The Good, the Bad, and the Pilot: Gotham

gothamtvseriesposterWell, it’s finally here: the Gotham TV series. And being the huge Batman fan that I am, I enjoyed every minute of it. Despite my love, though, I will concede that this pilot was not the best thing I’ve ever seen.

Gotham opens with a young Selina Kyle jumping from rooftop to rooftop. After stealing a man’s wallet and some milk for a stray cat, she sees a little Bruce Wayne walking down an alley with his parents. It doesn’t take long before a masked assailant mugs and shoots Thomas and Martha Wayne. Called to the scene of the crime is Harvey Bullock, a hardened and semi-corrupt detective, and his partner Jim Gordon.

The-Gotham-TV-show-IvyGordon promises Bruce that he’s going to catch his parents’ murderer, and he spends the rest of the episode doing just that. Bullock uses his mob contact—a woman named Fish Mooney, played by Jada Pinkett Smith—for information, and she leads them to the future Poison Ivy’s abusive father, Mario Pepper. When they go to question him, Pepper takes off. Gordon gives chase, but when he catches up, he ends shooting Pepper in order to save Gordon’s life.

With Pepper being both the prime suspect and dead, the case seems closed, but Gordon has reason to believe that Pepper was framed. Penguin, Fish’s subordinate, snitches to the police that he saw Fish plant Martha Wayne’s stolen necklace in Pepper’s belongings. Investigating further, Gordon discovers that Pepper couldn’t have been the murderer and that Fish Mooney was the one to set him up to take the fall. When he confronts Fish about this, she attempts to have both him and Bullock killed—and as Penguin was the only one to see her with the pearls, she knows he’s the snitch.

Both Gordon and Bullock are saved by Carmine Falcone, Fish’s boss who runs the whole mob. Falcone tells Gordon that he had Pepper framed to give Gotham a sense of peace. He has his hands both around the throats of the mayor and the GCPD, running everything behind the scenes. Despite his criminal life, he does seem to care about Gotham as a city.

What a saint.

What a saint.

In exchange for saving Gordon’s and Bullock’s lives, he wants Gordon to kill the Penguin. Bullock and Gordon take Penguin to the docks, where Bullock tells Gordon that if he doesn’t go through with the murder, Falcone will go after both of them and Gordon’s lover, Barbara. Unwilling to let Barbara be hurt and unwilling to commit murder, Gordon takes Penguin to the edge of the dock and pretends to shoot him in the head, before shoving him into the water.

Excited though I am that this series has finally premiered, I do have to say that I did find the pilot to be a little underwhelming. Maybe “underwhelming” isn’t the best word. But at the very least, the episode felt crammed—just about every advertised character cameoed. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the whole thirty-some seconds we get to see the Riddler, and I adored the little-kid version of Ivy. But the pilot episode was just filled to the brim with Easter egg after Easter egg, when Gotham has a full season to properly introduce all the extra characters.

Gotham-pilot-2-Jada-Pinkett-Smith-as-Fish-MooneyThough Gotham definitely has room to improve, Fish Mooney was every bit as badass and awesome as I thought she’d be. We are introduced to her through Bullock, and she is by far the most interesting character in the pilot. She’s motivated, she’s sassy, and throughout the episode, Gordon and everybody else constantly underestimate her to their own detriment. When Gordon confronts Fish about Pepper’s framing, he gets into a fight with two of her thugs. Even though it seems as though he has the upper hand, he turns his back on Fish to fight the thugs, only to have Fish hit him from behind. Later, Fish also manages to get a hand up on Bullock, and if not for Falcone, she would have succeeded in killing both of them.

The Penguin is the other highlight of this episode. Working as an underling for Fish, he has his own aspirations for power. Unfortunately, that backfires on him, resulting in the mob wanting him dead. Last week, I said that I was worried about how Gotham was planning on handling his character, since this show is about everyone’s origin, and people don’t just become sociopaths. My fears seem to be for naught, since the Penguin is from the very beginning a horrible person who lacks empathy for other people’s pain, and he ends the episode by killing a person right after Gordon spares his life. I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t looking forward to what must be an eventual power struggle between him and Fish. At this point, they are the show’s strongest characters. At least in my opinion.

Jim-Gordon-in-the-Gotham-TV-show-1Thus far, Gotham’s biggest problem seems to be Gordon’s character. Gordon is our white male lead who is moral and righteous. He moves to Gotham because “that’s where all the actions is”. Once there, he is immediately put off by all the corruption in the GCPD, and he finds Bullock’s relationship with Fish objectionable. He is the quintessential protagonist stereotype that shows like to shove on us over and over again. But even worse, Gotham doesn’t explore his character all that much in this first episode. Gotham does have a chance to tell a unique story and explore all the characters in ways we haven’t seen before. Unfortunately, from the pilot it doesn’t seem to know what it’s doing with Gordon. While I am already interested in learning about Penguin, Fish, and even Riddler, Catwoman, and Poison Ivy, I am unimpressed with Gordon’s character. As this is an origin story, I thought Gotham was going to explore why Gordon becomes such a moral and upstanding person, why he became the only person in the GCPD who isn’t corrupt. But from what I can see so far, he’s just always been that way. While that is true to Gordon’s original character from the comics, it makes for a boring protagonist if he doesn’t struggle with something or have some kind of flaw.

I am, though, willing to give Gotham the benefit of the doubt for now and see where it takes him. Only future episodes will tell.

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About MadameAce

I draw, I write, I paint, and I read. I used to be really into anime and manga until college, where I fell out of a lot of my fandoms to pursue my studies. College was also the time I discovered my asexuality, and I have been fascinated by different sexualities ever since. I grew up in various parts of the world, and I've met my fair share of experiences and cultures along the way. Sure, I'm a bit socially awkward and not the easiest person to get along with, but I do hold great passion for my interests, and I can only hope that the things I have to talk about interest you as well.

4 thoughts on “The Good, the Bad, and the Pilot: Gotham

  1. It suffered very much from ‘pilot episode syndrome,’ where they have a lot to establish in a short period of time while still trying to pull off a cohesive plot that will set up the rest of the show. I think Gotham’s pilot leaned more toward establishing its villains, style and setting than its lead (there were nearly more shots sweeping the Gotham landscape than there were of Gordon) and it suffered a bit for that. But I have hopes it’ll slow itself down now that it got most of its establishing out of the way.

    My major concern going in was that it’d make Barbara just a ‘fiance character,’ which is what it seemed very much like they were going to do until her scene with Montoya, which very pleasantly surprised me. Now I just hope she won’t be ‘punished’ in some way for that past relationship, I’d like if the show established that Gordon knows and accepts her history instead of going the ‘he finds out and she is punished for keeping secrets from him’ route. I’m up for her keeping secrets from him, but I don’t want her bisexuality to be one of them.

    Even so, I still have a fear that despite her canon history, there is a fridge in her future. I’d like to shake it but I can’t. Spouses of leads in crime dramas don’t do well.

  2. Yeah I just had to take this one for what it was: a Pilot. There’s a reason why shows have unaired Pilots that you don’t get to see until the DVD bonus release or the leak online… and cramming every single rogue in there is one of them.
    I agree that Gordon isn’t very interesting. He’s pretty badass tho, what with his super kung-fu karate fighting moves. Was he in the Special Forces or something? Why can he fight so good? And, like you said, we got none of his motivations for wanting to be on the GCPD.
    I was also surprised to find this set in the modern day (as evidenced by the cell phones). I thought since Bruce was a child, this would’ve been set 10-15 years ago, and we’d get some awesome 90s nastalgia pieces. I guess it’s a good thing DC was adamant that none of these universes connect (save Arrow/Flash), else we’d have a hard time figuring out how Batman doesn’t even show up in Gotham until the 2020s.

    • I think they mentioned in the featurettes that they want Gotham to feel timeless. So they purposefully added things like modern cellphones, while also using cars from the nineties and eighties. I don’t think it’s supposed to be set during a specific time.

  3. Pingback: Why James Gordon Continues to Be Gotham’s Biggest Problem | Lady Geek Girl and Friends

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