Gotham is a FOX broadcasted television series which serves as a prequel to the iconic superhero, Batman. Led by protagonist James Gordon (Ben McKenzie), it is a series which takes us back to the time when mob bosses ruled a corrupt city and Bruce Wayne was a kid, struggling to come to terms with being an early orphan. It explains the detailed version of Gotham’s deterioration, and connects the origins of various DC supervillains.
There are reasons to be positive about Gotham. The plot on the whole seems innovative, interconnected and has managed to keep the audience engaged. The time between the deaths of Thomas and Martha Wayne and of Bruce Wayne training to become Batman is something of a limbo stage, but the fact that the Gotham team have managed to fill substantial matter there is encouraging.
I really like the ensemble of cast. Ben McKenzie has done a fine job of portraying a hardened, honest Jim Gordon, while the acting of David Mazouz (as Bruce Wayne) and Camren Bicondova (as Selina Kyle) are commendable, considering their ages. Robin Lord Taylor as Oswald Cobblepot has truly taken the cake, though, showing exactly the right balance of shrewdness and creepiness.
Another positive feature of the TV series (well, initially, at least) was the sharp turn it took in portraying the fundamental traits of the Batman characters from the mainstream. Alfred Pennyworth, for instance, is widely portrayed as a gentleman and a pushover of a butler. In Gotham, however, Sean Pertwee plays a more aggressive, military experienced guardian with a lot of traditional British flair. While I suspect that over time his character may dwindle to the more docile kind of Alfred we all know, at the moment I find his character more realistic, albeit exaggerated.
There are many more examples. Cobblepot is not the crude, haughty character with the weird accent we’ve come to picturize. He’s manipulative – he knows when to act aggressively and when to stay in his shell. He chooses his words carefully. He’s much more refined and analytical. His creepiness entails that he’s not the obvious antagonist.
Bruce Wayne – as opposed to being an angry young man with a point to prove – is shown to be timid and nerdy. Carmine Falcone is a philosophical personality who takes pride in being a Gotham mob boss. Fish Mooney is dangerously seductive. Harvey Bullock is a bit of a cliché, but has an interesting origin himself. All these unheard of, fresh flavours and rich characteristics made the pilot, for me, one of the best pilot episodes I’ve ever seen. It was a breath of fresh air.
That breath grew stale after a while, as Gotham failed to live up to its impeccably high standards. The dialogue writing in particular was stagnant and clichéd. Good actors cannot legislate for repetitive and predictable lines. After all, Pertwee can only say “bloody” in so many ways, can’t he? There were too many “ miss me?s ” and “ this is Gotham’s ” for those lines to have much impact over time.
The general plot seems powerful, but it tends to get skewed due to unnecessary additions of more and more supervillains. After a while, the lack of character progress and cramping of characters makes the show a bit dysfunctional.
Gotham’s biggest flaw seems to be Bruno Heller’s inability to bring the best out of a very good cast. The characters of Fish Mooney and Oswald Cobblepot, while exciting at first, become too one-dimensional and redundant later. For instance, Lord Taylor’s smile felt creepy at first, but has become kiddish and juvenile now.
Perhaps I’m overreacting and ten episodes weren’t enough to give the show its requisite depth, but I can’t escape the feeling that Gotham is set to be a stalled series. The pilot as well as some of the show’s parts had its impactful and memorable moments, but for me the cons outweighed the pros. They definitely have the potential (and seemingly, the plot) to make the climb, but they’re also equally hamstrung to nosedive into rot.
I must confess that my sheer love for the Batman universe added a ½ to Gotham’s 3/5 rating, which is why I will more than recommend this to every other DC lover. However, I fear that around two seasons down the line, that affinity may wear thin.