Review: GOTHAM S1E1 “Pilot” by SonofArrogance

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MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD.
Let me start by saying that I am not a
fan of the prequel genre, be they movies or TV shows. In my opinion
they rarely add to the stories that they are foretelling. A lot of
the time they simply serve to remove the mystique of the originals
and there have been plenty of examples of this. Usually imagining
what happened before is much more interesting than having it played
out before you. I never seems as good as you imagined it would be.
But there is an example of a prequel that makes the concept work, The
Good, The Bad and the Ugly. The reason why Sergio Leone’s masterpiece
works as a prequel is that it doesn’t focus on the protagonist of the
previous movies but on a new character Eli Wallach’s Tuco and has
the story of Eastwood’s the Man with no Name play out in the
background. It simultaneously tells a new story and fleshes out the
mythos of the old. And it works. And that is why in my opinion Gotham
works. Like the iconic western it’s a back story of Batman but told
through the eyes of (while not a new character) James Gordon. So we
will find out the genesis of Bruce Wayne to Batman but in the context
of telling a new story that we haven’t seen before. The story of Jim
Gordon and more importantly Gotham. So now with that out of the way
onto the review.
The first few minutes of the Pilot
gave me a mixed first impression. The young Selina Kyle bounding
around Gotham and pick pocketing didn’t work for me, at least not
right away. It seemed a little to on the nose, a youthful
villain/anti-hero popping up straight away wasn’t how I expected it
or wanted it to begin. But this scene led into the key event in the
Pilot and that was the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne and the show
nailed it, better than I expected it to. The robbery/murder of the
Waynes was more visceral than I had expected, the bullet wounds and
blood on Bruce’s hands was very graphic. How they handled this scene
sold me. It worked so well that I could even ignore Catwoman
witnessing the killings which was a departure from the lore that I’m
not entirely ok with.
Another element that the opening
impressed me with was Gotham itself. In my opinion it is one of the
best interpretations of Batman’s home town that I’ve seen on screen.
It strikes a balance between real world and the Gothic architecture
that we associate with the source material. Where the
Burton/Schumacher films overused the Gothic and the Nolan films fore
the most part completely ignored it Gotham gets it right. It’s real
enough for the audience to relate but otherworldly enough for us to
accept the larger than life characters that populate the harsh
cityscape.
As for the main players they are
mostly an impressive bunch. Ben McKenzie as James Gordon is a worthy
protagonist. I believed the performance. The idealism and dedication
to duty that we associate with the commissioner is there but offset
with a sort of beaten dignity. He’s a man fighting the good fight in
a city full of bad. McKenzie is clearly confident in the role but
even so I can see so many directions he can take it. He’s not the
Commissioner we know and love but the events of the Pilot and the
performance make me excited to see how he gets there. There is corruption everywhere in Gotham even within the
ranks of the G.C.P.D and more importantly Harvey Bullock. Donal Logue
is perfect as Bullock. While the interpretation of the character does
differ from the source material all the core elements are there.
Logue’s performance displays the cynicism, the seeming indifference
but most importantly the broken humanity of Bullock. You like him
even though he’s an ass. You can accept it because you can believe
why he is like that, being a cop in Gotham City you can’t blame him. Bullock has the aura of an  against all odds survivor but there is a spark
of redemption hidden beneath his weathered exterior.
At the center of the show and of
course at the center of all the Batman mythology is Batman himself
Bruce Wayne here played as a boy by David Mazouz. I was initially
worried that Gotham would just be a Smallville retread but how they
handled Bruce in the Pilot has quelled those fears. While he is
played very well although he doesn’t get that much screen time and this is a
good thing. The Batman story should be a catalyst for the series and
not the plot of the series itself and that seems to be the route they are taking.
While I look forward to seeing young Bruce’s journey I’m glad they
haven’t just gone Batman Begins… Begins. The story is being honored
but the murder of the Waynes and the birth of the Dark Knight is an
arc more so than the main story and I for one am very happy about
that. Also you can’t have Bruce Wayne without his trusted Butler
Alfred Pennyworth and even though he has less screen time than Bruce
Sean Pertwee does a fine job. His Alfred is more working class
everyman than  refined gent and I find that take very refreshing and
can’t wait to see more.

Of course where DC both in Comics and
related media really shines (love it or hate it) is the villains. And
that is where for the most part the real appeal of Gotham lies and
the Pilot doesn’t skimp on the villainy. Several villains make little
more than extended cameos so I don’t feel the need to go into too
much detail with them for the most part. Edward Nygma is charming and
eccentric, Carmine Falcone delivers the right amount of menace and
dignity while sadly Ivy Pepper is just there and doesn’t add much to
the proceedings. Robin Lord Taylor’s Oswald Cobblepot is a delight.
He’s a cringing little sycophant but at the same time harbors his own
ambitions for Gotham’s Underworld. He’s conniving and grovelling but
at the same time quite an endearing character and the one comic book
villain that the Pilot nails perfectly. Lord Taylor has truck loads
of charisma and keeps you drawn to the screen whenever he on. A
standout performance. The real villain and the highpoint of the
entire Pilot is the revelation that is Jada Pinkett Smith as Fish
Mooney. Pinkett steals every scene she is in. Pinkett Smith’s combination
of sensuality, motherly caring and violent menace is as perfect as
villain performance as you can get. I was totally surprised by her
ability to capture all those elements and bring them together for one
hell of a antagonist. I loved every second of her screen time. Sexy,
scary and cunning. For this audience member he more Fish Mooney in the series the better.

While I did enjoy the Pilot there are
several flaws. Gordon’s fiancee Barbara was very bland and her
relationship with Montoya while intriguing could have benefited from
a more fleshed out performance. I think the blame lies with the
writers as it is a story strand that deserves more than a few seconds
of screen time. It feels forced but does have potential for the
future. The other major flaw in the Pilot is the attempts to connect
the entire Batman mythos together. It felt sometimes like a join the
dots of the Batman Universe. I don’t feel that every character and
their back stories needs to entwined with that of Batman/Bruce
Wayne’s and that is where I felt the Pilot really stumbled.
Regardless of my reservations I
thoroughly enjoyed the Pilot and will be tuning in every week to see
the continuing adventures of Gordon, Bullock and Cobblepot.
A compelling crime drama/comic book
combo.

Rating: 8/10

WOBAM! Writing Staff

We're the passionate staff of WOBAM! Entertainment, covering the worlds of heroes and galaxies far, far, away.
We're the passionate staff of WOBAM! Entertainment, covering the worlds of heroes and galaxies far, far, away.