TV Review: Gotham Brings The Goods

I am a huge Batman fan, but I wish I was a Batman nerd.

Translate that to read as a love of the character and that world, without any kind of encyclopedic knowledge of the DC Universe in all its multiple incarnations and reboots. That’s not a knock, only just to give you a glimpse into how I viewed a show like Fox’s upcoming Gotham.

Gotham takes aim at presenting the Batman mythology from a more rootsy perspective. Viewers are thrust into the darker world of Gotham City (think Nolan not Burton), through the eyes of the seasoned Jim Gordon, new to the force. On his first day, Gordon gets hit with the murder of Tom and Martha Wayne and must deal with police corruption, his desire for the truth, and the newly orphaned Bruce Wayne, still a child in the pilot.

So, let me start by saying that Gotham is good. Pretty damn good in fact.

Ben McKenzie (The OC) does an excellent job navigating the dangerous waters of both Gotham’s streets and its so called protection. McKenzie does the tough guy shtick well, without all the brooding or self righteousness that could befall this role. Donal Logue is perfectly Logue-y as Gordon’s corrupt partner, Harvey Bullock, with all the earnestness and swag we’ve come to expect from the actor. The real surprise here is Jada Pinkett smith who is having fun and is fun to watch as crime boss Fish Mooney. Gotham understands that its success is rooted in its characters and you can clearly sense the careful detail and approach taken to crafting and bringing them to the screen.

My biggest issue with Gotham is that the pilot is so front loaded with shoutouts and callbacks to the larger Batman world, it often threatens to distract us from the great story its telling. The pilot is full, and I mean full, of references to Batman’s rogue gallery of costumed criminals in their early, pre-origin days. These nods are often pushed to the forefront of whatever scene they’re in, in an overly self referential fashion. I enjoyed it more when things are left to us to puzzle out, such as whether or not we glimpse the Joker in Fish’s club. It’s obviously meant to hook in the diehard Batman nerds, but it’s far from necessary when the rest of the show is so good.

Gotham does a fine job of establishing its premise and longevity. There’s plenty of room here to tell interesting stories in compelling ways that should appease fans, nerds, and newbies alike. Even if you’re just a fan to the detective genre, Gotham is worth a chance. At its core, that’s exactly what Gotham is. All they need to do hear is just calm down and pace themselves. Let the opportunities to introduce these villains come up more organically. Still, if I had to pick only one show this new fall season to recommend, it would be Gotham hands down.

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