Let me preface this review by saying I know a lot of people are going to think it biased purely because I’m a “Marvel guy,” and don’t like anything DC brings to the table. On the contrary, I think DC does A LOT of great stuff, especially when it comes to the small screen. Their animated shows and features are, hands down, the standard when it comes to superhero cartoons. Batman: The Animated Series is, in my opinion, not only the best superhero cartoon ever produced, it’s one of the best versions of Batman out there.
And can we talk about Arrow? I’ve just started watching the first season on Netflix, and while at times it can be a bit angst-driven (it is the CW after all), I’m constantly impressed by its tone and its clever incorporation of source material. That said I had high hopes for Gotham. I really, really did.
Unfortunately those hopes were gunned down faster than Thomas and Martha Wayne in a dark alley. Okay, not necessarily that quickly, but by the end of the premier episode’s first act I knew the direction in which my review was going to take.
It got so bad I was live commenting on the show on my Facebook page. A friend (a fellow writer and comic book aficionado, so I respect his input) argued that I had to give the show more of a chance and allow for its first episode to have its transgressions. I disagree. Yes, I believe a show needs/deserves time to find its footing, but that doesn’t mean its very first episode gets a complete pass and is allowed to be nonsensical, lazy, and/or just plain ‘ole bad. A premier episode should entice me to watch the second. Clear and simple.
Last night’s premier episode left me far from enticed.
Okay. I’ve pretty much thrown the show under a bus but haven’t given any real hard evidence, so allow me to provide you a list of some of the issues I took with it, along with my favorite WTF!? moments. Spoilers abound, people, so do yourself a favor and see the episode first so my gripping doesn’t ruin any of the show’s cliches or poor storytelling for you.
That was sarcasm, folks.
1) If the show is really to focus on a rookie Jim Gordon, I don’t think starting the show with the classic (albeit done to death–pun intended) Bruce Wayne’s parents mugging/murder was the way to go. I’d rather they build to that. I’d rather see some of what Thomas Wayne means to the city of Gotham first. This is purely a storytelling critique. It was not enough to make me hate the beginning of the show; I just felt as far as opening sequences go it was too easy and obvious.
2) After the murder of the Wayne’s things spiral downhill pretty quickly for me. None of the police officers had any idea who the victims were (despite our understanding that the Waynes are the Bill Gates’ of Gotham), but thank God for Harvey Bullock for providing us exposition…
3) Yep…”exposition”…the providing of important and necessary information about characters and their history, which is usually best executed when “shown” not “told,” is royally abused in this episode. The biggest culprit being Harvey Bullock; he is a walking exposition machine.
The dialogue, as it was written for Harvey, is so unnatural and any instance of him informing Gordon who people and places are in Gotham feels arbitrary and intentionally directed to the audience, not whoever he’s speaking with in the show.
4) Seriously terrible dialogue. Melodrama at it’s worst. Dialogue should be fluid and never forced, but each scene seemed to be written with high school drama students in mind performing them. I don’t think the actors really stood out in the episode because they had very little to work with. I mean, I wasn’t really a fan of Donal Logue’s Harvey Bullock, but I can’t say the fault doesn’t rest on the writing or direction. Ben McKenzie’s Gordon was good and certainly stood out from the rest of the cast.
Yes, McKenzie is a fine actor but it also seemed as though his lines of dialogue were the most grounded in, not only his character, but reality. The rest of the cast, however, were terribly cheated. I mean you can only do so much with lines like, “stay frosty” and “aren’t you a cool, tall glass of milk.”
5) Speaking of lines like the aforementioned…I thought to myself, oh look they’re trying to be clever with their “sayings” to remind us the show is taking place in the past…since it is an “origin story” of sorts…I thought that until they started using cell phones! CELL PHONES!?! I mean, they were flip phones, so I guess the time period is 2003, which technically is in the past, but come on!?!? If this is an “origin story” it should be set in the past and the past did not have cell phones. End. Of. Story.
6) Another comment on the writing. The characters are written as if they were idiots. Gordon is smart, like crazy-follows-his-gut-gets-a-good-read-on-people-smart, or at least that’s how he’s written in the comic book. He’s a smart cop. So when they’re searching for the murderer of the Waynes he just happens to find the necklace on the perp and assumes they found their guy!?! Sure, they bring the business of the “shiny shoes” in after the fact, but I cannot believe the Jim Gordon of Batman mythos would think the case so open and shut like that. His gut, not an informant, would tell him something was not right…
7.) As for the murder of the Waynes: I’ve had a few people tell me that there’s been speculation and arguments made (stories even) to suggest that their deaths in the comic book were the result of organized crime/assassination. I don’t like this story idea and don’t like that they took this direction in the show. Part of what makes Batman’s origin so poignant is that it’s not a revenge tale to get the “guy” who murdered or ordered the hit on his folks; it’s about vengeance on all crime because it was a random act of crime that took his parent’s life. That’s just my take. Gotham is a show about the city–a city racked with crime, organized and random. The writers could still center much of the show’s plot around Gordon’s trying to figure out how to maneuver within in the police department and take down the mob without trying to tie the plot thread of the Wayne’s murder into the arc. It seemed to serve no purpose other than to tie a neatly fitting bow on everything.
8.) Alfred’s kind of a dick.
Okay. I feel like I have to play devil’s advocate and say something pleasant about the episode, so here it goes: the final act of the episode picked up a bit and worked a little better. (Except the part where Gordon is supposed to shoot Penguin to prove he’s on the take. Really, Harvey, you have them go off to the edge of a dock and just assume that when Gordon pulls the trigger that means he blew Penguin’s brains out?!? You’re a fantastic detective with amazing deductive reasoning, Harvey! Damn, I failed at being nice.) Well, aside from that little point, the final act was an improvement on the first two in terms of pacing. The scene between Gordon and Falcone was good. It had tension and pull. I hope they continue to evolve the relationship between those two. There’s something there. Also, Oswald Cobblepot/Penguin was probably second to Jim Gordon when it comes to being engaging.
His part seemed to be a little more flushed out that the rest of the show’s antagonists. I hope the writers have some fun with him. The penguin deserves the spotlight.
Well, there you have it. My thoughts on the premier of what was being hailed one of the fall’s most anticipated shows. I’m sure there will be a lot of you who disagree with me and that’s fine. In fact, please leave your comments below and let’s discuss. Try to sway my mind. I can be easily swayed by a rational argument, or bribes.
In the meantime, I am left asking myself how could they go so wrong with such great source material? It’s a puzzle that perhaps even the Riddler can solve…