The Paley Center in NYC held preview screenings for some of the fall TV pilots this weekend. After months of trailers, behind the scenes clips, and teases, I was able to catch the first episode of Gotham. As a long-time fan of Batman and related DC characters, along with the buzz surrounding the new series, my expectations were fairly high. Not only for the cast and depiction of the characters, but for the world-building, atmosphere, and look–the creation of Gotham city as a character in itself. The pilot episode of Gotham delivers, both with intriguing characters and a richly drawn setting.
Like many pilots, this first episode had to introduce a lot of characters in a short length of time, but it manages not to stumble over too much exposition and despite some overloading, many character moments emerge sharply, and relationships start to emerge. The partnership between Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) and Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue) is probably the best established so far. Jim Gordon’s basic decency and Harvey Bullock’s less morally upstanding, yet underlying core of decency, click well. The beginnings of the friendship between young Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) and Jim Gordon also has an effective start. Not to give too much away, but just as we know how the adult Bruce Wayne will one day need the sanction of Jim Gordon, here we see how Jim Gordon needs the approval of Bruce as a boy. Mazouz gives us a vulnerable young Bruce, with an edge and intensity mixed with his grief.
Ben McKenzie’s presence as Jim Gordon anchors the show, as he gives us both familiar traits of this beloved character and makes it his own. There’s a big noir element–the one honest man in a dishonest city, who nonetheless has dangerous undercurrents himself. Some might wonder if a Batman character series without Batman will work, but Jim Gordon is a compelling hero and complicated character in his own right. The Gotham depicted here is one where we can easily envision a Batman at work, yet it doesn’t feel incomplete.
Jada Pinkett-Smith as Fish Mooney commands every scene she’s in. Fish Mooney looks to be a fascinating, likeable, layered villain. Robin Taylor is also off to a memorable start as Oswald Cobblepot, who will one day become The Penguin. I also enjoyed Sean Pertwee’s take on a somewhat rougher Alfred Pennyworth than we’ve seen in almost every incarnation. There was too little of him in the pilot and of his relationship with Bruce, but the hints and groundwork look good. There’s one particularly memorable moment that might be edited for language in broadcast which speaks both to the connection between Alfred and Bruce and was unexpectedly funny.
The introduction of Renee Montoya (Victoria Cartagena) and Crispus Allen (Andrew Stewart-Jones) was also strong, although again, there was too little of them to get a real sense of things just yet. My worry that Barbara Kean (Erin Richards) would be a somewhat limited “supportive girlfriend” role were somewhat assuaged–while this is another character where we haven’t seen enough yet to call, there are definitely indications of more beneath the surface. Camren Bicondova as young Selina Kyle is appealing, shadowing Bruce throughout the episode, and the actress is terrific with body language. Again we’re given only glimpses and hints so far but she adds an intriguing presence.
This seems to be Gotham’s approach–start with the surface, and then slowly break things down to reveal all that lies beneath. Also, while none of this would work without compelling characters, the visual style is a notable part of the story. Towers and fire escapes, back alleys and sunsets, soaring bridges and frightening corners; it suggests the look of panels from a Batman comic. It’s stylized yet gritty; grounded with real world aspects, yet fantastical.
Gotham premieres Monday September 22 on Fox.
Author: Dot R
Dot has been bouncing around various fandoms for many years now writing essays, episode reviews, commentary, and reporting news and conducting interviews, among other things. Along with being a Marvel, DC, Star Wars, and Supernatural fangirl, she’s also a fan of fantasy and science fiction television shows, everything from Farscape to Killjoys to 12 Monkeys to X-Files to Wynonna Earp. Currently Fangirl at Large covering numerous geek culture related topics, convention news, casting spoilers, show news, and interviews.
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