Gotham- “The Balloonman” and “Arkham”

Nerdgasm imminent.

 Okay, so we’re officially four episodes into Gotham, so, going by general television rules of thumb, we should have a pretty good handle on what exactly this show is about. And so far, Gotham has been pretty….. All over the map, to say the least. So far, it’s been two good episodes (The pilot and “Arkham”) and two mediocre episodes (“Selina Kyle” and “The Balloonman”). Since we’re around this TV milestone, I figured I’d use this entry not so much to focus on the two recent episodes, but to underline one strengths, one weakness and one mediocre trait that the show has displayed so far. I’ll still talk about the individual episodes, but… Yeah, I guess you get the idea.

Strength: Cinematography

The Tim Burton Batman movies and the Christopher Nolan trilogy both had different ideas on what the look of Gotham City should be. Burton definitely had a ton of creative input in his movies, especially Batman Returns, as his Gotham is appealingly ugly and highly stylised. One could almost say it’s more faithful to the comics, but that would imply that Burton actually read the comics, which he didn’t.  Nolan’s Gotham always reminded me of the rust belt, matching the gritty, realistic tone of the movies. Gotham successfully succeeds in combining the best elements of both Gothams to create a city that looks to be straight off the pages of DC Comics. Props to whoever was in charge of that.

Weakness: Tone

Oh boy, oh boy. Holy shit does this show have some problems here.

With the exception of the Nolan movies, which were ultra-modern, and the ultra campy iterations, Batman stories have always had somewhat of a timeless feel to it. The 1989 movie brought a lot of fashion, images and dialects straight from the early-to-mid 20th century, as did the animated series, mixing them with more modern technologies like literally anything in Batman’s utility belt. It may not have made the most sense when you think about it, but hey, it was charming, or at least I found it to be.

How quaint!!!

While I also really enjoyed the tone of the new movies, and the campy movies had…. Actually they all sucked, but my point is that Gotham tries way too hard to be a balanced mix of all of these styles, which just ends up coming across as stilted and jarring. At times, it wants to be very dark and realistic, but there are other times when the over-the-top villains and cartoonish violence just take me out of it (I’m looking at you, Balloonman. Jesus Christ, wasn’t that a fucking stupid concept?). Black comedy and camp can be put to good use, but that’s not really the case in this show.

Ugh….

Meh…: Acting/Characters 

I should be the first to admit that I was a little high on the actors in my review of the pilot episode. And I’ve still gotta be honest, I haven’t seen a straight-up bad performance just yet. Robin Lord-Taylor as Penguin is still my favourite performance, even if his arc is really improbable. I really like John Doman in the limited screen time he gets as Carmine Falcone, as is Sean Pertwee as Alfred Pennyworth. I also really like Ben McKenzie and Donal Logue, even if McKenzie can sometimes be overly stoic for my taste. Jada Pinkett-Smith as Fish Mooney and Cory Michael Smith as Edward Nygma are also fine, even if neither has done much, and the showrunners can’t seem to help drilling the fact that Nygma becomes the Riddler into our brains ever so much.

A lot of the characters just seem to be there for the sake of being there, though. Montoya, Allen and Barbara are all boring as hell. I have yet to feel a twinge of interest towards any of them. And, while they aren’t bad actors per se, I would argue that they’re better than most other child actors out there, David Mazouz and Camren Bicondova as Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle, respectively, jus don’t have interesting enough stories for me to really get invested.

***

That’s all for now. Hopefully the show picks up, because at the rate it’s going, it’ll fall off of my review list after this season. This last episode was better than the two before it though, so maybe that’s a sign it’s trending in the right direction? I sure hope so.

“The Balloonman”: 2.5/5

“Arkham”: 3.5/5

The season so far: 6.5/10 

Gotham: Episode 1- Pilot (TV Review) SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

Selina Kyle: Apparently, the all-seeing eye of Gotham City. Who’da thunk it?

SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

 If you had told me one year ago that Fox was panning to release a TV crime drama set in Gotham City, I would have been completely overjoyed. I’ve always kinda thought that transitioning to TV might be a better idea for those grittier, more down-to-earth superheroes that don’t necessarily have the flashy godlike powers (Smallville notwithstanding). And as much as I don’t hate the idea of Ben Affleck donning the cape and cowl (Even if the rest of the DC cinematic universe is starting to look like a giant clusterfuck) I would love to see a Batman TV show.

Take away Batman from the equation though, and I would’ve been less than enthused.

Indeed, Gotham chooses to focus not on Bruce Wayne (Played by child actor David Mazouz) and his transformation into everyone’s favourite rich nutjob, but on the exploits of Detective James Gordon (Ben McKenzie, former star of The O.C. and, actually a former Batman voice actor. He voiced the Dark Knight in the animated movie, Batman: Year One)  and his troubled partner, Harvey Bullock (Irish-Canadian actor Donal Logue). How did the pilot episode of this risky venture prove?

Absolutely brilliant is how it turned out.

Don’t get me wrong though, Gotham has problems, and I’ll get them out of the way first so I can gush later. My only real qualms with the movie have to do with the characters, not that the actors are to blame. I think they all do very great jobs, especially newcomer Robin Lord-Taylor as Oswald Cobblepot, Jada Pinkett-Smith as original villain Fish Mooney, Cory Michael Smith’s brief cameo as Edward Nygma and the two leads, McKenzie and Logue. Problem is, the show seems a bit over-preoccupied with stuffing as many villains into it as possible in order to give super-nerds like me a hard-on. I guess it kind of makes sense this one time, given that it was the pilot episode, and they had to stuff in as much fan service as possible in order to convince Fox that they could attract an audience. In that respect, it makes sense, but I hope that they can segway into villain introductions a little better than their introduction of the man who will eventually grow up to be a Tim Burton- directed abomination.

SCENE: A group of thugs are viciously beating up on a fellow criminal. The most violent aggressor is a younger man, brandishing an umbrella while wearing a tuxedo

ANONYMOUS THUG:  Take it easy (Practically turns to audience) Penguin! (Practically winks at the goddamn audience)

PENGUIN: Don’t call me that!!!

Huh, they took lessons from the James Cameron school of subtlety, I see.

Also, I love how Detectives Montoya and Allen go ahead and take Cobblepot at his word when he tells them that Gordon and Bullock framed and murdered Mario Pepper, and immediately report their suspicions to Barbara and threaten Gordon without a shred of evidence. I thought these guys were supposed to be real hotshots. What the hell?

Overall, though, my favourite thing about the show is that it feels like a comic book set in Gotham City ,especially something like Batman: Year One (Again, minus Batman). It has a very dark atmosphere, and doesn’t hesitate to bust out the blood (Unlike the great Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan movies, who had to maintain a PG rating). The scene where Bruce’s parents are murdered (Spoiler alert, in case you’ve been living under a rock) is as emotionally  resonant as it’s ever been, the writing is, while not exactly Shakespeare, very fitting to the tone, and really, I can’t wait for the next episode.

Episode Rating: 4/5

Holy fuck, was that the Joker!?!?