“However dark and scary the world might be right now, there will be light. There will be light, Bruce,” says new police detective Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) while trying to comfort young Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) who’s just witnessed his parents being robbed and murdered in the pilot of FOX’s gritty crime series, Gotham.
Before Catwoman, The Penguin, The Riddler, and the Caped Crusader himself -Batman – there is Gotham, the new crime series which focuses on rookie Gotham City detective Jim Gordon working with his more experienced and not so moral or ethical partner Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue). The two have been assigned to solve the murder of the wealthy couple Thomas and Martha Wayne who were two of the most powerful and socially connected people in Gotham City. While investigating the high priority case Gordon is introduced to Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith), a lieutenant in the Carmine Falcone crime family who runs the underworld of the city. It soon becomes clear to Gordon that the District Attorney’s office and the police department fear Falcone and would rather not upset his way of doing business.
Following a lead from Mooney, Gordon ends up in a chase and deadly fight with a main suspect in the Wayne murders. He is saved when Bullock shoots and kills the man just before he’s about to kill Gordon. However, during the aftermath of the shooting Gordon begins to piece together that the man was set-up and just a fall guy, meaning the real killer is still out there. Worse yet, his own partner may be part of the cover up. Starting to realize he has no one he can truly trust in the Gotham PD and that Gotham is in fact run by the crime boss Falcone, Gordon sets out to try to find the Waynes’ real killer while seeming to play along with the rules of the corrupt police force.
Dark, brooding, and gritty, Gotham – The Pilot Episode is an uneven, heavy-handed crime thriller with a solid cast and a stunning set design. The city glows with yellow and white lights while the television viewer can almost feel the steam and dampness from the streets.
McKenzie is a great choice for the young, tough, straight-laced detective in a city filled with corruption at every turn. This is a young, idealistic Jim Gordon learning just how alone he is and struggling not to become like his older partner. Donal Logue gives the best performance as Harvey Bullock, the seasoned detective who lost some of his morals and ethics in order to stay a cop in the city where the crime bosses control everything. Throughout the course of the episode, his attitude toward his younger partner changes, evolving into a friendship in which he actually puts himself in danger to protect Gordon who only days earlier he’d fought with Captain Essen to get transferred. His character is by far the most interesting of the group.
Jada Pinkett Smith gives an over-the-top performance as Fish Mooney, Falcone’s right-hand woman who yearns to be number one. Robin Taylor is perfectly cast as Oswald Cobblepot aka The Penguin, an up-and-coming thug in the Mooney crime ring. He gives a creepy and disturbing performance as a young thug learning the ropes of how to beat a confession out of a colleague and enjoying it too much.
Another big plus for the new series is the look and set design of the city. It glistens, and the wonderful use of shadows and street lights help bring alive the feeling of danger lurking around every corner. It’s very reminiscent and a cross between the Gotham City in Christopher Nolan’s first film Batman Begins and Tim Burton’s Batman.
With the promise of more origin stories of classic Batman villains including The Riddler, Catwoman, and Poison Ivy – all of whom made brief appearances in the pilot – and the new friendship between Gordon and young Bruce Wayne (plus the evolving relationship between Bruce and Alfred Pennyworth, played by Sean Pertwee), Gotham looks to be one of the best new shows of the season for anyone who enjoys noir crime dramas. An added bonus is that it plays well to both those who know their DC Comics inside and out as well as though only familiar with the Batman universe via the films.
– Reviewed by Kevin Finnerty
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