Origin stories are a natural part of the comic book world. So much so that when a TV show or a movie is made, 9/10 they start off with an origin of sorts. There are a few exceptions of course. Smallville asked the question of “what happened between Clark discovering his powers and him donning the blue suit?” Gotham, takes a similar approach, and asks the question:
“What was Gotham like BEFORE Batman appeared?”
True, we more-or-less know what the city was like. Corruption, crime bosses, hate, greed, and most importantly, fear. It was these things that drove Bruce Wayne to become Batman to try and save the city…
But Gotham also asks, “What if he wasn’t the first to try?”
WARNING!!!: SPOILERS WILL BE SAID IN THIS REVIEW! IF YOU HAVEN’T WATCHED IT YET…WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?
Gotham, as it’s been publicized through numerous ads, is a true origin story. For the characters, and for the city. We’re introduced to MANY familiar faces, and some new ones, all anchored by the young rookie cop Jim Gordon. A war hero, or “soldier boy” as Harvey Bullock likes to call him.
The pilot starts off in curious fashion, but goes straight to the heart of the origins stories, with the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne. I would like to point out how well this scene was handled. They could’ve done it like many other incarnations before, some did it silently, some did it off screen or via shadows on the wall, but Gotham puts us right front and center to the event that started this whole thing.
Props to David Mazouz, who did a great job showing the heartbreak of a young Bruce Wayne, sitting there with blood on his hands screaming “No!”. That scene gave me chills, even though I’ve seen it many times before.
From the moment Gordon and Bullock arrive we get right into the nitty-gritty of what Gotham is as a city. It’s as corrupt as you’d think, Bullock (Donal Logue) shows that straight away by not wanting the case. Add to that how they try and solve the case and you get waist deep in how dirty Gotham really is.
There are a lot of fake-outs and “did they really just do that?” moments in the pilot. Some of which are good, some not so much. Overall though, the pilot shows off a lot of the potential Gotham has to be a longstanding series.
But as in most shows it really does come down to how the main character is. In this case Jim Gordon. The pilot shows Gordon as a man not afraid to do what needs to be done for justice, but also that he knows where the line is. This is shown very well via his entrance scene where he disarms a criminal when everyone was ready to shoot him with no hesitation.
It’s important to remember two things when thinking about the Gotham pilot. First off, it’s a pilot! The show literally has forty some odd minutes to entice you to watch the next episode. The second is that if the characters acted exactly how you remember them from “present day” Gotham, there would be no room to grow.
Gordon here isn’t the Gordon we know from the comics, or the movies even. He’s different, which is great, because that allows us to see new sides of the character that the other forms never got to show us. That goes for other characters too. You can’t see everything you want to in one episode, no matter how much you might want it.
If there was one thing I would say is bad about the pilot, it’s that they tried to do a lot with very little time. And by that I mean character intros.
In one episode, we meet Jim Gordon, Harvey Bullock, Bruce Wayne, Alfred Pennyworth, Renee Montoya, Crispus Allen, Oswald Cobblepot, Edward Ngyma, Fish Mooney, Carmine Falcone, Ivy Pepper (*cough* Pamela Isley *cough*) Barbara Kean, and Selina Kyle. That’s a lot of characters!
To be fair, a lot of them worked within the context of this episode, but some didn’t. Standouts include Nygma and Pepper, who just seemed to be thrown in there to say “hey, yes, they’re here! You don’t have to wait!”…which is said because they don’t show much outside of stereotypical things about the characters we already know. Pepper is taking care of a plant, and Nygma…yep, he talks in riddles. Shocker.
Other characters like Alfred, Cobblepot, and even Montoya and Allen come across as way more than just story fodder, with possible major arcs for all of them going forward. Oh yeah, and Selina Kyle might just be the most interesting character for reasons you need to watch to figure out.
Also, while the ending scene between Bruce and Gordon was a wonderful foreshadowing of what’s to come, the true final scene with Cobblepot left much to be desired.
In the end, the pilot for Gotham truly started off this tale of origin stories in style. This series has a lot of potential, as long as they don’t get too weighed down in the mythology and dare to make something unique (ala Smallvile or Arrow) this will be a show worth watching every week.