of blockbuster films and children watching Saturday morning cartoons.
I’d like to end each review with a kind of rating but not in stars or even a number system. I rate this episode with the George Clooney Batman.
Because he’s the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now.