Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Thoughts on the 'Gotham' TV series so far

I want FOX's "Gotham" TV series to succeed — I really do.

Not just because the new series is somewhat Batman-related. My CCC readers should know I'm a lifelong, diehard Batman fan — so you'd think I'd be pumped about the new TV show. (More on that later. …) 

(And I say "somewhat Batman-related" because it's pretty clear after two episodes that "Gotham" is more centered around Detective Jim Gordon than it is young Bruce Wayne.

No, I want "Gotham" to succeed because it's exciting to see comic-book properties coming to TV, not just the silver screen.

Granted, I'm still not sold on the need for a psuedo-Batman prequel in which there will be no appearances by my favorite angst-ridden vigilante. (For my complete skeptical thoughts on "Gotham," read this post on the original CCC site, which I wrote shortly after the trailer was released.)

After the premiere, I kinda wanted to write a review. But I just couldn't get inspired. So having seen the first two episodes, I might have a better perspective.

First of all, I'll address what I very much enjoy about "Gotham": Ben McKenzie as Gordon and Donal Logue as Gordon's seedy partner, Detective Harvey Bullock.
Detective Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) takes aim. (Photo courtesy of wwwfox.com/gotham)

McKenzie and Logue bring a nice bit of intensity to their characters. Gordon and Bullock are passionate — although it's pretty clear Gordon despises the corruption in the Gotham City Police Department while Bullock plays it fast and loose with the rules. 

In fact, Bullock might be every bit as dirty as the gangsters and bad guys he's after. Honestly, he's fairly likable; you just can't trust this guy completely. Sure, Bullock will shoot a bad guy gunning for Gordon (literally), but he's completely OK with following Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith)'s directive to have Gordon shoot Oswald Cobblepot. (But call him "Penguin" at your own risk!

If "Gotham" progresses as I expect, I can't wait to see how the tension mounts between Gordon and Bullock as Gordon slowly dismantles and/or addresses the corrupt — or at least, questionably moral —members of the GCPD and eventually becomes commissioner. That should be fun to watch. The writers will have a lot of potentially great drama to include. In the meantime, I'm perfectly content seeing Bullock deal with "Saint Jim here."
Camren Bicondova plays Selina Kyle –
but she wants you to call her "Cat."

Another casting choice I'm enjoying is Camren Bicondova as Selina Kyle. The young actress nicely acts as if she doesn't trust others or is gun-shy of people — much like cats often do. Not to mention Kyle's future namesake, Catwoman. 

The wardrobe department deftly has Bicondova wearing black leather. The actress herself poses in mid-action much like actresses who have played Catwoman in movies and on TV.

I understand that translating comic book stories to TV or film means changes will be made to characters. In "Gotham," Capt. Sarah Essen is a black woman — that's head-scratcher, but doesn't bother me. And regardless of the actress' race, it's doubtful Gordon will have an affair with Essen, since she's her boss and not a fellow detective, as she was when introduced in BATMAN: YEAR ONE

The changes to Essen, Bullock and Pamela Isley (the future Poison Ivy, who for some illogical reason is called Ivy Pepper here) are probably the biggest. In the comics, Bullock's a slob who has a serious mistrust for Batman. And while he's quick to question Commissioner Gordon's decisions, it's always done with a level of respect and not out of maliciousness. The comics version of Bullock is just as cynical as the "Gotham" version, but he's basically a good cop who wants to do the right thing. I'm not sure that's the case with Logue's version. … 

All that being said, I'm not sure what to make of Gordon already knowing the young people destined to become essential players in Batman's Rogues Gallery of Villains. Would the eventual police commissioner be befuddled at what happened to them? Could this mean Gordon could have insight which helps Batman take down these dastardly villains? Even now, does this knowledge give Gordon any idea as to what the fates are of Kyle, Pepper, Edward Nygma and Cobblepot? And that brings me to Penguin.

Robin Lord Taylor's Cobblepot is straight out of "Batman Returns" — at least visually. The biggest difference between the original version of Penguin is the "Gotham" incarnation is just plain vicious. (Killing a fisherman over a sandwich — really?!) Again, like Essen's race, this doesn't bother me per se, but I will say it doesn't add much either. 

It's apparent the writers have made Cobblepot a psychopath and they obviously have big plans for the character. I wouldn't be surprised if Cobblepot transitions into a major player in Gotham's underworld and overtakes Mooney as a wheeler-dealer with the city's gangsters and cog in the criminal world. Much like the Penguin in "Batman: The Animated Series," I can see this incarnation also attempting to hide behind the facade of running a legitimate club. 

Alfred Pennyworth (Sean Pertwee) confers with Detective
Jim Gordon (McKenzie) at Wayne Manor.
My biggest issue with "Gotham" so far is Sean Pertwee as Alfred Pennyworth. This Wayne Manor butler is rough around the edges and Pertwee has done nothing so far to prove he can soften those corners. To make matters worse (or to be fair, less palatable), the actor doesn't have much on-screen chemistry with David Mazouz's young Bruce Wayne. I can only hope that's a work in progress — just as Pennyworth is struggling how to be a father the boy.

The most pleasant surprise in the second episode was Pennyworth seeking Gordon at the police station. As arrogant as Pertwee plays the butler, it's nice to see his Pennyworth is somewhat clueless when it comes to raising Wayne. Even more than chinks in the Englishman's butler, I want to see the writers develop Pennyworth's infamous and delightfully wicked sense of humor and sarcasm.

Maybe the compassion Gordon brings to serving justice will rub off on Pennyworth. I have a feeling we won't see the last of the butler seeking the detective's counsel. In fact, this should be a regular element in "Gotham" — and will go a long way in developing the men Pennyworth, Gordon and Wayne will become. Grade: B- 









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