What We're Watching: Gotham Pilot Review

Gotham
FOX

Begins Monday, September 22

So technically this is a “What We Watched” and a “What We Will Be Watching” column this week. Back in July we were lucky enough to see the pilot for Fox’s new Batman-related crime drama Gotham. This show focuses on a young Jim Gordon as a police detective discovering exact how far corruption goes in Gotham. How many guys are there really? Who’s corrupted? Who can be trusted?

As expected with anything even remotely Batman-related, Gotham looks gloomy and dark, all shades of gray for both the scenery and the characters. This show will introduce some of the famous Batman villains before they were the big bads that they will become. In the pilot alone, we get a quick shot of baby Catwoman (Kittengirl?) stalking the roof tops, stealing milk from passing strangers. The Penguin is an awkward bumbling henchman of Fish Mooney, a female mob boss who I believe was created solely for this show. Finally a pre-Riddler Edward Nigma is given a brief moment of screen time as a police forensic expert that doesn’t like to give straight answers. It’s also been said that someone that could potentially become the Joker will be slipped into every episode, so perhaps he was the standup comic trying out for Mooney in her club.

The pilot revolves around the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents as they walk their son home from the theatre. It plays out just as one would expect from the comics, but this time, we get to see the immediate aftermath, the failings of the city’s police and the determination of its newest detective to do what’s right. David Mazouz plays little Bruce in an understandable state of shock, only to then start showing signs of menace and a need for revenge as he reappears later on in the show. Ben McKenzie as Jim Gordon seems like a solid moral center for a show that can easily go off the rails into cartoon-land. He scowls a lot, but there seems to be a flicker of hope in him that he can have a positive effect against the corruption around him.

My only real complaint about the pilot is learning that Pamela Isley – the future Poison Ivy – has been renamed Ivy Pepper for no apparent reason. She only has a tiny cameo in the pilot, but the ridiculous name change is going to make me grumpy every time she comes on screen. Camren Bicondova as little Selina Kyle makes up for it though with impishness as she clambers over roof tops. In just a few moments, she conveys both Selina’s carefree “I take what I want” attitude along with an empathy for little Bruce after his harrowing experience.

Jada Pinkett Smith looks like she’s having fun chewy scenery as Fish Mooney and Robin Taylor is perfect as awkward Oswald Cobblepot, who dreams of power but doesn’t yet have the guts to do what is necessary to obtain it. This show won’t hurt for fun villains even if Batman’s rouge gallery doesn’t exist just yet. Meanwhile Donal Logue is perfectly happy trying to out-chew Smith as Detective Bullock, the less than squeaky clean partner of Gordon, who attempts to show his younger charge the ropes to maneuver through the corrupt streets of Gotham and the compromises to integrity that need to be made to prevent yourself from getting killed.

The writers are playing fast and loose with canon, but in the pilot, it didn’t bother me much (except for the Poison Ivy name change). Using Renee Montoya as a fed, who potentially had a relationship with Gordon’s fiancé messes up serious canon timelines, but the fact that Montoya is there at all excites me. Overall the show has huge promise, both for one off episodes and an over-arching storyline. It’s not going to be your standard Batman show, but rather a look at the sickness that was so prevalent in Gotham when Bruce was a child that it created Batman in time. This is probably the new show I am most excited about this season and I can’t wait to see what Easter eggs the writers and producers slip into each episode.