by Agent Alicia Glass (a.k.a. Pandora the Punctuation Horror)
I am a Batman fan and have been since the movie gods and Tim Burton graced us with the madness that is generally known as the first Batman film. I’ve devoured comic books, worshipped at the shrine of Batman films and TV shows large, small, and cartoon. I’ve admired friends’ dedication to the cosplay of ‘correct’ Harley Quinns, Jokers, and the Dark Knight himself. I’ve even loaded myself down with everything from t-shirts to jewelry because it carried the batsign. So, when I heard they were coming out with a TV show that was to be a prequel setting of the city of Gotham, featuring a younger Detective Jim Gordon and a boy-shaped Bruce Wayne, I was skeptical and leery.
By Penguin’s distinctive limp, was I flat-footed wrong. Last night (May 4 2015), we were treated to the season finale of Gotham season one, and what a season it has been! Now I grant, the season finale itself may have been a tad rushed, they tried to throw every last thing in there, but we’re talking about the television show as a whole here. On with the show!
Shot in a style that is distinctly reminiscent of Tim Burton’s original opus, way back when I was a kid, Gotham has that gritty feel of a city with a bit of everything, all crumbling around the edges. The GCPD, forced to work with the mafia elements of the city or be crushed into dust, doesn’t meekly bow before their mob masters, but rather, most of them demand the perks of being in bed with the bad guys. That is, until rookie good-man Detective Jim Gordon shows up and gets assigned to Harvey Bullock as his new partner.
I loved me some Harvey on this show. Donal Logue is a terrific choice for the hard-bitten world-weary visage of Bullock, very similar to the beloved ’90s cartoon version. Often, Harvey will utterly despair that Gordon’s determination to do the right thing, especially in the face of cop corruption, will get them both killed, and yet Harvey almost always goes along anyway, and in the end, does the right thing, too: Just with more complaints, perhaps a smidge of dirt on his nose, and a whiff of the stiff drink we need after that last shootout.
Detective Gordon’s first major case was, inevitably, to investigate the murder of the Waynes, a do-gooding couple with far too much money and not enough self-preservation instincts, who left behind a young boy (David Mazouz) with no one but his determined butler to shield him from the harsh realities of the world.
The role of butler Alfred Pennyworth has been lauded by the performances of many different actors, but of course, the amazing Sean Pertwee gives it his own unique spunky spin. This Alfred is former military man with plenty of secrets, who shoulders the mantle of teaching a precocious young boy to be a good man in a highly corrupt city, with grace and amused exasperation. Bruce’s insistence on things like the fact that his father hid secrets somewhere in his locked office, or his almost hypnotic attraction to mini-thief Selina Kyle, is forever a source of trouble to Alfred, but the show never fails to catch the bemused twinkle in Pertwee’s eye, even as he yells at young Wayne yet again.
And then there’s Selina Kyle! Camren Bicondova is practically the perfect mini-version of Catwoman, right down to her distinctive ’80s goggles-and-hood look. We’ve seen this young girl in many of her notable later-villain guises already: roof-jumping cat burglar, high-society maven thief, would-be gangster under a woman of apparent determination, even murderess, if the situation truly calls for it, because, you know, boy-Wayne couldn’t do it himself.
The budding romance between mini-Selina and Bruce is adorable and lovely to watch, especially when they come to loggerheads over the one thing that kept the adults apart over long years of battled hearts: the act of killing. Selina already demonstrated clearly that she’s willing to kill, and that was the one thing Batman could never condone. To portray it in the show, and at such a young age as well, is a great gift of storytelling Gotham creator Bruno Heller and his writers gave us.
The GCPD has its share of oddities it has to deal with, some of which are right inside the precinct. Our current most-beloved favorite is, of course, Edward Nygma, forensic scientist who works with the Gotham Police and loves his, you guessed it, riddles. Cory Michael Smith is adorably modest and almost shy in real life, astounded by the success of Gotham and in particular the popularity of his character, he who grows up to be the iconic villain, the Riddler. Smith plays the hell out of Edward and we come to adore and even sympathize with the nerdy, riddle-spouting, love-starved Nygma. Right up until he takes a knife to the jock-type cop who was abusing the secretary Ed was admiring from afar. Though I have to say, as Ed stood there and scream-laughed over the bastard’s corpse, I adored him even more.
Of course, the various mob syndicates of Gotham all get at least a mention and a story in their own right: David Zayas as Maroni, the hot-head who wants it all under his name and right now; Jada Pinkett Smith as the token female mobster, Fish Mooney, who’s perhaps crazier and more ruthless than all the men; and John Doman as Godfather Carmine Falcone, the boss everyone is trying to replace.
None of these characters, except perhaps Falcone himself, is as well-known or as bat-shit-nuts (see what I did there?) as a young up-and-coming mobster with a distinctive walk, we all worship him, his name is Oswald Cobblepot, but he inevitably ends up with the disturbing nickname of Penguin. Robin Lord Taylor is an absolute sweetie in real life, playing up his newfound fame in this most well-known role with class, always happy to answer fan questions and joyously share out whatever tidbits he’s allowed to spoil from the showrunners. Taylor pulls off the human side of Cobblepot, the young man who loves his addled mother and only wants her to be proud of him, with the same aplomb as he does the psycho side of Penguin, the character who gets pushed too far one too many times, and just goes gloriously knife-happy on his fellow bad guys. We’re all well aware that no matter how well one writes a character, if the actor playing him doesn’t throw his whole heart into the role it just won’t be as believable. Taylor is Penguin and Cobblepot, with absolute gusto, and it is exhilarating to watch.
So we come full circle to the good man trying to do good in a bad world, Ben McKenzie as Detective James Gordon. At least one of McKenzie’s previous known roles wasn’t exactly hugely dramatic, although his stint on Southland most likely aided greatly in his preparation for this most iconic role of Gordon. Throughout the show, Jim gets crushed by his supposed police superiors (most of whom are financially in league with the mob), laughed at or even attacked, both indirectly and directly, by his fellow officers, and in general, it’s made well-known to him that he is the last bastion of light in a very dark city. After being busted down to a security guard in Arkham Asylum, having a fellow officer sic the psycho known as The Ogre (Milo Ventimiglia) on him and his loved ones and — oh, yeah — being forced to make deals with the lesser of evils of the mob elements of Gotham, it’s no wonder Gordon’s light is a tad strained by now. Still, as we watch Gordon lock and load for bear in yet another dark confrontation, we all cheer, and in our hearts, we wish him well, because it always looks like this is, indeed, the end.
Jim’s love life is no picnic either, what with a former-lesbian (*boggle*) Barbara (Erin Richards) who left him because she couldn’t stand him keeping secrets, there was an irony not lost on me. I do like that Jim took up with the coroner, Dr. Leslie Thompkins (Morena Baccarin); that seems more appropriate, at least for now, and Lee is a feisty firecracker who’s good for Jim.
And that doesn’t even mention all the other amazing things the show has offered to us: a veritable feast of the Batman-verse! We were treated to Nicholas D’Agosto as young and hungry district attorney Harvey Dent, determined to use whatever means necessary to catch the bad guys inside the law even if that meant breaking a few laws himself. For a few precious moments, we saw echoes of the villain that Harvey becomes, already known as a lawyer as Two-Face, when he’s threatening a bad guy with prosecution under Jim’s supervision, his face contorts and he shrieks over the desk. It was one of the best scenes Gotham Season One had to offer.
The whole Scarecrow intro storyline of the Cranes, father Gerald (Julian Sands) and son Jonathon (Charlie Tahan), was beautifully crafted and great fun-in-evil for the whole family. And then, there was the episode titled The Blind Fortune Teller, in which the audience were absolutely captivated by a young man named Jerome, with red hair and a truly iconic laugh. Yes, the rest of the episode had the Flying Graysons and their family feuds, which was cool and all, but Cameron Monaghan as Jerome just stole the freaking show!
Gotham has stayed true to its original roots in the Batman-verse and, at the same time, given us a truly unique show, created in their own vision of what the history of Gotham could very well be. We absolutely love this show. After that epic season finale, who will take over the Gotham underworld, with or without Jim’s support? What will Bruce Wayne discover in that hidden cave with the bat rustles? You can bet visions of Dark Knights will be dancing in my head until we’re gifted with Gotham Season two!