After spending months waiting in fevered anticipation, Bat-fans finally get to sink their teeth into Gotham, the newest network offering from DC and Warner Bros. The unbelievable success of the CW's Arrow encouraged DC to pillage its own countless comic book properties and make an ever-expanding web of interconnecting TV shows to combat Marvel's ruthless Hollywood takeover. Gotham, while not directly connected to Arrow or its upcoming sister show, The Flash, already looks to be an ambitious attempt at universe-building for the superhero media giant. Granted, the only episode we've seen so far (the thoroughly confusing pilot), proves to be a half-assed attempt at best, but hopefully it continues that welcome trend of getting more watchable as the show progresses.
Unlike almost every other story based in Bruce Wayne's crime-choked city, Gotham switches gears and shifts its focus on the Gotham City Police Department and its most famous officer, James Gordon. Gotham has always been a breeding ground for chaos, and as the show quickly establishes, more than a few deplorable characters rise from the shadows to preserve that. Amidst the craziness, Thomas and Martha Wayne, two of the city's most powerful people, are senselessly gunned down in a rain-soaked alley while their young son, Bruce, watches in terror. Gordon, along with Detective Harvey Bullock, set out to find the Wayne's killers, unaware that the case might be impossible to crack.
All in all, the casting leaves much to be desired. Fortunately, Ben McKenzie excels as the young, impassioned James Gordon who will eventually become the mustached detective we know and love so much. He holds up a mostly incompetent cast, but is occasionally helped by supporting players Robin Lord Taylor (Oswald Cobblepot/the Penguin) and Donal Logue (Detective Harvey Bullock). Jada Pinkett Smith underperforms in every sense of the word, her delivery as Fish Mooney is scheming, soulless and uninspired, and difficult to watch.
From its opening shots of an adolescent Selina Kyle slicing open grocery bags for milk and pickpocketing unsuspecting strangers for wads of cash, to Oswald Cobblepot's murderous final scene, this lackluster pilot showcases its high production value in the most gratuitous ways possible. We could swear that half the budget went toward glittering, picturesque establishing shots instead of scenes we actually care about. Admittedly, though, these mindless indulgences ultimately make for a shinier, prettier show, but to ignore its frequent budgetary blunders would be to brush aside one of the show's most distracting and disappointing flaws.
And what's up with all of the weird camera shots? Gordon's shaky cam chase through allies and kitchens stands out as one of the episode's strangest moments, with Cobblepot's impromptu riverside picnic coming in at a close second. If you're going to spend half our nation's funds on cinematography, at least try to use them wisely.
However, Gotham's Laziest Mistake Award goes to its inability to properly establish itself in one time period. Even writing that sentence feels ridiculous. When in God's name does this show take place? Either the 1970s and 2004 had a one night stand, or some dude took a bunch of cell phones and sent them back in time 40 years. By the time next week's episode preview pops up on the screen and signals the end of this one, we found ourselves thoroughly confused and disappointed.
Despite its many missteps, the show does hold some serious promise. The acting and the execution have plenty of time to improve and impress, but we'll see. Our hope is that this dull, jarring series-starter turns out to be a fluke and that the rest of what Fox, DC, and the show's writers have to offer is nothing but brilliant.
Gotham, we are rooting for you. For now.
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