Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Gotham: Season 1, Episode 1

Episode Title: “Pilot”
Channel: Fox
Director: Danny Cannon
Writer: Bruno Heller
Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller
Runtime: 50 min
Rated: TV-14
Original Air Date: September 22, 2014

Shortly after Gotham was announced it was revealed that Thomas and Martha Wayne would die early in the series. I question that decision, should this series not focus on Gotham and how it became the dark city of violence and corruption we've come to know? I would have preferred some time to get to know the Waynes. We've been told many times that they were great philanthropists that were waging a losing struggle against the underbelly of Gotham. We all know what happens to the Waynes, but no where near as much as been shown about the work they did before their murder. Is this to be another Batman origin story, or is it to be a portrait of Gotham as told through the eyes of James Gordon? It would seem that Gordon's decision to buck the system and become a force for good would have been more poignant if he and the audience had been shown the fight he was attempting to continue.

The decision has been made though, and the audience must take the show as it is, not as it might have been. The first episode of Gotham suffers many of the pains that are common in television pilots. It seems like many of the actors aren't quite sure at this point how they're going to play their characters. The script does little to help them along, often offering up corny dialogue. It was also a little tiresome to be continuously introduced to characters that will become the mainstays of Batman's rogues gallery. Spacing the reveals out over several episodes would have been a better choice than to show the audience Catwoman, Penguin, Riddler, and Poison Ivy all in the pilot. Getting the ball rolling in the first episode is one thing, overloading the allotted fifty minutes with constant winks to the audience is unnecessary.

Ben McKenzie seems to be a decent Jim Gordon. It's hard making the decision based on this one episode, with Gary Oldman's performance still so fresh in the viewers' minds, but hopefully he can grow into the role over the next few episodes. I'm also a fan of the decision to change the Alfred Pennyworth character a bit, Sean Pertwee plays him as a sarcastic and rather foul mouthed counterpoint to the seriousness of the show. That touch is needed somewhere and I like the idea of it coming from a surprising source. Jada Pinkett Smith seems like she will be a good villain, absolutely ruthless; although at times she seemed to be affecting a southern accent and at others it dropped away completely, it seemed out of place in the setting and I'll be glad if she forgets it going forward.

The city of Gotham looks great. It's constantly overcast and dingy, with every single alley appearing to be one that you wouldn't want to walk down alone. It has the feel of a deep, dark concrete forest; predators lurking around every corner. Even a quiet fishing trip isn't safe.

Conclusion: There are a number of missteps here, though through good storytelling their magnitude can be diminished. As the actor's grow accustomed to their roles I hope to see them fitting into them more naturally. The look of the show is the highest point, but so far we haven't seen Gotham as it could be, a character unto itself that chews up and spits out some people, while forging others into heroes, martyrs and madmen.

Rating: 6/10

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