“I love this city and I see it going to hell”
Before I delve into the nitty gritty stuff let me start by revealing something to you all. Bear with me here. Early last year me and two friends were discussing the possibility of a new Batman movie in the wake of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises and we all came to the conclusion that while we would like to see more Caped Crusader stories, it wouldn’t feel right for at least another five years. This got us around to thinking of what other incarnations of Batman could be explored and after a short conversation we came up with a great idea. Firstly our idea would only work as a TV show, preferably a cable show rather than for a network (between 10 and 13 episodes). The story would revolve around Jim Gordon back when he was a young detective and the central character would be Gotham City itself. Each episode would focus on a particular character within the city, slowly building a story arc throughout. One thing that we threw out there straight away was that Batman would not be involved. As an aspiring screenwriter I got to work on some ideas for episodes and longer arcs and eventually decided that Batman would need to make an appearance, fleeting and only when he was needed, but still it wouldn’t really work correctly without some references to the Caped Crusader. My initial draft of a pilot script was pretty poor but it was a starting point for something that could potentially be a huge success. Literally about two months after I wrote my spec-pilot script Fox announced that they were planning on creating a show about a young Detective Gordon and the origins of some of Batman’s most infamous enemies; the exact idea I had been working on. Im sure I wasn’t the only budding writer at the time to think of this but I have to admit that it was a little frustrating knowing that I couldn’t pursue the idea anymore. However it was also gratifying to think that a studio like Fox would share a lot of our initial thoughts.
And so the time has come. Since the original announcement it’s pretty clear that Fox’s plans have changed slightly. The Joker wasn’t going to appear, then he was, then he wasn’t, then he was only going to be teased sporadically. Bruce Wayne wasn’t going to be involved in any way, then he was, then he wasn’t, then he was but only as a young boy. This kinda thing happens all the time when television shows are in development. I’ve tried not to read any reviews or spoilers for the Pilot episode but it’s almost been impossible. The one all encompassing question that has been clinging to the tip of my tongue is this: Can Gotham succeed without Batman?
Well if the Pilot episode is anything to go by then the answer is no.
It’s still way too early to tell right now so I’m being a bit harsh in my judgment but the opening segment didn’t fill me with excitement or wonder. Seeing Bruce Wayne’s parents get shot down isn’t the way I’d have started it off but there could be an argument here that the writers wanted to familiarise the viewers with an already cemented origins before they experiment. I suppose it was a genuine way to introduce the young Jim Gordon (played by Ben McKenzie) but did they really need Selina Kyle – herself just a teenager – watching on? The episode focussed on Gordon’s investigation into Gotham’s most famous double homicide, which leads him to butt heads with many of the shows central characters. Initially I liked Ben McKenzie in the lead role but while he impressed at times, his weird facial expressions and overly tense stare downs got distracting. I didn’t hate him though and I think he’ll grow into the role just fine. Donal Logue as corrupt, badass veteran Detective Harvey Bullock was a lot of fun and he and McKenzie seem to have good chemistry.
Edward Nygma pops up for about thirty seconds and I’m looking forward to seeing where the show takes him. Poison Ivy (known as Ivy Pepper on the show) makes a cameo appearance after her ex-con father gets involved in the case. Jada Pinkett-Smith’s gangster boss Fish Mooney felt a little forced at times, much like a cartoon super villain but she wasn’t entirely terrible and of course Selina Kyle mysteriously followed Bruce Wayne and Gordon wherever they went. We all know she grows up to be Catwoman but is it really necessary to have her climb walls, crouch down like her feline namesake and peer conspicuously into the distance?
The shining light was Robin Lord Taylor as Oswald Cobblepot aka The Penguin. It would’ve been nice had the writers not bothered to use the nickname just yet since the show apparently will be following his rise from lowly henchmen to City-wide gangland criminal. Taylor stole every scene he was in and I liked that he showed signs of violent apathy so early on. Oh and let’s all hope that Sean Pertwee’s Alfred Pennyworth gets more screen time in future episodes.
The general feel, tone and look of the show is auspiciously positive so far but already makes me yearn to see what could’ve been had somebody like HBO got their gritty hands into it. All this darkness and chaos that the characters keep talking about just won’t feel right without the impending arrival of a bat from the shadows, which we already know won’t happen, so the pressure is on for them to deliver in other ways. Underwhelming but promising.
Gavin Logan – Follow me on Twitter