I’m thrilled to report that the Gotham pilot lives up to the monstrous hype that preceded it. This is one hell of an excellent debut.
First let’s discuss the elephant in the room: we’re never actually going to see Batman in Gotham. This is an origin story, and I have absolutely no problem with that. Gotham is a grim city populated with more than enough characters to sustain our interest. I simply cannot wait to see the origin stories of Batman’s rogues gallery come to life. Catwoman, The Riddler, Poison Ivy, The Penguin – villains have always been much more intriguing to me when compared to their heroic counterparts, so I’m completely sold on the show from the outset.
Making the brutal murders of Thomas and Martha Wayne (Batman’s parents) the driving force of show is an inspired decision. It allows us to track James Gordon and a young Bruce Wayne’s relationship right from the start, while providing the season with a compelling overarching story arc. Of course the show’s success rests on its cast, and it’s a fine one. Ben McKenzie is downright perfect as Gordon, and he makes for a likable and badass protagonist. His dynamic with Detective Harvey Bullock (played by Donal Logue) is undoubtedly going to be a focal point of the show, and it will be interesting to see if our hero can fight the corruption that’s entrenched itself in Gotham’s police force. Also a highlight is Robin Lord Taylor’s turn as the psychotic Oswald Copplepot aka The Penguin. Taylor is gleefully twisted, and I have a feeling his journey on the show is going to be a standout.
Although she doesn’t get much to do in the pilot besides slink across rooftops and steal some milk, Camren Bicondova is already memorable as Selina Kyle/Catwoman. The pilot underscores the lifelong bond between Batman and Catwoman by allowing the latter to witness firsthand the death of the Waynes and the moment that would forever alter the course of Bruce Wayne’s destiny. It’s a genius move, and one that highlights just how important Miss Kyle is going to be to the show’s DNA.
The rest of Batman’s infamous baddies are sprinkled throughout the hour in small doses. Edward Nigma (The Riddler) is a forensics expert for Gotham City PD, while Ivy Pepper (Poison Ivy) is the creepy traumatized daughter of the thug framed for the Wayne murder. Gotham‘s showrunners recently revealed that The Joker’s identity will be teased throughout the season with a number of red herrings, so obviously the comedian at the club isn’t the guy in question. Suffice to say, Gotham is going to be filled with easter eggs and nuggets for die-hard fans, and I can’t wait to spot them all.
Since none of Batman’s baddies have yet to assume their supervillain identities, the addition of Fish Mooney to the Batman mythos is a fantastic choice. I was never really a fan of Jada Pinkett Smith, but she singlehandedly managed to change my mind with this episode. She obviously relishes playing the villainous role which includes auditioning potential comedians for her club while breaking bones in the process. More Fish please.
Finally, I love that the show’s visual style is reminiscent of Tim Burton’s iconic Gotham (from Batman and Batman Returns). Let’s be honest, while Christopher Nolan did a splendid job with his Dark Knight trilogy, his Gotham lacked character (it was basically New York). This Gotham is a colorful, gothic, and vibrant world that’s jam-packed with stunning production design. The city’s comic book sensibilities are gorgeously realized in this opener, and cinematographer David Stockton creates a real sense of place in the span of 45 minutes. That’s certainly no easy task.
– If this pilot had any flaws, it would be the small bits of characters talking in exposition. Lines such as “you’re a war hero” and “you’re a cynic” are just cringeworthy.
– Is The Riddler kind of gay? The Penguin too? Both are pretty effeminate in the pilot.
– I’m don’t completely buy Erin Richard as Gordon’s fiance Barbara Keane just yet. However, her past with Detective Renee Montoya is curious. Did the pilot hint at a romantic entanglement between the two women?
– Nifty visual touch: Oswald carrying the umbrella (the Penguin’s signature accessory).
– Bullock tells Gordon to meet him on “4th and Grundy.” Grundy is an obvious reference to Solomon Grundy, a prominent Batvillain.
– Fish breaking the chair on Oswald’s back was awesome.
– The chase sequence between Gordon and Pepper was thrillingly-staged. Less so was the awkward closeup of our hero running.
– So Carmine Falcone, the show’s apparent big bad at the moment, knew Jim’s father. This adds a nice personal touch to the proceedings.
– I hate that Poison Ivy’s name has been changed from Pamela Isley to Ivy Pepper. But apparently this serves a storytelling purpose that will soon be revealed.
– Although it was obvious Gordon wasn’t going to kill Oswald, the scene with Bullock forcing his partner to do the deed as a favor to Falcone was quite riveting.
– Lackadaisical? I guess you learn a new word every day.
– The boy (David Mazouz) who plays Bruce Wayne is seriously talented. Something tells me he’ll be able to handle the character’s complex evolution (as evidenced by his final scene with Gordon).
– I like how Gotham altered Alfred Pennyworth (Bruce’s butler) from an old confidante to an ex-marine.
– The pilot’s final moments are extremely effective with Oswald slicing a fisherman’s neck and gluttonously gobbling up his sandwich. Plus, he has his notorious limp now.
Cracks From Gotham
Gordon: I know how you feel right now, and I promise you, however dark and scary the world might be right now, there will be light. There will be light, Bruce.
Bullock: Jim you seem like a nice guy, but this is not a city or a job for nice guys.
Gordon: Ma’am, was that screaming we heard back there?
Fish: Yes, my boys are watching a scary movie.
Fish: No. Actually, one of my staff has been stealing money from me so we’re beating his punk ass.
Fish: You have a little danger in your eye. I wonder what you plan to do with that.
Gordon: You’ll have to wait and see.
Oswald: I would open a vein right here and now if you asked me to.
Fish: Go on, then. Open one.
Oswald: I… I was speaking poetically.
Fish: Prove it. Prove your loyalty my little penguin.
Gordon: You make a life of crime sound very noble.
An exceptionally well-made and ambitious opening hour that lays the groundwork for a series with a wealth of potential.