Warning: There are spoilers ahead.
In the first few minutes of “Gotham,” you see Batman’s familiar heart wrenching origin story played out. Martha and Thomas Wayne get gunned in an alleyway by a man in a ski mask. A string of pearls break and fall dramatically to the concrete.
The couple’s son Bruce is spared, left screaming in the alleyway left screaming in two pools of blood.
It’s a scene played out so many times throughout Batman adaptations that you could picture it with your eyes closed. This one feels no more special than the rest. It’s entirely predictable — a series just going through the motions. Thankfully the rest of Batman prequel “Gotham” isn’t as predictable; however, it is campy enough to be jarring at moments.
Every few minutes it feels like the show drops references to another future iconic Batman character solely to keep fans interested.
In episode one, we meet not only the future Catwoman, but also the future Penguin, the future Poison Ivy, and the future Riddler. It’s fine that these characters are introduced and established, but the manner in which they’re introduced will make any Batfan cringe. The show lays it on a little thick so that it’s like watching Batman for Dummies.
Edward Nygma’s on screen? We better make sure he only speaks in riddles so you get the hint he’s the future Riddler. If you’re somehow unfamiliar with Catwoman, we’ll make sure a young Selina Kyle feeds some alley cats milk out of a saucer.
Not sure if that guy with the umbrella is the future Penguin? Let’s have a few characters namedrop the moniker so you get the point.
Yes, that’s little Poison Ivy. Every time she appears on screen she pops up behind a plant.
Perhaps the most cheesy moment of the opening episode is when Mayor Aubrey James shows up on a television screen after the Wayne’s death blurting out, “The perpetrators of this heinous crime will be punished.”
Campiness aside, there are certainly bright spots to the series.
Ben McKenzie is great as a young, up and coming Detective James Gordon trying to stand up to a corrupt Gotham Police Department. His energy with young Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) is magnetic. From their first moment on screen to their final scene together near the episode’s end, you want to see more of Gordon’s relationship with the young Wayne on screen. When Gordon promises he’ll find the man who gunned down his parents, you want to believe him.
The only stars who outshine McKenzie are Jada Pinkett Smith and Robin Lord Taylor. Pinkett Smith brings it as a devilishly coy and cunning new villainness, Fish Mooney, with a flair for dramatics and style. Mooney has no problem taking a bat to another without breaking a nail or messing up her hair.
The best part of the episode; however, is the dismantling of Oswald Cobblepot (Taylor) and the rise of his eventual alter ego, The Penguin, which comes in the final 10 minutes.
The episode brings up the question of whether heroes create villains or society itself creates them as we watch Cobblepot descend slowly into madness after being mistreated by those he hangs around and even our future Commissioner Gordon. It’s that lure of finding out how each iconic villain transforms into one of Batman’s arch nemeses which gives us hope for the series.
“Gotham” marks the third recent live action DC comic adapted to TV along with The CW’s “Arrow” and “The Flash.”
The last time a network tried to do some sort of live action Batman origin story we received “Birds of Prey,” a 2002 series cancelled after just seven episodes aired on the WB (the predecessor to the CW). Of course, that show didn’t star the Dark Knight either. It focused on Batman and Catwoman’s daughter.
That’s not saying “Gotham” will end up like “Birds of Prey.” This show does have Batman, just a young one at that. In some ways, “Gotham” feels similar to the set up of ABC’s successful “Once Upon a Time” which showcases the origin stories of fairytale characters and villains. The Batman prequel definitely has promise. Netflix must think so anyway. The streaming unit dished out a reported $US1.75 million per episode to secure streaming rights to the show before it even aired on Fox.
However, If DC really wanted to one-up Marvel’s Cinematic Universe which will comprise of “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”, new series “Agent Carter” in the spring, and a future Netflix “Daredevil” series, they would try to connect all of the shows to build a monopoly of potentially successful series on television.
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