Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Gotham Season 1 Episode 1 'Pilot' Review

So when the concept for this show was first introduced I was really excited. A show following the pre Batman days of Gotham, focussing on the crime families and a young Jim Gordon sounded cool. As time went on the pitch and advertising for the show became increasingly Batman like. The angle of the crime families was pushed to one side and publicity pictures showing young Catwoman, Penguin, The Riddler and Poison Ivy took their place. So increasingly it seemed ‘Gotham’ was to become the new Smallville. Now Smallville was pretty good, near the start at least but eventually became a generic teenage drama that happened to feature Superman.

Now unlike Clark Kent finding his powers, Bruce’s journey to Batman is relatively boring. That being said seeing what created his Arkham dwelling villains is fascinating. Seeing how the mafia families lose control to them is also an interesting story. So does ‘Gotham’ live up to its potential? Or is it yet another teen drama with added Batman?

Within seconds of the episode starting we are introduced to teenage Catwoman. She is seen prowling around rooftops and pick pocketing people. She even does the Catwoman butt shuffle when she walks, so we know for sure it’s her. While hiding on a fire escape she witnesses the brutal gunning down of a couple, with only their child being left alive. That’s right, within the opening minutes the Wayne’s are dead and Catwoman was there to witness them die. It’s actually refreshing for the show to make such an immediate change from the established canon, it sends out a very clear message. The actual shooting of the Wayne’s is pretty brutal, very much like a scene from CSI.

Next we are taken to Gotham Police Department and introduced to Jim Gordon and his detective partner Harvey Bullock. Jim is immediately established as our typical white knight detective. Harvey bullock is far less honourable however and wants a quiet live and if justice is served or not doesn’t matter to him. They are given the Wayne case and our story begins.

It’s easy to see why they make such slow progress in the case; they can’t cross the street without awkwardly running into a future villain. “If I wanted riddles I’d read the funny pages” Bullock tells ‘Ed’ as he shows them evidence at the police station. Believe it not, this is the most subtle introduction we get. Before the episode is out we also see a little girl playing with plants called Ivy and the beaked nosed Oswald who hates being called ‘Penguin’.

These introductions are pretty clunky and hopefully they’ll become more subtle. If not, I’m not looking forward to the “You’re pretty two faced Dent!” or “Hey, you’re good with dates. What are you, some kind of calendar man?

Now I’m not going to explain the episode any more, as what it doesn’t fill with cameos it fills with twists and turns. That being said I am going to comment on the final one, as it’s really stupid. We see Gordon is being forced to march a man down a pier at gunpoint. If he doesn’t kill him he will be killed himself. The fact that the man in question is the young penguin somewhat ruins the gunpoint suspense I feel.

Now the show’s original intent to be a more traditional crime drama is at odds with the villain filled version it became. We get traditional detective show conversations intercut with weird comic book sequences. At one point an executioner shows up, complete with medieval mask and I found it hard to not laugh out loud at that ridiculous concept being part of this show.

The biggest issue with this opening episode however is predictively enough Batman. Traditionally Bruce Wayne crosses the line to becoming Batman the second his family is killed. That is also the way ‘Gotham’ handles it. Bruce goes from a laughing child to littlest Dark Knight instantly and everyone talks to him as if he is now Batman. It’s hard to not think of this as a conscious creative decision, but to decide to skip Batman’s origins in a show about the origins of the Batman universe is rather odd. That being said, his story has been told many times before and Bruce Wayne’s enemies are far more interesting than he is, so I’m cool with it being pushed to the side. I just hope they tone his Batman Jr dialog down a tad.

Overall ‘Gotham’ has potential. The opening episode is nicely paced, visually vibrant and the plot and characters held my attention enough to watch the next episode. It has some issues, particularly with the tone shifting abruptly but those should be evened out as the show finds its own identity. That’s the best thing about ‘Gotham’; it is trying something different, ploughing its own furrow and ignoring the previous Batman adaptations. Now if this new direction for the franchise will work out or not is yet to be seen. That being said, I’m looking forward to where it’s going.

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