Gotham: Is the Batman prequel show worth watching?

Posted on 9 November 2014
By George Heron
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We’re four episodes into the first season of Gotham, broadcast by Channel 5 in the UK. Excitement of Batman fans hit new peaks when the ultimate origins story was announced. A chance to integrate the stories of several DC characters into a living, breathing depiction of Bruce Wayne’s hometown – what could go wrong? Has it been worth the wait? For those who haven’t committed to watching it yet, is it worth a punt?

I’ve tried to keep this as spoiler-free as possible and only give plot information that would already be common knowledge from the comics or movies.

Some might say we will find a brighter day (sic) and that it is unfair to judge a show only four episodes in. On the contrary, TV shows need to draw you in right from the start to keep you watching. You don’t skip a few episodes to get to the good stuff.

Detective Jim Gordon is an ex-armed forces but relative rookie in comparison to his street-wise partner Harvey Bullock, a rogue who appears a little too familiar with the criminal element within the city. As Gordon progresses through his job, the problems inherent within Gotham society become more and more apparent. Organised crime virtually runs the police force and it’s a hard pill to swallow for by-the-book Gordon.

Meanwhile, Billionaire philanthropists Martha and Thomas Wayne are murdered in front of their young son, Bruce, rendering him an orphan. Butler Alfred takes custody of Bruce and tries to continue the upbringing his parents provided.

Several other plot threads are intertwined incorporating the origins stories of various villains including newly-created character Fish Mooney, a female kingpin vying for power with two other bosses Falcone and Maroni, characters already established within the Batman mythology. The penguin is another character given a lot of attention. He’s still Oswald Cobblepot for now.

Reading the above plot description, you can’t help but think that is a great set-up for an epic tale. And with Bruno Heller as the showrunner (he was also involved with Rome) the show should be in safe hands. However, the first episode does not make the best first impression. Ben Mckenzie who plays Jim Gordon does not convince at first. He is such a monumental character that they had to nail him for the whole show to work.

Perhaps it is not his fault. It could be the direction, as it seems a bit mechanical. The camera goes on Jim Gordon and he won’t say anything but he’ll pull a face suggesting he’s thinking something. It’s like playing the ‘Guess what Jim Gordon is thinking’ game. This was mainly a bugbear with the first episode not something that has bothered me since.

Jada Pinkett-Smith looks like she’s having a whale of a time playing Fish Mooney, hamming it up to the extreme. I’ve Never seen her play a villain before and I don’t think it’s her forte. But like Gordon, her arc is getting more intriguing as she indulges in her power struggle with the other bosses.

The era that Gotham is in lacks consistency. The gangsters dress like the prohibition era but then you hear a vibration from a modern day mobile phone and you should check out Jim Gordon’s pad that he shares with his girlfriend Barbara Kean, very contemporary looking.

When I’ve been watching it, while these things have been rolling through my mind, I think there has been a part of me that really wants it to work and be successful despite its flaws. To persevere will bring rewards.

It has its fair share of action, political intrigue. There’s a substantial amount of blood spilt at times. The plot is going somewhere even though the individual episodes revolve around a new case for Gordon and Harvey to solve.

The themes explored such as corruption within government and police are enough in the zeitgeist to intrigue non-comic book lovers. Maybe it could do with a bit more humour, maybe that’s what’s missing a tad. Using Gordon’s partner, Harry as the odd wisecracker is not enough.

I’m in my routine Monday nights at 9pm and am happy for that to continue. If you’re a fellow fan of Batman, then take the plunge and immerse yourself in the volatile world of Gotham. Even if you don’t like comic books, it has enough of a crime-thriller element to make it engaging for other viewers.