Can it be that Monday nights on Fox have actually managed to pull off TWO franchise spinoffs back-to-back that don’t suck?
Based on my viewing of both the season premiere of Gotham and the premiere-premiere of Minority Report, things are looking up. Of course, by now you probably already know how you feel about Gotham, and just want to know where it’s going; but you may be pretty skeptical about a network show based on a Tom Cruise movie.
At a recent screening of both episodes, attended by maybe-Joker Cameron Monaghan and ex-Fez Wilmer Valderrama, I got to learn a bit more about where both are going. Spoilers ensue.
Let’s start with Gotham.
1. Whether or Not Jerome Is the Joker, Monaghan Is Playing Him Like He Is.
“I can say that Jerome is most certainly a villain and he is rising!” says Monaghan, when asked if his character will become the Clown Prince of Crime. He won’t say what the character’s arc is, but he does note that he “grew up obsessed with the animated series, so that adaptation was very near and dear to my heart, and then I just tried to get my hands on as many comics as I could. Obviously Jerome is representative of the ideology of the Joker, so it was important to be able to understand the material, and then do with it whatever it was that I needed. He is a love letter to the character.”
As to previous interpretations, he adds, “There’s something dangerous about treating it as untouchable, that can’t be changed. It’s not necessarily about improving – it’s about doing something that feels right for you. The only one that I felt comfortable at all pulling from would be the animated series, because it is a cartoon, and so I took some of the ranges and the zaniness, and some of the amazing vocal gymnastics that Mark Hamill did with the role, and used that more as inspiration than anything.”
When asked if he’d have any scenes with either Penguin or Edward Nygma, he confirmed that one of those would happen, but also that because of the other shows he’s on, he’ll mostly just be in early episodes in the season…as far as he knows as of now.
2. A Caped Crusader.
Yes, Gotham City finally gets a vigilante in a colorful cape with a comic-booky name: Zaardon (“Two a’s”), whose first attempt at any kind of action is quickly thwarted by Gordon. But the overweight pseudo-hero, who looks like a fat adult male cosplaying as Hit Girl, isn’t just a figurative gasbag: he’s a literal one too. Frequently passing out to exhale a mysterious blue gas whenever he’s incarcerated around other crooks.
In apprehending him, Gordon gets frustrated with his back-up, which swiftly leads to the fact that….
3. Gordon and Bullock Are Ex-Cops.
Indicted immediately and spuriously for laying hands on another officer, Gordon is soon unemployed, while Bullock, laid off prior, now works as a bartender. Paradoxically, this leads Gordon to drink and Bullock to get sober. By the end of the episode, one will have his job back. By the end of the season, I suspect both will. But a whole lot of moral compromise is involved. Friggin’ drunks.
4. The Crank-Cam Returns.
Remember the very first episode, where there were scenes of Gordon running through Chinese kitchens with a camera on his face and the background blurring? The effect that was never used again? It’s back. It seems to only happen when he runs through Chines kitchens. Must be the MSG.
5. Li’l Batman Does Not Yet Understand Brains Over Brawn.
At the end of last season, Bruce and Alfred discovered the secret entrance to the proto-Batcave. In short order, they learn that it is protected by a keypad lock. After trying every combination he can think of, Bruce decides to build a bomb and blow it up, roping Alfred into the scheme by essentially threatening suicide. Sure enough, the butler helps him build a fertilizer bomb and blow their way in – only to learn, via a letter from the late Thomas Wayne, that the password was “Bruce.”
Also, Bruce gives Gordon the advice to forget about his own personal code of honor if it means he can continue helping more people as a result. This ends-justifies-means logic is more Ra’s al Ghul than Batman. We must presume Bruce’s burgeoning dickishness will be kicked out of him in the Far East years from now. When you’re a Dick, morality’s an area of Gray, Son.
6. Edward’s Gotta Split, Barbara Rides a Harley and Penguin is Emperor.
It is perhaps no surprise to see Penguin as kingpin, now that Maroni’s dead and Falcone gone. It may come as a twist to see just how easily Victor Zsasz flocked to his side. Meanwhile, Barbara Keane is queen of Arkham, splitting her time between using her looks to dominate the mostly male inmates, and making psychotic threats to Leslie Thompkins over the phone. Her name may not be Harleen Quinzell, and her voice isn’t nasal or Brooklyn-accented, but that aside, she’s adopting some familiar characteristics…and a mentor whose name begins with J.
Ed Nygma, meanwhile, is standing with the man in the mirror. He’s asking him to change his ways. And one’s Asperger’s couldn’t be any clearer…but the other says “dude,” he wants to kill, takes a look at the place, and acts really…chill. Yes, if you missed it in that mini-Michael Jackson tribute, a split-personality is developing in reflections.
7. Suicide Solution.
Okay, so I’m not gonna flat-out say Gotham is doing Suicide Squad, but by the end of the episode, a team of villains has been assembled for an unnamed task, and it includes Fake-Harley-Barbara and Maybe-Joker-Jerome. But don’t expect it to last very long. Says Monagahan of Jerome, “He doesn’t play very well with other people, so the team’s numbers start to dwindle kind of quickly.”
Now, let us move on to Minority Report.
8. It’s a Sequel, Not a Reboot.
The Samantha Morton role has obviously been switched out, but other than that, this is a story of mostly new characters, ten years after the events of the film. The pre-cogs who predicted future crimes are living in self-exile on an island, and Detective Lara Vega (Meagan Good) longs for the days when crimes could be busted in advance – a new system replacing the pre-cogs uses mathematical probabilities, but is nowhere near as reliable.
But one of the pre-cogs, Dash (Stark Sands) is not content to remain in exile, as he still sees murder victims-to-be on a regular basis…just never in enough time to stop them. When he and Vega cross paths, Everything Will Change.
9. Meagan Good > Tom Cruise.
While definitely an intense actor, Tom Cruise is usually the most predictable element in any good movie he does, while Good has often been the best element in sadly predictable movies. It’s nice to see her in a lead role that isn’t “hot girlfriend,” and I’m also more inclined to believe that the odds are against her than I am when Super-Cruise (the John Cena of movie heroes, let’s be honest) is taking on the entire system, as he ALWAYS does.
While we’re at it, let’s take the time to praise the fact that unlike the movie with the word “Minority” somewhat ironically in the title, the show has a diverse lead cast. In addition to Good as Vega, we have Li Jun Li as her forensics associate Akeela, and Wilmer Valderrama as their boss, Lieutenant Will Blake. The pre-cogs are still a paler shade of white, and that’s consistent with their lifetime of never being outdoors – but the main cast mixes things up a lot – also, the major predicted victim-of-the-week is a black mayor with an Asian wife. In both major and minor roles, where casting could have gone any direction, they went diverse. Well, they are showing the future, after all.
Cruise’s cousin William Mapother will be appearing later in the season, but not as the same character he played in the movie.
10. The Future Is Colorful, and the Budget Feels Insane.
We’re not just talking skin shades. Unlike the monochromatic movie, this future world is bright and vibrant. If the film represented the grim ’90s, fashion-wise, the show’s “ten years later” is like a return to an ’80s palette.
The futuristic cityscapes, personalized billboards and holograms are all still here, however, as are new gadgets – there aren’t any eye-scanning spiders, but there are little flying devices that look like stainless steel golden snitches, and high-schoolers have personal selfie-drones that unfurl from their wrists (but of course). This is the first episode, and I imagine they’ll find ways to over-use cheap interiors later on. But for right now, it looks as good as many big-budget movies.
11. Some Things Change, but FOX Never Does.
In the future, fast food has been genetically re-engineered to be good for you, and the Washington Redskins have been renamed the Redclouds. But The Simpsons is still on…and in its 75th season.
12. This Won’t Be Just a Pre-Crime of the Week Show.
The rabbit hole goes much deeper, as Wilmer Valderrama was happy to tell us.
“How deep is the plot? How deep is the conspiracy? The conspiracy that was established in the film was rooted in not only politics, but the rise to power. And that is going to play in a lot, in the mechanics and in the science that’s acquired to not only solve crimes, but to predict certain scenarios. So what I think is fascinating is that you also have the stories of three pre-cogs that are now a family – before, they were tools. Each one of them has a certain perspective based on a human instinct – because they are human – to feel something. Is one of them angry, and wants to use their power for predictably what we all would ponder doing? The other one just wants peace, and wants to be away from all of it, therefore she moves to the island. And then the other one is a young one who still believes that maybe they did have a purpose; maybe they were chosen for something greater than themselves. So that to me is fascinating – a family of pre-cogs, living like normal people in witness protection programs.”
“At one point, they’re gonna be called back. They have a gift too powerful to not find a calling for. Eventually something is going to happen with that, so throughout the season you will see the elments coming together and everything aligning because they’re going to find some type of purpose, you know? With the relationships of the precinct and the pre-cogs, that’s gonna get very complicated, because eventually another force outside of this precinct that I command, something above my payroll as lieutenant of this precinct, something higher than that’s gonna come in and sniff around, because, you know, everyone gotta answer to somebody! And furthermore, this precinct has star numbers, and detective Vega is a star detective. She’s on a roll, and she won’t share with Lt. Blake how she’s doing it. And that’s a problem for me.”
“Even though I look good, there’s a sense of awareness and control that he has to have to be able to sleep at night. It’s not really about the credit – it’s about how do we create an operation that really does save lives. He’s a former marine, they were star partners before, they were brilliant together. They had some kind of romantic link in the past; once they were past that, then they broke up as partners, he got the promotion over her, and now that’s a really unique situation between them, but moving forward they have major respect for each other. They understand that together they can do something fantastic here. She’s fighting some inner demons, some history, especially with her father being murdered five years before pre-crime – that’s a big plot coming into the season as well. But eventually they’re gonna have to make choices, and eventually at some point I’m not gonna just get suspicious – I’m gonna need to know who this informant is. Because it’s just the right thing,. It’s the law. You gotta share, you gotta be fully transparent.”
“It’s exciting because it reminds me of some of my favorite shows of all time like The X-Files, where you have a case that there are breadcrumbs, getting closer to the truth. Here it’s not like we have a Smoking Guy, but we definitely have a notion to a conspiracy that’s so much deeper – let’s just say crazy deeper than we thought it was – and the characters themselves are gonna be surprised by what’s coming. In a big nutshell, that’s where it’s going.”
13. Yes, There Will be Sick-Sticks.
Valderrama confirmed there will be police-induced puking. And he gets to ride in a jetpack.
Gotham airs tonight at 8 p.m., followed by Minority Report at 9.