Review: Gotham Episodes 1 & 2

One could argue, and this article from The Wrap supports, that Batman is the most popular comic book hero. Who could refute this? Six months ago the first teaser trailer to Gotham, a Fox Drama based on the metropolitan city that the Caped Crusader lives and works in and is a throwback to the origins of many of the main characters of the Batman world, not too different from the Superman television show Smallville. However, the the difference between Smallville and Gotham is that in the former, Clark Kent is more of a central character while in the latter, Bruce Wayne is a supporting character.

So who are the main characters of this superhero origins show revolving around the Dark Knight’s stomping grounds? For starters Commissioner James Gordon, most famously known by the less ardent Batman fans as “the guy on the roof that calls batman using the batsignal,” is not not yet commissioner, but an up and coming detective. Gordon fans may immediately remember his portrayal Batman: Year One as reference. Also starring in the series is Gordon’s partner, Harvey Bullock. Of course, various future villains of the Batman franchise shall make their cameos.

What Smallville achieved in its successful ten season run was to tell the progressive origin story of both the hero and the main villain.  What Gotham is trying to do is focus less on the young Bruce Wayne and how he grows, even though Bruce Wayne is present in every episode, and instead focus on Gordon’s ascension through the ranks of Gotham PD and the many different enemies Caped Crusader will one day face. Michael Rosenbaum portrayed a young Lex Luthor amazingly in Smallville, demonstrating how genuine villains could be depicte,d and it appears that is what the makers of Gotham are trying to reproduce this effect with  villainous characters such as the Penguin, Catwoman, Poison Ivy, the Riddler and even Harvey Dent. Whether this approach will work long term remains to be seen, but Fox felt good enough about the series to order a full season without even having a pilot first, which is a pretty big gamble.

Content Guide for episodes 1 & 2
Refreshingly for television, the first two episodes have very little salaciousness or sex. The same is true for profanity. The TV-14 rating is likely for the physical violence; men are beaten and shot at throughout the episodes. In the ending of the premiere, the main character walks with another character to the end of a pier expecting to murder him execution-style. In the second episode, a character stabs a civilian in the neck with a broken bottle. Smoking and consumption of alcoholic beverages are both present. Police corruption is also an underlying theme in the series, as well as organized crime.

The Waynes Murder

Episode 1 – “Pilot”
Episode one starts off with the most prevalent scene in the Batman mythos, the murder of young Bruce Wayne’s parents, Thomas and Martha Wayne. Rookie detective James Gordan, fresh to Gotham Police Department, and his partner Harvey Bullock are assigned the case. Harvey IDs the affluent, late Wayne couple and tries to distance himself from the case immediately, however new guy Gordon has already forged a relationship with the sole surviving Bruce. The murder eye-witness juvenile pickpocket Selina Kyle remains in the shadows for dramatic irony. The two detectives chase down a patsy criminal who is killed in an attempt to flee and the case is closed. But Gordon’s persistence causes him to look further, finding deep corruption in Gotham PD and his partner. Gordon extends his investigation gets himself and Dent killed by the mafia. At the end of the episode, Gordon is forced to kill the informant Oswald Cobblepot to show the crooked GPD and mafia that he won’t be a threat to them…but he chooses the high road instead.

Review

The first episode of the series was great! As a Batman fan, I found the hints concerning characters of importance elementary, but I forgave them because not everyone knows that the little girl with cat ears picking pockets and ascending buildings will one day be Catwoman, or the irritating forensics nerd that loves riddles will become the Riddler. There is also the incessant clichés of Harvey Dent being the jaded detective, Gotham PD being corrupt and working with the Mafia, and that same Mafia having a safehouse in a dark and spooky slaughterhouse. The thing is most of those clichés are actual tributes to the original Detective Comics universe Batman was created in, where woman and men smoked in drank at work ala Mad Men and while some of these references are quaint by today’s standards, they enhance the Batman ethos that Gotham is trying to portray.

I especially enjoyed how well so many different future supervillains were introduced, or briefly revealed, as innocent denizens of Gotham.  Fish Mooney particularly looks like she’ll be a great new villain for Gordon to deal with. His frustrations about his desire to be good in a corrupt department are often discussed with his fiancé, Barbara Kean (the future Mrs. Barbara Gordon). Every Christian has felt the disappointment of feeling like the only one wanting to show God’s light in this dark world ( John 12:46) and this theme will likely be a constant in the series. After all, Batman fans know James Gordon as the commissioner, so we are to expect his goodness to work out, just like we are promised victory through Christ. That doesn’t mean tribulation won’t come–for us or Jim Gordon. The biggest underlying theme in the first episode was James Gordon’s desire to be a good cop and trying to be a good, faithful Christian makes the theme very relatable.

Gordon and Cobblepot

Overall: The first episode was a very strong start to a hopefully long ruining series, the few weaknesses the episode have can be chalked up to the writers trying hard to introduce a myriad of characters to potentially brand new fans.

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Selina Kyle

Episode 2 – “Selina Kyle”
The juvenile pickpocket Selina Kyle is the key character in this episode, where she and some street rat friends get abducted by thugs pretending to be Gotham’s outreach program for youth. Gordon and Bullock fight with the thugs trying to free the kidnapped children. Oswald Cobblepot splashes out if the water opposite the river from Gotham, and after encountering some fraternity boys in a luxury suv he hides out in an old camper trailer and attempts to ransom the surviving boy with little luck. Detectives Gordon ad Bullock rescue the kidnapped juveniles, including Selina Kyle, and she promises Gordon information on the Waynes’ murder to avoid being sent with the other children, revealing that she knew Gordon had been visiting Bruce Wayne.

Review

The first episode introduces the cast of characters and the scope of the series. The second episode is where things really get started, and Bullock and Gordon hit the ground running on their new case. The thugs, who are themselves portrayed by talented actors, reference another, lesser known villain. Meanwhile, Salina Kyle doesn’t get a lot of screen time, but that easily fits her character’s timidity and constant skulking in the shadows. The episode portrays her as a thief with a conscience, showing how the future infamous Catwoman was once a (somewhat) innocent little girl. The two thugs working for the Dollmaker reflect the wolves in sheep’s clothing Jesus talked about in Mathew 7 and Paul reiterated in Romans 16, pretending to be the salvation of the people they were kidnapping. Gordon still deals with the corruption of Gotham PD in episode two but to a lesser degree, and the warning for Christians to watch out for false prophets is a good theme to think about.

Cobblepot

Overall: The second episode corrected the largest flaw in the first episode, the heavy handed hints at future villains, while still being interesting and entertaining.

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The Bottom Line

 

 

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Cody Hahn

Lover of Jesus. Husband. Daddy. Geek.

2 Comments

  1. silasgreen on November 5, 2014 at 4:38 pm

    Cool review! (And great point about Gordon paralleling the plight of the Christian in a dark world.) I love this show. It’s not quite like any other superhero show we have today. The city itself looks unique, and the outlandish goings on make it feel like a live-action cartoon more than anything else. Robin Lord Taylor’s Penguin is easily the best new television villain this season.

    • Cody Hahn on November 5, 2014 at 7:14 pm

      Thanks for the input! I agree that this show differs from others, with the setting and characters being more outlandish, but really aren’t comics supposed to be that way? I enjoy Shield and occasionally Arrow – still haven’t watched the Flash yet – and it seems like they try so hard to not be comic book-esque but realistic, I really like how with Gotham they embrace the roots of the Detective Comics.

      I couldn’t agree more on Cobblepot, I was surprised at them picking him to single out like they have, but he has really done great. I’m excited to see more of the other future villains though.

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