Gotham isn’t great and it’s probably not good, either. I had hopes–not high or low, just hopes– about this re-hash of extremely well-tread material. I knew better to expect the Battlestar Galactica treatment on this one, so I wasn’t exactly disappointed. I definitely didn’t love it, either. But I have a lot of strong feelings about it, so I will be recapping episodes here on The Tusk every week.
What makes me qualified to recap Gotham? I’m a casual Batman fan, which is Gotham’s target audience and also its downfall (more on that later). I’ve seen all the movies, read the important graphic novels, and grew up loving Batman: The Animated Series and Batman Beyond for their noir-y coolness and sexy villainesses. Casual Batman Fans like myself gravitate towards the character because he’s the gritty, dark alternative to Superman, et. al.
But is Batman really cooler than Superman? Is Darkness on the Edge of Town really better than Born in the USA?
Anyway, we open with a young, feline pick-pocket with an affinity for cats. WHO COULD SHE BE?! She witnesses the obligatory opening scene of every Batman story: the Wayne murders. I’ve seen this scene many times in many movies and it has never changed.
A conspicuously mustache-less James Gordon is on the case, which he aims to solve by walking around saying “I’m James Gordon, detective. I’m virtuous and determined.” He seriously introduces himself like 30 times.
His dirty-cop partner Harvey Bullock’s detective method involves non-stop talking and general brattiness. He hates being partnered with a straight-laced square like Jim Gordon (we are clued into this by the non-stop talking about it). With the help of aspirational crime boss Fish Mooney (who talks like someone whose first language is not English) they close the case on the Wayne murders. OR DO THEY? (They don’t.)
I won’t bother explaining the rest of the episode but I’m sure if you missed it, the next episode will be just as generous with the exposition. You will not be confused. But basically, criminals own the Gotham police and James Gordon is going to play along until he can take them all down.
Fox shows aren’t big on subtlety (Glee!), so I expected the heavy-handedness. What was disappointing was the heavy hand of Gotham shoving a buttload of origin stories down my throat at once. Young Penguin, Young Riddler, Young Catwoman, and Young Poison Ivy are all hastily and, with the exception of Penguin, unnecessarily introduced. Gotham’s covert mission is to make Casual Batman Fans like myself feel like true die-hards, well-versed enough in DC lore to “get it.” “Getting it” is truly thrilling. You know how at the end of Dark Knight Rises Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character reveals his real first name is Robin and you were like “I knew it!” That was cool! But watching Gotham felt like my dad letting me win at air hockey. The stupidest introduction is Young Poison Ivy as a redheaded child who likes to stand near plants. At one point, she reaches out and wistfully touches one and I groaned out loud to an empty apartment.
There’s also a no-name stand-up comedian who auditions for a gig in Fish Mooney’s club. He tells her some JOKES. He’s got a dark, twisted sense of humor, this JOKE TELLER. One might call him a JOKER, by trade. This is Gotham‘s version of subtlety, it’s not perfect but I’d appreciate more of it.
Everything about Gotham is hasty: the dialog, the pace of the action, and especially the character development. Days after his parents’ death, young Master Bruce is already “learning to conquer fear.” Chill, dog! Brood through your teenage years! Gotham could be a fun show if it slows down and Bruce Wayne never shows up again. What would have been better altogether is a TV adaptation of the comic book series Gotham Central, which is about Gotham detectives who work in the same universe as Batman, but not with him. I recommend checking it out if you were disappointed in Gotham and need a fix between now and Batman vs. Superman.
- Donal Logue was cartoonish enough to rival the Harvey Bullock of Batman: The Animated Series, who was always kind of delightful, right?
- Gotham itself is great, all neon lights and steam. Refreshingly not the heavily filtered blue-orange of most terrible modern-day action movies. I was into it.
- Barbara Kean is not only SO BORING, she’s a tired throwback in the worst way. She appears to be wealthier and more successful than Jim, but when she’s not doodling “Mrs. James Gordon” all over her Trapper Keeper in her best cursive, she’s hiding a DARK SECRET from her fiance and it might be A LLLLESBIAN SECRET. This should be dramatic never but might have worked as a plot device in, like, 1990. I smell a future damsel in distress. I smell it with a big ol’ YAWN.
- You know how in The Room everyone’s like “Lisa is so beautiful!” and “You’re so sexy, Lisa!” which was funny because she looked very, very normal? That’s how I felt about the blossoming crime lord Oswald Cobblepot/The Penguin. Everyone’s like “You look like a penguin, I’m going to call you Penguin!” In no way does he resemble a penguin.
MOST CONFUSING POINTS:
- Alfred. What is with the cockney slang, you’re raising Bruce Wayne not the Artful Dodger.
- What year is it supposed to be? Why does everyone use flip phones?
WHY DID PENGUIN KILL A MAN FOR HALF A SANDWICH? WILL BRUCE WAYNE SHAVE HIS 7th GRADE MOUSTACHE?
JOIN US NEXT WEEK TO FIND OUT! SAME BAT-TIME, SAME BAT-CHANNEL!