|Gotham premieres Sept. 22 on Fox|
Gotham has been one of the year’s most anticipated shows, and while everyone will finally get to see it on September 22, I’ve seen the first episode. I’m here to tell you it’s really September 29 you should be looking forward to. It’s not that Gotham has a bad pilot; it’s just a lot of stuff we already know. The show is well done and the cast is great so I have every faith that once all the noobs are caught up, Gotham could be a great show.
Episode two just has to deliver.
Some spoilers for the Gotham pilot (and six decades of Batman history) follow:
When Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz)’s parents get murdered, young Det. Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) gets partnered up with Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue) and put on the case. Of course the first guy they peg to the murders turns out to be a patsy. This is already being called “Batman without Batman” since Mazouz is a tween when it begins, but I don’t buy that. Young Bruce Wayne is still Batman, and Jim Gordon is part of Batman. There’s a lot of Batman to be found in Gotham, and here’s what I’m looking for the second episode to do.
10. Less Action, More Story
|Jim Gordon already faces off against Penguin in the Gotham pilot|
For some reason, every pilot thinks it has to load up a lot of action to hook the viewers. The thing is, on TV, just having Gordon and Bullock run after perps looks like T.J. Hooker. Nothing badass about that. You might as well just intercut “Ka-pow’ graphics into a fight scene. We’re not tuning in to see Gordon run through alleyways.
Now that they’ve gotten that out of their system, maybe episode two can slow down and let us actually live with Jim Gordon. The pilot had a lot of work to do: it had to introduce him on the police force, introduce his fiancee Barbara (Erin Richards) and set up a mob conspiracy. Well, it didn’t HAVE to, but we are where we are. Maybe the next suspect won’t take a full minute to run down, or Gordon can take some time to live on the streets of Gotham before delivering more exposition.
9. We’ll Meet New Characters.
|Jada Pinkett Smith is Fish Mooney in Gotham|
The pilot introduces all the big Gotham characters: The Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor), the future Riddler (Cory Michael Smith), the future Catwoman (Camren Bicondova), the future Poison Ivy (Clare Foley) and original mafiosa Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett-Smith). They’re all great, and except for Fish, staples of Gotham legend.
So now that they’ve proven that they’ve got a handle on all the Batman characters and figured out how to portray them as pre-villain or even as young kids, Fish shows that brand new characters can be just as awesome as the comic book regulars. Starting with episode two, I hope we meet as many new original characters as we do the famous citizens of Gotham City.
8. Penguin Takes Charge.
|Robin Lord Taylor is Oswald Cobblepot, The Penguin on Gotham|
The Penguin has always kind of played second fiddle to the Joker in Batman stories. In the Tim Burton movies, he even had to wait until the sequel to even play a part. But the Joker has not emerged in Gotham yet, so that makes the Penguin the number one Batman villain on the show.
Robin Lord Taylor is the standout in the Gotham pilot as Oswald Cobblepot, the Penguin himself. He nails the awkward mannerisms and frightening violence without going into full fish-gobbling mode like Danny DeVito in Batman Returns. Of all the origins in the pilot, the Penguin’s is the most complete. He is essentially the Penguin by the end of episode one. So now let’s see him use it.
Oswald was a lackey of Fish Mooney, and Gordon and Bullock are already onto him. Let’s see him use his inside knowledge of Mooney’s racket to play her and the cops against each other. Taylor’s got the presence to pull it off.
7. More Riddler
|Cory Michael Smith is Edward Nygma, the future Riddler on Gotham|
Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) only gets one scene in the pilot. What can you do? They have to introduce a lot of characters, and the Penguin got his origin story so you don’t want to burn through all the A-list villains. It’s actually the perfect way to introduce the Riddler. Make him a mystery to begin with.
In Gotham, Nygma works in the police lab, which is a cool development. The Arkham games established their Riddler, Edward Nashton, as a former Gotham PD officer, but it looks like Gotham is going to keep him there for a while. He annoys Harvey Bullock with his riddles when Bullock just wants straight information.
This kind of makes him Marshall Flinkman (Kevin Weisman) on Alias, except we know Nygma’s going to crack. So let’s give Smith some more scenes, and maybe show how he’s vital to the Gotham police and never acknowledged for his contributions. Then make him so crazy it’s impossible for us to sympathize with him. That would be awesome.
6. More Alfred
|Jim Gordon consoles Bruce Wayne at the crime scene|
Perhaps the most neglected of the important Batman characters in the pilot is Alfred Pennyworth (Sean Pertwee). All he does is pick Bruce up from the crime scene and then chaperone Jim Gordon’s follow-up meeting with him. It’s kind of okay. I mean, this is when Alfred has to step up and become more of a caretaker. Up until the other night, he was just a well paid butler with job security.
Now let’s start seeing the parental gaps that Alfred has to fill. Bruce is already on a path to violence. Alfred tells Gordon he’s tried to hold Bruce back, but there’s no stopping a young man out for revenge. I hope Gotham gives Bruce Wayne enough focus that Alfred will be pivotal, shepherding him through the moments of growth that Bruce need a parent through. Or at least give him more than two scenes a week.
5. More Joker Clues and Red Herrings
|Harvey Bullock in a Gotham City slaughterhouse|
Gotham executive producer Bruno Heller has promised that he’s got big plans for the Joker, the most important villain in Batman’s roster. He’s also committed to playing the long game. He’s going to layer in clues and red herrings for the Joker’s eventual identity so that when he’s finally revealed, it will make sense if you’ve kept up with the show.
The pilot already plays up one of the most famous origin theories. Fish Mooney is auditioning a lame comedian (although he cracks her up) for her club, but they’re not going to give up The Killing Joke right in the pilot. In fact, this jokester might have gotten the gig! And let’s hope we never meet a character named Jack Napier either. But, for anyone worried that Gotham is Batman without Batman, the quest for The Joker sure sounds exciting.
4. Catwoman Will Talk, Eventually.
|Camren Bicondova is Selina Kyle on Gotham|
The Selina Kyle of Gotham is a teenage girl Parkouring through the streets of Gotham, feeding stolen milk to her friendly alley cat. She doesn’t say a word in the pilot, although they’ve already given Kyle a connection to the Wayne murders that’s new to this version of Gotham City.
I’ve met Camren Bicondova and I can confirm that she can speak. English. They can actually stretch this out a little longer. She doesn’t have to speak right away in the second episode. She can be a mysterious lurker for a while, but at some point she may run into Bruce Wayne and she might have some helpful information about his parents’ killer, or maybe not. Maybe he’ll just take in a fellow orphan.
3. Bruce Wayne’s Parents Can’t Get Killed Twice
|Jim Gordon and Harvey Bullock on the case in Gotham|
This may be the most frustrating thing about the Gotham pilot for Batfans. It’s once again the story of the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne. Yes, this was the most traumatic moment in Bruce’s life. Yes, it’s what motivated him to fight crime in the first place. But, we already know this. It’s in EVERY Batman story put on screen. It didn’t have to be Jim Gordon’s first case of the series, and it might’ve made a good season finale.
The good news is it’s over. They’ve done the Wayne murders, so they can’t do it again. Gordon’s investigation will be ongoing, but we won’t have to watch the Wayne’s exit a theater through a dark alley and be confronted by a mugger ever again. Now we can watch Jim Gordon pursue dead ends and wild geese, but at least it’s not the Wayne murders again.
2. Jim Gordon Will Actually Get Complicated.
|Ben McKenzie is Jim Gordon in Gotham|
That’s the whole promise of Gotham, right? How did this good cop manage to stay relatively clean in a corrupt police department? Even if he’s the good guy, is it a compromise to allow a vigilante to operate under amnesty from the police department? So far, Gotham‘s Jim Gordon isn’t any different than we expect. He’s by the books, he chastises Harvey Bullock. Even put in the difficult spot at the end of the pilot, he makes the choice that any hero in a movie or TV show would make to ensure he’s still likable.
Granted, he’s not going to kill a major character in the pilot. That’s not the complexity we’re asking for. I suppose involving 12-year-old Bruce Wayne in a hardcore police investigation is questionable judgment, but what if Gordon actually is asked to compromise morality for the greater good? Maybe episode two is too soon for that, but it’s time to start cracking this veneer. Gotham is too volatile to play white knight for long, considering we already know it’s a dark knight who’ll save the city.
1. Episode 2 Is Where Pre-Batman Begins
|Camren Bicondova and David Mazouz are young Selina Kyle and Bruce Wayne on Gotham|
For all the talk of “Batman without Batman,” Gotham is Batman. Bruce Wayne is always Batman, even before he sees the bat and trains himself. Batman Begins had an hour of backstory as Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) traveled the world beating up criminals and training with ninjas before he, uh, began.
So if anything, Gotham is Batman Begins Begins. He’s already on the path to conquering fear at the end the pilot. There’s even better drama to be found in a child training himself to fight. The Bale version could always find someone to punch, but imagine being 12, having the eye of the tiger in you, and no one to fight? He’s gonna have a lot of rage. Once again, now that his parents are gone, he can go down that path. The path of the righteous Bat is beset on all sides…
Also by Fred Topel