TV Review: ‘Gotham’
We’ve seen the first episodes of Flash and Constantine and they’re good. Not great, but plenty of potential. We could be on the cusp of a new era in totally watchable TV comic adaptations. This week we got the first episode of the biggest name brand being adapted: Gotham. The Batman series without Batman. Focusing not on the adventures of the caped crusader but a young Jim Gordon, new to Gotham city, charting the origins of some of Batman’s greatest villains.
I have two big problems with the show from the outset, mostly stemming from my Batman fanboyness, so we’ll get those out of the way. Poison Ivy appears in the show as a child, but instead of being named Pamela Isley she’s named Ivy Pepper. Totally pointless. If people know who the character is they’ll make the connection just as they would with Ed Nigma being obsessed with riddles. Give the audience some credit.
The second problem I have is that Gotham is not a straight up adaptation of Gotham Central, one of my favourite comics and one that is criminally underrated. A dry and gritty series focused exclusively on the Major Crimes Unit of the Gotham police department with only occasional involvement of the Dark Knight. Gotham has a similar feel but it’s clear that they don’t want to stray to far from the familiar characters and brand.
With that out of my system I can take a fresh, unbiased view on Gotham.
There’s a lot of characters thrown at us in the first episode and not all of them all relevant to the plot. Ivy Pepper, Selina Kyle and Edward Nigma all pop up for a scene or two each and one is left wondering why they couldn’t have spaced them out over the series a bit more. The murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne being the catalyst for the story seems almost tangental. It would have been stronger story without this element. The detective elements of the show are when it’s at its strongest, setting up a group of interesting cops and criminals and the power struggles and corruption throughout.
When it comes to performances there may be a benefit in hiring a masseuse for the production. There’s some good performers involved but many seemed quite stiff and uptight, delivering their lines with little feeling. Robin Lord Taylor was something of a standout as the gawkish Oswald Copplepot (although his sandwich grab at the end produced unintentional laughter from the group I watched it with), as is Donal Logue as the morally ambivalent Harvey Bullock and Jada Pinkett Smith as gangster Fish Mooney. In the lead as Jim Gordon Ben McKenzie does good work, but it feels as though he isn’t completely comfortable with the role yet. David Mazouz impresses as the young Bruce Wayne setting out on his path but unfortunately his scenes usually feature Sean Pertwee as Alfred and…this is not a version of Alfred I can deal with.
Of the three new DC television production Gotham took my interest more than Flash and Constantine, mostly due to the tone and genre. This pilot throws a lot of characters and winks to the Batman fans in the audience for it to be a truly solid beginning but it has potential. I’ll be looking forward to seeing where it goes at any rate.