Well, 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.
Gordon 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.
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.
Though 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.
Thus 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.