After 10 episodes of Gotham, the big budgeted campy Batman prequel series airing on FOX, fans sat down and consolidated the pros and cons of Bruno Heller’s DC adaptation.
Overall the reception has bordered between anger vaulted at the silly and nonsensical Dexter series finale and the hesitant optimism shown towards CW’s The Flash.
I have read and digested reviews destroying the show, its’ performances and its’ style and I couldn’t be more opposing.
Gotham may not be the show we were duped into thinking it was through the first trailer but it is a refreshing and enjoyable one.
Unlike the gritty and serious tone of Chris Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, Heller, Gotham’s show runner, has chosen to position the series along the lings of Batman 60s series and Tim Burton’s gothic Batman features.
And the tone works. Whilst the show started off very much mediocre– honestly, which network series hasn’t – it found it’s grounding along the way and continues to do so. The creators and writers realised that fans wanted more Penguin and Gordon and we were answered.
Now, I’ve heard a lot of criticism leveled at Robin Taylor Lord’s embodiment of Penguin but I couldn’t disagree more. Where some people called him constipated and exaggerative, I saw him as nuanced, maniacal and often the show’s solitary shining light. Lord has already surpassed the laughable and frankly creepy performance of Danny DeVito as Penguin in Burton’s Batman Returns.
And he has a terrific supporting cast that seems to get better every episode.
Ben McKenzie’s casting as Gordon is a masterstroke. He appears young and naïve but his eyes allude to experience and war. Being able to command authority on the screen as what is essentially the show’s lead comes as a sixth sense to him. Never have a though, for a second, that I wasn’t being led through corrupt Gotham by Jim Gordon.
Perhaps the one certainty for Gotham was always the suave sophistication that Donal Logue would bring. He is often the comedic avenue for the show but revels just as well when reality comes crashing down on his corrupt personality. And in turn, the chemistry between Logue and McKenzie takes centre stage in multiple episodes where the audience is still figuring out who to route for.
Sean Pertwee as Alfred was always my big worry and it seems some fans haven’t taken to him well. To them I say this: he isn’t a young Michael Caine Alfred, au contraire – he is his own kick ass Alfred. Pertwee, like his father, is a terrific British talent.
Alfred is an iconic British comic book character. I didn’t see the two jelling as well as they have so far. Pertwee really comes into his own in the mid season finale – Lovecraft – where we are treated to a no nonsense, sweet talking and respectful Alfred who cares for Bruce like a surrogate father. You feel the care in Pertwee’s graveled voice and you live it in the delightful heartwarming interjecting scenes of tutelage between Alfred and a young Bruce Wayne.
Whilst I don’t have all day to debate the merits of Gotham, I would like to end the positives on something, or rather someone, a lot of people have overlooked: David Mazouz as Bruce Wayne. Often child actors can make or break a show/film. Mazouz makes Gotham believable. When I see Mazouz I do see a young Bruce Wayne and not some child actor reading lines of a script.
He smirks and holds charisma opposite seasoned actors and often steals my gaze. Charming and tragic in a matter of seconds, Mazouz’s undervalued performance is arguably why Gotham holds together as a Batman prequel. We need now only wait to see whether he can grow into the role of Dark Knight.
There are, however, many things the show can do to improve upon itself and become the series we want it to be.
I feel as though the writers need to think more clearly about the single episode villains they use as one-offs. There seems to be a tendency to use every villain in the DC catalogue straight away, when, in truth, you can inject some originality. For instance, The Balloon man episode – the worst episode of the series – should have been left in the writer’s room in favour of a more believable immersing story.
Shots of characters chained to weather balloons floating high above Gotham wasn’t admirable, it was laughable. It wasn’t Gotham it was terrible. Create your own villainous character, like Heller has done with Fish Mooney for filler episodes if you must, just don’t drag a forgettable comic villain into the show for the sake of satisfying comic book fans.
Another problem has transpired in hindsight. Heller has gone on record to state that he packed the series premiere with characters like The Riddler, Poison Ivy, Catwoman, Penguin and even hints towards The Joker to entice fans wanting more of Nolan’s Batman universe.
The trailers painted the show as a pseudo-extension of gritty – god I hate that word now – and serious Nolan-verse when in truth it was closer to camp Batman than Bale-Batman.
The idea was that fans would come for the reality and stay for the escapism.
The idea worked on me but it hasn’t worked for everyone, which is understandable.
I still believe that the show would be accepted by more fans had it been marketed as it truly is rather than what it didn’t want to be. But then again, some Nolan fanboys may not have even tuned in for the premiere had they known what Heller had crafted.
All in all, Gotham is a show still crafting its image and personality. Some viewers may have switched off angered that their ‘grit’ had disappeared but they are missing out on terrific mob sequences, DC easter eggs and a whole ton of underappreciated performances.