Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Gotham Pilot

The origin story behind Commissioner James Gordon's rise to prominence in Gotham city in the years before Batman's arrival. 

In the opening moments of Fox's new series Gotham you follow a young Selina Kyle (Catwoman) as she leaps up and down fire escapes, picking pockets and making mischiefs. A few minutes later, she comes across a particularly iconic murder scene. The Wayne family murder. Bruce Wayne is left with the cold bodies of his parents as the murderer vanishes into the night. The drama is palpable in this scene - the score swells, the camera pulls way back and finally the young Wayne lets out a penetrating scream. You get the sense that you've seen all of this before. I think that will be the major problem with Gotham. As concerned as it is to show you characters and set pieces you might recognise, it never really takes the time to enrich them. I what you may think - It's hard to judge a pilot since so much is just set up but for this series to work it needs to give the viewer a reason to care about these characters. Many of them who will become future heroes and villains we already know, that's why they need to go beyond what's familiar with the emotional core of the story. 

Gotham City is a place - we've been trained to believe - as dirty and dangerous as any other places. Most of the action follows Jim Gordon, here a young detective, and his partner: Harvey Bullock. The pair are thrown into solving the Wayne murders. Their investigation takes us on a tour of Gotham players, either well knows from the comics or not. It's twisted just enough to draw us in instantly. I'm most disappointed by Jim Gordon's character starring Ben McKenzie. I'll be honest, he's just flat. By the episode's end all you can remember of him is that he'll become commissioner one day. However, the lead is elevated by Donal Logue playing his partner. This funny, conflicted yet intimidating man is the kind of dirty cop you want to learn about and root for. He's a bit more than what I've been expected him to be, even being something of a mentor to the young Gordon. They should definitely just hand the show to him. 

Gotham City itself is not well characterised. It's not as stylish and gritty as what we know from comics, and mainly movies. There are so much noises and so little atmosphere, it just not feels like you're watching the action in a city with its own iconic identity. That's a shame because the best Batman stories are the ones where you can feel Gotham City atmosphere.
I'm sure the series will have plenty of time to develop its characters after the premiere. Yet for the show to truly find its way, it needs to do more than just take what we know and put a new spin on things. It has a chance, since there are some very good ideas worth expanding while the bad can be improved over time. Finally for this show to really work as a all, Gotham City has to feel ALIVE!

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