I am a recovering TV addict.
I grew up with the TV on. It was my companion. If I was studying, cooking, or pretty much anything else the television was on as a welcome sound in the background. But I grew out of it over time, television interested me less and less, and I just simply got busier.
But I try to keep a few distractions going. Arrow and Elementary have been two of them. Downton Abbey slips in there too. I don’t like the movie network television shows like Game of Thrones simply because I find them needlessly vulgar and gory — they do it because they can, not because it adds to them.
Along with Arrow, I have been excited for the Flash to premiere. The CW gets the DC series well. I find it fascinating that as well as Marvel does Movies where DC fails, DC does well at television shows, or at least has on the CW.
Fox has taken on Gotham, a series from the DC comic universe of Batman’s city, before Batman exists. The series starts with Dr. & Mrs. Wayne being gun downed. It is, for all intents and purposes, a police procedural.
I have eagerly anticipated this series since I first heard buzz of its creation last year. Batman is the best comic book super hero and Gotham’s story in and of itself should provide a lot of material.
Having watched all the episodes now out, I am impressed by the show’s potential, generally entertained by what I have seen, but left with a few concerns.
Let me start with what I think it gets wrong.
First, I think the Penguin’s character, which they are developing in the first season, is done well, but with more gratuitous blood splattering than need be. The scene in the Suburban comes to mind. I first presumed the character would become the Joker, given his homicidal behaviors coupled with laughing. But this particular sociopath being developed will eventually be the Penguin as we know him. I’m excited to watch this development, if not the gratuitous blood.
Second, the show is relentless dark and depressing. Batman tended to be that way, but then there was Batman who would swoop in, kick ass, and save the day. He’s not around yet. Ben McKenzie as Jim Gordon has a lot going for him, but he is no Batman. I do not want to tune in every week for a ruthlessly fatalistic show whose only hope is still a kid burning himself with a candle.
That leads me to the third one. Thus far Alfred Pennyworth seems more sketchy than he should be portrayed. You get the sense he’s chaining Bruce Wayne up at night and beating the hell out of him. They should tone that part down. If Gordon is the guardian angel of Gotham in lieu of Batman, Pennyworth is of Master Bruce in lieu of Batman. Treat his character as such.
Lastly, though we are only a few episodes in, I hope they’ll form a good relationship between Gordon and Major Crimes. It seems needless to drag out the tension when more intrigue could come from Gordon quietly working with the uncorrupted cops. Maybe that will happen in the next few weeks. It would at least neutralize some of the dour fatalism in the show by giving people something to root for. Right now, there is very little to root for.
All that said, the good outweighs the bad and will keep me tuning in.
Donal Logue as Harvey Bullock is perfect. The character is just spot on and plays well with Ben McKenzie’s Jim Gordon. The relationship works. Though a rogue, he is enjoyable and entertaining to watch.
Ben MacKenzie is a solid young Jim Gordon. I think, though, we need more to root for with him. And the Barbara Gordon girlfriend thing needs to either be tossed or she needs to be incorporated more. But he is a good pick.
Jada Pinkett Smith is, after Harvey Bullock, my favorite character. I did not even realize Smith played Fish Mooney, the mob boss. The character is much older than the actress, but she plays her so well. The development of this character gives one fun aspect to the show.
Likewise, Robin Lord Taylor’s character has a lot of potential beyond being a serial killing sociopath. The businessman Penguin seems to be in the making and I hope they go that way.
All in all, though I have some frustration with the series and fear it will be relentlessly dark and dreary, I will keep tuning in for now. The series takes itself more seriously than it should without Batman present. It needs to know where to be light, without being campy. It hasn’t found it yet (see e.g. how it handled the priest being foisted by the weather balloon), but I suspect it will. And I hope, over time, Lucius Fox gets introduced as a Gordon ally.
Whether it can sustain itself for non-Batman fans as a police crime drama is to be seen. I’m not sure it can. But as a Batman fan, I’ll give it a chance. If it wants to succeed as something more than just for Batman fans, it is going to have to do a better job on backstory development of things like Arkham, which is constantly hinted at so far.
But I do encourage you to tune in.