(Editor’s Note: For the duration of the Gotham season, our guest contributor will be Micah Russell; who will be providing reviews of each episode while simultaneously scarfing burritos and drinking surge. We are excited for him to help contribute to our site, as well as help him live out his dreams of one day riding a unicorn naked. Enjoy.)
Two Sundays ago marked the first episode of Fox’s highly anticipated new series, Gotham, a show concentrating on the pre-Batman era of the notorious city of Gotham and a young Detective James Gordon’s (Ben McKenzie) first case after the death of Bruce Wayne’s parents. This review is going to cover the first two episodes of the series (this is part one). One reason for this is that I was just now asked to review the show and the other being that sometimes its better to judge the 2nd episode of a show after you have had time to compare it to its pilot episode. Pilot episodes are usually very forced, trying to fit a lot of information in the forefront of a series, in order to lay the groundwork. Since most everyone, whether Batman fan or not, is pretty familiar with the death of Thomas and Martha Wayne, there were lot of extra pieces that were being squeezed into an hour long show, where the first fifteen minutes is just going over old material. So let’s go ahead and get the first episode of this two-part review knocked out. (And please go watch the show before hand, if not, hopefully this will inspire you to check it out)
Part 1 :“Pilot”
Spoilers Ahead ( If you haven’t watched episode one already, what are you waiting for?)!!!!!
So as I mentioned before the episode opens up on the murder of the Waynes in the theatre district of Gotham. Harping on a more classic version of the tale, just coming out of seeing a film adaptation of Zorro, the Waynes are gunned down, in cold blood, as young Bruce watches in horror; His mother’s pearls striking the ground in slow motion; a robbery gone bad. One of the better parts in this show’s interpretation of the events is that this isn’t actually a botched robbery, like we are used to seeing. There was no father trying to protect his family or a nervous gunman reacting too quickly. This killer guns down the Waynes in cold blood, as Bruce (and a young Selina Kyle hidden on a rooftop) watches. After this happens the show jumps right into all things Gordon.
James Gordon is assigned to the scene, while his slimy and corrupt partner, Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue), attempts to jump off the case once he realizes whom the victims are. Harvey Bullock, for those are familiar with the animated series, always seemed a little crooked, but nowhere near the kind of crooked that this new version portrays. This episode tries its hardest to instill exactly how corrupt all of the Gotham police department and the higher ups of the city are. In a nutshell, the murder was planned, Bullock is acting fishy, and Gordon is none the wiser at first. Basically there is a whole lot going on in this episode, so I’m not going to go through explaining every little thing detail, but I will list some of the key players and where they stand in the show so far
First there is Bullock’s seedy crime connection, Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith). She works for the infamous Falcone crime family, as you soon find out how wicked she really is while attempting to move herself to a higher position of power. She is obviously hiding a lot of information on the Wayne murder, but her level of involvement has yet to be revealed. She is actually a newer character created for the show that I have never heard of prior. She shows a lot of emotion and the actress play her very well. While I’m on the topic I would like to point out that though this episode has its flaws, the acting by some of the main cast really saves it from being just an average TV show.
This brings me to Oswald Cobblepot, or the Penguin as most people know him. This young, maybe teenage or young adult (I’m not sure), version of him is brilliantly portrayed by the new face of Robin Lord Taylor. He is truly one of the highlights of the series so far, an underling of Fish Mooney’s, showing an internally damaged but intelligent and well-spoken young man that can snap at any mention of the nickname he will one day embrace.
Young Bruce Wayne doesn’t get a lot of screen time but when he does it seems they are going for a kind of emo/punk version of him (which actually seems to work in a weird way). His caretaker, Alfred Pennyworth, is a lot grittier then we normally see, almost cold hearted, but it seems they are showing how this older gentlemen is mentally dealing with having to take on his new responsibilities over this child on such short notice. This could be an interesting side of the butler we haven’t gotten to experience before.
Major Crimes Unit also seems to be doing some work behind the scenes, figuring out that the man Jim Gordon and Harvey Bullock gun down for the Wayne murderer was actually framed thanks to the help of Penguin, who is attempting his own power play by taking out those who seem to care for him most, snitching to anyone he thinks could help him. MCU also reveals that Gordon’s fiancé and future wife was at one point in a possible lesbian relationship with the female leading the case, Renee Montoya. It seems like the passing of information between Gordon and this former lover will be a continuing conflict in the home.
The last 10 minutes of the episode become very interesting, revealing a lot about these main players (and there are so many of them) and setting up for what really makes this pilot so much more exciting than most you will see in the new fall lineups for different networks. Gordon continues to try and be the one cop who does the right thing and begins paying for it when he sticks his nose in everyone’s business after finding out the Wayne killer is still out there, and that the GCPD had something to do with covering it up.
He is beaten by Fish Mooney’s men and dragged to a blood-spattered warehouse with hanging cow meat, strung upside down. This scene is fantastic because it’s the first glimpse at how dark this world really can be. Bullock shows a slightly softer side by actually caring for his partner’s well being for once and sticking his neck out for him, much to his dismay. Fish Mooney shows how deadly she can be as she discovers that Cobblepot spoke to the MCU and breaks his leg with a chair, revealing how it is that Penguin began to walk with his exaggerated limp.
The penultimate moment is a great transition for this show into telling its own stories. This crazy butcher comes out to cut up Gordon and Bullock and at the last moment, Falcone makes an appearance. I enjoyed this moment because it shows Gordon’s old ties to Gotham and why he would come back. Apparently his father was the old District Attorney, revealing that even Gordon’s father learned how to “play along” as Carmine Falcone puts it, proving that everyone has their secret sins.
The greatest piece of the episode though, comes down to Bullock telling James that he has to shot the young Cobblepot and put him in the river, so everyone will see that he is willing to “get with the program.” Of course Gordon shows he is a better man than most in Gotham, pretending to kill Oswald as he tells him, “Don’t ever come back to Gotham!”
It seems that Gordon won’t be shaken so easily, which sticks to the essence of the character we have grown to know and love. But at what cost? Considering that Penguin immediately emerges on the other side of the river, slicing a fisherman’s throat for a measly sandwich, I would say Gordon made the wrong decision.
With all of the things I loved about this pilot, there were a few things that bothered me, but I did cut the show a break considering that it’s a pilot and they usually have a lot of glaring issues. For instance, they showed WAAAAAY to many characters from the rogue’s gallery of Batman villains. I was hoping they would spread these out: A young Catwoman at the beginning and end of the show. A young Poison Ivy, oddly named Ivy Pepper instead of her regular name, Pamela Isley; but her dad is the one framed for the Wayne murder who gets killed early on and her home seemed to be an abusive one, so maybe she will be go into foster care and have her name changed, using her current name as her alter ego later on. The Riddler even makes an appearance, currently working for the GCPD as some sort of forensic analyst. As well a street corner named 4th and Grundy, an obvious nod towards the immortal Solomon Grundy of the comics. There was also a slight joker reference (not the actual joker thank goodness), but it wasn’t anymore than just a comedian performing for Fish at her bar, so hopefully that isn’t a recurring theme.
Nonetheless, for all of the small things that seemed a little overdone or purposely forced, the show did enough right in its first episode for me to be very interested. I would gladly give this episode a 7 out of 10, majority being how well some of the actors portrayed their characters. Even the delivery of James Gordon is great, though he can be a little too gritty at times. Hopefully since he is young, he will develop into the Gordon we are all familiar with, but I still enjoy the idea of a badass detective Gordon like from the Batman: Year one comic, not afraid to get his hands dirty. Fish Mooney put it best, “you got a little danger behind those eyes,” and since this show is supposed to be more about Gordon than anyone else, I believe it will be great to see a new twist on an old character, something that seems to be this shows repeating strength.
Well that took a lot longer than expected to get through, hopefully you enjoyed it enough to continue to part 2. Also the reviews won’t normally be two-parter, so hopefully you can bare with me here. Moving onward!
(In a British sea captain’s voice)