IHAO on ... the Gotham pilot

This show has been talked about for awhile.  And I knew I needed to give my thoughts to the whole thing.  A little backstory: I absolutely love Arrow on the CW, and season 2 of that show was the best thing on TV in my mind last year.  I'm incredibly excited for season 3, as well as season 1 of The Flash, both of which start in just two weeks, and you can expect a Flash pilot review as well.  I'm a comic book fan.  I really, truly am.  Collecting for a long time, even if now I'm down to just a single series.  And all of that said ... I am not a Batman fan.  The operative word there being "fan."  Some Batman stuff I like, some I don't, some I despise, some I love!  So I'm not coming into this review as a Batman fan, blinded either way by my own love for the series or whatever.  Which ... actually, at first I thought that would count as a negative for me, but you know what, I'm a professional critic (technically), and this is a good place to be!  All right, I'm ready!  Let's do this!

44 minutes later

Ok, so I got a lot to say about this show.  But let me start with this: I kind of liked it.  Yeah, I kind of like it.  I don't like it like a fanboy, and in fact most of the fanboy-stuff (which this show is FILLED with) do nothing for me.  I don't care about seeing all these little nods and winks and nudges to the Batman mythos.  In fact, this show gets 300% better when that stuff is thrown to the side.  It becomes a really interesting mafia/cop drama.  I understand the need for some to see Bruce because he's the main character of the Gotham stories.  But he is absolutely the worst part of this show.

The majority of actors in this show are ... fine.  Including our lead.  Some are worse than that.  Some are better.  I actually really really loved Penguin and Butch.  They are my two favorite characters, and the two I want to see.  In fact, Penguin is even BETTER than that.  He is the reason I'm going to keep watching the show.  And he is in every episode, so I'm excited for that.

The show is clearly something different than the expectations of Batman.  It is set in the present, the characters backstories are different, even some names and hints of future Bat-characters are around, and all are different.  For some this might be a turn off.  And to be honest, some of it was a turn off for me.  Ivy Pepper was so on the nose with all her plants, it made me audibly laugh.  The comedian in Jada Pinkett Smith's club is ridiculously gonna be the Joker ... maybe, but it is at least enough to make us think.  Actually, you know what, take that back, he's interesting enough.  Catwoman, well, Cat-girl is ridiculous ... ok, well, actually I kind of like her too.  It makes sense for someone else to have been in the alley, even if it was just a homeless person, so sure, that works for me.

Now, there are some big drawbacks.  The show looks super cheap.  The sets look bad, the lighting for the most part is utter garbage.  The costuming is either one the nose or ridiculous, many times both, such as with Riddler.  Also, the writing is super super duper ... weighted.  The whole show is.  It is part of the baggage of being set in Gotham's past.  Every character, every choice, all sorts of lines, all have this extra weight attached to them, which drags down the show as it has to slog through the Batman-ness.

By the way, since we are doing a pre-Batman Gotham, and using Gordon as the only "good" cop in a world of either mediocre or bad cops, you have essentially created him as Proto-Batman.  Or Protoman.  The schtick of Gordon normally in the Batman narrative is that he understands Batman and wishes he could do what Batman does, making things right unfettered by the law.  But he believes in the law as well.  It is the very classic argument of Lawful Good versus Chaotic Good.  But in Gotham, he is already basically Chaotic Good, because the "law" he is fighting against is that imposed by the criminals running the city.  Gordon is Protoman.

Which is why the show surprised me when it got real great.  It was able to drop all that weight around halfway through and start focusing on the kind of show it really wants to be: a crime drama about a city that is one of the worst, ever, and the people that make it both better and worse.

This show surprised me.  I'm not supposed to be rooting for Penguin, but I love him, his actor, his costuming, how he is portrayed, the way they worked him into the narrative.  He's the best part of the show for me.  Gordon sucks, Bullock is interesting but Donal Logue is not an amazing actor so he sometimes comes across a little odd and off character, but I bet the writing will start to match Logue better and that he will get better.  Jada Pinkett Smith started as the worst non-kid actor on the show, but she really ends up doing pretty great.

The show's quality is low on the technical side.  It makes me appreciate Arrow more and more, because it is just beautiful.  Using real rooftops and amazing lighting, oh it is so wonderful.  And the terrible looking sets, while pretty decently designed, just all look super cheap.  Gotham LOOKS like TV.  And not good TV.  Not "shot on location" TV.

Now, the most important point: Is Gotham something you can enjoy?  Really, I think it depends on if you are a Batman fan, and what kind of fan.  Do you just like seeing reference to the things you love?  Probably gonna really get into this.  Like being immersed in the Batman you love?  Probably going to hate this, as the immersion of this show is its worst aspect and where it fails the most.  Do you not care about Batman at all?  This might be worth it for you, especially if you enjoy cop dramas, and ESPECIALLY non-procedural cop dramas.

I should mention, all of this is "so far."  All my criticisms and ... what the opposite of that is, like-isms I guess, are all "so far."  There has been one episode.  Most television shows take around six episodes to find their stride.  Some take a full season before they can even get where they are wanting to go.  So who knows.  Maybe they will just put more and more of the garbage faux-father-surrogate stuff that I hated in this, making that the real point of the show.

Grade: C? +?

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