Gotham Season 1 Ep 1 (TV Show Review)

Following the success of Arrow, and then the news about the spinoff The Flash, DC announced several new projects for 2014, Gotham, Hourman and Constantine among them. Of the three, the only show that really attracted any interest from me was Constantine, largely because I love the character in the pages of Justice League Dark, and he’s quickly become one of my favourite anti-heroes and jerks in the DC universe. I was mildly interested in Gotham, but the way that the initial press releases were worded put me off. But then the positive buzz started building and here we are. The first episode premiered last night and it seems to be gaining steam, if nothing else!

Gotham is set in a time before Bruce Wayne became Batman. It is a time when the Gotham City Police Department is stretched thin and corruption is rife, as is a certain cynicism which comes from being a Gothamite. In the first episode, we see the setup of all the major characters, even villains like Penguin, Carmine Falcone, Catwoman, Riddler, Joker and others. We see the murder of Bruce’s parents and the investigation by James Gordon and Harvey Bullock. Tonally for me, the show seems to have hit its stride, and the sweeping story was certainly quite an interesting one as well.

Gotham Logo 0001Gotham seems to be going for a dark noir vibe, which was something of a concern for me given the setting the show is in, and I’m quite happy to report that my misgivings proved to be wrong [Clarification: my concern was that the noir vibe would be uninspiring and flat, but that is not the case]. Director Danny Cannon, who has had quite a storied career to date, never oversells or undersells the noir feel of the episode/series. He hits it right on the mark. Yeah, a lot of the times Gotham seems to be a typical noir-inspired New York or New Jersey or Chicago or what have you, but he does make it unique Gotham too. He focuses on the small streets, the small alleyways, and he always keeps the high-rises in the background. Thematically, it shows that there is a specter of greatness hanging over the city and its inhabitants, but they are too mired in the mud and dirt to really be able to connect with that. And considering that we have James Gordon and Harvey Bullock as out main characters here, that becomes all the more important.

As I said above, the show introduces a ton of characters. We have James Gordon, Barbara Kean (future Mrs. Gordon), Bruce Wayne, Alfred Pennyworth, Harvey Bullock, Renee Montoya, Carmine Falcone, Edward Nygma, Oswald Cobblepot, Selina Kyle and others. Together, they provide a comprehensive look at what the show is going to be like. It is meant to be a show with an ensemble and the series premiere delivers on exactly that. Each cameo made me excited for what might happen later on and I have to say that I found myself really warming up to Cobblepot in particular, duplicitous and traitorous in all the ways that matter.

The best thing about the show, by far, is the casting of Donal Logue as Harvey Bullock, the most jaded and most typical member of the GCPD. Harvey Bullock has often been cast as a police officer who is steeped in the corruption rife in Gotham, but who has also been kind of an honourable man over the years. He is honest with his faults and his failings, and he doesn’t pretend anything. He might as well be the most honest character on the show because of that and Donal Logue absolutely killed it here. He is a perfect casting, getting Harvey Bullock down just right.

And another great thing is that his mentorship of James Gordon is set up as something great. Harvey knows how Gotham works. James doesn’t. He is a new man in town, new to the job and he doesn’t know the city as well as he should, or as well as Harvey knows it. Ben McKenzie is an interesting casting for the role. He seems to get the character down pat but then he often makes these weird expressions that really make me wonder what the hell he is doing in that particular scene. Still, I liked him well enough, and I’m open to seeing more of him and of James Gordon as well.

The biggest surprise of the show however was Jada Pinkett Smith as Fish Mooney, one of the crime-lords of Gotham and Carmine Falcone’s lieutenants as well. She carries the role really well, and her mannerisms and her attitude really convey her character, who is one of the most deceitful and creepy characters on the show. She is shown to have some history with Harvey and I find myself intrigued with how writer Bruno Heller is developing things on that front. She is going to have a big role on the show, and I am looking forward to that.

Given the ensemble cast, sometimes the show’s pacing suffers, but it stays remarkably focused on the main story, which is that Harvey and James need to find out who killed Thomas and Martha Wayne and why. There are lots of twists in the story on that front and those kept me interested in the debut all the way.

Gotham Cast 0001

Another great thing about the show is that there are lots of moral ambiguities here, and nothing is ever crystal clear, even on an open-and-shut case. I like that. It promises a lot for the show and I’m hoping really hard that it keeps up like this. There is perhaps too much of an effort here to tie all the characters together, such as the fact that Edward Nygma works for the GCPD, either in forensics or evidence profiling or whatever and that he is also a kind of a nutcase. But the thing is that these are still early days, after all, this is only the first episode and there is an entire season’s worth of exploration left here. I am very hopeful for that, on that front.

So yeah, this was a far better episode that I expected, and it sets up lots of mysteries and character interactions that are going to bloom as the show progresses. I am certainly going to tune in next week!

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Posted on September 23, 2014, in Gotham, Review Central, TV Show Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

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