Gotham and Doctor Who feature in our TV section.
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.”