Review: Gotham, ep. 1

So, Gotham…

When they first announced the series, I couldn’t muster much enthusiasm. What’s the point of a Batman show without Batman, you know? But in the time leading up to tonight’s premiere, I liked what I was seeing in terms of the cast, the tone, the direction. I didn’t have high hopes for it, but given my love of the source material, I was definitely…curious.

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So what’s the short verdict? Well, based on the first episode, I have to say that I liked what I saw. I’m definitely in for the full season, provided the show survives the ratings game.

I originally thought that going with a straight-up adaptation of the Gotham Central series would have made for a more interesting show. But given that Warner Brothers would never have allowed Batman to appear in such a TV show, the producers definitely did the right thing by focusing on a prequel of sorts.

Having a young Detective James Gordon as the focal protagonist was a good move. He’s principled, headstrong, and tenacious; an easy hero figure to relate to amidst the moral ambiguity of a merciless metropolis. Having him partnered up with Bullock, an amoral, opportunistic, tortured anti-hero was also smart. I can see a great dynamic developing between the two characters, as they play off each other. In re-imagining the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents as part of a larger conspiracy, the show has a nice mystery at its core, around which the various characters can come into conflict with each other.

Fish Mooney, the ambitious crime boss played with great verve by Jada Pinkett Smith, was definitely one of the pleasant surprises of the show. I was worried there would be the temptation to have her play an over-the-top type of villain, but I think Smith struck a nice balance between realism and comic book villainy.

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As for the other, better-known inhabitants of the Batman mythos (Catwoman, Poison Ivy, The Riddler), we only saw small glimpses, but I’m looking forward to seeing how they interact more with the ongoing story. In particular, I liked recasting The Riddler’s alter ego, Edward Nygma, as a police forensics scientist. Nice touch. And of course, there was the perfect casting of Robin Taylor in the role of The Penguin. I thought he struck the right kind of balance between sadistic thug and powerless victim. The bit with the broken leg was a nice touch, bringing in that body horror aspect of the character.

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The writing was good, though not without some rough spots. The Gordon/Penguin scene at the end was very predictable, for example. But then again, every show, even the best ones, tend to have an uneven first few episodes, while the creators, cast, and crew are still trying to figure out the exact nature of their beast. But I think Gotham is off to a decent start, which isn’t exactly high praise, but it’s much better than what I thought FOX was going to deliver.