Gotham: 101 “Pilot” Review
Reviewed by Mark McCullough.
As Bruno Heller’s latest addition to the crime-drama genre, Gotham is set with DC’s Batman universe. Heller’s previous series with the genre, The Mentalist, proved to be a huge success as it brought something new to the typical crime-drama set up. Whereas The Mentalist adapted a light hearted and humorous tone, it very much appears that Gotham is going the other way as it promise to be a dark and gritty story.
The series opens with a stunning shot of Gotham, the cinematography here setting the tone with which the narrative is quick to cement. As a so-called Batman prequel, there are some characters that are already fan favourites and need to be introduced accordingly. The first of this is the Waynes and their not so fortunate outcome. Anyone with any previous knowledge of the universe will know what happens, however that is not to say that the scene doesn’t possess a shock value. Surprisingly for such little time on screen, all characters involved are able to display a level of depth which is enough to invest in their characters.
The main character of the narrative is Detective James Gordon and we are introduced to him extremely well. His first scene features a tense standoff with a hostage’s life on the line, Detective Gordon is able to neutralise the situation with incredible efficiency. We are given several hints about the character’s past, some sort of affiliation with the military. There is also the aspect of his father’s death, as this is revealed early on it helps the audience form an emotional connection with him. We are also given a glimpse into his personal life as we are introduced to his partner. Possibly the standout trait of the character is his moral compass. Throughout the narrative we see him question things which other characters will accept readily. We see him put his own life on the line in order to pursue justice and ultimately make a morally sound decision which will probably come back to haunt him later in the series. As a protagonist, it is important that the character is strong and likeable; this is something I feel that Gotham has started very well with. McKenzie seems like a good fit for the role thus far too.
Heller is great at playing the long game with his story threads. In The Mentalist, the Red John storyline lasted from the first episode until midway through the SIXTH season. From what has been established in the opening episode of Gotham, it would seem a similar style could be expected here. The universe which has been established so far is one of corruption; the police and the mayor are under the thumbs of mob leader Fish Mooney who shares a particular relationship with Detective Gordon’s partner, Harvey Bullock. Although it is revealed that Mooney is not the top of the chain, that honour belongs to Carmine Falcone, the don of the Mafia. The hierarchical structure certainly looks an interesting premise for future episodes of the show, especially with suggestions of betrayal and the formation of cracks within Falcone’s empire. I suspect the corruption arc could be Gotham’s equivalent to Red John.
Of the other characters introduced by the narrative, none are more notable than Batman himself, Bruce Wayne. Obviously at this stage he is yet to realise his potential, but already we have seen the seeds of his relationship with Detective Gordon sown. They appear to have bonded due to the latter’s compassion on the worst night of the former’s life. At the moment that bond is something which resolves around a promise of a shared goal, but it is something I suspect will be built upon throughout the course of the series. Whilst Detective Gordon may have struck up a good relationship with Wayne, he was not so fortunate with Bullock, his partner. The two have very different ideas on how policing should be done and act as almost polar opposites. It certainly makes for an interesting and unique dynamic for a crime show. If early indications are anything to go by it seems the relationship between the two protagonists (If you could call Bullock that) is not dissimilar to that showcased in Life on Mars, if it can reach that standard we are truly in for a treat. The final fan favourite introduced here is Alfred Pennyworth, Wayne’s butler who is now trying to raise him. Unfortunately Alfred’s character played very little role in this week’s outing, so I am very interested to see how the show tackles him.
A strong start to a series which looks like it has a lot of potential. The story was strong and easy to follow and had many twists and turns along the way. The characters were introduced effectively and for the most part were received as they were intended. The direction and cinematography perfectly set the atmosphere which complemented the narrative. The universe in which the show is set is well established and quite a lot of information is given, yet it doesn’t feel like we have been bogged down with unnecessary information. Of course for fans of the DC universe, there were numerous references littered throughout the narrative, with a few characters making an appearance. All in all a pleasing start, but hopefully one the show can push on from and achieve something great. The foundation to build on is a firm one.