Hey you! This isn't a review, it's a PREview. Huge difference. Most notably, the "P." But more specifically, it's based on an early cut of a pilot that might change before its official debut. That means can't properly review it at this time, but we CAN give you an idea of what to expect.
As part of the recent Television Critics Association summer press tour, which wraps up this week, the fine people at Warner Bros. TV invited reporters and critics and even hacks like us to a sneak-preview screening of one of its biggest new fall shows, Gotham. Unlike most of the season's other pilots, Gotham was not widely distributed to critics after the Upfronts in May. So naturally, Kaitlin and I thought to ourselves, "Fine, we'll be wined and dined and treated to a viewing of Gotham in a fancy WB private theater." This job, I tell ya.
We don't yet have the go-ahead to post a full review, as networks often make changes to pilots before they air. However, we did want to share our first impressions of the Batman prequel's first episode (while flaunting the fact that we got to see it before you did. Nyah-nyah).
A brief overview for those who aren't familiar with Gotham's premise: The upcoming Fox drama is set in the Batman universe before Batman becomes Batman, and was created by The Mentalist's Bruno Heller. Viewers will meet a young Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz), but the show will focus on Jim Gordon, the cop and eventual police commissioner played by Gary Oldman in the Christopher Nolan films, and portrayed by Ben McKenzie (The O.C., Southland) on the show. Gotham will also tell the origin stories of many Batman villains, including the Penguin, Catwoman, the Riddler, and Poison Ivy, as well as several other thugs who Gordon and his partner Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue) have to punch in the face.
Got it? Good. Then let's talk about the pilot!
Tim: Wow, we saw Gotham! And it was... okay, I guess? Maybe a little less than okay? I'm going to give it to you straight: I'm not really into the superhero/comic-book craze that's dominating television, so maybe the show just isn't for me. But the pilot felt very on-the-nose and by-the-book, and as a result it didn't stand out as particularly original. For example, haven't I seen Bruce Wayne's parents get shot in an alley like three times already? I think I was expecting a more unique twist on Batman shenanigans.
Kaitlin: Holy, WTF Batman! I had high hopes for Gotham, because unlike you, Tim, I want to make googly eyes at the superhero/comic-book craze. Give me all the superheroes! This is the real revenge of the nerds, guys. But Gotham's pilot wasn't what I was hoping it would be after seeing the cool trailer that Fox released in May. It felt lacking somehow, as if the show has a clear vision of what it wants to be, but it isn't yet sure how to get there.
Tim: Here's what I did like: The pilot really looked as if it took place in Gotham City, so if you're a fan of dirty back alleys and rain, you'll be impressed. And the show is set in this weird alternate universe that exists in parallel to ours; there's an old-timey feel to it thanks to the cars and the tweed-and-fedora fashion, but the characters use flip phones. It's an unusual juxtaposition, but I kinda dug it.
As for what I didn't like, some of the direction was awful, particularly in the tiring action sequences. The show's going to have to work on those and expand their scope; random harness-cams strapped to Gordon as he sprints through a restaurant kitchen won't do.
Kaitlin: I agree that the look and feel of Gotham City is great. The tone of the pilot was very noir, which is is a good fit for the story Gotham is telling. But the acting is not up to snuff, considering that both Ben McKenzie and Donal Logue have proven they're more than capable of producing quality work. They'll have an opportunity to fix that as the show progresses, but the pilot made it seem like McKenzie hired Tyra Banks as an acting coach and instead of instructing him to smize, she told him that his eyeballs were his only hope of saving humanity. Gotham's pilot was not subtle, is what I'm trying to say.
Tim: Exactly. You know what else was not subtle? The introduction of the many villains who we'll be getting to know throughout the series. I'm still on the fence about seeing all these baddies whose future identities we're already familiar with as powerless versions of themselves. And I know we've only seen the pilot so far, but with so many well-known characters popping up in Episode 1, Gotham City felt kind of small. Overall, Gotham seems like it'll merely be Batman without the Batman, a procedural that happens to be set in Gotham City.
However, I will say that the dude who plays the Penguin (Robert Lloyd Taylor) was awesome, and he's already my favorite character on the show.
Kaitlin: I don't know that the pilot made Gotham City feel small, but it did make me wonder what the rest of the series will be like. Will all of these characters make cameos throughout the first season? Will the Riddler play a larger role, or just wink and a nod to his future persona? I feel like I'm coming off as overly harsh, so maybe I'm suffering from a case of too-high expectations (shame on me!), but Gotham's second, third, and fourth episodes are going to prove especially important, as the pilot didn't give us a great sense of what the show is aiming for. There's still a lot of potential for Gotham to have some fun, but it's going to need to lean into its campiness instead of taking itself so damn seriously. And Ben, dude, grab a drink and chill the F out, man.
Gotham premieres Monday, September 22 at 8pm on Fox.
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Season 2 : Episode 22