Gotham Pilot Review

Since even television can’t escape the push towards adaptation, remakes, and reimaginings, it seems that will be overarching theme of the shows I’ll be reviewing: Gotham, Elementary, Constantine, and Grimm. A quick note on my opinions on adaptation: I’m fine with it. When altering the medium of a work, it’s natural that aspects of the original piece are going to have to change. In television, that can mean adding original characters, combining multiple textual characters into one character, changing backstories, genders, race, age, etc. I’m fine with it. It has to happen. Complaining about change itself is meaningless. The change is rarely the problem. What matters is the thought and respect put into the endeavor.

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Which brings us to Gotham. The Batman mythos has existed in so many mediums, and has so many different versions, that Danny Cannon and Bruno Heller had a lot to pull from. So far, it seems to have elements of the comics, the spin-off comic Gotham Central, Batman: the Animated Series, Burton’s Batman films, and maybe even a touch of the classic Batman TV series of the 60’s all woven into a modern, Fincher-esque police procedural. Seriously, it rains a lot in Gotham.

Cannon and Heller clearly love Batman, and are having fun playing in the Batman sandbox, but based on the pilot they haven’t quite figured out how they want to approach it yet. The serious tone set by the officers of the GCPD was slightly off from the campy notes of Edward “Riddler” Nigma (Cory Michael Smith) and Oswald “Penguin” Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor), and way off from Jada Pinkett-Smith’s Earth Kitt channeling performance as Fish Mooney. Not to complain too much. The casting is excellent. I hope they can find a balance between the drama and camp, rather than falling too far in one direction.

Then again, the Batman universe demands a struggle for balance. Gordon himself telegraphed it to Bruce at the Wayne family crime scene: “However dark and scary the world might be now, there will be light.” Which begs the question, how can a show that has to leave the city a still broken mess when adult Batman shows up give us glimpses of that light in the mean time? How many times can Gordon, and presumably, eventually Bullock, turn small wins amid greater losses into appointment television without viewers clamoring for them to age up the hero in the shadows? That’s a much bigger task to balance than a too campy villain, and the one I’m still anxious to see work as the season moves forward.

So often the episode started out using the story to develop the plot and universe, only to switch gears, come to a grinding halt, and tell the audience exactly what was going on. Or even to repeat information we had already gleaned. I’m hoping the writers can get a handle on the “show don’t tell” mantra, because I can see Gotham getting very heavy-handed very quickly if not.

Ben McKenzie’s troubled earnestness works well as a young Jim Gordon. He does a good job at times with some clunky exposition. As does Donal Logue’s conflicted Harvey Bullock. Bullock is one of the more interesting characters in the Batman comics, and I’m looking forward to seeing which aspects of his character they use. I was also happy to see they kept Montoya’s (Victoria Cartagena) sexuality in tact, even if her behavior was a bit afternoon soap-y at times. Though, adding in the past relationship with the soon to be Barbara Gordon (Erin Richards) was a nice touch that gave both characters needed depth. I’m also interested in the new character Butch Gilzean. Fish’s head henchman, we have yet to learn anything about him or who he might become. I’m happy Falcone (the brilliantly cast John Doman) let him live. Sean Pertwee should be a good choice for Alfred, as soon as they give him something to do. Which brings to my biggest disappointment of the episode. They frame the whole story around the watchful eyes of Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova), but fail to allow her to speak a word. Why introduce a character you don’t intend to actually introduce?

Will Selina Kyle get character development? How long can Oswald Cobblepot stay off the radar? And how long till we get to see him eat a raw fish? (That was a real missed opportunity there.) How long can Fish Mooney last in a universe that doesn’t technically need her? Who did kill Bruce’s parents in this version?

Answers to these questions and more, coming up on first season of Gotham. FOX, Mondays 8pm ET/PT.

Joker Watch: (possible candidates updated each week)

-That stand-up comedian at Fish Mooney’s nightclub

-Butch Gilzean

-Crispus Allan (What a twist!)

-Not yet seen

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