The tv screen is getting crowded with comic-related tv shows this season. Agents of Shield, Arrow, and the Walking Dead are already well-established shows, and The Flash just debuted this month on the CW network. I’m going to look at another DC-related series that premiered last month on Fox–Gotham. As I am reviewing the first few episodes of this series, I do have to reveal some plot details so watch out for a few spoilers below.
Gotham focuses on Batman’s home town, and it will examine Gotham’s characters during the time before Bruce Wayne becomes Batman. This show will also look at the younger versions of Detective James Gordon and Bruce Wayne. After watching the first few episodes, I have to say that the world of Gotham is a gorgeous and fascinating kaleidoscope of the friends and foes of the Batman.
In the pilot episode, no time is wasted in showing the seminal event that will lead to the creation of the Batman: the murder of Batman’s parents, Thomas and Martha Wayne. As we all know, this is witnessed by the child Bruce Wayne, and the first few episodes show how Bruce tries to cope with the tragedy. A large part of the story also focuses on the “whodunit” aspect of the murder. It is really fascinating to try to guess at the identity of the killer of Thomas and Martha Wayne. Another interesting narrative thread of the Waynes’ murder is that it serves as “The Event” that shakes up Gotham’s underworld. We see the power struggle happening among the major underworld players, including Carmine Falcone and female mobster Fish Mooney, who is given an excellent portrayal by Jada Pinkett Smith.
In these opening sequences, we see some of Batman’s villains emerge. The Penguin is a young gangster who has a falling out with Fish Mooney and nearly dies for betraying Mooney. He starts off young and subservient to Mooney but completes a scary transformation into a crippled and violent criminal. We also see the Riddler’s origin as a forensics analyst in the Gotham City Police Department (GCPD): he is eccentric and presents his reports in riddles. Poison Ivy is shown as a young impoverished girl who lives with her parents. Selina Kyle (Catwoman) is a young thief who has a talent for witnessing important events and escaping danger.
So far, the Penguin (played by Robin Lord Taylor) has been the stand-out for me because he is not the campy overweight villain from the comics. This Penguin character is fascinating, as he makes the transition from a sensitive and bullied young man to become a vicious ringleader. The other notable acting performances include the portrayals of Jim Gordon by actor Ben McKenzie and Jada Pinkett Smith’s portrayal of Fish Mooney.
Overall, the first few episodes of Gotham capture the central characters in the Batman mythos with a panache that is new and different from the comics. They are relatable characters who are motivated by a desire to rise above the decay and corruption that is so apparent in this televised version of Batman’s hometown. This show should have many more satisfying stories to tell, and Gotham’s story-tellers still have the unfinished task of revealing the Joker.