I’ll start by admitting I’m not a big Batman fan – I’ve seen two of the Christian Bale films and they never really appealed to me. So when I first saw the trailers for Channel 5’s Gotham I didn’t get it was a Batman spin off. But I love urban fantasy, villains and violence so it looked promising – though if there are many Batman references I probably won’t get them.
I get that die-hard fans of the Caped Crusader are unlikely to enjoy this – though really, were you expecting to? But forget the idea that this is a prequel to Batman and you’re left with a cop show about a corrupt police force and a high profile murder. And I liked it.
It’s not subtle, but then, it never pretended to be – there are dark streets and gun fights, a detective mystery and a little bit of sexual tension; all hinging on a cop who seems too good to be true, with flickers of a darker past which could turn him more anti-hero than hero (which is always fun). There are lots of threads which need unravelling, but as a pilot episode I thought it brought some interesting storylines onto the table – particularly the police analyst, who reveals his findings in riddles (is there a slim chance he could possibly be… The Riddler? Even I can guess that much)
What has happened to Alfred?
I’ll admit Alfred is awful – the cut glass British butler melting awkwardly into East End lad proves yet again that American producers think all English accents sound the same.
And yes there are clichés which make the show seem derivative – the tough talking older cop, the chase scene that soars over New York rooftops and crashes through a Chinese sweatshop, and then there’s the strip-club madam who wants to take over the city – one of the few female characters so far, I’m sad that her character is so two dimensional but that’s an argument for another day. But despite the stereotypes there are some flickers of interest; the neurotic Penguin and the mysterious girl who steals milk from Karl Lagerfeld’s New York twin in the opening sequence and seems to follow Bruce Wayne around – they make me want to tune in next week and see how their stories are developed.
I can’t compare the characters to their Batman personas and I can’t decide who plays the better Commissioner Gordon, all I know is this one used to be Ryan in the OC and the other was the drunken soldier who almost ruined Monica and Chandler’s wedding. But I can tell you I think this series has promise to develop the villains into strong characters with reasoning behind their crimes (something I didn’t find in the movies, which to me focused a lot on the Joker – who’s fine, but there are more interesting criminals out there).
It’s true the scripting needs some work and there could have been a bit more mystery to the characters’ alter egos but ultimately I found it an intriguing start to a series, one which I will definitely keep watching. It hasn’t spurred me into rediscovering Batman yet, but who knows how I’ll feel about Gotham City and its chaos by the end of the series.