TV Review: Gotham

John Berk – News & Features Editor

Perhaps the highest profile new show of the season is Fox’s “Gotham,” loosely based on DC Comic’s Batman mythology. The twist? Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) is 12 years old. While the series begins with the iconic murders of Thomas and Martha Wayne, Bruce is not the focus of the series. Instead, we focus on Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie), future police commissioner and father of Batgirl. Gordon is a rookie cop trying to stop corruption in the Gotham City police department. He’s just about the last good cop in a police department gone bad.

One of the major selling points for “Gotham” is the super-villains. None are out in the open yet, but a number of Batman’s future enemies have been seriously hinted at. Oswald Cobblepot, aka the Penguin, (Robin Lord Taylor) has been the most prominent, but we’ve also seen future Riddler Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith), future Catwoman Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova) and even a future Poison Ivy (Clare Foley).

The series has followed four basic plots in the first three episodes. First, the mystery of the Wayne’s murder. Gordon has been running the case secondary to “bad guy of the week” stories. While the mystery is solved fairly quickly in the comics—it really is just a random criminal—it appears to be a running plot-line for the first half of the season.

Meanwhile, Bruce is dealing with the death of this parents with the help of an austere version of Alfred Pennyworth played by Sean Pertwee. Pertwee’s Alfred is far too gruff and blunt for the iconic role of the Wayne family butler. While it is clear he has a heart of gold, a rough exterior is the opposite of what Alfred is supposed to be.

Thirdly, we’ve followed the rise of the Penguin. He has appeared in every episode so far, after being banished from Gotham in the first episode by the mob and Gordon. Oswald Cobblepot is one of the most interesting characters in the show due to a great performance by Robin Lord Taylor.

The fourth plot involves a cold war between two rival gangs run by Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Carmine Falcone (John Doman). Smith channels an excellent Eartha Kitt impression which makes her character fun to watch, but after three episodes she starts to wear a little thin.

On the whole, the story has been engaging, and the characters are well defined. While the third episode “Balloonman” veered a little too far into campy 1960′s show territory, I’m glad this version of Gotham City is not entirely bereft of silliness. The grim oppressive atmosphere of the Christopher Nolan trilogy is mostly absent here. Unfortunately, it does take itself a bit too seriously to entirely work on camp value.

The show’s greatest weakness is the dialogue. People in Gotham don’t speak like they do in the real world. In the first episode I questioned how much time Gordon’s partner spent consulting a thesaurus before speaking. The quips feel as though they were thoroughly planned, not spur of the moment. Over-explaining villains are plentiful and generic “inspirational” pontifications get screen time in every episode. I hope they recognize the problems in the sophomoric dialogue and can improve going forward.

Taking the bad with the good, I will be sticking with “Gotham” for at least a few more weeks. If you’re a hardcore Batman fan, there’s no reason not to watch it (even though it does change some parts of the mythology significantly). If you’re just looking for an excellent drama with some sci-fi