I promise you however dark and scary the world right might be right now, there will be light.–Jim Gordon, before he was The Commissioner
What first grabs your attention is how visually stunning the night shots of Gotham are, with dark grays and blues mixed with splashes of yellow (seriously, is it a coincidence that they echo the Batman uniform of yesteryear?) But this a genuine whodunit, a story that would make Greg Rucka proud, with a breadth of characters and backstories, all of which we’re sure will get delivered to us bit by bit.
Before the first commercial break, Bruce Wayne’s (David Mazouz, Touch) parents lie dead in the alley with pearls falling all around them in Bruno Heller’s (The Mentalist, Rome) rendition of The Dark Knight legend before Wayne was Batman. But this is a different view of Batman’s Gotham than we have seen before, and the city is populated with nefarious characters in and out of police uniform, and few of them wear masks.
We’ll meet Oswald “Penguin” Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor) who is the errand boy of Fish Mooney (the deliciously psychotic new villain played by Jada Pinkett Smith), nightclub owner and criminal extraordinaire, who has more than a passing knowledge of the police force, in the person of Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue), who serves as a shadowy Obi Wan. It’s Bullock’s new partner, Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) who becomes our eyes and ears in this Gotham, as the moral compass by which we’ll see the downfall of a city and the rise of a hero (or two).
When a criminal grabs a cop’s gun, you shoot him.–Harvey Bullock
While we know this is the Batman universe, the pilot focuses on the human story of Gordon, laced with the woman who will be his first wife, Barbara Keen (Erin Richards), fellow cops like Bullock and Renee Montoya (Victoria Cartagena), the characters who will be Poison Ivy, Catwoman, and the Riddler, the (at least initially) underused Alfred Pennyworth (Sean Pertwee), and plenty of name dropped elements of the DC backdrop that has developed over the last fifty years.
Whose mentality will win out in Gotham, Bullock’s or the more genteel Gordon’s? We watch him refuse to shoot a man who resists arrest– and settles a hostage situation without gunfire… but that doesn’t get him very far in the first episode. How will the anger and frustration of the city be settled? What would it have to become, how badly would it have to spiral out of control, for a little orphaned boy to grow to be the one who will dawn the cowl of a bat? One has to believe that there would be darkest night before the dawn…
Sometimes you have to do a bad thing to do a good thing.–Harvey Bullock
Really? There’s no way… wait, we’re talking about a show that sets up the breeding ground for Batman, the vigilante without a policeman’s badge, who takes the law into his own hand. But what if Gordon gets there first? What if this really is a war, between good and evil, fear and justice, truth and … reality? What if this war in fictional Gotham relates to the way that we make decisions, compromising our morality and beliefs, in the day-to-day reality of our own lives? Maybe, just maybe, this is one more time when superhero stories prove to be more than just colorful streaks on a page for teenagers and fanboys.
I’ll admit it: I couldn’t wait to see the premiere of DC’s latest, but that was its biggest problem. I was never a Smallville groupie; I’m still not sure about Arrow. But this is Batman, my favorite superhero, the best example of a ‘normal’ human being who chooses to do good on behalf of others. And one of the unsung heroes who has stood beside Batman for years? Commissioner James Gordon, unsung no more.
[Catch the encore on Friday at 9 p.m.]