Monday night was the premiere of Fox’s Gotham, the story of the city before Batman. It’s an interesting idea, but how was the execution?
I’ll be honest, right from the start I’ve been a little leery of this show. We’ve seen a lot of different variations of Batman through the years, but we’ve rarely ever seen anything about what Gotham was like from the time Bruce Wayne’s parents were killed up to the point when he becomes Batman, and we don’t really know much about the early career of Jim Gordon. But do we really care? Are these stories that really need telling?
We know that Gotham is a cesspool of crime and corruption. That’s why Bruce decides to become Batman, to avenge his parents and save the city. With that knowledge, do we want to watch a show that has the cops losing all the time? Because they have to lose. Gordon can’t be the one to save the city, make it have a brighter future, because otherwise there wouldn’t be a need for a Batman, no reason for the Dark Knight to exist.
Do we want to watch Gordon fail all the time? I think some viewers do, that’s why shows like FX’s The Shield keep trucking along. Crooked cops hold some appeal. Seeing how the city falls could hold some appeal. But where’s the hope? There has to be some redeeming quality to a show, no matter how bad the characters, to draw us in. Is the character of Jim Gordon (played by Ben McKenzie) and his promise to Bruce Wayne going to be enough?
There’s stuff here for the die-hard Batman fans to dig into like the “origins” of the Penguin, the Riddler, Catwoman, and so on. But these aren’t the versions these fans know from the comics and there are some serious issues with the timeline.
I’ve thought from the beginning that Catwoman is too old in this show and I’m not the only one. Gotham opens with Camren Bicondova’s Catwoman doing young Catwoman things, but this Catwoman appears to be at least around 16-18, with a 12 year old Bruce Wayne. My fiancée’s first comment on seeing the character was “Catwoman is too old”. Her next was “they’re setting up a lot in this first episode”.
And they did. Almost too much.
I think that is my major problem with Gotham. The show’s is just trying to do too much with the first episode. They had to have recognizable characters, people that viewers knew who they would end up turning into, otherwise it just becomes another cop show and characters like Fish Mooney end up being cheesy and uninteresting.
When Ed Nigma gives a riddle, it’s not funny, it comes across forced. It doesn’t fit into the scene or the show itself. That’s the problem with Gotham. We’re only interested in Oswald’s story because we know he becomes the Penguin. But that’s at least 6-10 years away if Bruce is only 12. So we’re supposed to follow this character for that long? We’re supposed to care?
It spends too much time establishing that it is Batman’s world and not enough on it’s own self.
McKenzie is decent enough as Jim Gordon. He chews the scenes a bit much, playing too straight, but it works. I just don’t know if he’ll be able to carry the show. Donal Logue’s Harvey Bullock is great—he’s the best part of the show. Erin Richards is almost unwatchable as Barbara Kean, the future Mrs. Gordon.
I want to like this show, but the premiere didn’t really impress me. I would have preferred it on the CW so that it could intersect with Arrow, or at least have been moved forward in years, to show when Bruce Wayne returns to Gotham from his training. Right now it isn’t strong enough to stand on it’s own, it’s always going to be in Future-Batman’s shadow, and I feel that the foreshadowing and character introductions will get old. As will the feeling of hopelessness as a good man like Jim Gordon continually struggles and fails.