TV Recap: Gotham, Series Premiere

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Plot: When the most famous and wealthiest couple in Gotham City are gunned down in front of their only son (David Mazouz), rookie Detective James Gordon (Ben McKenzie) is paired with the jaded Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue) to solve the case quickly. As Gordon works through his first case, he learns the corruption of Gotham City is deeper than he ever could have imagined.

As excited as I’ve been ever since this show was announced, it was a bit jarring to see the world of Batman on the small screen. I am so used to big budget movie productions with an endless list of A-list actors, but it was time for me to adjust. From the opening shot of Gotham City, I was in. This pilot represented the world of Batman so damn well, but the one element it exceeded in most of all was establishing the atmosphere and feel of Gotham City. It’s disgusting. It’s nasty. It’s corrupt. But most of all, it tests people. And for James Gordon, Gotham City wasted no time.

Photo Credit: Justin Stephens/FOX
Photo Credit: Justin Stephens/FOX

As much as I loved the look of Gotham, it’s all about the characters. James Gordon is front and center as advertised, but it’s not the James Gordon we are accustomed too. This Gordon is inexperienced, volatile, but above all else, an honest man. Ben McKenzie is a revelation in this role. He even took some not so good dialogue and made it awesome. It’s amazing how much he emulated Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s John Blake from The Dark Knight Rises, and also looked exactly like him. It’s uncanny. Bottom-line – Gordon is the perfect protagonist to follow throughout the course of the this show, and McKenzie is the man to take us there.

In this episode, Gordon plays off two major relationships. His partner is Harvey Bullock, played wonderfully by Donal Logue. This guy is going to be a great character to watch develop, very complex. You can see what Gotham City has done to this guy – it has completely wrecked him, which is what Gotham does best. The other relationship was between Gordon and young Bruce Wayne (Mazouz). This is probably the biggest reason why I’m thankful for this show’s existence, as I hope we can watch this relationship grow for years to come. Gordon as a mentor figure for Bruce Wayne was astounding. Mazouz is also a great young Bruce. You immediately look at this kid in the later scenes of the episode and believe he can be Batman. The other Gordon relationship I didn’t care for was between him and his fiancé, Barbara Kean (Erin Richards). The performance was fine, but she was very “television girlfriendey,” just a complete cliché. That character needs to be written better.

Photo Credit: Justin Stephens/FOX
Photo Credit: Justin Stephens/FOX

Aside from Gordon and the Gotham Police Department, the other element people were really excited about was seeing the genesis of Batman’s villains. You only see very quick glimpses of a few, like Cory Michael Smith as Edward Nygma (Riddler) and Clare Foley as Ivy Pepper (Poison Ivy), but there were two in particular that got a lot of screen time. Camren Bicondova immediately sells Selina Kyle (Catwoman), and she never even says anything. As the next episode is titled “Selina Kyle,” I’m very interested to see more of this character next week.

In my opinion though, the man of the hour was Robin Taylor as Oswald Cobblepot (Penguin). AWESOME. This guy might have been the best interpretation I’ve ever seen of the character, and he’s not even close to being full on Penguin. He was mean, vicious, unkempt (but also kempt), scared, and certainly conniving. I cannot wait to see where this character goes next, especially with how he’s left at the end of the episode.

Oswald works for Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith), a new villain created for the show. Mooney was also another huge highlight for me. Smith is fantastic, and you can definitely tell she belongs in the world of Gotham. Her and Oswald in particular have a great scene together. More than anything, I loved how all out these actors went into their characters. You can tell they truly appreciate the world they get to play in.

Aside from the characters, the storytelling was solid. For a pilot, a lot happened. This is great pacing, something a lot of shows struggle with. In this first episode, you understand perfectly how corrupt Gotham is, and the uphill battle that Gordon faces. They even give Gordon a Batman Begins type moment where he has to make a big choice.

The only real issues I had with this pilot were a few bad Alfred (Sean Pertwee) lines, and a couple cops who didn’t quite click for me. Other than that, Gotham lived up to my expectations. I can’t believe I get to watch a Batman show every week, even if Batman isn’t in it. They give you everything you love about the world of Batman, but add in a few new wrinkles to keep it fresh. The potential for this show is through the roof.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10 (Really Great)

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Daniel Cohen is the Film Editor for Pop-Break. Aside from reviews, Daniel does a weekly box office predictions column, and also contributes monthly Top Tens and Op-Ed’s on all things film. Daniel is a graduate of Bates College with a degree in English, and also studied Screenwriting at UCLA. He can also be read on www.movieshenanigans.com. His movie crush is Jessica Rabbit. Follow him on Twitter @dcohenwriter.

Daniel Cohen is the hard-boiled Film Editor for the Pop Break. Besides reviews, Daniel writes box office predictions, Gotham reviews and Oscar coverage. He can also be found on the Breakcast. If Daniel was sprayed by Scarecrow’s fear toxin, it would be watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on a non-stop loop.