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Gotham and Doc­tor Who fea­ture in our TV sec­tion.

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Contents -

Bat­man Be­gins. Again

If any­thing proves we’ve reached sat­u­ra­tion with su­per­hero ori­gin sto­ries it’s Gotham. After Tim Bur­ton’s Bat­man, Frank Miller’s Year One and Christo­pher Nolan’s bril­liant Dark Knight tril­ogy it’s safe to say Bruce Wayne’s ori­gin story has been done to death. We’re good. Re­ally.

DC Comics ob­vi­ously doesn’t agree, be­cause it gave showrun­ner Bruno Heller ( Rome, The Men­tal­ist) the op­por­tu­nity to mine that same ter­ri­tory at a mi­cro level. Gotham starts with the mur­der of Thomas and Martha Wayne and then posits a world where Bat­man’s even­tual al­lies and an­tag­o­nists are all milling around in young Bruce Wayne’s pe­riph­ery, wait­ing to come into their own. It’s like Bat­man by way of The Mup­pet Ba­bies.

It doesn’t help that the show’s cre­ative team has made it very clear there will be no Bat­man in their Bat­man show, which means it has to be about some­one else, and that some­one is De­tec­tive James Gor­don ( Ben McKen­zie). Here the fu­ture Com­mis­sioner is a war vet and the new cop in town, as earnest and de­cent as a bot­tle of whole milk. So of course he’s paired with rum­pled, cor­rupt De­tec­tive Har­vey Bul­lock ( Donal Logue) who doesn’t want to be sad­dled with a do- gooder ac­tu­ally out to solve the Wayne mur­der.

Is there sneery ban­ter be­tween them about their dis­parate world views? You betcha there is. And it plays out just as pre­dictably as many feared from the trailer. The usu­ally adept McKen­zie and Logue both look and feel shack­led by their char­ac­ters’ rigid black and white world views which make nei­ther very re­mark­able, or the least bit sur­pris­ing, at least in the pi­lot. Even Logue, a re­li­able source of hu­mour even in his dark­est roles, can’t seem to muster any charm or lev­ity with Har­vey, which is sorely needed as the story un­folds. Aside from some un­in­ten­tion­ally cheesy di­a­logue Gotham is played ul­tra se­ri­ous, with

plenty of frowns to go around, and that re­ally throt­tles the sense of fun.

But what about the rogues’ gallery who fill out the seedy dark al­leys of Gotham, and the se­ries’ sub plots? Surely they in­fuse Gotham with some zing? Well there’s cer­tainly plenty of them to spot as no less than Selina Kyle ( Cat­woman), Ed­ward Nigma ( the Rid­dler), Ivy Pep­per ( Poi­son Ivy) and Oswald Cob­ble­pot ( the Pen­guin) are crammed into the first 20 min­utes. But it’s ac­tu­ally the new character of Fish Mooney, played by Jada Pin­kett Smith, who – to quote Jack Nicholson’s Joker – gives this town an “en­ema”.

Mooney is a fierce gang­ster who works for big boss Carmine Fal­cone, but she’s clearly ready to make some power moves to as­sert her po­si­tion in Gotham’s or­gan­ised crime cir­cles. She sees the Wayne mur­ders as an op­por­tu­nity to test the wa­ters of her power. Smith’s Mooney is big and brassy but there’s a nice dan­ger about her too which the ac­tress sells well. Her toadie un­der­ling, Oswald Cob­ble­pot, as played by Robin Tay­lor, is also com­pelling, a slimy op­por­tunist who isn’t as clever as he thinks he is. Both of their arcs have strong prom­ise and are al­ready threat­en­ing to eclipse Gor­don and Bul­lock’s sto­ry­lines in terms of in­her­ent in­ter­est. By the end of the pi­lot the big ques­tion is whether

Gotham de­liv­ers on the prom­ise of mak­ing the back­story of Gor­don, Bruce Wayne and their even­tual foes feel vi­tal in a whole new way. Dis­ap­point­ingly, it doesn’t. Right now, the vil­lains feel like the sav­ing grace of the se­ries and the show isn’t about them. Gotham needs a hero but sadly he won’t clock in for about 20 years.

“One day you’ll learn to cope with this by dress­ing up as a large bat. No, re­ally.”

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