Holy What The Hell Batman!?

Ok so the other night I watched the pilot episode of DC’s new TV show Gotham. I was deeply saddened by what I saw. Upon the announcement of Gotham I wasn’t initially put off by the idea, set in the titular city during Bruce Wayne’s childhood we follow a young James Gordon as he begins his career in the Gotham police department and witness the beginning of Batman, i.e the deaths of Thomas and Martha Wayne on that fateful night in crime alley. My first thoughts were that it could be an interesting idea, it would be difficult granted, to produce an entire series set in the world of Batman without the Dark Knight himself, but the idea of witnessing the gradual decay of the city to the point at which it needs Batman was one that appealed to me. In order to do this they would have to be very careful with just how much of Batman they put in. Not enough and it would just be another American cop show, too much and it sours the idea of this show being about the city and not the characters everyone knows will appear later.

First impressions would suggest they went with the latter, within the first ten minutes of the show we are introduced to Edward Nygma (Riddler), Selina Kyle (Catwoman), Oswald Cobblepot (Penguin) and Pamela Isley (Poison Ivy). These aren’t subtle introductions either, Nygma breaks lines to throw in riddles FOR NO APPARENT REASON, we understand that Kyle is Catwoman because she climbs on rooftops and feeds cats in the street, Cobblepot is nicknamed Penguin by other thugs FOR NO REASON and Isley hides among ivy plants that her family seem to keep, again, FOR NO REASON. I spent a lot of the pilot episode wincing because of how terrible these character introductions were. Chances are that most of this programs audience will know something about Batman and his villains, but this show seems to decide that if it’s not ridiculously obvious people will miss it. It’s a cop show set in Gotham of course fans will be scouring it for hints at the source material, don’t take the fun out of it by putting up massive signs. Unfortunately Gotham suffers from hallmarks of American shows, dialogue is often awful with obvious plot lines and twists, everyone has to be unbelievably attractive except the ugly villains (I’m looking at you Barbara soon-to-be Gordon, as is the entire male population of Gotham I expect). I could forgive these shortcomings in Arrow because the rest of the production (and oddly the inclusion of more subtle Batman references) at least made it interesting and fun to watch, but Gotham really struggles to give itself any defining characteristics as a show other than IT’S ABOUT BATMAN.

Gordon’s partner Bullock and newcomer Fish Mooney are far and away the most interesting characters, because they represent the balance between law and organised crime and how the city operates as a whole. These characters should be our window into what’s going on in Gotham as a city so we get the idea of it’s descent into darkness. The opening scene is the obligatory Wayne shooting scene, and is played by the book with the addition of a ‘shiny shoes’ detail. I do hope Alfred is given a chance to develop further than grumpy cockney, I like Sean Pertwee as an actor and think his voice is awesome so I was a little hurt to have to hear him say ‘mate’ when I’d like a more traditional approach to Alfred, and mostly just for him to display more of a bond with Bruce.

Whichever direction this show takes it’s going to encounter problems with writing character origins that differ from the established source material. It could be really good, and I hope it is, I really want to like this show and am praying that it’s purely because as a pilot episode they felt they had to push the Batman aspect so obviously to attract interest. It’s ironic that in doing so they may well alienate Batman fans who wanted something that felt like it was made for the fans with intelligent nods to what Gotham’s future holds rather than such cringe-inducing blatancy. I’ll watch the next few episodes to see how it pans out but if it carries on as it is I may well have to abandon it as I’m not sure my facial muscles can take much more grimacing.

Be sure to check back in a few episodes time when I’ll give the verdict as to whether I’m a yay or a nay on DC’s latest venture.