Do a Shot: anytime Cobblepot has a wicked smile
Do a Shot: whenever a well-known character actor pops up
Take a Drink: during the queasy Fish Mooney scenes
Do a Shot: whenever another famous Batman character pops up
Do a Shot: for each silly villain
Take a Drink: to each great Harvey Bullock one-liner
Take a Drink: for a young, badass Alfred.
By: Matt Conway (Two Beers) –
Considering all the great success Marvel has had of recent in cinemas, everyone seems to be beating up DC fairly bad. Marvel has become a factory of sorts, producing successful big budget superhero flicks at such a fast rate that DC’s inability to do so makes them look inept. People do not seem to realize how hard starting a multi-leveled franchise from the ground up truly is, with their failures in Green Lantern and Superman Returns being honest, yet misguided efforts.
While DC has struggled in cinemas, they have laid a very solid foundation on television, with both Arrow and The Flash being quite solid. To me at least, this is even more impressive, as there is a big difference between a good television show and a good film. A television show, because of its length, can’t hide flaws like weak characters and story that a quick two hour superhero film could potentially hide. This has been a major problem for Marvel, as their attempt in television with Agents of Shield still fails to really make an impact. DC seems to continue their winning streak with Gotham, which is the latest successful DC show, and perhaps this Fall’s most exciting new show.
Gotham is a precursor to the era of Batman in Gotham, following a younger Commissioner Gordon. With there being no superhero to save the day, Gotham is as corrupt as ever, with crime bosses and villains battling daily. The only force in their way is the honest cop Gordon and his wise-cracking partner Harvey Bullock.
Gotham truly is one of the best looking shows on television right now. The production design looks great, and it’s evident that a lot of money was spent on the show’s production. Gotham has a very unique look, combining a bit of the realistic approach the Christopher Nolan films took, while infusing a bit of the wacky look that the Joel Schumacher films encompassed. The two actually make for a relatively seamless balance, and the show honestly looks just as good as the films.
Similar to the look, the show in general has tried to do the same balance of camp and realism, and despite it being an odd juxtaposition at time, has relatively worked. Episodes like The Balloonman in which Gordon and Bullock face off against a man who ties people to weather balloons felt something out of an Adam West Batman episode, but I found it to be a great deal of fun. Some of the more recent episodes, however, have been more dramatic and rooted in realism. The way the show can swerve like that is rather impressive, and speaks to the talent of everyone involved.
Speaking of the cast, it’s one of the best ensembles for a show on basic cable. The solid center surrounded by eccentric characters is Ben McKenzie as Jim Gordon, and his performance is the solid center this show needs. McKenzie also does a great job of not being overly dower, having a good deal of banter with the other characters. He has that leading man presence, and is able to pull off just about anything the script asks him to do.
The standout is Robin Lord Taylor as Oswald Cobblepot, or better known as The Penguin. Taylor’s slimey and clever turn as the character is honestly my favorite interpretation of The Penguin so far. Every scene he is in, Taylor shines like a star, either having a snarky bit of a dialogue or continuing to deceive people. Perhaps what’s most impressive of all is that Taylor’s character still is able to show quite a bit of menace in bits, making the character overall quite imposing.
Other supporting players have also been quite good. I’ve always been a big fan of Donal Logue from his roles in some underrated films and television shows, and he relishes his opportunity as Harvey Bullock. Bullock in other adaptations was just kind of a one-note character, but Logue has made the cynical Bullock much more interesting, while also interjecting a lot of charm into the role. A lot of people have been so-so on Jada Picket Smith as the hilariously titled Fish Mooney, as she essentially is one of the more campier characters on the show. Personally, Smith adds quite a bit of fun to the show, as her camp factor is for the most part quite entertaining. Other supporting players like like Cory Michael Smith, Zabryna Guevara, and Andrew Stewart-Jones are also quite good in their respective roles.
Perhaps what makes the show a bit more than just an hour of entertainment is its ability to develop characters. This is an aspect of the show I questioned during the first few episodes, but the show has been able to take time out of each episode to develop certain characters. For an example, the episode Spirit of the Goat, aside from displaying a new villain, built up Harvey’s character, showing the now cynical cop at an earlier stage in which he was eager to do what’s right at whatever the cost. Small bits like this really help in rounding out the core cast of characters.
The aspect of the show that has been hotly debated is the inclusion of Bruce Wayne as a character. Like the stagnant character development in the early episodes, it seemed like Bruce was just being stuffed into the show to make a connection to the comic book lore. Recently, however, the show has done a very good job of giving Bruce something to do, with the later episodes featuring a lot of scenes between he and young Catwoman. The two together have very good chemistry, and make for a very interesting contrast. It’s also great to see a shading of these characters’ futures and their personality just from a few small scenes.
Gotham in general has done a great job of giving its audience new and exciting interpretations of these well-known characters. This is certainly the case with Cobblepot and Harvery, but even more with the case with the new Alfred Pennyworth. Played by Sean Pertwee, this new Alfred is a younger and more out-spoken, but also shows the same wisdom he possesses at an older age. Seeing Alfred actually in some action scenes was a great deal of fun, similar to like watching Yoda fight for the first time. Unlike Yoda in the shitty Star Wars prequels, however, Pertwee still is able to interject some pathos into his character, as he shows his willingness to do anything for Bruce’s safety.
The show still has some learning curves to overcome. With so many characters, the show as a whole feels very crowded at points. Some characters such as Riddler and Poison Ivy have just kind of appeared in a few episodes, not really having any purpose other than a wink to the audience. It’s kind of hard to manage so many characters in a forty minute block, which has led to a lot of characters not getting the proper development needed till much later on.
A big reason for this crowded nature is the fact the show feels like it must introduce a new minor villain every week. Ranging from forgettable foes like a business man who runs an underground fight club to just plain silly characters like The Goat, most of these villains feel like lackluster contributions to the show. I can see how the show feels that since it’s based of a comic book it needs a lot of action, but most of the worst episodes so far have been those focused on the villain subplots.
Most of the recurring subplots in the show are heading in the right direction, but the arc of Jim’s girlfriend Barbara seems to be just going in circles at this point. The show has tried to give her unnecessary drama by having her have a past with one of Jim’s fellow police partners, Renee, but as a whole it just seems pointless. Both actresses (Erin Richards and Victoria Cartagena) have had little to do in their roles, and I hope they ditch this subplot during the second half of the season.
Even with some kinks still needing to be worked out, Gotham has proved to be one of TV’s most exciting new shows, showing a lot of potential for a promising future. With the show taking a break till January, now is your time to catch up on a show that is likely to have a long lifespan.