Gotham (Season 1 / 2015)


Gotham (Season 1)
TV Review
By J.K.

Where’s His Mustache… And Other Tales?

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I’m back pitches! After a long hiatus from writing, I’ve found a few moments to kick back, watch the telly, and catch up on the thousands of super hero shows gracing our planet with their godly moral & entertainment value. Ironically, the only reason I’ve got these moments of free time is because I’m trying to be a super hero myself, trying to work out and get in shape. Unfortunately I injured myself because I’m not a super hero, so now I lie in bed with a heating pad on my stomach, tending my strained ab (hey, at least it means I’ve got an ab! Next step, abs), looking up the difference between “lay” & “lie.”

It’s a beautiful world when I can spend all of my TV time solely devoted to shows based on comic books; this means I never again have to waste my time on meaningless drivel such as Lost or Sex in the City. With the new Supergirl show coming soon, you should be able to convince that lady in your life that the power struggle between Miranda & Samantha is nothing compared to Kara Zor-El smacking some sense into Cat Grant before shooting through the sky to beat the sense out of the Lumberjack!

Ever since Louis & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman I’ve been hooked on super shows. I even made it through all 10 years of Superman in high school (see Smallville). But now you can click through your remote (or Netflix cue) and find Arrow, The Flash, Daredevil, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and The Walking Dead, with a dozen more about to flood your small screen in the coming years. So let’s talk about the Batman one.

The simple basis for this show is a cop drama, even pulling in Ben McKenzie from TNT’s Southland to play the young, not-quite-grizzled version of soon-to-be Commissioner James Gordon. There’s a crime, a bad guy, usually a couple dead people, maybe a damsel (or a damsir?) in distress, the cops arrest/save/shoot somebody, then everybody goes home, sometimes in a body bag. One thing I’ve got to give this show credit for, as opposed to most procedural dramas, is the good guys don’t always win. The city is run by the mob, most of the cops are dirty, and the main villains have to live to fight another day because eventually they’re going to need a good ol’ fashioned bat-pounding (in 10 years). But the show still has the slovenly partner, the last minute rescues, and the boring personal lives of Jim’s fiancée sleeping with her experimental lady friend from college, Detective Renee Montoya.

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Anyone else think Jimmy’s gonna ride the tricycle?
There’s good, but there’s also very, very bad. The writing is pretty lackluster, timid dialogue and overcomplicated plot twists that don’t make sense and take a lot of steam out of the powerful characters. When it turns out Penguin has been playing both mob bosses against each other on the slim chance he’ll weasel his way out of an impossible situation, I shrugged. Gordon gets demoted to prison guard at Arkham Asylum (awesome idea to change the pace of the show for the second half of the season!), but it barely lasts an episode, and we all move on with our lives. However, when Penguin & Riddler meet for the first time, music building to an epic showdown, Penguin stares and mutters something about “respect” and Riddler barely asks a question, let alone a riddle, that’s when I threw up my hands and accepted this show for what it’s going to be: mostly a series of let downs.

I’ll be tuning in for season 2 though because, as pedestrian as a comic book TV show can be, this is still freaking Batman! There are a bunch of subplots outside of the cops at GCPD: mobsters fighting for territory, insane people planting the seeds for super villains (such as Poison Ivy & the Scarecrow), little love stories between Edward Nigma & Kris Kringle, and the coup de gras: Bruce Wayne & Alfred Pennyworth!

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Example: little Bruce’s parents are gunned down in Crime Alley, so the kid is now totally bonkers in the brains. Alfred finds him burning his hand with a candle and standing on rooftop ledges to test his ability to be a badass. And I gotta give props to David Mazouz; for a boy, he’s doing everything he can to rep the big, black bat. And you’ve got the son the 3rd Doctor Who playing the B.A. British Soldier version of Bruce’s manservant. Honestly, I’m hoping they suit up as soon as possible, throw Alfred in the Batman costume, make little Brucey the boy wonder and we’ve got ourselves a full fledged Batman show!

But I digress. The example: Tommy Elliot (eventually to be the super villain Hush in the comics) is a bully at Bruce’s school who makes fun of the kid’s dead parents. Pretty messed up, right? So Bruce slaps him. He’s a little kid, it’s the biggest slap he’s got, but it comes across as little more than “I challenge you to a duel, sir.” So Tommy and his friends pummel Bruce. At home, Alfred asks black-eyed Bruce what happened and, without sounding whiney, Bruce tells him that the kid is a punk, so Alfred tells Bruce a nice story about Mr. Wayne and gives the kid his father’s watch. Cut to a little later, Bruce standing out on the street, holding his dad’s watch tightly in his little grip, and Al asks “Are you sure you want to do this?” Bruce nods and knocks on the door of the nearest house where Tommy Elliot (the bully) answers. This has all been set up so you think Bruce is going to have a grown up conversation with Tommy, explaining that he shouldn’t insult dead people and show how mature and collected Bruce Wayne is. Instead, Bruce’s knuckles go white, the watch in his fist becomes a chunk of metal and little Bruce Wayne beats the ever-living shit out of Tommy, yelling in a gruff voice betraying the eventual bat-growl “You don’t get to talk about my mother like that!” One of the best scenes I’ve ever seen in television history. Alfred comes up, is all like, “that’s enough, Master Bruce,” Bruce gets back in their limo, and Tommy starts crying like a little baby “he could have killed me.” Then Al gets right in the boy’s squirming little face and says, “Remember, I almost let him.” Seriously, makes all 22 episodes worth it.

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Lastly, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Oswald Cobblepot, the Penguin, amazingly portrayed by Robin Lord Taylor. This guy steals almost every scene he’s in; he’s an incredible character actor that does the best he can with the slop he’s given. The moments where he has power, when he straight up starts shanking mofos, and the maniacal laughter make Penguin the star of the show. But the writers don’t give him much to play with. When he finally opens his bar (I think the night club is called Penguin’s Umbrella but eventually it should be the Iceberg Lounge), there’s this crazy, high-octane montage of him celebrating his upward climb through the ranks of Gotham’s ne’er-do-wells. It should be a Scarface style scene of quick-cuts featuring the Penguin bangin’ Gotham’s hookers on mountains of blow, but instead he drinks from the same champagne bottle over and over while resting his head on the bar and tapping it in rhythm to the music; super lackluster. But when they give the guy time to shine, he pulls out a Tommy gun and lets ‘em all have it!

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They’re all trying to walk a fine line between an overarching, awesome comic book show, and episodic crime drama. They’ve saturated the field with teenage Catwoman (neé girl), a barely scarred Victor Zsasz, the parents of Robin getting engaged, and a maybe-Joker laughing after killing his carny clown family. They also killed(?) off their one original character, so we all kind of know what’s going to happen if we’ve read any of the comics. I mean, when Batman was originally introduced in Detective Comics #27, the story was told from Commissioner Gordon’s point of view, so I’m excited for what they can do with this story, but they really need to make it their own. Surprise us! Kill the Riddler, turn Harvey Bullock into Killer Croc, have Dr. Leslie Thompkins turn out to be evil (because Morena Baccarin can’t play a woman without crazy eyes), maybe even let Penguin be a hero. They have their own story canon, it’s time to fire it! Now to go practice riding a unicycle. Ya’know, super hero training…

Gotham
Developed by Bruno Heller on Fox
DC Entertainment, Primrose Hill Productions, Warner Bros. Television
Batman Created by Bill Finger (& I guess Bob Kane)

For more reviews, visit Jeffrey Kieviet’s Article Archive

3 thoughts on “Gotham (Season 1 / 2015)

  1. Awesome stuff here, man! Did NOT know about the strained ab, but I’m stoked it’s made you write something awesome. I feel like this could arguably be called, Gotham Season 1: The Highlights.

    Also, for awhile there, I thought the YouTube video was from the 1980s Supergirl movie you mentioned on the podcast and I was thinking, “Wow… this is really good quality,” haha.

    And I love how movies continue to promote the idea that plane engines will burst into flames and start going down. The truth is, A) a plane will not set ablaze going that fast with oxygen as thin as it is up there and B) even if all the engines suddenly cut out, the plane is designed to glide down (i.e. even if Supergirl wasn’t there, it would’ve done the same thing… unless that’s the point of the show, she’s like the Twilight Zone’s Clown on the wing).

    Anyway love the review and love the joke about Kent’s 10 years in high school — did he end up going to college?

  2. Yeah, this is a new supergirl show coming next year, but that 6 minute trailer might as well be the whole pilot. Pilot, planes, get it? I think we should do a podcast just kind of dishing Marvel vs DC, because I’m not sure what plan is going to work better. DC is will going to have a bunch of interconnected movies, but they’ll be totally unrelated to Supergirl on CBS, Gotham on Fox, and Arrow & The Flash on CW, which makes me worried they’re gonna run into a bunch of issues like Marvel did with Sony. But like I’ve said before, I’m totally fine with Batman having a cameo in Suicide Squad and then a totally unrelated Batman in a Dark Knight Returns live movie both being released the same week in theaters. I mean, I’ll still probably wait until they’re on Netflix, but it’s still a cool idea. And as for Superman in high school, they only had a 28 year old playing a teenager for 4 years, then he did a semester at junior college before he dropped out to help his dad on the farm. Then his dad died, his mom joined congress, and Clark became an unpaid intern at the Daily Planet still somehow managing to write headlines from the poshest basement in Metropolis. Maybe I’ll do a Smallville review afte I finish Daredevil.

    1. Haha, that’s so funny (the Clark Kent high school thing). I just, most shows are like, ‘How can we make this character’s story interesting for the next season?’ but Smallville is like, “How can we not have Clark Kent be Superman this time?”

      On the concurrent shows/movies front, that was something we talked about in our first (published podcast), that eventually we’ll see two separate universe Batman films in a year — sort of like how there’s two Frankenstein movies a year, or two Hercules, or two Draculas. And it may just be the one studio, but you can see it happening already with Spider-Man. There is going to be a new live-action movie, but concurrently Sony is doing an animated, non-MCU, Spider-Man movie.

      On the DC v Marvel podcast front… I agree it’s something we could talk about (AT LENGTH) and maybe people would be more apt to listen, but so much of it would be hypothetical since the DCU only has one movie (thus far) that it’s purely speculation. Not a bad thing and I think people love hearing new ideas on it, but it would date itself. I don’t know. Again, very good topic. I mean, I wrote an article on the MCU marketing strategy, and that was only the surface of what they’re doing. Talking about how they’ll need to reboot or how they could possibly up the stakes after infinity war is beyond me.

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