As far as first seasons go, I would say that Gotham was really strong overall. It brought to light backstories of characters that had not had them before and was able to keep its audience gripped. It is, so far, an excellent prequel to the Batman story.
The reason may be that in the stories of Batman, we have never gotten to see the cop drama that took place in this dirty and broken city in the years before James Gordon became commissioner. This includes his partner at the GCPD, Harvey Bullock, who previously—like in Batman: The Animated Series—is nothing more than one of the commissioner’s underlings. We have never seen him be Detective James Gordon’s partner or friend in the past.
Nor had we ever really seen the immediate aftermath and aftershocks of the catalyst that makes the child Bruce Wayne into Batman. In past incarnations we have seen the catalyst—the murder of his parents–but then jump here and there with Bruce as he seeks out the best magicians and martial artists to round out his training as a young adult. But we’ve seen never his childhood before that. In many incarnations the murderer is never found, but with this first season we are led to believe that Bruce will not stop searching to find the truth, so an answer may be had in future seasons.
We are also privy to the backstories of many of our known super-villains—though for now they are just people—which is a fabulous twist. Especially Selina Kyle (played by Camren Bicondova), who goes by Cat. She is an adolescent, around the age of Bruce, and for now she is just a very sneaky and wise street kid. I had my reservations about her at first, but she is becoming a fantastic character.
Further Character Highlights:
Alfred (played by Sean Pertwee): He is an interesting character so far, being a bit uptight and rough around the edges and also being new to guardianship of a child. He could use—and deserves more—fleshing out, but I have grown to like him. It is only fitting that the son of a doctor (played by Jon Pertwee) would raise Batman.
The Riddler (played by Cory Michael Smith): For now in the series he is just plain old, Edward Nygma, but his slow and steady descent into the Riddler persona and his overall character is the best so far. He works in the GCPD as fact checker/finder, self-proclaimed assistant medical examiner, and all around quirk with his riddles.
Gertrud and Oswald Kapelput [Cobblepot] (played by Carol Kane and Robin Lord Taylor): Mrs. Cobblepot, Oswald’s mother, is over the top and could be considered a folly on the series, but she provides such a fantastic backstory, one that is so different from the originals. Even at his young age, Oswald has already been nicknamed Penguin among the mobsters of Gotham for his walk. In the original incarnations of Penguin, he was such a horrid child that his parents tossed him away—which people may remember in Tim Burton’s Batman Returns. Instead, in this series he is such a momma’s boy, and she is so naïve and in denial of her sons activities. He wants to keep that way, which in turn makes him do very villainous things as he tries to climb the crime ladder to become the king of Gotham.
The Joker (???) and the Graysons: The actor Cameron Monaghan appeared in episode 16, The Blind Fortune Teller, as the son of a circus performer, who happened to be a bit of a prostitute. This was his first stint as what I assume will become the Joker. He was the greatest kind of creepy, where he so easily feigned innocence and then the psychopath emerged. It shook me to the core and all without clown makeup. This episode also gave us a glimpse into the Graysons, parents of Dick Grayson, who in this episode like each other but are on opposite sides of two warring families.
As mentioned before, I need to highlight the partnership between Det. James Gordon (played by Ben McKenzie) and Det. Harvey Bullock (played by Donal Logue). They are very contrasting and yet they gel so well together. I think it is because James Gordon is the white knight that Harvey once was and still wants to be. Harvey has let the city and its issues tarnish his armor, but he knows how the city runs and is the voice of caution to James Gordon’s over-zealousness. At the same time, James Gordon is the light in the darkness that has become Harvey’s world, and is bringing out the best in him. I could watch seasons and seasons of just the two of them doing their thing.
The relationship between Cat and Bruce Wayne (played by David Mazouz) is a confused one that has developed and, as us fans of Batman know, will continue. They are friends and they even like each other to the point that kids of their age can, but it is strained and unsure. This is mainly because Bruce has a stronger moral compass, where as Cat will kill if she has to, but Bruce would not.
Barbara Kean’s (played by Erin Richards) story is very interesting. She starts out as James Gordon’s fiancée, but things go awry and we see that Barbara may have secrets in her past. We know she has had an on again off again relationship with female Internal Affairs officer Renee Montoya and she also gets wrapped up in a villains plot to get at Det. James Gordon near the end of the season. So far, we have only seen a small glimpse of how that has really affected her. It does raise the question—is she or isn’t she the Barbara that becomes James Gordon’s wife?
There are only two missteps that I have noticed in this first season.
First, Fish Mooney. She is a character that was created just for this show. The actress playing her, Jada Pinkett Smith, once said, “It is pretty cool to play a new character that might one day become cannon.” That was just before she suddenly decided that she would be leaving the show. Fish was an odd character and for at least the first half of the season, stuck out like a sore thumb. She was over the top and a bit too close to being a wacky super-villainess with her style and actions. In this toned down world of real human-beings and mostly normal crime, she just didn’t gel.
She seemed like she was only there to introduce Penguin, who was once one of her lackeys, and the mob-bosses/hierarchy of the city’s crime lords. At a certain point, she was forced out of her position and Gotham, which led to a side-story of great annoyance and little importance, other than it calmed her over-acting and smoothed out her character. Upon her short-lived return to Gotham and the amazing battle for Gotham that ensued, I actually started to like her as a character—which makes me a little sorry that she will not be returning, but it is easy to say that when you know that she really isn’t. Still, it was cool on the writer’s part to have left it open for her to return (again). As they say, if you don’t see the body, they ain’t dead.
Second—and this is a small thing—is an issue with Hollywood in general. The villain that got hold of Barbara Kean was called The Ogre, played by Milo Ventimiglia. He had a three-episode storyline where we meet his father (played by Daniel Davis), a butler for a rich old lady, where he claims that his son has a face that not even his mother could love. He had a deformity that he had gotten fixed, and we get to see his original face—which was really not that bad. I don’t mean to sound morbid or anything, but it just made everyone look so shallow for getting down on this guys slight facial deformity.
But, I get it. Milo Ventimiglia is a very handsome actor, so they only wanted to skew his face slightly in that particular photo. Or they thought we were stupid and we wouldn’t realize it was the same guy. Either way, Milo as the Ogre got enough screen time with his delicious regular face that they could have made his deformity more severe and taken the idea seriously, rather than being afraid that what they could show would be too unlovable for the viewers. With crazy shows like Helix out there, I don’t think they should worry.
If you ask me, the future of Gotham as a series is a bright one, if they can maintain the remaining characters without going over the top again, especially as we get more into the super-villains. This first season has been a success in its great character building and interesting storylines and overall story arch.
In the future, I would like to see what they do with Harvey Dent (played by Nicholas D’Agosto) as well as Ivy Pepper (played by Clare Foley). I see potential in both of them.
I can’t wait for the next season to see what secrets Bruce discovers about his father after the very last scene of the season finale.
Will you be watching it this coming fall? I know I will.