Sunday, October 19, 2014

Going to Bat for Gotham

Welcome to October! Since it's been feeling like summer here in New York - which, aside from some big hair days lately, I couldn't be happier about - it's easy to forget we're in the throws of the spookiest month of the year. While there's no shortage of creepy programming on the air to keep TV fans satisfied until way past Halloween night, there's one new thriller out there that's really got me hooked: Gotham.

As I wrote in my fall preview, I was really looking forward to the premiere of Gotham, and after four episodes, I have to say I'm not disappointed. Gotham is dark, pulp fun; a caper-of-the-week serial with a familiar, series-long story running through it's center. The saga of Bruce Wayne and Gotham city isn't anything new, but the pre-Batman world that Gotham is creating has opened it up to fresh possibilities, creative takes on old characters, and new additions to the ever-growing Batman mythology. With everyone suffering from potential TV superhero overload (Arrow, The Flash, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., et al), I totally get that pitching another comic book based series is a tall order, but this one is pretty good, and someone's gotta do it! Note: I have seen the past four episodes of the series for review, but I won't be spoiling any plot points for you in this post, so read freely, and check out Gotham for yourself, Mondays at 8PM on Fox!

Gotham's cast has been bringing new life to some very iconic characters, and that's not an easy task. For example, Sean Pertwee plays everyone's favorite butler, Alfred Pennyworth, in a way we've never seen before - gruff, cold, and no-nonsense. While I found myself wishing at times for Michael Caine to walk through the door and give Bruce a much needed hug (his recent portrayal of the character in Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy was much kinder than what we get here), I like that the show is willing to make some fundamental changes like this in order to set itself apart from what came before it. Similarly, we get a look at the lives of Bruce Wayne, played by David Mazouz, and Catwoman, played by Camren Bicondova, as young teenagers, bringing a new perspective that helps shed light on who they will eventually become and why. The kids are also not really the series' focus at this point, which leaves room to explore some new additions to the Batman universe. One of these is Fish Mooney (a truly badass Jada Pinkett Smith), a terrifying nightclub owner with an Eartha Kitt voice who's got the police in her pocket, and designs on overthrowing her boss, mafia don, Carmine Falcone (John Doman), and taking control of Gotham herself.

Gotham is a city where even those who are meant to protect its citizens can't be trusted, and with good reason. Detective Harvey Bullock (played by one of my favorite actors, Donal Logue), is one such corrupt cop who works for Falcone and is willing to keep secrets, frame people, and lead a double life in order to keep his superiors happy. When straight-edge Detective James Gordon (Ben McKenzie) becomes Bullock's partner, the two clash, and tensions rise as the lies begin to pile up between them.  Logue provides a lot of necessary comic relief during these tense moments, along with a very funny Robin Lord Taylor as a young Oswald "Penguin" Cobblepot, another future foe for the caped crusader.

Yes, Gotham isn't exactly the most subtle show out there. Some of the acting (specifically McKenzie's) is over the top, you can see the scares coming from a mile away (although I must admit, they still make me jump), and the foreshadowing is a little heavy handed at times (we all get that the coroner, Edward Nygma, played by Cory Michael Smith, is going to become The Riddler, Gotham; you don't have to hit us over the head with it). But for a show like this, I don't think subtlety is a must. Gotham should learn from big successes like Sleepy Hollow, though, and take itself a little less seriously, play up the fun, film noir thrills, and dial back on the more melodramatic aspects that don't seem to fully fit the theme.

Gotham has done a great job of world building in these past four episodes, so hopefully with the characters we've already met, and the many others from the Bat-verse that are sure to arrive, there won't be any shortage of rich plot lines to come. Since we're currently DVR-less at my new place, Gotham has literally become appointment viewing for my roommate, Meagan, and me, and as the series evolves, I hope it stays that way. Because while Gotham certainly has room to grow, I plan on spending my Monday nights as a citizen of this crazy, messed-up city until further notice.

Got any opinions on the show? Leave 'em in the comments - I'd love to know what casual fans (like myself) and hard-core Batman obsessives think, and if you have any suggestions for other superhero shows I should check out this season! A new episode of Gotham airs tomorrow, Monday, October 20th  at 8PM on Fox.

Come back next time for a look at the new crop of fall sitcoms! Until then, happy watching!

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