Vincent Ralph looks back at the pilot episode of Gotham.
Batman prequel Gotham began on Channel 5 this week, with Ben McKenzie – previously of The O.C. and Southland – cast as Jim Gordon long before he was Commissioner of the eponymous city.
Gordon is not just a good man, he is perhaps the only good man in this particular love letter to the vigilante superhero, and this was something that was consistently reinforced throughout the pilot.
When Gordon wasn’t growling about doing the right thing, his unnervingly cold fiancée was stressing his virtue, and by the end of the episode we were left in no doubt that Gotham had a hero long before Bruce Wayne rocked up in a cape.
Speaking of which, the show opened with an enjoyable sequence involving a young Catwoman (or Selina Kyle as she was back then) as she inadvertently found herself in the alley where Bruce’s parents were subsequently shot.
But the show lost that early excitement almost immediately, as Gordon arrived and went on a heartless monologue to a boy who had literally just seen his mother and father murdered in front of him.
“There will be light,” Gordon said, in one of many references to the future, but it was too quick, too unlikely, as was so much in the pilot.
The show raced from scene to scene, introducing character after character in what appeared to be a joyously manic attempt to remind viewers what they were watching.
A cameo shot of the Riddler when he was plain old Edward Nygma? Check! A glimpse of a young Poison Ivy lovingly caressing her plants? Check! Hoodlums mocking a slimy specimen called Oswald Cobblepot by calling him the Penguin? Check!
In short this was too much too soon, and the show would have been far better if it had spent less time throwing so many famous Batman characters at the screen and more time on the script.
That is not to say there is not potential.
Sean Pertwee’s Alfred was a welcome sight, and there was a wonderful moment when Gordon saw Bruce on the roof of his mansion (“conquering his fear”) and Alfred seemingly pretended to be appalled that he was up there, his chastisement coming as a shock to the young master of the house.
Robin Lord Taylor’s Cobblepot was also the stand-out villain, his return after being cast from the city truly chilling as he dispatched with a fisherman before calmly eating his sandwich. But Gotham needs to do much better moving forward.
All the elements are here for an enjoyable show, but the writers need to stop trying to please Batman fans with numerous comic book references. The fans will be pleased if the show turns out to be a good one, and the early signs are not great.