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Hot-Toddy
Co-Founder / Pittsburgh Underground

Monday, September 21, 2015

Tits For Telly: Gotham / Season 1 Review


Now that Gotham / Season 2 is upon us (tonight at 8PM on FOX), we thought now might be the best time to give our review of Gotham / Season 1.

WARNING: Spoilers to follow if you haven't watched Gotham / Season 1

Gotham, in many cases, has been the train wreck we can't seemed to look away from. We were all a bit apprehensive when FOX announced that it would be creating a show centered around the Bat-verse without an actual Batman (or more specifically, with a 11 year old Bruce Wayne who had just experienced his parents murders). Not that this was a bad idea, it's just that we had little faith that FOX could pull it off given their dubious track record of either ruining or cancelling television productions that would have normally caught our interest - everything from animation to science fiction.

Gotham / Season 1 (2015 Trailer / FOX)

Ben McKenzie (Jim Gordon) & Donal Logue (Harey Dent)
Gotham - Season 1 (2015 / FOX)

In the case of Gotham / Season 1, it was a mixed bag. Let's talk about the good things first: Ben McKenzie as Jim Gordon stepping into the vile world of Gotham City and being paired with a morally flexible Harvey Bullock (played convincingly by Donal Logue) and having one of his first cases being the death of Thomas and Martha Wayne was brilliant. It felt as if we were getting a true detective noir that could lead easily into the birth of the Batman.
Sean Pertwee (Alfred Pennyworth) & David Mozouz (Bruce Wayne)
Gotham - Season 1 (2015 / FOX)

The addition of Sean Pertwee as Alfred and David Mazouz as young Bruce Wayne was also very satisfying, especially when they focused on their relationship after the horrible tragedy that brings them closer after losing they Waynes. Scenes with these two talented actors only elevated the series each time they appeared on screen together.

Robin Lord Taylor (Penguin) & Carol Kane (Gertrude Kapelput)
Gotham - Season 1 (2015 / FOX)

The additions of Batman's future rogues gallery made it all the better. Robin Lord Taylor was a total surprise as the conniving Penguin and was a joy to experience as he worked behind the scenes in his rise to power. Adding veteran actress Carol Kane as his mother was only icing the moldy cake. His mentor Fish Mooney, played by Jada Pinkett Smith was an uneven mess - more on that later.

Cory Michael Smith (Edward Nygma aka The Riddler)
Gotham - Season 1 (2015 / FOX)

Cory Michael Smith makes for a brilliant Edward Nygma / The Riddler and his origin story starting off as a forensic scientist with a quirky love of Riddles makes perfect fits well as a side story as he's bullied within the corrupt Gotham police department on a fairly regular basis. Smith's portrayal of an intelligent, if not eccentric, man who's abuse within the system leading him into a future revenge scenario is something that could become a highlight of the series if done correctly. Time will tell.

Camren Bicondova (Selina Kyle aka Catwoman)
Gotham - Season 1 (2015 / FOX)

Likewise, Camren Bicondova who portrays Selina Kyle aka the future Catwoman was also interesting to watch (you can tell this young actress comes from a dancing background as her moves are incredibly feline). When paired with David Mazouz (Bruce Wayne) her back and forth attitude between wanting to be good, but needing to be bad for survivals sake made was truly foreshadowing of the seductive, yet dangerous character she is destined to become.

There's potential for this character, provided they don't continue on the abrupt and out of character path they seemed to set her on during the last 45 minutes of the series where she goes from interesting to a lemming, joining Fish Mooney's revolt against the mob for no apparent reason in the last few moments of season 1. 

Allyce Beasley (Nurse Dorothy Duncan) & Jeffery Combs (The Office Manager)
Gotham - Season 1 (2015 / FOX)

Other highlights were some of the guest stars, they had during the first season that we would have liked to see in more prominent roles. In otherwords, they left as fast as they appeared. In the episode entitled 'The Rogues Gallery', Allyce Beasley (Moonlighting) was a treat to see as a former resident mascaraing as a nurse in Arkham Asylum. We remembered her fondly as the eccentric secretary Agnes DiPesto on Moonlighting and seeing her again in action was a joy (although we wish she would have lasted more than one episode!).

Another great surprise came to us in the form of Jeffery Combs (known as Herbert West in the Reanimator movie franchise). Appearing in the last few episodes of season 1 as 'The Office Manager' - a completely made up character for the show who worked for Dr. Francis Dulmacher (a very loose version of DC Comics villain Dollmaker), Mr. Combs once again proved that there are no small parts (literally and figuratively). Again, a wonderful treat - we just wish he would have lasted a little longer.

Erin Richards (Barbara Keen) and Morena Baccarin (Dr. Leslie Thompkins)
Gotham - Season 1 (2015 / FOX)

Also appearing in the episode of "The Rogues Gallery' was the spectacular addition of Morena Baccarin (Firefly, V, Homeland) as Dr. Leslie Thompkins. In the comics, Dr. Thompkins is the social worker who looks after and becomes somewhat of a surrogate mother to Bruce Wayne. Not only does she make for the most beautiful version of Leslie Thompkins to date, but she's also one of the strongest characters on the show. So strong in fact, that Jim Gordon dumps, what in the comics, was to become his future wife and mother of Batgirl, Barbara Keen (portrayed by Erin Richards). This is where Gotham begins to fall apart (for more on our rant about this, check out our PU Podcast, Episode 2 - 2015 Fall TV Preview; 3:09 mark).

There was a lot of name dropping from the Batman and DC Comics Universe that peppered Gotham / Season 1 which became one of the first elements of the show that became a mix of both good and bad.

The good, based on our excitement to see the characters (and hoping they would get more screen time) included Harvey Dent (Nicholas D'Agosto) who's manic Jekyll and Hyde routine already makes us nervous; Lucius Fox (Chris Chalk) who we hope to see more of in Season 2; Victor Zsasz (Anthony Carrigan) who also appeared as a villain 'The Mist' in  the superior DC Comic television adaptation of The Flash; Commissioner Loeb (Peter Scolari) who creepy back story was another great one off story line; Tommy Elliot (Cole Vallis) aka the future Hush; Roman Sionis aka The Black Mask (Todd Stashwick); Jack Gruber (Christopher Heyerdahl) aka the Electrocutioner was a great one off character; Jonathan Crane aka future Scarecrow (Charlie Tahan); and John and Mary Grayson aka Robin's future parents (Robert Gorrie and Abbie Snee) who's beginnings as a bickering circus couple was a treat to experience. 

The bad,  based on how far muddy their depictions were based on their comic book counterparts were Ivy Pepper, better known as Pamela Isley aka Poison Ivy (Clare Foley) - more creep than cute (why the completely perplexing name change?). Dr. Francis Dulmacher (Colm Feore) better known as Dollmaker who became a distracting dead end story line for the character of Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith). Sarah Essen, the police detective in Batman:Year One (by Frank Miller) whom he has an affair with while married to Barbara Gordon is played by Zabryna Guevara was completely changed - now Jim Gordon's direct supervisor in Gotham with no ties to the original character and portrayed as a weak, go with the flow type of authority figure. Renee Montoya, a fairly respected character within the Gotham City P.D. played by Victoria Cartagena is now an alcoholic lesbian who has on and off affairs with Jim Gordon's future wife Barbara Keen (Erin Richards) who is an off the rails psycho who we still can't figure into any portion of the equation on the Gotham Universe, although she plays a pivotal role in Batman canon. Larissa Diaz (Lesley-Ann Brandt) aka Copperhead.who's gender bending character (based more from the so-so Arkham Origins videogame from  Warner Bros. Games MontrĂ©al)  seemed to be thrown in for no good reason at the last second for no other reason other than to drop another DC Universe name. 

Now for the truly bad. Gotham became a pressure cooker that the writers couldn't control. How do you make a Bat-verse television show and make it exciting enough for fans and the masses alike without boring them to death? One of the great things about the concept of Gotham is that we don't know much about Bruce Wayne between the time his parents are murdered and he becomes old enough to travel the world in the search of the best to teach him all the skills necessary to become the Batman. At best, we know that he was frightened by a bat (in some guise of the mythology) inspiring him to later don the costume we all know and love.

The problem with how the writers of this show handled what they were given is that they had no regard for time (what we will call 'Bat-time' from this point forward). In the show, Bruce Wayne is 11 years old. He has roughly seven years before he becomes 18 years old and skips town on his quest for knowledge. In the comic books the only villains running the town are mobsters (and the Court of Owls if you read the New 52). Super villains such as the Joker, Penguin, Catwoman, etc. do not exist yet and don't until the Batman shows up for 'Year 1' of his adventures. 

John Doman (Carmine Falcone) and David Zayas (Sal Maroni)
Gotham - Season 1 (2015 / FOX)

In Gotham, we get the two big of the big crime families, the Falcones and the Maronis. Both John Doman (Carmine Falcone) and our favorite, David Zayas (Sal Maroni) of Dexter fame did amazing jobs as their characters. They were believable and great fun to watch both together and separately as they cooked up their schemes to keep what power they had every week as the story unwound. The problem is that without regard to 'Bat-time' the stories of these to mob families spun completely off the rails. 

In Batman canon, the Falcones and Maronis are both still around when Batman finally blows into town for the first time. Sal Maroni is responsible for District Attorney Harvey Dent's transformation into the villain Two-Face (a little acid thrown in his face in the courtroom). Batman is responsible for ultimately taking them down. The emergence of his rogues gallery starts from that point on.

Jada Pinkett Smith (Fish Mooney)
Gotham - Season 1 (2015 / FOX)

In the time it takes for Gotham Season 1 to end, Carmine Falcone decides not only to leave mob, but also leave Gotham. Sal Maroni is shot in the head by Fish Mooney (played by Jada Pinkett Smith), another 'made for Gotham' character who though interesting at the beginning as the mentor of the Penguin, became a distraction later on, and who's story ultimately peters out at the end.

Gotham / Season 1 / The Battle of Gotham - Clip (FOX / 2015)

With all the major players in the mob gone, Penguin prematurely rockets to ultimate power and only leaves Jim Gordon along with his hot, new girlfriend Dr. Leslie Thompkins and his now bat-shit crazy ex, Barbara Keen aka, Batgirls mom! The gang here at good ol' PU still wants to know how Jim would ever leave Leslie long enough to father two children (as in the comics - Barbara Gordon aka Batgirl and Jim Jr. aka a nut job psychopath). This leaves us about as dumbfounded as does the self destruction of the two biggest mob families in Gotham. Again - no respect for 'Bat-time'. 

This type of uneven writing felt as if there were new writers for each episode that had never watched the previous episodes, let alone read a Batman comic in their lives. As usual with most FOX shows we felt betrayed at the end of the first season - were we ment to love this show or hate it? Ultimately we were left confused.

 Now here we are with Gotham / Season 2 and not only is Barbara Keen in Arkham Asylum (huh?), but now the future rogues gallery is on the rise? In 'Bat-time' we still have a total of roughly six years left (assuming Bruce had a birthday between seasons 1 and 2) before Bruce runs away from Gotham in search of training.

If there is a silver lining this season, it may start of with some of the new additions to the cast. This includes Natalie Alyn Lind (The Goldbergs) portraying Silver St. Cloud (one of Bruce Wayne's many future love interests), Michael Chiklis as Captain Nathaniel Barnes (when hasn't Michael Chiklis rocked!), and more screen time for Chris Chalk as Lucas Fox and Nicholas D'Agosto as Harvey Dent aka Two Face. Tabitha Galavan aka Tigress (Jessica Lucas) and her brother Theo Galavan (James Frain) will be added to the list of villains this season along with more of the proto-Joker aka Jerome Valeska (Cameron Monaghan).

Cameron Monaghan aka Jerome Valeska aka The Joker

The FINAL Word
Gotham / Season 1 was a muddled mess of good and bad that lept in and out of Batman canon never keeping in mind the hour glass counting down to the eventual birth of the Batman. This resulted in what felt like a 'too soon - too fast' scenario causing a domino effect on the pressure cooker of Gotham that the writers couldn't control. 

We wished they would have stayed more focused on solving  the Wayne murders as an over arching theme to the first season rather than fragment it with tinier, sometimes pointless subplots. We have seven years before Bruce leaves Gotham in search of knowledge and training (before he can become the Batman) - we have time to take the scenic route.

It was last seasons TV train wreck - one we couldn't walk away from. Season 2 smells like gas ready to go BOOM! Pittsburgh Underground will watch from a distance as the drama unfolds.

Gotham Season 2 begins tonight at 8PM on FOX. 

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