No spoilers but some insight on what to expect when the show premieres Sept. 22 on Fox.
I have long believed that Gotham Central, DC’s late, lamented title about cops getting by in Batman’s city would make a great TV show.
It was a great conceit: Homicide: Life on the Street meets NYPD Blue meets the sensibility of Batman: Year One, churned together primarily by writers Greg Rucka, Ed Brubaker and artist Michael Lark.
You had detectives chasing supervillains, thugs and crooked cops, all while trying to outmaneuver and close cases under the shadow of the Bat.
It also gave us one of the greatest Joker stories ever — one that was extremely influential on the movie The Dark Knight.
We’re not getting that in Fox’s new Gotham, which is a Batman prequel as opposed to a story about cops in his world. But having seen the pilot, what we’re getting is pretty damn close.
Right off, Gotham is promising. The pilot suffers, as most pilots do, from a lot overly expository dialogue, jammed-in intros, etc. But there’s a lot here to like — and there are some surprises as well.
If you’re not aware of the set-up, the main thrust is that Thomas and Martha Wayne have been gunned down in a grimy alley, shocking the city. Detective Jim Gordon and his shady partner Harvey Bullock catch the case. It’s more or less modern day and the city looks an awful lot like New York.
And that’s the premise. Of course, nothing is that simple.
So here are 13 Quick Thoughts on Gotham — broken down by character:
1. Jim Gordon. Ben McKenzie has the presence to carry the lead. He gives our hero a frustrated physicality that could become either the robust, older Gordon you used to see in the comics — or the weary cop who does what he has to to keep Gotham relatively clean. McKenzie’s Gordon is no choir boy. He’ll look the other way for the greater good — but he’ll obviously be tested on that point over and over again.
2. Harvey Bullock. Kinda disappointed here. I like Donal Logue but he plays Bullock a little too broadly and the writers have him hitting the same notes repeatedly. He’s a dirty cop, as opposed to the morally ambiguous one with a heart of gold you often see. At least he is in the first episode. The writers have some work to do to give him nuance.
3. Fish Mooney. Everything you hear about Jada Pinkett Smith’s performance is true. She owns the screen and it’s only a matter of time before fans clamor to see her introduced in the comics. Count on it.
4. Oswald Cobblepot. I like what I’m seeing here. I always preferred the more refined Penguin to the disgusting DeVitoized version. I’m not bothered by his lean build. He’s sniveling and obsequious and a liar and a snitch. He’d be great in a Coen brothers noir. An excellent performance by Robin Lord Taylor.
5. Bruce Wayne. Hey, this is a Batman prequel isn’t it? David Mazouz’s good and has more presence than I would have expected. You certainly see the darkness creeping around the edges, especially in an important scene in Wayne Manor where, even as a youngster, we see just who’s in command at the stately mansion.
6. Alfred. I can’t comment much because we don’t see enough of Sean Pertwee in the pilot. He does give off the requisite protective vibe, though.
7. Selina Kyle. Like a little steampunk urchin, young Selina skulks along the show’s edges wordlessly. Camren Bicondova really looks like a cat, though. Look at those wide-set eyes. It’s weird.
8. Ivy. We get a glimpse of her tending to plants while clearly being neglected in her parents’ tenement apartment. Actress Clare Foley’s character looks like the most removed from her traditional backstory.
9. Barbara Kean. Intentionally or not, Erin Richards (below left) is a dead ringer for Dina Meyer (below right) who played Barbara Gordon in the ill-fated Birds of Prey show from years back (which I liked!). Comics readers know that Barbara Kean is supposed to marry Gordon and have two kids — Barbara and James Jr. But there’s already trouble in paradise, perhaps because Gordon’s boss is named Sarah Essen (Zabryna Guevara) but mainly because of …
10. Renee Montoya, who’s unfortunately shown to be a one-dimensional adversary to Gordon and Bullock. Turns out she Barbara have known each other for some time and there are secrets. Victoria Cartagena’s performance is fine but I want more from the writers here.
11. Crispus Allen. Allen and Montoya were two of the great DC civilians once upon a time, because they were fully realized characters without (until late in the game) the need for superheroics. We don’t see much of actor Andrew Stewart-Jones here but like Montoya, he’s written as something of a tool. That’s not what I want to see.
12. Edward Nygma. Like Ivy, the future Riddler’s getting a fresh new back story. Cory Michael Smith plays a police forensics specialist who’s all nerdy and jumpy and seems to enjoy his work — and the puzzles they present — a liiiitle too much.
13. Carmine Falcone. Guess what! Turns out Gotham’s reigning crime lord actually has complex motivations. He’s a character I want to see a lot more of and one I found really intriguing, especially as played by character actor John Doman, one of Hollywood’s “hey, it’s that guy” types.
Overall grade … ?
Grade: B. Solid start with room to grow. (Oh, and if you want to see it in advance of the 9/22 TV premiere and are in the NYC area, check this out.)