Matt McKinney is a senior journalism major and writes ‘Binge Watcher’ for the Daily News. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the newspaper. Write to Matt at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s clear from the first few scenes that the main character of Fox’s “Gotham” isn’t young Detective James Gordon, his morally-ambiguous partner Harvey Bullock or even low-level criminal Oswald Cobblepot.
It’s Gotham City.
From the steam clouding the alleyways to the blinding bright neon lights, the urban backdrop stole the show in the pilot episode of the latest origin story of Batman.
“Gotham” is different than most Batman origin stories. Instead of focusing on Bruce Wayne’s transition into the Dark Knight, the show is centered on Detective Gordon in his first days as a crime fighter in Gotham City. While the death of Wayne’s parents is a focal point of the episode, the story is told from Gordon’s point of view.
Most of the episode took place at night, signaling an isolated world filled with crime and corruption.
Even the few scenes that took place in daytime hours were devoid of sunlight, as dark clouds over the city made sure there was not a shred of happiness to be found.
At one point Gordon (played by Ben McKenzie) even – perhaps incorrectly – comments to a young Wayne (David Mazouz), “There will be light, Bruce.”
In the same conversation, Gordon makes a promise to Wayne to find his parents’ killer. A large part of the show from that point on is a crime drama, finding clues and chasing possible killers around the city.
McKenzie was passable as Gordon, with his best work coming in an argument with Bullock near the end of the episode. The addition of Gordon’s fiancée, Barbara Kean (played by Erin Richards) felt unnecessary. Gordon’s motivation as a detective should be his desire to do right by Wayne, not a love interest, especially in the series’ first episode.
The most impressive acting of the episode surprisingly came from Robin Lord Taylor as Cobblepot.
Taylor showed the anger and sadism necessary of a soon-to-be villain. Cobblepot walked the first steps to becoming one of Gotham’s most feared criminals. He showed shock and a little disgust in his first kill in the pilot, but he looks to quickly get rid of the last threads of his moral foundations, as well as his sanity.
One of the more veteran actors, Jada Pinkett Smith, played crime lord Fish Mooney, an original character for the show. Mooney is a classic crime boss, and Smith plays her overlord role very well. She showed compassion to lesser characters at first, but after being pressed, proved to everyone watching that she wasn’t to be trifled with.
In one scene, Mooney was eating dinner while being entertained by a comedian onstage nearby. While she ate and laughed loudly at an unoriginal joke, the young comedian’s nervousness showed. It became clear he wasn’t so much trying to entertain his audience, as much as stay alive in the current court jester role he was playing.
The 13-year-old Mazouz wasn’t asked to do much as the Wayne, but he performed well as the young billionaire in the 10 or so minutes he was onscreen. I’m curious as to what role he will play in future episodes.
While a good start to the show, it will be interesting to see how the characters – especially the more villainous ones – develop.
The highly-anticipated pilot certainly didn’t disappoint. However, with the city as a backdrop, writers of “Gotham” should be able to use the wealth of backstory available, while still growing into its own medium.