Fox’s Gotham had many Batman fans worried even since it was first announced. Telling yet another origin story, but this time from the point-of-view of Jim Gordon (played by Ben McKenzie)? Sounds like it could very easily have fallen into the same traps that every other procedural drama on television does. And even though it does feel a bit generic at times, Gotham shines thanks to some top-notch production values and some interesting performances. it’s just sadly boggled down by an overwhelming sense of nostalgia that deteriorates from the story at hand.
The main issue that I had with this first episode is that it felt like the producers thought that they absolutely had to feature as many references to all the characters that’d be making an appearance in the show, all into the one hour-long pilot. This ends up being problematic, because instead of setting up an intriguing story, we’re stuck with an annoyingly one-liners, referencing who certain characters will end up being in the future. “Quit with the riddles,” Harvey Bullock tells Edward Nygma, an already annoying twat that I hope isn’t featured heavily throughout the series. The Poison Ivy and Catwoman (or should it be Cat-Girl?) aspects to the episode especially feel forced.
Thankfully, the main actors pick up the scraps that they supporting cast left them. McKenzie is pretty strong as Gordon, a fan favorite character in the Batman lore. But, it was Robin Taylor as The Penguin that stood out to me. Although he’s different from the previous portrayal of the character that many people are used to (many still remember Danny DeVito‘s polarizing performance), he holds his own and seems like he’ll become quite a menacing character as the show progresses. And despite her moronic name, Fish Mooney, played by Jada Pinkett Smith, is also an interesting character to add to the mix, if only because she plays a menacing female character. Even though I like her character now, I feel like I will grow tired of her in the next few episodes. Her character is one of those who tries soo hard to be a badass, and while she might seem threatening now, she could very easily become a joke.
Another component to the pilot that I enjoyed was how great it looked. The production design was solid, especially when compared to other cable television shows. Director Danny Cannon, whose work in film includes gems such as I Still Know What You Did Last Summer and Goal! (sarcasm), does a great job setting the tone of Gotham, the dark and ugly underbelly of the world that many people try to avoid. And although its focus might seem a little narrowed-in on the crime aspect and not other things (is there anyone well-off in this incarnation of Gotham?), there’s still an entire season to cover these aspects. But, I will say that Cannon has improved a hell of a lot when you compare this to his filmography.
Overall, Gotham wasn’t great, but I never expected it to be. In fact, it’s quite solid, but it has some issues that it has to overcome if it wants to continue to keep my interest. So far, the show seems more interested in banking on the audience’s nostalgia when it comes to certain characters instead of forming a well thought-out storyline to help it differentiate from similar shows. The references come full-force in this opening episode, which is alarming, but the strong leads and nice visuals give me hope for this new show. But, it’s going to need more than just pretty sets and some quality performances for me consider this a success. But for an opening, it ain’t that bad.