So, here’s a question: if I am a big Batman fan (and I am), why didn’t I watch Gotham when it was on the air? Jimmy Impossible always seemed a bit dumbfounded by that fact. After all, I listed Batman as my favorite superhero, and Jimmy and I have been discussing the DCAU for a few years now, and we both love to chat about whatever Batman is doing. I’ve caught every Batman movie, many animated series, and I’m really looking forward to the next Batman movie.
Why haven’t I seen Gotham before?
Well, short answer: I had watched Gotham before. Or, more accurately, I watched the pilot episode and it just didn’t work for me. And, rewatching the pilot for this write-up, I can safely say in many ways the episode still doesn’t work for me.
To be fair, there’s a lot to like. Yes, I am aware that Oswald Cobblepot, already handling umbrellas for his boss and hating his “Penguin” nickname, is a fan favorite character on this show. Likewise, I know Jada Pinkett Smith got a lot of fan love for her original character of Fish Mooney. Admittedly, what happens with Cobblepot here is of some interest as someone fakes his death to keep his own hands clean and the Penguin is nothing if not too vicious to stay down for long.
Fish Mooney? Seems like a standard mob boss so far.
Likewise, I did like the initial set-up of the Wayne family murder, and I don’t think there’s a single incarnation of Alfred Pennyworth that I haven’t seen and liked. Sean Pertwee gave his screentime here a bit of warmth and understanding that made him stick out in a good way when he came to claim his youthful charge Bruce. Plus, after watching all that Doctor Who, it sure is apparent Pertwee looks like his father Jon, the swashbuckling Third Doctor.
And I do like actor Donal Logue in just about everything. One of the most unexpected moments of the pilot comes from his Harvey Bullock. Presented, for the most part, as a standard corrupt cop a little too cozy with organized crime for the tastes of his new partner Jim Gordon, it later comes out that Bullock isn’t so much corrupt as scared out of his mind of what will happen to him if he doesn’t tow the mob’s line while Boss Falcone (The Wire‘s John Doman) more or less runs the police. Bullock, for all his bluster and laziness, is more frightened than corrupt. I like that characterization.
So, what’s left? Why didn’t I like the pilot?
Well, there were a few reasons. First, while I don’t mind Batman Easter Eggs, like Edward Nygma being told to stop with the riddles, or someone saying to drop the bat, they mostly felt like fan service in the show. There seemed to be a few too many nods to the fans for a single episode.
Second, Selina Kyle, here seen as a street-living runaway about the same age as Bruce Wayne, isn’t quite as smooth a thief as the show seems to be suggesting she is. Yes, she grabs a guy’s wallet and gets noticed, but she isn’t even trying to be subtle here.
And finally, most importantly, and something Jimmy warned me about, Jim Gordon, as portrayed here, is not a compelling lead character. I didn’t care for the portrayal, I don’t much care about his relationship with Barbara Keen, and he seems so flat in a show about a city that makes your average film noir town seem virtuous by comparison. I get he’s supposed to be the one honest cop in town, someone who can maybe clean the city up with help from a certain masked vigilante in the future, but as characters go, he just isn’t overly interesting.
Well, maybe the rest of the cast will make up for that. I’ll just have to wait and see.