Random Thoughts on Gotham

Watched it, liked it, at least enough to write a few thoughts in lieu of a review...

1. Was it going to be Smallville or Arrow? I guess it's a little of both. The premise is Smallville's, but the mix of gritty action and soap opera is Arrow's (there's a house style forming). It's stronger out of the gate than Arrow though. The soap doesn't feel as cheesy, for starters.

2. It's called Gotham, and it really is about the town. Sure, young Gordon is the nominal hero, but the pilot sets the show up so it has conflicts in at least three arenas: The GCPD (corruption is rampant, the Wayne case), the criminal underworld (war brewing between Fish, Falcone and Penguin... there's a pun there, the latter as both avian and sea life...), and more personal affairs (Bruce and Alfred and Selina, Barbara Sr.'s gay relationship with Renée Montoya). There's really no reason the show couldn't switch focus to different characters in the Batman Family over time; I see a lot of potential.

3. The main problem people foresaw with the show as various news nuggets were leaked was that you'd have all the Batman characters interacting pre-Batman and that it would somehow feel forced or ridiculous. I'm glad to say it still works. We'll likely NEVER see a Batman in this show (except as a final image late down the line, à la Smallville), and if he inspires all the wackos to dress up, then we won't see "supervillains" either. So it really doesn't matter if there's a huge amount of interaction between the Bat Family before it should happen, because the show is its own world where we'll have to imagine what these relationships would mean for a post-Batman world, but would never have to see actually see it. It also means we'll see new characters like Fish Mooney, characters that don't have a destiny already spelled out and who can die or whatever the writers need to have happen to them.

4. Too much fan service? I didn't think so. This was the pilot and should feel special, with some characters likely to be throwaways (like Ivy, maybe even the Joker, if that's who he was referencing; could be a red herring, of course). Unlike Arrow, which throws out references to an enormous degree (especially writer and artist names), we either see the character or else get a street named Grundy (which was awesome, by the way, let's see Slaughter Swamp sometime).

5. Something I found interesting about using the various characters in this way is that it showed just how much the Batman universe is part of popular culture. Young pickpocket races through the streets, steals milk, gives it to alley cat, is never named... Who DOESN'T realize who this is? And so it goes with a lot of the characters. That universal knowledge certainly keeps the Waynes' murder elegant and efficient.

6. Trivia: Ben McKenzie (Gordon) has a previous connection to Batman... He voiced the Dark Knight in the Batman Year One direct-to-DVD release. And yeah, a Gordon without a mustache is a little disorienting at first, but when he does grow a 'stache, I bet it'll be a big season opener ker-pow moment.

7. Speaking of aging in the role, will we see David Mazouz grow up on TV as Bruce Wayne? And if the show is lucky enough to last the standard 7 seasons usually afforded network dramas, will we see take a greater and greater role in the action? The young actor is 13 now (though he seems to be playing it younger) and would be 20 by that theoretical last season.

8. Alfred as a hard-edged Cockney type? Looks like he might grow up to be Michael Caine! Speaking of interesting casting, I think Erin Richards as Barbara Sr. isn't too far from Dina Meyer as Barbara Jr. from Birds of Prey!And there are a number of times in the pilot where McKenzie gives a hang dog look reminiscent of Gary Oldman's performance in the Nolan trilogy. Not that this is a prequel to the films, you understand. Jada Pinkett Smith is the big name, and Fish is a pretty cool villain.

9. I like Vancouver as Star(ling) City, but Gotham is filmed in New York, and it's a dirty, polluted, cold and rainy New York. Nice atmosphere throughout.

10. So yes, I'll be watching it regularly, at least in the short term (by which I mean there's always a moment in the fall where I lose track of what's on TV and just give up on all the shows, then buy the DVDs). The story I'm most interested in is how much Gordon will be compromised before he's solved the Wayne murder and cleaned up the department. He managed to get out of a sticky ethical situation this time, but with Bullock breathing down his neck (and possibly Montoya and Crispus Allen as well), it's only a matter of time before he has to betray his own values to survive or keep his secrets.

Well done! Better than expected! DC properties really are better on TV than in the cinema.


snell said...

Given the way showrunner Bruno Heller handled the resolution of the Red John mystery in The Mentalist, don't expect any resolution to the Wayne murders for 5 or 6 seasons...

My philosophical problem with the show so far is that--unless they're substantially revising history--is that it's going to be a show about failure. We know Gordon doesn't stop the rise of the Penguin, or get rid of Falcone, or clean up the GCPD. (In fact, you can argue that Gordon's actions in the pilot make things worse, leading to Oswald's rise, etc) So I'm concerned the show will be 22 hours per year of Pyrrhic victories failures and increasingly unresolved gloom. A two-hour movie might be able t get away with that, but a weekly, multi-year series?

Siskoid said...

Two answers:

1) That's where characters like Fish Mooney come in. They can fill Gotham history with big, important villains who were nevertheless eventually beaten.

2) Points to Battlestar Galactica, The Wire, etc.

Bonus answer) Maybe it's about the villains. It IS DC Comics after all.

SallyP said...

I have to admit that my expectations were low...so I was pleasantly surprised with it.

Jeff R. said...

Never say never: it's not as though the "Five Years Later" titlecard isn't always an option for a season 3+ changeup.

I like it largely because it's positioned to give us a definitive version of the "The Wayne murders were an assassination rather than random street crime" story, something that the comics flirt with every decade or so but never ask out on an actual date. Much as Smallville rehabilitated the "Lex and Superman were once great friends" version of the story, so Gotham might do for that.

Andrew said...

Part of me hopes that if this show goes completely off the rails two or three seasons down the road, they do it by bringing in one of the vigilante/heroes who worked Gotham before Batman. Like the Reaper, or Phantasm.

Or my personal choice, Alan Scott in full Green Lantern mode.

SallyP said...

Alan Scott would be wonderful!

Siskoid said...

I'd love to see a radio guy by that name who might become the TV universe's Green Lantern in a spin-off like the Flash's. Or maybe he's already retired. That would be cool.


Wriphe said...

Who's Michael Kane? Did you mean Michael Caine (of ON DEADLY GROUND fame)? Or was that a reference to someone I've never heard of?

I haven't seen GOTHAM yet so I don't know if that was a misspelling or a reference to someone I just don't know.

Siskoid said...

It's me, with Bob Kane on the mind.

Anonymous said...

"Young pickpocket races through the streets, steals milk, gives it to alley cat, is never named... Who DOESN'T realize who this is?"

Clearly it's Haley Dunphy from "Modern Family" ... they're already setting up a cheap crossover, I don't like it.

Just a reminder, Alfred is played by Jon Pertwee's son, and the resemblance is striking. It's a shame that the Blinovitch Limitation Effect prevents him from saving Thomas and Martha Wayne.

As snell says, the show puts itself in a tough philosophical place, in that either Jim Gordon ultimately fails, or he ultimately renders Batman unnecessary, and we know that second thing can't happen. There is a way out of this, sort of, in the form of escalation: Jim can have his successes, but as he puts an end to one form of crime, another stronger form takes over, again and again, until finally adult Bruce is back from his travels and a mysterious "Bat-Man" is seen around town. Only, there's not a whole lot of room for escalation at this point either.

Anonymous said...

i did not like the reference in red hood to self-multalation its against christainity-hurts God to see people hurting themselves and handicapping oneself is counterproductive


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