Gotham has landed. How will Batman’s prelude intertwine with a post-modern culture?
Before Batman, there was Gotham. The drama serial debuting on television began its dark and mysterious tale of the upbringing of orphan Bruce Wayne with the instant robbery of his mother and father. Confronted by a reckless robber, callously shooting them dead down a darkened alleyway after they handed over their rich valuables, saw the balaclava menace spare young Wayne.
Actor David Mazouz, playing the young Wayne proved instant praise with his affinity to his father more than his mother with a tentative caress followed by carefully pitched shriek. For many child or teen actors, these instances would have been extremely difficult to encapsulate to the viewing audience. It is comforting, then, that the production team thought carefully about its casting crew which makes all the difference.
All the while witnessed by a young cowering woman with feline abilities jumping to the ladder top sanctuary of the sky, also previously nabbing milk for a stray cat around the streets of gritty New York.
The super sleek introduction by Detective Gordon, (Ben McKenzie of The O.C and Southland) working at the lower ranks of the back-story to Commissioner, promises to find the assailant. Though the casting and smooth veneer of Gordon looks promising for Gotham as a whole. Young, determined and following a moral code (at least for now) in a dark city of crime provides perfect pitch for the rookie recruit. Given a tough edge and rightful mind, however, how long will it be before he is tested to bend the rules to achieve such justice? Viewers waiting for a vulnerable side to Jim Gordon could be treated to it later down the line, which actor McKenzie is clearly capable of delivering. His instant connection with Bruce Wayne sets the bar for their level of intimacy. Eloquent Butler Alfred (Sean Pertwee) arrives to escort Wayne, wishing Gordon the best of luck.
We are also able to see and be treated to the young budding Penguin, under the tutelage of the dark but colourful Fish Mooney. A debatable name by some, but carefully crafted into excellence by the boot filling actress herself. Deeper down the city as another menacing threat in the form of Jada Pinkett-Smith, Mooney strives for excellence. Not to be outdone as a supporting character, her guidance as the go to girl for all things necessary in the dark city itself, with bad behaviour balances both character and city. Already we see depth, past influences and allegiance sharing her core character. Betrayal does not sit well with her, as young Oscar ‘Penguin’ Cobblepot quickly discovers. Robin Taylor plays the bumbling deceiver convincingly and is a great addition to unknown actors who have the skills to make it among a couple of well known names.
Gotham slips in the cultural references from the start to subtly tell viewers whose who and set the tone for their beginning in just three minutes or less. That is a difficult challenge for any storyteller, editor or producer. That itself is a task under-looked by many and exceptional to set the boundary of characterisation. There’s also a lady who likes to decorate her home with vines. Puzzling Edward Nigma is also dropped in among the mix.
Some heavy loving fans of the franchise and comic book features have been vocal of the concerns to take a great story and adapt awkwardly. These include turning Gotham into a heavy US cop drama, of which many shows are base on in the States. Even McKenzie previously comes from one. (Southland) However, in a world filled with crime and a crime fighting superhero in the future, it was inevitable this would constitute the backdrop for Gotham. As far as we see it, there is no real problem with this. Viewers and fans however clearly are voicing their concern that of what it could become it producers start veering off in all directions where the obvious distorts the reality of what Batman is supposed to be, as well as Gotham itself.
Donald Logue was likely to have a hard time of it. Unglamourous, no-frills and brash, the cop who has seen it all in Gotham is there to guide his rookie partner Gordon. Naive and young meets experience and badness. Harvey Bullock makes the partnership with McKenzie have an air of development with will clearly set Gordon’s future path. Some parts are a perfect, long wait to bloom option.
Batman’s relegation to minor role has also been critiqued. However this is valuable to see how the young kid becomes. In order for this we need vulnerability and depth, which young Wayne adds to the mix. This also allows the others to shine in the cast. Batman needs to be relegated because he is young. No-one starts out as a hero when they are young. The advancement will be a necessary start and with only the pilot, fans are being somewhat fickle. To make a great series, you have to strip all away and begin afresh. This includes developing the cast who are setting the prequel for Bruce Wayne’s eventual rise.
Gotham has managed to keep the city dark, its characters developed and set on pathways whilst not making it a ‘sexy leading star’ watered-down cop drama epic. Thankfully someone finally understood what is required of television. For avoiding all of these, Gotham has become ‘dark sexy’ with a chilled and moreish love of desire. Dirty, gritty, sleek and stylish, this one has the makings of not only leading television from lazy directors but maintaining a legacy that retains Batman’s identity.
For a beginning, this near perfect prequel earns a raptuous four of five stars. Casting is superb. Backstories for everyone are tied in seamingly effortlessly. The city is set in motion. The style is like no-other. Unique and leading the way, which will shamefully try to be copied by others has set the tone. Even empathy for the villains is fantastic.
Point of Geeks