Given the huge media push and the positive energy pouring into the new DC television explosion, I wanted to wait to see two episodes of this show before writing anything about it. I figured that the pilot episode would be something that the writers and execs could agree wouldn’t miss with fans. What they delivered was exactly that, something that was full of nods to the source material for the fan base but only minimally instructive as to what the show would be like. There were several big Batman characters (rogues and others) referenced or shown in the pilot episode. The series is going to feature Detectives Harvey Bullock and James “Jim” Gordon. It also, obviously, will feature a young Bruce Wayne. However, a good chunk of Batman’s known rogues gallery and acquaintances are already swarming around Gotham. This list includes (but is not limited to):
- Selina Kyle (Catwoman)
- Oswald Cobblepot (The Penguin)
- Edward Nygma (The Riddler)
- Alfred Pennyworth
- Detectives Allen and Montoya
- Poison Ivy (alluded to with the introduction of a character named Ivy Pepper as opposed to Pamela Isley)
- Carmine Falcone
- Barbara Gordon (in the show Barbara Kean is James Gordon’s fiance, apparently he liked the name)
- The Dollmaker
- Arkham Asylum has also been referenced, even though it’s mentioned that it’s closed
The most notable reference happens in the club of new character, Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith). The club plays host to dancers dressed in burlesque uniforms featuring Harley Quin’s iconic red and black. Later that same club hosts an aspiring comedian that most fans have immediately pegged as the Joker (or at least an allusion to the Joker). Whether or not the intention was to identify “The Comedian” as the Joker, it’s clear that the show is already invoking Batman’s most iconic foe.
Aside from winking to the audience so much that it could be mistaken for fluttering the eyes, the show did give us the very basic premise for what seems like it’ll be the actual story of the show. Gordon is a new detective in Gotham and he happens to start at the same time that iconic murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne takes place. In trying to get to the bottom of the murder, Gordon ends up getting a first hand introduction to the criminal underworld of Gotham and how rotten it has made the entire city. He and Bullock are tricked into killing an innocent man (Ivy Pepper’s father). When Gordon finds out that the mob sacrificed a man to cover up the crime, he tries to get to the bottom of it. He ends up getting himself and Bullock captured only to be saved by Carmine Falcone. Turns out that Falcone worked with/against Gordon’s father in order to keep some semblance of balance in Gotham. The Wayne’s death and several other factors have thrown the balance of power in the city and he implores Gordon to try to fit into the system in order to keep the balance. Part of falling in line includes Gordon executing the Penguin to show his loyalty and to dirty his hands. True to form, Gordon fakes the Penguin’s death leaving him to try to figure out how to do the right thing in a very wrong place. He also builds a relationship with a young Bruce Wayne as he tries to capture his parent’s killer and later has to explain to him why the killer wasn’t actually found.
As expected, I think the second episode is a little more telling about what the show’s going to be. There are two big things going on in this episode. The first is, the conflict between crime bosses after Fish’s grab for power was exposed by Penguin. The oncoming “war” for control of Gotham looks like it’s going to be the overarching story of the first season or so of the series. Falcone and Fish are already involved and several other crime boss names have already been dropped. The second thing is Gordon and Bullock trying to bust up a child abduction scam that just so happens to involve a juvenile Selina Kyle aka “Cat”. While trying to solve the case Gordon has to continue to bargain with Gotham’s criminal leaders as well as confront the corruption of those running the city. Of course, the real long play for this series is going to be the developing relationship between a Bruce Wayne that’s still learning to deal with his parents death and James Gordon. Alfred has already invited Gordon into their home in order to help him deal with raising a child, which is an unfamiliar situation for this version of the butler. We’ve also seen that Bruce is already starting to develop a dark side that Gordon will likely have to help him control.
Honestly, I’m not expecting much from the Bruce Wayne aspect of the show. That’s not a commentary on the show’s capability but delving too deeply into Bruce’s development is a no-win situation. If you do too much with it you risk trying to rewrite the character’s history and development. The events of Wayne’s childhood have been left vague by the comic writers for many years, so trying to establish facts about the beloved character within a TV show may be too ambitions. The show has already started to delve into that by portraying Bruce as demonstrating behavior that could be interpreted as suicidal. Then they turn around and have scenes where they depict him as a young version of the adult Bruce Wayne; in control, stealthy and deductive. I know that you can’t have a Gotham without Bruce Wayne, but I’m hoping that he can stay in the show’s peripheral for as long as possible and without the show introducing anything potentially “offensive” into the canon.
What I have liked about the show are Gordon, Penguin and “Cat”. Even though Selina’s seems a little bit old for the age they’re trying to portray, I like that she’s already competent and resourceful. I don’t know if she’ll be a series regular but she could be a nice side-kick for Gordon. Gordon himself is also a well done character. Playing more of a noble war veteran than the battle-weary commissioner I’m used to seeing. He’s playing into a one man against the world scenario that feels like it’s going to be a huge uphill battle. That’s great, because uphill battles are interesting. Finally, the penguin looks like he could be the best villain in the show (even though he’s on his own developmental story arc). He’s being played as the type of villain that the Batman mythos is really great at creating: the unbalanced psychopath. If he can really keep this up he’ll be a great counter balance to the lawful evil mobsters that the show is already populated with.
So, after two episodes, I think there’s enough here to keep watching the series. Iwasn’t sold on it after the pilot, but the 2nd episode makes me feel like this show’s actually got a story to tell and some characters that will be worth watching. I just hope that they don’t get tripped up by trying to make a Batman show with no Batman.