Monday, September 22, 2014

My early thoughts on GOTHAM

I watched GOTHAM Monday night and I honestly don't have many opinions that you probably haven't heard elsewhere.  I'd been lucky enough to see a copy of the pilot script back before the show was shot and the stuff that bugged me there was pretty much the same stuff that bugged me in the produced pilot.

My biggest conceptual issue with the show is that the prequel nature of the series means that the "big draw" of the series (i.e. Batman himself) is a decade away from happening. That hasn't stopped the creators from throwing in a murderer's row of future murderers in their pre-costumed villain forms. In this episode alone, we were given teases of "Muppet Baby versions" of Catwoman, Poison Ivy, Riddler, possibly (but probably not really) The Joker, and the Penguin.  The Penguin appears to be set up for a season-long arc, so I can roll with that one. As for the rest, I think restraint probably would have gone a long way.

What I do know is that if I'm ever lucky enough to write on some sort of property that I was a huge fan of, I'm going to watch this pilot before working on it to remind myself that self-indulgent Easter Egg in-jokes are never as clever as we think they'll be.  Maybe this'll be more moderated once we're past the pilot.

Pilots are tricky beasts to judge because there are awesome pilots than can make terrible series (The Following) and there are many great shows that didn't have terrific pilots (Seinfeld, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Parks & Recreation, The Office, Seinfeld.) I usually try to consider if there's larger potential in a pilot's concept even if the execution that particular episode felt sub-par. I felt there was enough good in Gotham where I can give it a few more eps to see how some kinks are worked out.

The Good:
- Donal Logue as Bullock. It bothers me that this guy isn't a bigger star. He's done great work in both drama and comedy (The Knights of Prosperity was a very cool, funny show that no one remembers, sadly). We've seen him play sleazeballs before, but there's more than a hint of humanity in his Harvey Bullock.

- Ben McKenzie as James Gordon. I think Gary Oldman's Gordon is going to be the gold standard, but McKenzie pairs well as the straight-arrow man-of-integrity against Bullock. His hands get a little dirty in the pilot, but the actor's performance reminds us this is more due to circumstance rather than any internal corruption. It'll be interesting to see how dark Gordon will have to go by the end of this.

- John Dorman as Falcone. More please.

The Iffy:
- Jada Pinkett Smith as Fish. I'd read the script, so I knew to expect a femme fatale. I didn't expect one verging on camp in some spots. So far, it feels like a tonal imbalance with everyone else, but perhaps the universe and Pinkett Smith will moderate each other in the next few weeks.

- Robin Taylor as Cobblepot/Penguin. He's a little twitchy, and the character's nervous ticks really bug at times. He's another one that could moderate out in the first few eps.

Not a fan:
- Gordon's fiance is flat for me. She didn't strike me as interesting on the page and the actress didn't show many signs of being able to solve that problem. Also, as good as it was to see Detective Montoya here, making her an ex-lover of Gordon's fiancee is WAY too "small world syndrome" for me.

- Edward Nigma and foreshadowing in-jokes. Please let this be just a fun bit in the pilot.

I said this on Twitter and got a pretty good reaction: How cool would it have been if in the opening scene of the Wayne murders, Bruce got shot and killed too? That would have been a shocking "all bets are off" moment. Plus, it would have instantly established this as it's own timeline. It's Gotham City without Batman coming to save it. Ever. I think I'd prefer that to seven years of teases about if and when Bruce will finally don the cape and cowl.

I've seen The Flash pilot and I found it instantly more captivating than Gotham one. In fact, I think The Flash is probably the best comic-book pilot to-date. There's a great sense of fun throughout and it has a very appealing cast.  While I liked the Arrow pilot a few years ago, I wasn't pulled in enough to keep up with the show. I will be setting the DVR for The Flash, so make a note now to check it out.


  1. Ben McKenzie was good, but there was something about him that made me think of another actor, specifically Joseph Gordon-Lovitt. Maybe it is just me.

    The opening of the pilot turned me off ASAP until we got to 'Crime Alley' anyway. True, going in, I wasn't sold on young Selina Kyle, but the rooftop antics made me cringe. I wasn't expecting it to be good, but I wasn't expecting bad. Add to that the near shot for shot (or reused or deleted insert "flipped" takes?) of Batman Begins where the necklace drops.... Even though I (and others) know the origin of Batman, I really liked the way the scene between young Wayne and Gordon were written and acted, so I stuck with it.

    My eyes rolled at the nod to Poisin Ivy (not her actual alias, mind you) ,but I did like the implications of it. The Riddler nod was in line with New 62 I think. Still, I felt it went a little out of the way to let us know yes "that's Riddler!" The comedian on stage before Fish to me was a nod to The Joker I'm pretty sure, but I don't think it was THE Joker. But while slightly oddball and forced, I do like the idea that....well...The Rise Of The Penguin has a nice idea about it. Too bad it's going about it all wrong.

    Remember the 80s TV series 'Crime Story'? I wanted to close my eyes an imagine that Oswald Cobblepot is to 'Ray Luca' what Gordon is tp 'Torello' if you get my meaning.

    But if what I seen in the pilot is the tone, the series won't last a season.

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