Words cannot express the levels of jaded skepticism we had going into the Gotham pilot. ANOTHER superhero origin TV series? About a character whose origins we’ve seen countless times on the big and small screens in multiple formats? Oh, ok, go on then. As usual, though we spoke too soon.
The best way to explain Gotham is that its a period police procedural drama that just so happens to be set in Batman’s universe. That’s why, coming out of the Pilot, our concerns about its premise were allayed. Think about it; Smallvilles ‘no tights, no flights’ rule – a stubborn refusal to have costumes and and flight for the main character – may have kept the show grounded as an origin story but to fans it was infuriating, especially during the last few seasons. Going into the pilot of Gotham we were concerned that the show couldn’t afford to be such a tease – especially when other series like Arrow and The Flash are embracing costumes and powers balls-to-the-wall.
But by focusing on crafting a genuinely brilliant detective drama, Gotham’s creators bypass the frustration factor and instead leave you thoroughly enthralled throughout the episode. The first episode deals with the deaths of Bruce Wayne’s parents, but the real story is Jim Gordon realizing the depth of the insidious corruption that has infected every niche of Gotham City.
Gordon’s partner Harvey Bullock is, from a literary standpoint, the personification of the jaded, cynical resignation that permeates the entire police department. Bullock isn’t a fan of Gordon because he’s too honest, but the tension between these characters is obviously symbolic of the relationship Gordon develops with the City as a whole.
He’s well equipped to deal with it though; Gordon is described as a war hero, and his combat skills and fearless pursuit of justice are demonstrated throughout the episode. Even so, there’s always a looming sense of danger and depression as he navigates through a maze of gangsters, thugs, and future supervillains. That tense atmosphere is perfectly executed and will put fans of the comic at ease – this IS Gotham.
On the subject of future supervillains, though, comes our only major criticism of the show. There are too many. Catwoman, Ivy, Penguin, Riddler – to say they are all introduced and somehow connected to Gordon/Bruce so early feels a little…rushed. Particularly during the scene where Ivy is introduced we got the feeling that we were being assaulted with DC easter eggs in an unnecessarily desperate attempt to convince us that this was truly a comic book show. It’s unnecessary because the show was so good it didn’t need to do so.
That being said, the characters were fine once they were on screen. Penguin especially – his portrayal as a young version of the character was darkly amusing. He’s a sickly-looking kid being raised by a depraved mob boss – a kid who is clearly developing a thirst for blood and violence. We’re excited to see more of him – and you will be too.
The bar has been set rather high by the pilot – the real question now is how they’ll keep this up for a full season. As the show goes on, and more villains are added, will the lack of Batman start to become tiresome and frustrating, Smallville style? It’s still a concern for us – albeit a longer-term concern. Only time will tell…