I absolutely believe a show like Gotham can survive without an adult, costumed Batman’s presence. After all, I argue that Gotham City is one of literature’s most famed settings, on par with Narnia and Middle-earth. Those prominent locations do not feature only one character, nor should Gotham City.
With that being said, Gotham’s debut last night on Fox made a good impression, but not a great impression. I think it has a great deal of potential, but it seems as though it will need some time to find its soul.
Visually, the show stunned. It has a cinematic quality that, at times, left me breathless. They’ve got the “look” quite right. Furthermore, it had even more action than I expected, and I expected much. There are no super powers in this show (yet [if ever]), but that didn’t stop Gordon and Bullock from throwing fists, firing bullets, and sprinting down alleys. In fact, I found myself surprised by the amount of violence of the show. Even I didn’t foresee quite the amount of bloodshed.
Overall, the acting proved adequate. I liked a few characters quite a bit, others turned me off, but most I simply tolerated. James Gordon, a character I thought I’d love, fell a little short for me. Ben McKenzie played him a little too stoic for my tastes. They set him up as a war hero, a warrior cop, a righteous man, but for the most part he seemed content to smolder. Donal Logue’s Harvey Bullock has just the right amount of immorality, and I happen to really like Logue, but the character also fell a bit flat. I see great things ahead for Robin Lord Taylor’s Penguin—he came off both pathetic and creepy. I like the approach they took with Bruce Wayne and I actually look forward to his storyline (even though there is great danger of traipsing over well-trodden ground). Alfred came off as an unlikable stiff, but I think that was on purpose. We all know we’ll end up loving him.
But the standout character for me, and this caught me totally off guard, is none other than Jada Pinkett Smith’s Fish Mooney. I expected her character to be a throwaway, a placeholder for the Penguin, and it sounded from interviews as though she would be over the top in all the wrong ways. This was not the case. Smith played her perfectly, and I truly believe she stole the show. I’m most interested in learning more about her character, believe it or not.
The show’s kryptonite, I’m afraid, was the dialogue. I cringed at some of the lines I heard, especially from Harvey Bullock and Barbara Kean. It’s one thing to be a show about a corrupt police department in a city falling apart, it’s another to sound like a show focusing on a corrupt police department in a city falling apart.
I’m not crazy about the plot concerning the Wayne murders, but I understand why they are taking that approach. It opens up some interesting doors, but, again, they are in danger of repeating things the audience has already seen.
The premise of the show is fantastic—a Gotham City before Batman. I love Fish Mooney. I am excited about the Penguin’s potential rise to power. I loved the hints they dropped, such as with Edward Nygma and the comedian at Mooney’s club. I think James Gordon could be a rich character if they make him a little more relatable, and I have great hopes for Harvey Bullock, a character who always wins over the audience despite his surly ways.
Overall, I say the show succeeded for a first episode. It set the tone, laid the groundwork, opened up many potential plots, and touched on the major players. Furthermore, it looked exquisite. Is there room to improve? Of course, but dialogue is an easy thing to fix, especially once the actors get better acquainted with the “voice” of their characters.