Original UK Air Date: 13th October 2014
With Arrow and Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. set for an imminent return to our screens (as well as the debut of The Flash too), superhero shows are looking healthier than ever. Gotham is FOX’s effort to carve themselves a corner of this superpowered market – but how well does a Jim Gordon origins story work? So far – so decent.
The pilot episode is fast paced. Few shots are left to linger, and the audience is rarely left to ponder on what has gone before. Whilst this allows the show to gloss over a few plot holes relatively easily (one particular character is framed for murder, yet never protests his innocence when the police come to call, instead going on the run), it unfortunately also stops it from becoming fully engaging (I’ll come back to that later).
With the pacey cut comes the introduction of a plethora of characters. Some have potential (Donal Logue’s bent cop – and Jim’s first partner – Harvey Bullock and Robin Lord Taylor’s excellently creepy Oswald Cobblepot are particular standouts) whereas some seem like afterthoughts that will hopefully improve in time (Erin Richards’ Barbara Kean, Victoria Cartagena’s Renee Montoya and Andrew Stewart-Jones’ Crispius Allen).
There are many nods-and-winks to Batfans throughout. As well as the aforementioned pre-Penguin Cobblepot, we get to see younger incarnations of The Riddler, Poison Ivy and Catwoman.
It is from the perspective of a pre-Catwoman Kyle that we see the most infamous (and probably most recreated) scene in Batman history – the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne. It is an adroitly filmed segement that segues from a fairly light scene showing Kyle lifting a wallet and stealing some milk (for a feline friend of course!) to the grim alleyway confrontation. Kyle sees it all, and I’m sure this will form the crux of her relationship with young Bruce down the line.
Speaking of young Bruce, David Mazouz does a good job in the few scenes he’s given. There is a short scene at Wayne Manor when Gordon admits to him that they were wrong about his parents’ killer and that they were still unaccounted for. At that point, Wayne vocalises his seething-just-beneath-the-surface happiness that they are still at large. Obvious foreshadowing? Yes, but it is executed rather well.
Some things aren’t executed quite as well. At the beginning of the review, I mentioned the pace and cutting of the episode. It is done in such a manner as to try and not leave a dull moment, but the downside is that it skims over scenes that really could have done with more time to add a bit of characterisation and development. The biggest culprit is probably the funeral scene, where the service is dealt with in a handful of seconds and then we get a very quick exchange between Gordon and Wayne where the former promises to catch latter’s parents’ killer. It passes by in no time at all, with very little emotional punch.
That said, whilst not everything works in the pilot for Gotham, I think there’s enough potential here to sustain a franchise. Hopefully it will follow the lead of Arrow, improving exponentially through its debut season.