RogerBW's Blog

Gotham season 1 09 August 2015

2014-2015, 22 episodes: in the years before Batman, Gotham City is a cesspit of crime. But one cop is trying to make a difference.

As I've said before, I'm not a superhero fan. So a chunk of the concept of this show goes straight past me: part of the appeal for long-term fans of Batman is spotting the origins of people who will turn out to be major villains by the time Batman comes along.

This causes its own problems. We know that that guy won't be killed, because he goes on to be the Penguin; she will be fine because she's going to be Poison Ivy one day; and so on. There's such a huge array of characters from the more than 75 years of Batman comics, and the producers have shown so little restraint in bringing them onto the scene early, that tension is lost because we know that practically everyone will survive. The only major character potentially in peril of her life is Fish Mooney, an organised crime boss, and Jada Pinkett Smith overacts the role so well that I suspect there'll be protests if she does eventually die. Even she seems to survive all sorts of situations where her opponents really ought simply to kill her. (These people are mobsters, after all. The whole point of organised crime is that you don't betray the family twice. Isn't it?)

They'll all survive, but that's not to say that nasty things won't happen to them. Nasty things happen to everybody here. There's some gratuitous gruesomeness, and the usual problem of trying to draw a line between depicting horrors with revulsion and depicting them with salacious appeal.

Production values are excellent, with plausibly rotten cityscapes and clear framing; there's never any doubt as to what's happening in any given shot, something of a rarity these days. The technology base is what's now becomming relatively common, modern smartphones and so on but plenty of old-style vehicles.

The characters are fairly static, as they have to be: their arcs are inevitably towards the roles they will take up in the Greater Batman Story. The acting is often decent, even from the children, but there's no room to breathe any life into the cardboard cutouts. I suppose there's some interest in the story of how person X turned into villain Y, but only if you care about villain Y from the comics in the first place.

You get what you get. It's a decent idea, and I think it could have made an interesting short series, but at 22 episodes and now a renewal for a second season it all feels a bit too drawn-out. I enjoyed it at first, but it seemed to lose pace after the winter break (between the first ten and the last twelve episodes) and for me never really regained it.

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See also:
Agent Carter, season 1

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