Let’s face it, the concept of “Gotham” alone sets a pretty high bar for the new Fox series, and with its series premiere on Monday, Sept. 22, it pretty much meets it. Yes, there are a few problem areas, namely in the numerous characters introduced in the span of one episode, but overall, the pilot makes us want to come back for more. It’s fun and dark in the best ways and shows plenty of promise for the rest of the season.
“I promise you, however dark and scary the world might be right now, there will be light.” – Jim Gordon
If you go into “Gotham” expecting it to be all about young Bruce Wayne, you will be sorely disappointed. Yes, it begins with the murders of his parents, but this show is more about the city of Gotham – and those who should be protecting it (but may or may not be doing so) and the beginnings of James Gordon as part of the police force. As long as you go into it expecting that, you should enjoy the show. Also, remember, this isn’t like the other cop shows on television. Yes, there are detectives, and yes, it seems like it could lean towards the procedural at times, but the surreal elements of the city and its people – and knowing about these characters – should help balance that out. The city is very much a major character itself, and it’s one that is falling apart, nearly broken and so very corrupt, with quite the cast of characters living in it – and it’s in the city that the series comes alive visually in such a way that it’s even easier to forgive it its flaws just to see more of what it has to offer.
As stated above, there are many characters introduced in this first episode – and they’re introduced in such a way that even if you have the slightest inkling of who they are/become and aren’t an avid Batman fan, you should be able to guess. That can be a bit too much, from Oswald’s “Penguin” nickname to Ivy and her plants to Edward Nygma and his riddles (though we do like Cory Michael Smith’s delivery of those lines). Hopefully that dies down the more we see these characters and in the rest of the season, because it doesn’t seem like the best way to keep viewers interested, whether they know about these characters or not. Save something for later in the season instead of throwing it at the audience right away.
That said, whatever problems we might have with the way the characters are presented in the pilot, these actors were all clearly the right choices for the parts, especially Robin Lord Taylor as Oswald Cobblepot/The Penguin. He steals the show, with Jada Pinkett Smith a strong second as Fish Mooney and Ben McKenzie right there as Jim Gordon. The best scenes of the premiere feature at least one, but often two, of those three: Oswald and Fish Mooney when she discovers his betrayal and Jim and Oswald at the docks. Notice the common denominator? It’s why Taylor steals the show. Meanwhile, Smith is so good as Fish Mooney, it makes you glad this character was created for the show, and McKenzie takes a character that is so well known and lives up to the expectations. As for the rest of the cast, while Donal Logue doesn’t necessarily stand out quite yet as Harvey Bullock, he does take on the role in such a way that you can’t imagine anyone else in it. We only get a taste of Sean Pertwee as Alfred, but he seems to uphold what we expect from the role, and we have yet to see enough of Camren Bicondova to judge her Selina as anything more than she’s going to be mischievous.
David Mazouz plays young Bruce Wayne exactly as he needs to be, a kid who lost his parents and is growing up too soon and making decisions no child should have to make, but such is the life in a corrupt city. Jim goes to him and asks for his forgiveness for not catching his parents’ killer, and Bruce tells him that he’s glad he’s still alive because he wants to see him again. The Bruce Wayne Jim speaks to at the end is already different from the Bruce Wayne he first meets in that alley, and the pilot sets up their developing relationship nicely, in such a way that it’s not too hard to see them becoming the people they do.
“This is not a city or a job for nice guys,” Harvey tells Jim, but despite that warning, Jim is doing everything he can to stay true to who he is, and that means even when his life is threatened and when he’s seemingly left without a choice when it comes to shooting Oswald, he stages his death. However, Oswald’s actions upon coming across a fisherman, so brutal and very much the opposite of the begging weakling he presented himself as on the docks, do seem to confirm Harvey’s statement. It’s not so much a question of if a guy can remain a nice guy in Gotham; it’s a question of what a nice guy’s actions can do to the city. Yes, Jim saved Oswald’s life, but in doing so, it cost the fisherman his – and that could just be the first of many.
In a way, it’s Falcone who understands the city the best out of everyone. “I’m a businessman,” he tells Jim. “You can’t have organized crime without law and order. I love this city, and I see it going to hell. But I won’t let it fall apart without a fight.”
“Gotham” airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on Fox. What did you think of the series premiere? Will you be watching every week?