What’s so Great About Gotham, Anyway?

I’m a little bit in Batman mode at the moment, being completely hooked on Arkham Knight (review to follow on Random Review Site in due course) so despite that the series finished a few months ago and I am eagerly anticipating season 2 coming up in October, I want to gush about why I think it is so awesome.

The Premise of Gotham

Do you really need me to tell you that? Ok… the setting is Gotham, early years. It’s a sh*t hole of a place, crime-riddled and falling apart, ruled by the mob and populated by dirty cops, the super poor and the super rich, crazy killers and sadists alike. In a very early scene, we see the murder of the Waynes. Detective Gordon goes to the crime scene to promise a very young Bruce Wayne that he will find the person responsible for his parents’ murder. Alfred, played by Sean Pertwee, thinks the sentiment is good but that Gordon will ultimately fail.

The series is not about Bruce, it is about Detective Gordon as he uncovers corruption in GCPD and attempts to rise through the ranks to become Commissioner. Along the way, he had to deal with a corrupt partner in Harvey Bullock, dodgy goings on at Arkham Asylum, a series of increasing murders on the streets, a turf war between the Maronis and the Falcones, and the weasly attempts to seize power in Gotham by one young man who goes by the name of “Penguin”. We’ll meet a young Selina Kyle, Poison Ivy, Joker, Black Mask, Riddler, Harvey Dent and other icons in this fascinating series in a “before they were famous”. But it’s not just a parade of the supervillains of the future, there are so many twists and turns and despite feeling unsure of itself early on, the second half of the season becomes a seat-of-the-pants thriller as all of the plot threads that were once simmering under the surface come to the top.

Robin Lord Davis (Penguin)

Davis’ Penguin is what really makes the series, he is what grabs you at the start and he does it with a pleasant smile and a knife behind his back. If there was ever a weasel of a supervillian, Lord Davis’ Penguin is it. A superb actor – you love him and hate him in equal measure. You want him to succeed in toppling both the Maronis and the Falcones, but you also want him to get his comeuppance as he plays them all against each other and seems to devote so much energy to infuriating Fish Mooney (a brand new character played excellently by Jada Pinkett Smith). Naturally, he becomes more and more prominent after a faked death and a promise to himself to rise to the top of the pile. His story in season 1 is how he attempts to subvert Gotham’s crime empire and seize it for himself.

Camren Bicondova (Selina Kyle)

A very different Selina Kyle/Catwoman from the overt sexually playful character of Michelle Pfeiffer, Halle Berry and Anne Hathaway (understandable, Bicondova was about 14 when filming began) which gave her the free reign to play an altogether more streetwise and innocent version of the character. A successful portrayal it is too. “The Cat” as she calls herself is a street urchin and pickpocket with great gymnastic skills with a penchant for coloured sunglasses, black leather outfits and moving about silently. It’s not difficult to see the woman she will become. This Selina Kyle becomes prominent early on thanks to being the only witness to the murder of the Waynes. As Detective Gordon seeks to find their killer, he needs to protect Miss Kyle and at one point sends her to Wayne Manor. A kind of relationship blossoms between young Bruce and Miss Kyle, but it’s less young love and more being intrigued with each other. She also has Kyle’s duplicitous nature down to a “T”.

Cory Michael Smith (Edward Nygma)

He took a while to grow on me, his daft quirkiness as the nerd who worked in forensics for the GCPD gave very little hint about the supervillain to come. Yet after a while, he really gained momentum. His developing crush on Kristen Kringle is sweet in its awkwardness and menacing in its obsessiveness at the same time. The growing simmering anger beneath Nygma’s exterior starts bubbling to the top; he’s actually quite tragic and indicative of how we shun people who are different as “creepy” too easily. He’s the weirdo who can’t help being the school nerd and turns to anger when he is treated badly by people because of the way he is. Yet there are flashes of kindness and attempts to make himself likeable. He hugs Jim Gordon, for example, when the detective is moved to Arkham Asylum and his attempts to woo Miss Kringle with a cupcake with a bullet in is completely lost on her.

Young Bruce

He’s hurting. He’s lost his parents and his only guardian is his butler. He’s dealing with childhood trauma that few experience (thankfully) and his cosy billionaire lifestyle is no substitute for having family around him. We see his anger at the unfairness, we see an internal angst many years too early. It’s a shrewd move on the part of the makers to include young Bruce long before he becomes Batman. In all the adaptations, this is a side we never see – the grief, the desire to do something, to put his fortune to good use, to make friends and try to have some semblance of a normal childhood as a billionaire orphan. Carefully looked after by both Alfred and Detective Gordon (in his own way), we also see at the end of the series, the introduction of Lucius Fox and the hint of things to come. The final scene at the end of the last episode of season 1 sees Master Bruce find a secret passageway leading under Wayne Manor. And so it begins…

So, there are my thoughts on season 1. Is anybody else watching it? Would you like to offer your thoughts?

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