‘Gotham’ Pilot: The Good, Bad, and Ugly

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Gotham Pilot Episode Discussion Gotham Pilot: The Good, Bad, and Ugly

Fans of Batman need not wait until he tangles with Superman on the big screen, as his hometown is set to be explored in greater detail than ever before, thanks to Fox’s upcoming Gotham. The series’ first episode has now been shown to select attendees of Comic-Con 2014, so we can weigh in on our own thoughts about the pilot’s strengths – and its weaknesses.

Now that the cat is out of the bag, we can give our opinions on the best or most surprising parts of the first episode, the parts that the showrunners will need to address in the future, and which aspects are already serious cause for concern. We’ll hold off on SPOILERS and easter eggs until the public has had the chance to see it – but for now, fans certainly have something to look forward to.

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The Good

Gotham Premiere Penguin Easter Eggs Gotham Pilot: The Good, Bad, and Ugly

It came as something of a surprise when Ben McKenzie (The O.C.Southland) was announced as the actor entrusted with playing Detective Jim Gordon – but the exact angle that would be taken with the younger version was a total mystery. That question is answered within the first scenes of Gotham‘s pilot, as Gordon is clearly depicted as a tough-as-nails soldier who has swapped a battlefield for the streets. Unfortunately, he has chosen the wrong city for a man as unwilling to bend the rules.

Fortunately, however, McKenzie shows off enough charisma to carry a series with as large a supporting cast as Gotham seems to feature. And while the first episode doesn’t exactly showcase nuanced characters, the actor is believable as the man who will one day come to trust a figure like Batman – someone willing to do the wrong thing in order to to the right thing. We have our issues with some of the approaches to script and character in the pilot, but McKenzie’s ability to fit the character isn’t one of them.

Gotham Bruce Wayne and Jim Gordon Gotham Pilot: The Good, Bad, and Ugly

In addition, the disappointment some expressed at a young Bruce Wayne joining the cast was reasonable, since another origin story for the Dark Knight is no longer needed. However, the brief scenes following David Mazouz’s Bruce are refreshing, and the young actor is clearly going to raise the potential of the series as a whole.

The character most likely to be a hit with fans is, ironically, not one of the characters on the side of ‘good,’ but crimeboss-in-the-making Oswald Cobblepot a.k.a. The Penguin. Robin Taylor may be a lesser-known actor compared to some of his cast members, but the character manages to offer a surprising amount of sympathy within the span of a single episode. Taylor deserves a great deal of that credit, and no matter how large a role he may play in the series’ overall story, the writers’ ability to bring such depth to a one-note villain is promising.

Gotham Pilot Penguin Gotham Pilot: The Good, Bad, and Ugly

It’s also a pleasant surprise to see that Gotham itself has become a character within the show’s fiction. Adopting architecture and style from the Tim Burton Batman films (and refusing to define which decade the events are set within), the city which the show’s villains call their home is simultaneously familiar, but heightened well beyond reality. With throwbacks to cop films of the 1970s, the blend of 1930s-era high society and street crime is one of the show’s most enticing features.

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The Bad

hr Gotham 16 1024x708 Gotham Pilot: The Good, Bad, and Ugly

While Robin Taylor’ Penguin may steal the show – with another contender entering the story in the first episode’s final act – it’s hard to say that he has much competition. The reception to Donal Logue’s casting as Detective Harvey Bullock was overwhelmingly positive, but the character is established almost immediately as a fairly 2-dimensional ‘bad cop.’ Logue had led fans to believe that the moral grey area between Bullock and Gordon would become the heart of the show, but in the pilot at least, both cops seem clearly planted on opposite sides of the law. There’s plenty of room for that to change but the relationship is still built on an overly familiar dynamic.

Part of the reason for the fairly clear-cut supporting cast is that the sheer number of them introduced in the pilot limits development of each individual player. Unfortunately, the show’s focus seems almost entirely limited to characters that are already known to fans. The Riddler, Penguin, Poison Ivy and Catwoman are all plugged into the first episode’s plot, although some seem shoehorned in altogether. That’s to be expected in the pilot episode, but by restricting key players in the series to villains-to-be, fan service risks being a burden.

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The Ugly

gotham fish mooney Gotham Pilot: The Good, Bad, and Ugly

With the hook of Gotham being a chance to see origin stories for all of the famous Batman characters, plenty of fans will be pleased to simply hear the names ‘Edward Nigma,’ ‘Cobblepot,’ or even ‘Crispus Allen’ and ‘Renee Montoya’ for the diehard comic readers. That fan service is given its fair share of the pilot, but the references or sudden appearances are so on the nose, and so blatant, it could pull certain viewers out of the show entirely. The writers of Gotham have a chance to craft a new take on origin stories, but with an Edward Nigma who is already compelled to riddles, and an Oswald Cobbleplot who is already slightly disturbing, their foreshadowed character arcs are immediately less interesting than if they had been introduced as anything else.

These strong – strong – hints are further hindered by the fact that a number of actors in the group who, for the time being, will remain nameless, turn in performances that are… not particularly restrained. Of course, there is a chance that the fan service and familiar villains may be just what some are hoping for. But no matter how you view it, the showrunners’ decision to take an episode brimming with characters and drop hints of Batman’s archnemesis Joker shows that ‘restraint’ may not be in the pilot’s vocabulary.

But one thing is clear: trying to blend the heightened reality of Tim Burton’s Gotham City with a serious story, serious themes, and serious detectives is a risk. Gotham has the chance to find a balance, but the first episode is already showing that it’s a difficult line to walk.

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new gotham character photos Gotham Pilot: The Good, Bad, and Ugly

We’ll bring you more information and an official review of the Gotham pilot when it airs this Fall. For now, what aspects of the show are you most excited for? Is there a part of our summary that has you worried? Stay tuned for more details, and share your thoughts in the comments.

Gotham will premiere on Fox on Monday, September 22nd, 2014 at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

Follow me on Twitter @andrew_dyce for updates on Gotham, as well as movie, TV, and gaming news.

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TAGS: batman, comic con 2014, gotham

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  1. Nothing has me worried yet but I have to wonder, do you think the shoe-horned characters were planted in the pilot purely to say “here they are” before withdrawing them for a couple of episodes so they don’t appear midway through the season through a wall of exposition?

    For instance, if they introduce Nigma in the pilot, he can take a back seat and we kinda already know who he is when he features more prominently in episode 7?

    • I think one of the showrunners said that’s the case. They’re just throwing them in the pilot to add to the hype.

  2. I am a big fan of nuance and subtlety in storytelling. This pilot seems like the opposite. It sounds like very lazy writing. This review has me VERY worried about this show.

    • I actually had the privilege to attend comic con, this particular panel actually, and I didn’t feel that way so much. Then again, this was shown after the CW showed their Flash pilot, which is a little over the top with its sentimentality. Not that I didn’t enjoy Flash, but Gotham impressed me quite a bit more with its writing and the performances of the actors. The guy who played Bullock especially, I thought he did great. Maybe SR will talk about it more in their podcast, which could change my mind. We’ll see. I think people will be pleasantly surprised.

    • Yeah, I had the privilege of being in attendance to check out the pilot along with the panel and I must agree with this article. There are a lot of good that came out of the pilot but there are also a lot of bad. I thought the pilot was just meh but I know the people besides me were not all that impressed. One of them told my friend they’ve been a DC fan since they were 10 and they felt like the Flash pilot gave them a little bit more of that DC vibe. Another person also told me that aside from Taylor, there wasn’t really anyone else that you felt connected with or was like, “Wow, that was awesome”. Hopefully they improve on the show because as of right now I wasn’t all that impressed

    • Exactly my reaction. The casting and visuals are fabulous, but the writing is so clunky and simplistic. Granted, the show is based on comic books, but the medium of television should allow a much deeper and nuanced treatment of the stories and characters. “Smallville” in its early seasons, with much smarter writing and scope for character development, is a great example of what can be done with this kind of material (too bad it went off the rails). It seems a shame to waste such excellent actors as Ben MacKenzie and David Mazouz (who was incredible in “Touch”) on the poorly written material.

      • *McKenzie. Also have to say, I think my disappointment in the writing was magnified after having seen Ben in “Southland,” one of the best-written TV series ever. Watching the “Gotham” pilot, I kind of felt sorry for him, knowing what he’s capable of.

  3. this will go 2 seasons…. It will be canned 1/2 thru the 2nd…. :( ( imo, even as a Huge batman fan)

    • You’re more optimistic. My prediction was for 1 season only! Haha.

      • An idiotic show like Agents of Shield managed a second season. They could dress Gordon in a bugs bunny costume and tutu to fight crime and this show would have to be better,

        I would be surprised if this does not go 7 seasons.

        • Agents of Shield is idiotic. However, you’re missing one key detail. It can be. Gotham can’t. Becausw Gotham is on Fox. Even if the show was good, chances are high it’d be canceled by the end of it’s first season. But Gotham is just not a good show and I don’t believe it will sustain the kind of ratings Fox will want even if it was stellar. So Fox will tank it. Count on it.

    • Thats the whole problem, your a batman fan, as am I,but this is not batman! it will never be batman. you will never get to see batman,
      So someone please explain to me, the point of an origin story, for an incarnation of batman, that will never be.

  4. The long and the short of it is, in the end, it is just a pilot. Pilot episodes are notoriously ridiculous and off tone of what the show later becomes. They aren’t selling the show, they are attempting to sell it’s potential.

  5. One of the most entertaining moments on TV, for me as a detective fiction fan, has been watching SHERLOCK and then TRUE DETECTIVE simultaneously. There’s a big difference between the sort of arm-chair detective of high intelligence that Sherlock brings, and the morally disturbed, film-noir esque character driven-plot of True Detective.

    Gotham could benefit from those.

    • Sadly it would appear that Gotham won`t reach the heights that those shows have. Unfortunate, because it is almost a duty to pay service to those villains that we know, and the folks behind this show seem unable to do it with the ingenuity and subtlety required. Sure it will try on many counts but will most likely (i hope i am wrong)fail because it cannot let go of the established universe that has already existed for so long. As such, the folks behind this are probably compelled, and directly required to most of the villains of today instead of forging a mostly original past of Gotham – one which doesn`t feel like it needs to squeeze in Poison Ivy and the Joker or one which does so but a tad more subtlety and class. I hope that i am so wrong but even the posters for this have indicated their need to rub the Penguin`s bent nose in our faces. I really think that the name of Gordon and the title of Gotham are enough to sell this.

    • It wouldn’t work so well anyway for Gotham, not right away, because Sherlock Holmes and Rust Cohle were very meticulous and had experience in that field while it seems Gordon in this show is just starting out on the GPD and sort of wide-eyed about his surroundings.

    • Your right, but we have to remember whos making this show. and what it is.
      We are dealing with people, who think shoe horning in a couple of the cast members from the wire, is going to trick us in to thinking this show is edgier than it will really be.
      Its going to be just like arrow and agents of shield, a weak kids show, trying to wear big boy pants, just enough to keep the fan boys ticking over but soft enough for day time repeats.
      Hope its good but dout it will be.

  6. Flash sounds like it has more promise than this. I just don’t get the draw of a Batman show with no Batman. And since it’s on Fox, they will have around 22 episodes per season. That’s a lot of time to fill. I also don’t see where the series will go unless they plan on introducing Batman at some point down the line. I mean, Gordon can’t be too successful on his own, right? Otherwise there’d be no need for you-know-who to exist.

    Have to wait and see how it shakes out, but I’m going to skip this unless I hear good things as it progresses. Be watching Arrow & Flash each week, though.

    • It’s not “a Batman show without Batman”. It’s a cop show set in Gotham.

      Did you complain that Smallville went for 10 seasons without Superman? Did you ask for your money back when Jaws didn’t turn out to be 130 minutes of non-stop shark footage?

      I dunno, I just get the feeling you’re one of “those” kinds of people who’s more interested in one particular character than tuning into a story that unfolds and reveals how bad things can get while Jim Gordon rises from rookie cop to Commissioner.

      I find that premise vastly more interesting than trying to shoe-horn Batman in just because some people are too impatient and too fickle to tune in unless The Dark Knight was a main character.

      • Oh I see. This is merely a standard cop show set in Gotham City. That explains the rogue’s gallery of Batman villains appearing in the pilot. So you don’t mind them being “shoe-horned” in but Batman himself appearing would be just plain silly? Got it.

        Only watched a couple episodes of Smallville but I’m relatively sure it did, in fact, feature a super-powered Clark Kent who was at least a teenager.

        • Ha! your on the money there, dazz is a pseudo intellectual twit, who never thinks through his arguments before vomiting them in to a comment.
          Game set and match, to you.

      • I think “Gotham” sounds like an awesome idea for a TV show. I hope it inspires NBC to bring back “The Rockford Files”, except have it just be a show about Lt. Becker sitting at his desk filling out forms for an hour, occasionally muttering to himself about Rockford.

      • No. Folks complained because the Smallville stories became so predictable & formulaic as they became progressively worse until finally nobody cared.
        The lousy 2 hour Smallville series finale was a craptacular crapfest that amounted to basically being a collective flipping viewers the bird letting them know that CW executives didn’t give a rats a$$ either.

  7. I think that this show can work if the future villians and good guys are not necessarily what they end up. Maybe they are regular people when introduced or even better, to me, would be if they are opposite of what they end up so we can see the progression. This might be different from some of the comic books, but everything is getting changed or altered nowadays.

    • That’s the thing though, I understand if they want to present a new view on the Batman world but it needs to be done in a manner that will also stay true to the premise of the source. Aside from Taylor, I didn’t feel anything special about this show. It felt like a NCIS type show with just bad guys from the DC world. I will still check out the show to see if it improves but based on the pilot it was just meh and didn’t do anything for me like The Flash pilot did

  8. It’s hard to judge a series by the pilot. Agents of SHIELD didn’t start getting good until after HYDRA all but destroyed SHIELD in Cap 2 and ruined the Ant-Man that Edgar Wright had been planning for years. That’s my opinion anyway.

  9. The smarter approach here would have been to back off ENTIRELY from the crazed villains, and instead gradually roll them out in such a way that we see their transition from only slightly bent, to emerging as full on crazed by about the 4th season.

    Meanwhile, the series would benefit from more realistic villains (Batman has fought them, too), and should probably offer a more serious take on the material — blending 1930s crime noir and 1970s cop movie grit styles — with recent series like The Wire … just set in Gotham’s dark and slightly hyper-real atmosphere.

    That would add real depth and gravitas … and get us excited and invested in the kind of world that Batman will eventually enter. I think today’s audiences expect that level of sophistication in their storytelling.

    • Agreed. The pilot just threw too much out there that a lot of it felt forced. Say what you want about Arrow and the CW but at least they made it a slow burn. Also the writing felt slow at times but by the end everything developed into an excellent overall story that the slow burn made sense. I think FOX and the heads here did too much in just one episode that it just didn’t mesh

      • Go with a serial killer like szaz or whatever that psychos nane is and do a Seven -esque season. That would be wild and push gordon to the edge. Aslo black mask and falcony where are those guys?

    • That’s what I hoped for when the show was first announced, start with the Falcone family and the Maroni family then have the Sionis family in an accident that’s revealed to be Roman’s fault, killing his parents and becoming Black Mask.

  10. OK. Has anybody discussed the age difference in play here? Bruce is how old? 10? 13? And the villains are supposed to be what? In their early twenties or thirties? So how old will these people be when Batman reaches top crime fighting form? Mid thirties? Mid forties? Gordon is already a commissioner when Batman comes on the scene and is at least in his fifties. So can somebody clear this up for me?

    • My first thought, too. How old will catwoman be at the time she meets batman or Bruce Wayne, cougarlike?!

    • It’s right. Ivy, Catwoman are about the same age, 14. Riddler and Pinguen are about 21. And are older. As is the joker. In 15-20 when Bruce is Batman, 35 yr old Gorden will be about 50. It’s all dead on.

  11. Fyi those talking about talking about plugging main villans in the pilot amd maybe not showing them all again at once. You can see on IMDb they have done 6 episodes and how many they all appear in.

    On a side note.not many people seem to notice the joker actually in the pilot.

  12. Was that a ear plug in the penguins ear to save his ear drum from the gunshot? Could’ve been better hidden…

    • I’m guessing not, they usually don’t fire real guns next to actors heads anymore. They usually edit in those sounds later…

  13. I knew when I saw her in the commercials she would be awful. And you didn’t have to say her name, but mentioning basically everyone else but her, then saying you won’t mention the actor makes it kind of obvious.

  14. This show is awesome…Gotta say it. As a huge batman fan i went in thinking it would suck and walked away loving it.

    All you nay sayers… Lets face it. You just have poor taste.

  15. Gotham’s ding fine. And people, as well as critics, digged the pilot (see: http://prettyandwittyandbright.wordpress.com/2014/10/27/take-me-premieres-on-tv-thoughts-gotham-pilot/)