Fox recently sent us the Gotham pilot for review, and, especially after the relevation that Netflix paid a bundle for it, we were interested to see how it came out. And, truth be told, it’s a quite promising debut.
One thing that helps, distinctly, is that the show is squarely focused on Jim Gordon, played by Ben McKenzie with a tragic lack of moustache. The basic plot is what you’d expect: Old hand Harvey Bullock and young hotshot Jim Gordon are investigating the Wayne murders. But the show does a lot more with that than you’d expect.
Bruce Wayne makes an appearance and is important, but he’s not the focus of the show. Gordon himself could stand to be a little better characterized; oddly, out of the entire show, he’s one of the least sharply-drawn characters. But, then again, he barely slows down, and he does make at least one decision that will come back to bite him hard. Far better characterized is Harvey Bullock, a cop who largely deals in moral greys.
Heavy On The Atmosphere
Another nice touch is that a lot of energy has been spent making Gotham its own distinct city. It’s a cluttered, cramped, loud place, a bit like a cross between New York and Chicago, and David Stockton does a good job with the cinematography giving it a sense of grit without washing it out or making it ugly. It feels like a Batman movie, without feeling like it just lifted the style wholesale from something else.
More Than Cameos
One of the biggest concerns was that this would basically be a parade of villains having a brief cameo, not helped by the claim that each episode would feature a different potential Joker, but that’s not the case. Yeah, we definitely meet a few villains in the pilot, and sometimes their depiction can be a little on the nose. But they’re all important to the plot in some form, and also, they’re all their own characters in some way, relevant outside of being a future supervillain. It helps that they’re not following the comics; any villain you meet is… different from their DC Comics origins.
Overall, the pilot is pretty solid, although more focused on action that it really needs to be. There’s one blackly comedic sequence in particular Fox has asked us not to spoil that both shows Gotham has considerable potential to find its own voice, and shows off just why McKenzie and Donal Logue were cast. If the show can play on its strengths, and it continues to put characterization first, we might have a strong contender in a crowded TV season.